One of the biggest decisions you’ll make during the brewing process is selecting what hops to use: hop cones, whole leaves, or pellets. What if you want to use a different one than the recipe calls for? Are they interchangeable?
Whole hops, pellets, and cones can all be used when homebrewing beer, but they are not interchangeable. When converting a beer recipe, the ratio should be 5 parts fresh hops to 1 part dried. 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.
Continue reading to learn the differences between fresh, dry, and pellet hops, as well as the conversion ratios for each.
Difference between fresh whole hops, whole cone hops, and pellet hops
Hops are the number one preservative for beer. They’re used in a variety of recipes for various reasons and are made into many shapes in sizes.
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.
Each type has its pros and cons and deciding whichever is best for your recipe results in a subjective answer.
Fresh whole hops
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.
It can be difficult to get fresh, straight-from-the-vine hops, especially if you live nowhere near a hop farm. Fresh hops give the most vibrant flavors and aromas, as well as the best bittering qualities.
Whole cone (or leaf) hops
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. These hops are often cheaper because they aren’t fresh off the vine.
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.
Like mentioned earlier, pellet hops are also a favorite because it takes much less of them compared to whole hops for recipes. The pellets instill the same characteristics in beers as fresh hops or drive leaves.
You can also use pellet hops from years past, making them versatile.
What is the T90 hop standard?
T90 pellets contain all of the raw hop matter in the form of a pellet.
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.
What is the T45 hop standard?
T45 pellets are a complete replacement for whole hops.
They have less hop mass than T90 pellets but still contain the same alpha acid content.
This means that T45 pellets are smaller and take up less space while providing the same brewing value.
Which type of hop is the best for homebrewing?
To say there’s a clear winner to this question would be a false statement. The best type of hop for homebrewing is almost entirely subjective and depends on a variety of things like quantity, quality, and price.
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.
Once-fresh hops, like dried whole hop cones, last longer and still provide the flavors and aspects they were put on this earth to give. In comparison to pellets, though, hops – fresh or dried – require more hops, as we mentioned earlier.
Hop pellets are probably the most convenient. Pellets provide the same flavors, aromas, and bitterness, and are much easier to get at any time of the year. Pellets can be stored the longest, by either you or the seller. This can save you money by purchasing in bulk, or even by picking up some pellets from last year’s harvest. All of this versatility for the same stuff.
Conversion ratios for fresh hops, dried whole hops, and pellet hops
The conversion ratios for hops are consistent and easy to follow. However, these conversions aren’t exact, primarily because it’s difficult to measure and estimate whole hop concentrations. Also, the ratio can vary slightly depending on hop variety and freshness.
|Fresh whole hops||Dried whole hops||5:1|
|Fresh whole hops||Pellets||5:1|
|Dried whole hops||Fresh whole hops||1:5|
|Dried whole hops||Pellets||1:1|
|Pellets||Fresh whole hops||1:5|
|Pellets||Dried whole hops||1:1|
Fresh whole hops to dry hops conversion
The conversion from fresh whole hops to dry hops is simple.
From fresh whole hops to dry hops, the conversion ratio is 5:1. This means that 5 ounces of fresh, right-from-the-vine hops will yield about the same product and IBU as 1 ounce of dry hops. Consequently, the conversion is alternatively true for dry hops to fresh whole hops in that it’s a 1:5 ratio.
This ratio can vary slightly depending on the freshness and variety of hop used, but it generally isn’t something to change up a recipe for.
Fresh whole hops to hop pellet conversion
This conversion is essentially the same as converting to dry hops.
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.
Similar to the previous conversion, these numbers are not an exact science because of hop variety and freshness.
Dry whole hops to pellet conversion
The conversion for dry whole hops to pellets is the same as the other conversions.
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.
Pellets always give you more for the amount used when compared to any other type of hop.