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Hops: pellet vs. leaf

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

  1. tngolfer

    tngolfer Initiate (75) Feb 16, 2012 Tennessee

    Preference and why?
  2. dasenebler

    dasenebler Initiate (0) Jan 26, 2008 Maine


    Leaf hops soak up wort, clog ports, lack storagibility, and make hop utilization a guessing game.

    Whole leaf hops are romantic and all and may be good for some applications, but no breweries really use them, except for Sierra Nevada (but who are they anyway? :wink:) Pellets are pretty much standard for the craft beer industry.
    janky and dmtaylor like this.
  3. beer272

    beer272 Initiate (0) Sep 23, 2009 New Jersey

    I concur with dasenbler. You can also stir in the brew pot better with pellets to get them into the middle much easier at the end of the boil.
  4. NHLakesBrewer

    NHLakesBrewer Initiate (0) Oct 6, 2008 New Hampshire

    I typically order leaf at harvest then go to pellets to supplement that until the next harvest season. Can't beat the aroma coming from fresh cones but the storage is much better on the pellets.

    SFACRKnight likes this.
  5. Thorpe429

    Thorpe429 Poo-Bah (5,387) Aug 18, 2008 Illinois
    Industry Beer Trader

    Deschutes also uses leaf hops. With that said, I use pellets almost exclusively.
  6. nathanjohnson

    nathanjohnson Initiate (0) Aug 5, 2007 Vermont

    Pellets >>>>>>> Whole leaf.
  7. tngolfer

    tngolfer Initiate (75) Feb 16, 2012 Tennessee

    I've always used pellets but mostly out of supply at my LHBS and that's what my Brewer's Best kits came with when I started. Recently my LHBS gave me the option and I just really didn't know why they picked up the leaf to sell.
  8. Utawana

    Utawana Initiate (0) Nov 7, 2007 New York

    lately I'm preferring pellets for the kettle side of things, and leaf for dry hopping. The pellets seem to take up less room in the paint bag during the boil, and leaf has less of those little particles that seem to make it out of the bag and into the keg while dry hopping.
  9. cracker

    cracker Disciple (300) May 2, 2004 Pennsylvania

    Leaf 100% of the time unless I need something that I cannot get leaf. Just works better for me and I find they impart much more aroma/flavor to my beers than pellet (especially in the dry hop stage). I also hate the hop sludge you get from pellets.

    I have no problem with storage as they go in my basement freezer after being vacuum packed.
    LuskusDelph and MurphysIrishSTDr like this.
  10. mnstorm99

    mnstorm99 Initiate (0) May 11, 2007 Minnesota

    Leaf may initially soak up more wort? But, I find it much easier to get all of the soaked up wort out of my leaf hops and bet that I lose less wort overall when using leaf.
    I have always had more problems with clogs when using pellets, but that may just be my system
    Storageability is the same if they are both properly cared for. My food saver makes sure there is no difference.
    I have never noticed a difference in utilization either.

    Lupulin can also get lost in the grinding and forming process when making pellets, so that can also be a concern.

    Pellets can be easier to measure out, I will say that. They also take up less space which may be why breweries use them more.

    I use both. 60% leaf, 40% pellets. I prefer leaf for dry hopping, so anything that might be used for that I purchse in leaf but nothing is exclusive to leaf. Depends on what I can find and the best price for the most part
  11. Naugled

    Naugled Crusader (737) Sep 25, 2007 New York

    Pellets 90% of the time. I only use leaf when I have to, like home grown hops, or when I can't find what I want in pellets.

    I prefer pellets for the same reason I prefer whole bean coffee. They have less surface area to oxidize, which means they stay fresher longer. Whole leaf hops have tons of surface area compared to pellets.
    MarriedAtGI likes this.
  12. cracker

    cracker Disciple (300) May 2, 2004 Pennsylvania

    I don't think that is a valid analogy honestly. Leaf hops are actually more like whole bean in that they have not been manipulated. Pellet hops are "pulverized" leaf hops. If anything pellets are more like ground coffee. If stored properly (vacuum sealed and in a freezer), leaf hops stay just as fresh....
    Gilmango and mnstorm99 like this.
  13. mnstorm99

    mnstorm99 Initiate (0) May 11, 2007 Minnesota

    I agree, I didn't think ground coffee oxidizes faster because of surface area, but because of the amount of time and process which gets more oxygen to the product.
    NiceFly likes this.
  14. Prostman81

