Hops: pellet vs. leaf

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by tngolfer, Mar 29, 2012.

  1. dasenebler

    dasenebler Savant (490) Maine Jan 26, 2008

    Well that's great, but at the end of the day, the beer is either an IPA or it isn't. I'd argue the latter. Hopdevil should be renamed Maltdevil or Oxidizedevil.
  2. As IPA has been around for over 200 years during which it has undergone many changes it's very difficult to pin down exactly what an IPA is.Not the same as what people think it is.
  3. We can get really philosophical about this. Perhaps they conceived an IPA 200 years ago, but couldn't quite achieve what they were looking for. We've only just now nailed down the elusive missing piece (obviously, über citrusy, piney American hops :)). So we are the ones who know exactly what an IPA is.
  4. But you've missed out on the super attenuation and Brett character!
    Seriously though, IPA has been used over the last century or two to describe a pretty wide spectrum, the very same beer could be called IPA, PA or bitter at different times.Most, by volume, IPA in the UK is basically session bitter.Biggest selling cask ale is Greene King IPA , 3.6% ABV and 26 IBU ! That sort of beer's been called IPA for a hundred years or so and is firmly established. As I said in another thread,it was all about names and styles were never thought of.
  5. While there are those who dismiss style guidelines in general (BJCP style guidelines, in particular, for some reason) as being arbitrary and, at the same time, limiting, it's nice that brewers and imbibers alike have made an effort to differentiate, describe (not 'define'), and to loosely categorize the beers that we're familiar with today. These documented styles, arguably, tend to be consistent with our interpretation of the historical record, such as it is. Though there's miles of room for interpretation, newer breweries tend to conform to these broad guidelines and, as a result, broadly defined flavor profiles tend to be somewhat predictable. If I go into a pub with a taste for a hoppy, ale, for example, I can generally get in the ballpark by ordering something called 'IPA', even if I'm not familiar with the specific beer. If I'm looking specifically for citrusy-piney hops, I might order something called 'APA' or, perhaps, 'American Style IPA'. It may not be specifically to my liking, but it's more likely to be what I'm looking for than another beer that is, perhaps, called 'Saison'. As an analogy, think of a box of crayons. The names we've assigned to the various colors (the style names we've assigned to the beers) give me a clue as to which crayons are suitable for coloring the sky. There are, indeed, exceptions, and tons of overlap in colors (how many flavors of 'blue' are there in a box of 64 crayons? and is this purple-ish crayon closer to blue or red?), as there are in beer styles. But each one is educational, if only from a historical perspective.
    warchez likes this.
  6. NiceFly

    NiceFly Savant (395) Tajikistan Dec 22, 2011

    I use leaf. What is the sense of preventing the oxidation of oils that are not there anymore from processing? That is a retorical devils advoate question btw, use what you like.
    Basic Brewing Radio did an interview with someone from a small midwest hop growing community that talked about processing and drying I think.
  7. SirMaltalot

    SirMaltalot Aspirant (30) Dec 12, 2012

    I'm not a homebrewer, so take this as you will, but I am an avid farmer and permaculturist.

    Use 'em or lose 'em I say. There are pretty obviously reasons for pellets vs. whole leaf/cone hops, and it usually comes down to economy of scale.
    The point of using whole hops assumes you are picking and using them fresh. They don't oxizide at all until after you pick them. If you're home-brewing and you have access to fresh hops, you have an advantage the industrial-scale brewers do not.
  8. jesskidden

    jesskidden Champion (825) New Jersey Aug 10, 2005 Subscriber

    The whole leaf hops being discussed in this thread - as used by Victory, Sierra Nevada, Anchor, etc. and those sold by homebrew shops - are still kiln-dried immediately after harvest, and then pressed into bales/bricks.

    Undried "fresh" hops aka "wet hops" make up a tiny percentage of total hop usage, need to be used within 1-2 days of harvest and are a separate topic.
  9. VikeMan

    VikeMan Champion (855) Pennsylvania Jul 12, 2009 Verified

    The hop growers will be shocked to learn this.
    sergeantstogie likes this.
  10. pweis909

    pweis909 Advocate (740) Wisconsin Aug 13, 2005 Verified

    I typically use pellets because that is what I can find most consistently. I feel like I know what to expect from them on my brewing system.

