How to Harvest Hops | A Step By Step Expert Guide

This article’s primary objective is to educate us on how to harvest hops. It’s not just brewers and bakers who start hopping. Housewives use buds to add to soups and salads, and dietitians recommend eating them as a source of vitamins. Hops are rich in essential oils and biologically active substances. That is why many summer residents are interested in the question: when to collect hops, how to dry, use in medicine and cooking.

How to Harvest Hops

Hops can be used for more than just brewing. It is suitable for preparing food and medicine. Fresh hops are about 80 percent water, so you’ll hop need to use more than you would dry hops. To prevent the raw material from losing its properties, you need the correct harvesting of hops for the winter. Not only is storage important, but also a collection. If there is no hop in your garden, and you will pick cones from a wild-growing shrub, then choose a plant that grows in an ecologically clean place. 

Raw materials collected in an industrial area near a road or railroads are not suitable for consumption. If the cones are green, then it’s too early to harvest hops for the summer. Hops can be harvested in August-September when the cones acquire a yellow-green or pinkish hue but have not yet opened. 

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Collection Rules

  • Only female inflorescences have useful properties. They are arranged in single groups in the form of brushes. Male inflorescences are of no value.
  • Harvest hops in dry weather for more active ingredients. Most hop varieties are ready to harvest when they have reached about 23% dry matter. The food dehydrator will likely take at least 24 hours to dry the sample out. 
  • Pick only good quality buds. A golden yellow powder can check the quality on the inside of the flakes. The hops need a moisture content of eight to 10 percent by weight to prevent molding.
  • Hops over a year old are suitable for harvesting raw materials. Average hops are dried down to between 8 and 10 percent moisture before being stored.

If the buds are brown, it is too late to harvest them. Also, if the number is within one or two points of 23%, you’re safe harvesting. For brewing, also harvest hops in August-September. To test the quality of the raw material, rub it in your palms. If a green-yellow scent remains on the skin, then it’s time to collect hops so, finish that beer, and let’s get to it. Harvested hops contain anything from 75 to 85 percent moisture, and most of that needs to be removed to avoid spoilage. 

Home Grown Hops

Growing your hops is not only a rewarding way of saying, “I made this beer myself, but” it also ensures an even more sustainable link to the brewing process. 

Hop plants, which are an essential part of the home brewing process, are increasingly available in garden centers and nurseries. 

Once you have the hop rhizome in your hands, plant it in a well-lit, sunny spot and water it a little every 2-3 days. The soil should be damp, but don’t let it puddle; otherwise, the root could rot. To know when your hops are at that desired 8 to 10 percent moisture, we have to go back to the dry matter test we first used to test hop ripeness.

In early April, the weather should be a bit warmer and less windy. Now is the time to put your plant in better condition to grow. Choose a pot that is at least 40 cm deep with a hole in the bottom to allow the water to drain off, or, better yet, dig a 12-inch deep hole in your garden. Fill the ground with a mixture of fertilizer and compost. Do not pack the soil too much, as the hop plant prefers a somewhat loose layer. 

Hops lose 1% dry matter anywhere from 4 to7 days( the UVM reference gives a chart for several varieties). Now you have to sit and watch how it grows. And you will see, it will grow, a lot. Once the stem reaches around 20 cm, your plant will need some support, so get yourself a bamboo pole. The stem will naturally twist around it, so there is no need to tie it. It is worth bearing in mind that a mature hop plant can grow up to 10 meters in height to be cut during the growing season. They are very tough plants, so don’t worry.

If you have a garden, you may want to grow it on wires around a pergola. The more it can grow, the more hop flowers you will have.

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Tips for Growing Hop Plant

Water it. If the surface of the pot or garden is dry, give it a drink. 2. Weed control. As soon as spring rolls around, remove weeds from around the plant’s base to avoid competition and nutrient loss.

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Support:

Your hop plant will grow multiple stems, so select 4-5 of the strongest to maximize your hop yield. Cut the others with scissors.

Fertilization:

Nourish your hop plant with a generous dose of fertilizer in early May and early June. Liquid compost is excellent as it reaches the roots directly.

Trimming the leaves:

When the plant reaches 2 to 3 meters, remove the first 50 centimeters’ leaves to limit the spread of mold or other fungi.

Harvest:

The hop harvest traditionally occurs in the first two weeks of September, in the last period of hot, dry weather. Don’t worry, in the first year, the harvest will be quite poor, but you should have an excellent hop harvest next year. Don’t leave them on the plant for too long. When they start to open up, it’s time to harvest them. You can also tell by the smell.

Drying and storage

Dry the hops as quickly as possible, for 2 to 3 days. They will dry faster if you leave the leaves with the stem. Also, a desktop fan will help speed up the process.

Once they are crisp, snip them with scissors, and place them tightly in a zip-top bag. Get as much air out as possible to stop oxidation. Now you can store the hops in the freezer until you are ready to make your beer.