    Prostman81 Aspirant (261) Sep 27, 2008 Illinois

    I've used both types, and I really can't tell a difference between the two. Now I just grab whatever format is in stock for the variety of hop I want to use.
  15. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,337) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Leaf when I can get it. Pellets when I can't. I prefer leaf because I think the flavors/aroma are generally better, but I have not done any controlled experiments to prove that.
    jimboothdesigns likes this.
  16. Longstaff

    Longstaff Initiate (0) May 23, 2002 Massachusetts

    I have been going back and forth between whole and pellets for the last couple of years and have settled on using both. Currently I use pellets for bittering addition, whole (in a bag) for 10-15 min. additions, and pellet again for flameout. Really to just cut down on the amount of hop debris in the pot - which can cut down my yeild due to siphoning procedure. I use mostly pellets for dryhopping, but like to add a little leaf too just to keep the hop bag nice and fluffy - too many leaf hops and it gets a little too leafy/vegetal for me - like Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA.
  17. gdkersey

    gdkersey Aspirant (221) Mar 6, 2008 Massachusetts

    I prefer whole leaf for dry hopping. Only ever used pellets for the boil.
    jmich24 likes this.
  18. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,019) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I use pellets.

    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.”

  19. Naugled

    Naugled Crusader (737) Sep 25, 2007 New York

    Granted it's not the best analogy but here's my logic. The way I understand oxidation is that it takes place at the surface and a very small distance into the surface. Everything inside is protected by this 'rusty' coating because oxygen has a much more difficult time getting to it. So for coffee: if you have one bean with a surface area of Y only Y becomes oxidized and when it's ground you are left with a very low ratio of oxidized coffee to fresh coffee. If you grind that bean first and store it, now you have Y x 100 (depending on grind) of surface area that will become oxidized. Now you have a much higher ratio of oxidized coffee per bean. This is what leads me to believe the statement that pellets store better than leaf and stay fresher for longer and my analogy with coffee because a whole hop cone has much more surface area exposed to oxygen that a single pellet does. Assuming both are stored equally and properly.

    Now, the flaw I see where these two items don't compare well is because fresh roasted coffee can go stale in one or two weeks and hops take much more time to lose their freshness. So there is time to pelletize hops before they lose their freshness. And I do agree with the fact that fresh whole hops are the freshest that can be used. However, if you can't use them (the whole hops) all within a few months of harvest pellets become the best choice for freshness. Again, assuming they are both stored equally and properly. (note: vacuums and purging are far from perfect so there is always oxygen present)

    So, my experience in a hop sack is, use whole hops when they are fresh, use pellets for all other occasions.

    NiceFly and mnstorm99 like this.
  20. cracker

    cracker Disciple (300) May 2, 2004 Pennsylvania

    Naugled, very well said. Bottom line is use whatever is freshest and what you like/works for you. For me that is whole leaf for others it's pellets. It's just personal preference that's all.
  21. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,019) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I have heard Glenn Tinseth in interviews state that pellet hop are ‘better’ protected from oxidation due to its packaging. Just like Naugled stated: “Everything inside is protected by this 'rusty' coating because oxygen has a much more difficult time getting to it.”

  22. mikehartigan

    mikehartigan Aspirant (297) Apr 9, 2007 Illinois

    Pellets because they are easier to store and measure, and I feel that they're more consistent (not a rational conclusion). but I have no problem with cones if that's all that's available.
    Regarding the coffee analogy, ground coffee stales in minutes because of its masssive surface area relative to its volume. Whole beans stale in days (maybe as long as a week). Green beans, on the other hand, last years, though I don't know why (nor do I care. I'm just happy that they do!)
  23. WickedSluggy

