Whole Cone Hops: Who, What, Where, When and Why?

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by 120minuteman, Oct 12, 2012.

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  1. 120minuteman

    120minuteman Initiate (0) Jul 3, 2012 New York
    Beer Trader

    I recently discovered Sierra Nevada's Hoptimum, and boy was I in for a treat...while reading the label I learned that the beer was made with "whole cone hop brewing". Does anyone know a little more about this process? I'm particularly interested in learning:
    1. What are whole cone hops?
    2. What are the advantages/disadvantages to using them?
  2. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Defender (679) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    1. They are hops...pick...dry...repeat : )

    2. They are not processed as much as pelletized hops, but they don't store as well and take up a lot of space.
  3. FATC1TY

    FATC1TY Moderator (1,228) Feb 12, 2012 Georgia
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    Whole cone, are simply what they say they are.

    They are minimally processed. They kiln dry them, and pack them. Instead of blending them together, and chopping them up and turning them into pellets. It's personal preference. You'll find a more consistent AA with the pellets.

    Most will use them to dry hop with, but some, like myself, will use them through the whole process. I find it cleaner and find a better overall flavor.

    The disadvantage is.. sometimes the price is higher, they are a bit bulkier to store, and you could run into inconsistent AA usage in a boil perhaps.

    That said- I like whole cone personally.
  4. beer1018

    beer1018 Initiate (0) Dec 9, 2008 Ohio

    It does make the transfer to kettle harder with whole hops as they sometimes float after boil and will clog screens if straining to primary. I used extra muslin bags last time to avoid this but the best method I have seen is to create a hop sock.
    Also I feel gangster walking out of the store with a fat sack of whole hops.
  5. WickedSluggy

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

    Whole cone hops are better for most of my brewing processes. I use some pellet hops, but when available I use whole hops.
    • In the boil kettle cones allow less hop sludge to transfer into the fermenter.
    • In my hopback (I have a Blichmann Hop Rocket) whole hops are really the only option - this type of device cannot use pellet hops.
    • While I will sometimes dry hop with pellets in a fermenter, usually I dry hop in the keg when dry-hopping is appropriate. Whole hops leave far less vegetable matter in the keg after removal of the hop sack.
    Again, these advantages are specific to a process like mine. There is nothing wrong with pellets. Ounce per ounce they are more efficient at releasing essential hop constituents into your beer. Most pro brewers use pellets for most of their day-to-day hop additions.
  6. Homebrew42

    Homebrew42 Initiate (0) Dec 20, 2006 New York

    "Whole cone" hops are simply hops in their basic form, as opposed to hop plugs, which are whole cone hops that have been pressed into pucks, and hop pellets, which are whole cone hops that have been ground into powder and pressed into rabbit food like pellets. Many craft brewers use pellets because they are more shelf stable and take up less storage space, Sierra Nevada is one of the few that use whole cones exclusively.
  7. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,263) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Some breweries are set up for whole hops, some are set up for pellets.
  8. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,393) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Well, this may be somewhat equipment and process dependent, but I strain my wort on the way to the fermenter and whole hops simply provide a nice filter bed, while pellet hop sludge very often clogs the strainer.
    ditch likes this.
  9. jmich24

    jmich24 Zealot (553) Jan 28, 2010 Michigan

    I recently bought a small fortune of 2012 whole hops. I immediately froze the hops upon delivery. How concerned should I be with their self life/stability?

  10. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,393) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Frozen is good. Vacuum packed and frozen is better. With frozen whole hops, I figure they'll be good enough until the next year's harvest.
    jmich24 likes this.
  11. jmich24

    jmich24 Zealot (553) Jan 28, 2010 Michigan

    Thanks for easing my mind. I figured each time I get into the pound bags, I would reseal it with the vacuum sealer.(assuming I dont use the whole pound!)
  12. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Defender (679) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    If you just recently bought hops, they are probably 2011 harvest...unless you scored fresh hops or the recent Southern Hemisphere (SH) harvest. Somebody tell me I'm wrong and you are into the 2012 NH harvest already : )
  13. mikehartigan

    mikehartigan Aspirant (294) Apr 9, 2007 Illinois

    You're wrong ...and a little late. HopsDirect is already sold out of this year's leaf Citra, Amarillo, Centennial, and maybe others. Pellets are not in yet, but last year, the hot ones were gone within hours.
  14. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Defender (679) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    Thanks for the update I knew I might be wrong...but pellets make up the Lion's share of my hop orders...thanks.

