Views: 52 Author: Site Editor Publish Time: 2023-01-04 Origin: Site
If you’ve been home brewing for any amount of time it’s likely you have come across the debate on whether whole hops or pellet hops are better for brewing with. Each offers their own distinct advantages and disadvantages.
I’ve been using pellet hops since I started brewing as typically they have always been easier for me to get a hold of and I read early on that utilisation is greater with pellet hops (meaning you need less hops to do the same work).
However, on occasion when I haven’t been able to get hold of pellet hops I have used whole hops (also called leaf hops) and had good results with them. It might just be because I know I’ve used a different form of hops but I always feel as though the taste from whole hops is a little more subtle and smoother.
So what are ‘whole hops’ and ‘pellet hops’?
Whole hops (also called leaf hops) are dried, fresh hop cones. They are packed into large bales which are then broken down for reselling. Unlike pellet hops, whole hops do not have a protective layer created by ruptured lupulin glands which makes them much more perishable than other hop forms. Also, unlike pellet hops they are not homogenous, meaning sampling and bitterness control are difficult for the producers which means variable results for homebrewers, which can be a consideration if you are looking at making repeatable recipes. When using whole hops you should also expect 10-15% less utilisation than with pellet hops.
Many brewers enjoy using whole hops though as they feel they are more natural and provide a less harsh hop flavour to the beer. Sierra Nevada has been famous for their use of whole hops.
Pellet hops are hops which have had a lot of the vegetative material removed from the cone and are then milled in a hammer mill, reducing them to a powder, before being pushed through a pellet mill. This process ruptures the luplin glands of the hop which makes it easier to isomerise the alpha acids. This, combined with an increased surface area in contact with the beer, results in a higher utilisation percentage compared to whole hops.
In terms of disadvantages with hop pellets, hop aroma is very volatile and the process that pellets go through may have a negative effect on the aroma that pellets can provide and, whilst rupturing the lupulin glands, is useful in terms of efficiency. Some brewers claim that certain compounds in the hop are released too quickly as a result of this and so are not effectively absorbed into the beer.