I hate leaf hops....

Sun Aug 22, 2010 5:16 am

Caution, this is me bitching about homebrewing with leaf hops, the post might be a bit long so if you have anyway better to spend your time don't ready this. I just need to vent.

I have been brewing for over 4 years now (3 years all grain). Until about 5 months ago, I always used pellet hops. So, when I place my last bulk hops order, I decided what the hell, I should try out leaf hops and see if I note any different flavors, aromas, etc. in my favorite brews. So, I bought 2 pounds of Cascade, 2 pounds of Willamette, 1 pound of Nugget, and 1 pound of Cluster.

First, a disclosure about my brewery..... I was a douche when I bought my 15 gallon stainless kettle a couple of years ago, because, "I want to keep that pot pristine, no ball valves for me, I can use a siphon." That wasn't such a bad idea until 5 months ago when I wanted to use leaf hops. Why, guess what, the siphon stays clogged with the hops and you can't get your damn IPA into the fermenter.

I did all my google research to figure out how to separate the hops from the wort (never had the big of issue for me until I got leaf hops). You name it, I tried it, whirlpooling, building a "hop sack" with pvc coupling, and a plain 'ole hop bag loose in the boil. It all sucked.

First, whirlpooling only works well with pellet hops. With pellet hops you get some resemblance of a cone and can siphon your wort from the side of the kettle. With a hoppy IPA, leaf hops don't "pile up" in the center, or if they do, there are too many damn hops in there for the pile to do you any good. On to the hop sack.

So, when I make IPAs, pale ales, etc., I like to have multiple additions starting from mid boil to flame out. When you put a hop sack, in a boil loose with the opening crimped shut with wire - you have to open the bitch up when you add more hops. Can I just say, that is royal pain in the ass, and when you're in a hurry or drunk, it burns your fingers too. I know I saw pictures online where someone used a pvc coupling to suspend their hop bag from the top of the kettle....

So, I bought a 5 inch diameter pvc coupling, a clamp, and a big paint straining bag. I rigged it all up and things were good for the bittering addition only. I put in my first gob of hops at the 30 min. mark and guess what... Leaf hops hate boiling wort. They don't want to get wet, so I go to poking and pushing the little bastards down in the sack an then what... The friggin, clamp popped off the bottom with all the pokin' and the damn hops are free in the kettle. Shit, another bitchin' day siphoning wort. So the next brew day.....

I use the same set up again, but I really really tighten the clamp around the straining bag and pvc coupling. No way that is going to happen again, right. Bittering addition is fine, 30 min. addition fine. At the 15 min. addition, I am poking the hops again - remember leaf hops don't like to get wet - then bang the clamp came off and loose hops in the boil. After further inspection - I saw the root cause was that my kick ass boil, was throwing wort on the pvc coupling and warped the bitch just enough that the clamp fell off. so... lets try something different on the next brew.

Last night I was making an IPA with pile of Williamette hops. I got a tea infuser (mesh steel ball) and slightly bent the frame so that it would form around my siphon. Good idea I thought because it would keep the hops directly off the racking cane and wort could flow freely. "Wrong dumb ass - try again," there were so many leaf hops in the kettle that they essentially made an impassible filter to where the wort will not siphon. So, "F" it, I went the kitchen, got a large measuring cup and strainer. (I know, I know...) I sanitized them both, opened the fermenter and kettle, and proceeded to pour wort over the strainer into the fermenter catching the leaf hops in the strainer. After two pours, I had to dump the strainer because of so many damn hops. 30 F'ing minutes later I have a fermenter full of wort (probably infected with airborne nasty stuff) pitched my yeast and its fermenting away.

The way I see it, my brewery and/or my skills will not accommodate leaf hops. I have two more pounds of hops left and then it is pellet hops here on out. NOW.... for all this trouble did I notice positive flavor and aroma differences in my favorite homebrews? Shit no. First, I realized two brews into my leaf hops bulk order that I needed to correct the quantity of hops in my brewing software because the leaf hops don't equate oz for oz with pellet hops. Then, even though I try to keep my hops fresh in vacuumed sealed bags in the freezer, they just don't smell as fresh as the pellets when I used them. MY Ipa's have been, blah with flavor and aroma for the past 5 months.

Now, if you're still reading this, I am truly sorry you wasted your time - you're never getting that time back by the way. Secondly, if you have any thoughts, words of wisdom, or just want to crack on my lack of brewing skills with these damn leaf hops - fire away! I need to laugh at this point.
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Re: I hate leaf hops....

Sun Aug 22, 2010 6:57 am

I know it's already on your blog, but you should submit this to the BN blog, too. It's kind of languishing there. :jnj
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Re: I hate leaf hops....

Sun Aug 22, 2010 7:05 am

if you use a different hop bag for each of your additions you don't have to open the hot bag up to add more hops to it. That's what I do
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Re: I hate leaf hops....

Sun Aug 22, 2010 7:51 am

San_Diego_Matt wrote:if you use a different hop bag for each of your additions you don't have to open the hot bag up to add more hops to it. That's what I do

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Re: I hate leaf hops....

Sun Aug 22, 2010 9:15 am

Try putting one of those steel wool scrubby things on the bottom of your autosiphon. I've used that method with great success. Fasten it with a (sanitized) elastic band.
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Re: I hate leaf hops....

Sun Aug 22, 2010 9:22 am

or you could brew beer without hops, like the big boys do. :roll:
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Re: I hate leaf hops....

Sun Aug 22, 2010 9:49 am

When I used to brew in stock pots the solution (which was part of the design of the "kit") was a perforated stainless steel screen that stood up off the bottom an inch or so supported on stainless steel bolts. The pot had a nipple welded in place at a level below the screen. Leaf hops settle on the screen and form a sort of filter bed so it's somewhat like lautering your kettle wort. And as with lautering the hop bed will catch most of the hot trub which gives you really bright cast out wort. Also, if you choose to use a mix of leaf and pellet the pellet bits will be stopped by the leaf bed. The catch is that a lot of leaf hops hold up a lot of wort and the solution to this is to brew for a slightly higher gravity than you want in the fermenter, then sparge the hops bed with boiled water. This, of course, disturbs the neat trub layer and more of it winds up in the fermenter than would if you didn't sparge.

I know you said you don't have the nipple/valve but that could be installed now either by welding or using one of the weldless fitting kits. Now where to get the screen? I guess you could go to McMaster-Carr and by some stock but you have to find someone to cut it into a circle that would fit into your kettle and drill/punch the holes for the stand off bolts (one bolt, at the center, sticks up, not down - that's the handle you grab to pull the thing out of the pot).

I don't brew in that pot any more bit it also works great for steaming crabs and cooking sausage!
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Re: I hate leaf hops....

Sun Aug 22, 2010 11:35 am

I don't really have an answer, but I know when I did my last Hoegaarden clone, with the orange peel and coriander, plus the hops (pellet) all that shit clogged up my false bottom....so for now on, ANY spices will be put into some type of a sack, and teabagged!!!!

I will say, yes, I did read that entire post.....I was rolling on the floor laughing, that there was some funny shit!!!!

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