It's rare for any group of brewers to agree on the best form of hops. Each of the common forms has its own advantages and disadvantages. What form is best for you will depend on where in the brewing process the hops are being used, and will probably change as your brewing methods change.Table 6 - Hop Forms
They float, and are easy to strain from wort.
|They soak up wort, resulting in some wort loss after the boil.|
Bulk makes them harder to weigh.
|Retain freshness longer than whole form.|
Convenient half ounce units.
Behave like whole hops in the boil.
Good form for dry hopping.
|Difficult to use in other than half ounce increments.|
They soak up wort like whole hops.
|Easy to weigh. |
Small increase in isomerization due to shredding.
Don't soak up wort.
|Forms hop sludge in boil kettle. |
Difficult to dry hop with.
Aroma content tends to be less than other forms due to amount of processing.
Whichever form of hops you choose to use, freshness is important. Fresh hops smell fresh, herbal, and spicy, like evergreen needles and have a light green color like freshly mown hay. Old hops or hops that have been mishandled are often oxidized and smell like pungent cheese and may have turned brown. It is beneficial if hop suppliers pack hops in oxygen barrier bags and keep them cold to preserve the freshness and potency. Hops that have been stored warm and/or in non-barrier (thin) plastic bags can easily lose 50% of their bitterness potential in a few months. Most plastics are oxygen permeable; so when buying hops at a homebrew supply store, check to see if the hops are stored in a cooler or freezer and if they are stored in oxygen barrier containers. If you can smell the hops when you open the cooler door, then the hop aroma is leaking out through the packaging and they are not well protected from oxygen. If the stock turnover in the brewshop is high, non-optimum storage conditions may not be a problem. Ask the shop owner if you have any concerns.