Keep That Oxygen Away From My Hops!

February 10, 2010

Oxygen is evil. Well, it’s at least corrosive to lots of things, and it does a number on lots of different foods. Hops lose their bitterness and aromas with extended exposure to oxygen. There’s really nothing like throwing fresh, really potently aromatic hops into a brew, so stale hops are quite lame.

None of this is important to a lot of homebrewers as hops are typically bought in air-tight foil packages and used on brewday with little oxygen exposure. Unfortunately, with hop prices still way higher than they should be (thoug they have dropped a little since the shortage ended), the only cost-effective way to brew stronger beers is to buy hops in bulk. Hops by the ounce are around $2.75-3.50 around here, which is outrageous. Hops by the pound from one of the hop farms in the pacific northwest come out to $0.75-1.00 per ounce.

Over the summer I brewed an IPA with Amarillo hops from a pound I had just bought. It turned out great with awesome aroma and a solid hop flavor. The remnants of that hop bag were stored in a plastic bag in the freezer. When I used them to brew that IPA again a few months later, it turned out nowhere near as good. Same recipe, same procedure, stale hops. Lesson learned!

I recently got 5 pounds of hops from Puterbaugh Farms in Washington state (Cascade, Chinook, Galena, Amarillo, and Northern Brewer). Once breaking into the foil bag of one of them, I wanted a way to keep them freshly stored, so I went out to buy one of those food vacuum sealer systems. Apparently those don’t exist in the Rochester area… so I hopped over to Amazon. The FoodSaver FDFRSH0055 was a cheap but effective looking option, so I grabbed that. So far, it looks like the 20 oz deli containers you can get for the system are perfect for a pound of hops. 🙂

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