I’m very excited. I just harvested my massive first year hop crop! OK, I’m totally exaggerating here. I only got 1.5 oz (lol), but I knew I wouldn’t get very much this year so I’m grateful for even getting that. The vines all look very healthy and the hops themselves look great. For a first year, I think we did good. I can’t wait to see what it will be like next year!
So how do you know if they’re even ready to pick? One way to check is to see if there is any browning or tiny brown spots on the cones. The next thing you want to look for is a ‘papery’ sound and feel to the cones. Last, you want to take a look under the petals at the lupin glands and observe the colour. They should be a bright “school bus” yellow (see picture). Give a cone a roll in your hands and smell it. It should have that fantastic hop smell that you should immediately recognize.
Once I had picked the enormous 1.5 oz, I had to decide how I was going to dry them. One way is to evenly lay them out on a window screen and let them air dry in a warm place that gets decent airflow. Another option is to use a dehydrator if you have access to one. Fortunately, we have an Excalibur dehydrator that we use a lot for making raw food dishes, so I decided to go with that.
I set the drying temperature at 85°F (it’s lowest setting). That way I hopefully won’t damage any of the essential oils that we’re looking for. It took about 24 hours or so to dry them. You will typically end up with 30% of your original weight. So for me, the 1.5 oz we started with, ended up being 0.5 oz of dried hops.
Now to store them: I recently invested in the “Vac n’ Store” system that I got from Home Hardware for $19.97. It’s way cheaper than buying an expensive food saver machine. So far it seems to work fine and I’ve been storing my pellet hops this way. Toss the dried hops into one of the bags, vacuum out the air and throw it in your freezer until brew day! That’s it!