How to Cultivate Hops

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Land

The hop plant needs fertile, well-draining soil. We will avoid areas where the water tends to stagnate after the rain, or if we plant in a pot, we will put a layer of gravel at the bottom to ensure good drainage.

Before planting, we will take the opportunity to work and aerate the land well, and we will incorporate good quality compost or well-matured manure.

Light

The hops want light and hours of sunshine to make a good flowering. However, we must not forget that we are at the southern limit of a plant’s natural distribution zone that grows well. 

Structure

It is a climbing plant that grows in a spiral surrounding other plants to seek the light. It is, therefore, necessary to give it support to climb. The more vertical growth the plant can develop, the more flowering we will have. From here, each one has to use their ingenuity according to the physical possibilities of their space.

A very common option is to tie twine from the plant’s base to a raised support, such as a balcony railing. If we are 5 or 6 meters high, we will put 2 or 3 strings per plant, 1 meter apart in the upper part, allowing 2 or 3 shoots or stems to become entangled in each string. If we have 3 or 4 meters, we will put 4 or 5 strings to distribute the growth, and always with 2 or 3 shots per string. The separation at the top of the twine is necessary to avoid that the lateral shoots that will grow in the middle of summer become entangled with each other. The wire is not advisable since the sun heats up and can burn the plant.

Another option is to use mesh such as those used in bean gardens or the style of a soccer goal net if we do not have a high point where to tie the strings. We place very tight mesh between two trees or two supports and up to about 2 meters high ground level. The plant will use all vertical axes of the mesh or net for climbing and will create a dense layer of vegetation over the entire structure. If we are a few meters high, we can cut the tips of the stems when they exceed the highest part of the support, thus promoting the growth of the lateral branches that are what produce the hop flowers.

On the other hand, if we plant near a wall, we must leave enough weight space between it and the structure to allow good ventilation and avoid friction between the plant and the wall.

Wind

The wind is an important factor to take into account. Strong winds in the spring can break the stems’ tips, delaying vertical growth, and in summer, they can overly dry the plant and flowers and even cause the structure to fall when the plant is heavy. In regions with strong and frequent winds, we will plant in points protected from these.

On the other hand, light breezes and winds are convenient for the good health of the plants since they shorten the humid periods after the rain or the dew. So we will try to plant in much-ventilated places, and we will avoid humid corners where we would have more problems with parasitic fungi.

Signs of Mature Hops

Without this fragrant representative of the flora, it is impossible to prepare a delicious amber drink. Therefore, you should rely on the many years of experience of homebrewers, who unmistakably determine the maturity of hops by special characteristics:

Fruit color

The coming moment of harvesting will be prompted by the cones’ color, the scales of which should have a pronounced golden-yellowish tint. If natural raw materials have acquired a yellow-brownish color, then they are not suitable for making beer. Heavy, greenish fruits are also unsuitable.

Condition of cones

Ripe, ready-to-produce specimens should be covered with sticky scales that fit tightly to the bud’s core. After squeezing, the fruit should quickly return to its original shape.

The presence of a yellowish powder

Experienced brewers know how to determine the maturity of a hop and rub it between the hand’s palms to make sure it is fully ripe. After this manipulation, a yellowish powdery substance with a pleasant smell should remain on a trellis. These bounces are reasonable for planning unpleasant dampness. Buds that do not produce powder are not suitable for this purpose.

As a council

  • So that the bump does not disintegrate when drying, it should be torn off along with the pedicel.
  • The trunk of the plant has small thorns, and it is safer to harvest with gloves.
  • The torn material should be well dried. To do this, you need to prepare special conditions suitable for this important operation. Set aside a place in a well-ventilated shady area. Spread the buds in a thin layer on canvas or thick paper and dry for a few days. The drying region ought not to be sodden or cold.
  • You cannot dry in direct sunlight since most of the nutrients and a pleasant smell will evaporate.
  • Dried buds can be stored in fabric bags for quite a long time. With proper storage, they do not lose their beneficial qualities for two to three years.

How to Harvest Hops: FAQs

How do you know when hops are ready to be picked?

When they look light and dry and come back after being squeezed, they’re ready to harvest. Pick a cone, roll it in your hands, and feel it. If there is a strong aroma between the cut grass and the onion, it is the season to harvest. Roll the jump close to the ear.

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How much is a kilo of hops worth?

The average price of hops in the United States has declined in recent years. Between 2016 and 2019, the price per kilo of hops increased from $ 5.72 to $ 5.68.

What does a hectare of hops cost?

Giant vendors in the Pacific Northwest sell in bulk for as little as $ 3 per kilogram, but fine hops in the Horst Valley can go as high as $ 15 per kilogram, giving crops potential for growth. At that higher price, hops make about $ 25,000 an acre.

Last Words

We trust you have taken a great deal concerning this article with the best way to “harvest hops” and other necessary details discussed in the articles.

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