Category Archives: debate

Lonely Whole Hops

(The following post is all meant in good fun. I’m not really hostile about other brewers’ practices. 🙂 )

 

I grow my own hops and have used them before. They’re Hallertau and great for making pilsners, harvest ales, beers where the hops can just be out of the way: fruit beers, spiced beers. I’ve written about whole hops on this blog before. I think I wasn’t kind.

That said, I’m calling out my fellow brewers who don’t say that whole hops are a pain in the ass. Who’s growing them, who’s harvesting them, who’s drying them, and who’s using them? (I know my dear friend Peter is using them and to great effect so feel free to comment, Peter, but I know you’re all over this 😉 )

I think there is a secret that needs to be told and I’ve said it here on the other post: Hops are a pain in the ass AND nobody really wants to deal with that despite what brewers say. The number of times I offer up a free rhizome split and all the positive responses and then… Nothing. Same for picking your own… Well, one person came (in 10 years of offering).

“Free hops. Come and pick your own. Pick whatever you want and take them home and brew with them.” *crickets*

It’s okay, fellow brewers, you can say it and admit it freely here and you won’t be ostracized: Whole hops are a pain in the ass.

All together now…

 

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Whole Hops vs Pellets

A divisive topic this week: Using whole hops vs pellet hops in your brew.

I’ll start this by saying that if one is using whole hops one REALLY has to be set up for it. Two words: Hop. Bags. You can do it without but it’s WAY easier to brew with whole hops if you have hop bags.

That said, I dislike using whole hops very much. Bag or no bag. For the following reasons:

  • They take up a lot of space in the freezer
  • More difficult to weigh out
  • They absorb a lot of wort/beer
  • Messier to dispose of
  • There is no advantage to using them
Ingredients: Hops

Ingredients: Hops

I have a saying: Whole hops are THE reason that pellets were invented.

I do grow my own and that is one of the few instances of my using whole hops: They didn’t cost me anything except time. And a lot of it. Whole hops are a pain to harvest and the amount of work put into harvesting is disproportionate to the amount harvested.

My other saying about whole hops: I will NOT pay for the displeasure of using them.

I’ve accepted whole hops as gifts (although I suspect there will be far fewer gifts coming my way after this post LOL) and in trade and I use my own that I grow but there is no way I would pay for a bag of whole hops. No.

What happens when you use too many whole hops without a bag.

What happens when you use too many whole hops without a bag.

Pellets are just much easier to use:

  • I can store far more in my freezer
  • They absorb less of my precious beer
  • Way easier to weigh out
  • Much less trub to deal with at the end of the brew day or after dry hopping

Dry hopping is actually one of the areas where pellets shine. Trying to get a couple of ounces of whole hops into a carboy and making sure that they are all in contact with the beer? Yes, bags, but again, you have to be really set up for it. With pellets I just don’t need to worry about more gear. Not that more gear is a bad thing. 😉

There, I got that off my chest.

As always, your mileage may vary. Flame away.

(My apologies to all those who have given me whole hops. They were not wasted and they were appreciated. Thank you.)


Glass vs Plastic

I’m going to start a new regular column on this blog about my opinions regarding certain aspects of brewing at home. I guess, in a sense, that is already what the blog is about in part, but I’m going to weigh in on a few recurring debates and questions that new brewers have.

The first debate: Glass vs Plastic

Some brewers like to use plastic buckets for primary fermentation versus a glass carboy. I don’t necessarily think there is anything wrong with using a plastic bucket it’s just that I have more confidence in my ability to clean and sanitize and glass carboy.

I have a lingering fear that I’m scratching the inside of a plastic bucket and creating wonderful little environments for bacteria to hide wreaking havoc on future brews. I just don’t feel that way when I use glass.

I know glass can break and I do have a couple of experiences with broken carboys but generally I just try to be very careful when moving them around the brewery. I’m fortunate that I recently came into possession of a small pump so my days of lifting carboys are over. Sometimes.

One thing I love to do with glass carboys that I can’t do with a plastic bucket is to keep on eye on actual fermentation activity. I know after pitching on a fresh yeast cake that the amount of turbulence and convection activity in the carboy is amazing. I also know that I’m not alone in my desire to watch the activity… As often as possible.

I like my glass carboys. Brew in plastic if you like, there’s nothing wrong with it. I just like my glass.

Next debate: Primary vs Secondary (I’m also open to suggestions.)