Whole hops, pellets, and cones can all be used when homebrewing beer, but they are not interchangeable.
If using fresh hops instead of dry, you will need five times the amount indicated; if using cones or pellets instead of fresh, you will only need one-fifth.
All hops start out as fresh whole hops – it’s just a preference of the seller that determines if they’re altered into pellets or dried and packaged that way. Unlike fresh hops, dried hops are easy to ship and store.
Fresh whole hops are often an ideal candidate for recipes. However, they are difficult to come by, as hop harvest only happens a couple of months out of the year and they don’t stay fresh forever. Fresh hops give the most vibrant flavors and aromas, as well as the best bittering qualities.
Leaf hops are just fresh hops that have been dried out for the sake of transportation or storage. This allows them to stay in good shape for longer than a normal fresh hop. Drying the hops doesn’t change their ability to have a strong impact on your beer, whether it’s for taste, aroma, or preservation.
Pellet hops are just whole leaf hops that have been crushed up and compacted in a hammermill. These types of hops are a favorite among many breweries and homebrewers, as they last a long time and are relatively inexpensive.
This means that T90 pellets contain more of the whole hop and less of what you’re really looking for in a hop: T90 pellets have more plant matter than just lupulin powder.
They have less hop mass than T90 pellets but still contain the same alpha acid content.
The use of each is situational – for example, fresh hops that are vacuum sealed and stored at room temperature should be used within 48 hours of the harvest. Fresh hops will impart the most potent and lively flavors to your beer but are tough to get your hands on.
Fresh whole hops to hop pellets is a 5:1 ratio. Pellet hops have a higher extraction per weight than fresh hops do (about 10% more). So, 1 ounce of pellet hops will have the same impact as 5 ounces of fresh whole hops or vice versa.
The conversion for fresh hops to pellet hops is 5:1. It takes 1 ounce of pellet hops to achieve the same product as it would with 5 ounces of dried whole hops. Pellet hops offer more with less, as is true in any other conversion to pellets.