    WickedSluggy Devotee (400) Nov 21, 2008 Texas
    Beer Trader

    Leaf and/or pellet in kettle
    Leaf in hopback
    Leaf and/or pellet when dry hop in fermentor
    Leaf when dry hop in keg
  24. utahbeerdude

    utahbeerdude Disciple (376) May 2, 2006 Utah

    I prefer leaf, but this is only because of a particular aspect of my brewing process. After cooling, I pour the wort through a funnel that has a fine mesh strainer. Even though I contain pellet hops in bags in the brew pot, some of the fine hop particles escape the bags and then clog the strainer when transferring to the fermenter. Not a problem with leaf hops. I'll still use pellet hops if I really want to use a particular variety and have no other choice, but because of my process I prefer the leaf.
    mikehartigan likes this.
  25. axeman9182

    axeman9182 Initiate (0) Aug 5, 2009 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    Looks like I'll be getting to try leafs for the first time, as I bought a couple ounces of Sorachi Ace for a wit I plan on brewing soon without realizing they were the pellets I usually use.
  26. happypowder

    happypowder Initiate (0) Dec 6, 2012

    For the record Anchor Brewing also uses whole hops exclusively - and always has. The hop room there smells wonderful.
  27. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Crusader (702) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    Agree, and for my new setup with pumps and a FB in my kettle a fine hop sack is a big help with either
  28. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,281) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Add Victory to the list:
  29. Pegli

    Pegli Initiate (0) Aug 30, 2006 Rhode Island

    Before I started using a hop spider (paint strainer bags), I greatly preferred whole over pellets due to clogging issues...
  30. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,302) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Production breweries can have equipment that is suited to either whole hops or pellets.

    Homebrewers can have some similar set ups that like one or the other. Mine is more suited to whole hops - which I keep vacuum packed in the freezer. I also use pellets, but large amounts can clog my system. Going to do a hop spider so I can use more pellets.
  31. hopdog09

    hopdog09 Initiate (0) Sep 6, 2012 Michigan

    I grow my own and use them exclusivly..puts the "home" in home brew for me..plus I'm cheap..but as others have said, personal preference.
  32. dwarvenspirits

    dwarvenspirits Initiate (0) Feb 15, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Ounce for ounce, whether pellet or whole leaf, they will both soak up the same amount of wort; it just appears that whole leaf soaks up more, but it's not the case.
  33. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,337) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    In my system, leaf hops soak up more than twice the amount of wort as pellets. I know this because I have measured it over and over again while dialing in my brewing spreadsheet. It may be somewhat process dependent. I strain my wort on it's way to the fermenter, but I do not squeeze the hops, and I don't use hop bags (except for dry hopping).
    yinzer likes this.
  34. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Meyvn (1,050) Jan 20, 2012 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    Just playing devils advocate (I use whole hops unless forced to use pellet) but wouldn't the fact that whole hops smell more powerful than pellets add another aspect of truth to the idea that pellets would stay fresh longer? The glorious smell is the hops deteriorating and releasing their aroma and flavor into the atmosphere.
    NiceFly likes this.
  35. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,019) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I don’t know whether the smell that raw hops emit ‘proves’ anything but it is indeed true that raw hops don’t last as long as pellets. Below is from the Hopunion website FAQ:

    “How long will my hops stay fresh?
    Hop deterioration is impacted by numerous variables, the two most important being heat exposure and oxidation. For properly sealed, nitrogen flushed pellets, customers can expect a 3-4 year life expectancy. Raw hops however have a much shorter life span (approximately 6 months to 1 year). Regardless of the product size or packaging, hops should be stored in a cold, air tight environment to ensure optimum freshness and quality.”

  36. marquis

    marquis Crusader (740) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    From the USAhops website;
    Cold storage and anaerobic conditions can delay oxidation. Some oxidation of essential oil components is necessary to produce compounds thought to be important in beer flavors, so controlled aging is important for hops required for both bittering and aromatic properties.
    I've a feeling that the major factor in commercial decisions to use pelleted hops is simply technical; they fit in better with the use of conical fermenters and whirlpool.
  37. dasenebler

    dasenebler Initiate (0) Jan 26, 2008 Maine

    No wonder Hopdevil has such a boring, muffled hop aroma.
  38. dasenebler

    dasenebler Initiate (0) Jan 26, 2008 Maine

    This makes me really want to go out a buy a sixer of Liberty Ale. I love the aroma of cheesy hops.
  39. mikehartigan

    mikehartigan Aspirant (297) Apr 9, 2007 Illinois

    A cellulose sponge can hold a lot of water. Put that sponge in the blender and grind it into a fine powder, and it doesn't hold so much. Similarly, whole leaf hops have lots of structure that holds lots of wort. Pulverized hop pellets have no such structure.
    dasenebler likes this.
  40. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Crusader (702) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    They (the hops) have a lot of malt and yeast to compete with...I've always thought of it like a semi-session IIPA
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