How to Pick Hops

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If you are passionate about home brewing beer, you could grow your own hops. A first-time hops grower, however, may have difficulty determining the ideal moment to harvest the hops. Picking hops at the proper moment in the growing cycle ensures that you work with the best quality product, giving your home-brewed beer a flavor that rivals the finest microbrews and home-brews concocted by your friends and neighbors.

Things You'll Need

  • Calendar
  • Measuring tape
  • Pruning shears or hand sickle
  • Food dehydrator or window screen
  • Fine mesh netting
  • Mark the hops harvest period on a calendar. The ideal time to harvest hops depends on your geographic location. Ask other beer home-brewers or hops growers in your area to determine the harvest period. For example, hops growers in the Pacific Northwest usually can harvest their crops in late August or early September. Plan to be home for several weeks during the target harvest period.

  • Touch hops' cones to determine ripeness. Cones that feel slightly damp to the touch are too young. Cones that are ready to be picked will leave your hands slightly fragrant, sticky and covered in a light pollen.

  • Cut each vine 3 to 4 feet from the bottom with pruning shears or hand sickle. Lay each vine gently on the ground.

  • Pluck the hops' cones from the vines by hand. Generally, each vine produces 1 to 2 lbs. of cones.

  • Dry the hops using a food dehydrator or by laying a freshly cleaned window screen on the ground in a part of your yard with lots of direct sunlight. If you use the latter method, cover the hops with fine mesh netting to keep off bugs and prevent wind from blowing them away. Hops are fully dry and ready for storage or brewing use when their central stem breaks rather than bends.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wear long sleeves and garden gloves when harvesting hops because some people develop a slight rash on their arms from the plants' hooked hairs.

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