    Anecdote: This fall I made a bitter with East Kent Goldings hops late in the boil and the only EKGs I could find were HopUnion whole leaf hops. They were probably 1 year old, because I don't think the most 2012 harvest would have been on the shelves yet. They were brown and yellow and had low aromatic quality. I hesitated but went ahead and used them. I think that was a mistake. There is a musty earthy undertone to this beer that I do not like and one thought is to blame the hops.

    This experience makes me wonder, was I a victim of...
    ... poor hop storage as practiced somewhere in the supply chain,
    ...poor hop storage of leaf hops when packaged for hop brewers,
    ...lower quality of hops sold to home brewers vs. commercial brewers, an idea instilled by a comment from the brewer at Lagunitas who said he sends back Simcoe if it smells like cat pee - do you suppose rejects get packaged for homebrewers?

    Alternatively, maybe I should own up to the possibility that I could have messed up a homebrew entirely on my own.

  11. Peter,

    In my opinion you were the victim of old whole hops.

    From the Hopunion website: Raw hops however have a much shorter life span (approximately 6 months to 1 year).

    I also recommend that you follow Denny Conn’s recommendation for future batches:

    Below is something that Denny Conn posted on a related question in another beer forum:

    “Living in the midst of hop growing country, I used to feel like that. Then I discovered that most commercial breweries, along with the best homebrewers in our club, use primarily pellets. I started using pellets and found they store longer, stay fresher and take up less storage room. I still buy whole hops if they're domestically grown and I can verify when they were harvested, but for continental hops, I always go for pellets.”



    P.S. In a homebrew ingredient order a couple of months I wanted to order EKG pellet hops. The online vender only had EKG as whole hops. I made the decision to order Styrian Goldings pellet hops instead. I refuse to purchase imported whole hops!
  12. pweis909

    pweis909 Advocate (740) Wisconsin Aug 13, 2005 Verified

    If faced with this situation again, I'll make a pellet substitution. In fact, I could have made this substitution on the spot because I had some Styrian Goldings pellets on hand. When I tasted the hop flowers, I noticed they weren't very bitter. I just wasn't adding 2+2 fast enough.
  13. Treb0R

    Treb0R Savant (320) Oregon Dec 12, 2012

    I like pellets for just about every reason in the book. In my opinion, the only thing leaf hops going for them is that you are better able to grade the overall quality of the flowers vs. a crushed pellet. Leaf hops are also usually slightly cheaper on average if you buy them in bulk.
  14. laikom

    laikom Aficionado (100) Illinois Mar 21, 2011

    I started with leaf hops, but quickly realized it's not worth the effort. I use leaf when pellets are not available, such as for sours which require aged hops which are easier to find in leaf form.
  15. For most brewers, pellets just make more sense. They are packaged in a way that allows them to last for a couple of years with very little degradation, which is much longer than whole hops, which drop off within a few months.

    The whole reason that Sierra Nevada brews Celebration Ale right after hop harvest is because that's the only time of year they can use truly fresh hops. By the next summer, whole hops are already going off. Not a problem with pellets.

    Then dry hopping a large batch of beer with whole is problematic. Sierra Nevada came up with the torpedo, which seems to work well but it took them awhile to work that out. In a carboy, you have to deal with getting all those expanded hops out, which can be a pain, though I have also had issues with pellets.

    The pelletizing process is now done in a more controlled way so that there is no significant oil loss and I don't buy the argument that whole hops smell better when fresh. Tell that to all the medal winning IPA brewers at GABF who use pellets. Deschutes and Sierra make solid IPAs but I don't think anyone would say that they are on another level.

    So I can buy a few reasons why whole hops can be good, but I think that overall pellets are the winner. Plus gotta give a shout out to extract for brewing IPAs.
    JackHorzempa likes this.
  16. Wumsphire

    Wumsphire Aspirant (40) Oregon Dec 10, 2014

    I don't like pellets for home brewing simply because they are far messier, can clog the blow off tube, plus its fun to use whole hops and they may, just may taste better. I harvest hops from my neighborhood too. I am sure pellets are more cost effective, but if you don't like overly hoppy beers and don't want to deal with tons of green mush at the end of a boil, go whole hops. Yet, if you have a nice set up that can filter it out, and want to maximize your hops for your money I am sure pellets are better.