    Edit: If things get really bleak this year...Galaxies are still available (last I checked) and experimenting with new hops might be in my future.
  15. FATC1TY

    FATC1TY Moderator (1,228) Feb 12, 2012 Georgia
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    Yeah, some of the whole leaf has already been out a few weeks. My LHBS told me chances are it was 2011 crops this early. I told him I got whole cone Amarillo and Cascades, so I was sure they were 2012. I had Citra in my cart and it sold out... I'm not worried as my LHBS gets TONS of Citra.. I just wanted to stock up a bit I guess for my hoppy spring ahead.
  16. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,393) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Yet another example of crack LHBS staff being on top of things. :rolling_eyes:
  17. FATC1TY

    FATC1TY Moderator (1,228) Feb 12, 2012 Georgia
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    The guy is a one man operation, and I really like him and his store. I have prices cheaper than anywhere online pretty much. His grain mill is fan-fucking-tasticly good, and I regularly get yeast inside of a week of production date.

    He does have some comments and ideals that I don't jive with, but thats understandable. He's got about 600 more batches under his belt than I do.

    He stood down when I said I also got 2012 Amarillo, since it was obviously sold out early in whole leaf last year. I wouldn't assume a large hop farm in the PNW that sells online would sell old hops in new bags, and get away with it year after year.
  18. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (2,931) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    There was some discussion on hop shelf life in this thread and that pellet hops will stay fresh longer than whole hops. Below is something from the HopUnion website concerning the shelf life of pellet hops (in nitrogen flushed packaging) vs. whole hops (raw hops):

    “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.”

  19. hopdog09

    hopdog09 Initiate (0) Sep 6, 2012 Michigan

    I've been growing and using my own hops exclusivly for almost twenty years..I've found that vacuum packing and keeping them in the freezer will keep them harvest fresh for up to 18 months..not to say that there isn't some degredation, but I don't normally keep them past a year anyway because I use most of what gets grown the year before anyway..
  20. jmich24

    jmich24 Zealot (553) Jan 28, 2010 Michigan

    I hate to rub it in, but here is goes all 2012 :grinning: (In Pounds)

    Centennial 2
    Amarillo 2
    Citra 1
    Simcoe 2
    Nelson 1
    Galaxy 1
    CTZ 1
    Belma -1
    Goldings .5
    Magnum .5
  21. FATC1TY

    FATC1TY Moderator (1,228) Feb 12, 2012 Georgia
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    Let me know what you think of that Belma.. I had an order in the cart for some Belma and Citra and I think some Simcoe, but didn't order. Then Citra went away and I decided to say piss on it for now. I'll get them in pellets, since I can get Citra year round just about in leaf from my LHBS.
  22. jmich24

    jmich24 Zealot (553) Jan 28, 2010 Michigan

    I am planning on a 3 gallon APA Smash with either MO or GP and Belma. It is planned for a few batches down the line. I will report back results.
  23. FATC1TY

    FATC1TY Moderator (1,228) Feb 12, 2012 Georgia
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    Great.. good way to get the gist of it all. I'd venture to say do MO, simply out of my own experience with just MO, so I can use baseline of the taste of the hops, but I'm selfish like that. :slight_smile:

    They say the Belma is a tropical, but not quite "Citra" tropical.
  24. BushDoctor

    BushDoctor Initiate (0) Oct 27, 2007 New York

    The sludge is the worst, especially if doing a double ipa or the like.
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