Sunday, August 28, 2011

How do you know when your hops are ripe?

That's the question I've been Googling lately.  Having never grown hops before, I'm a bit nervous about harvesting at the right time.  Fortunately, there's a lot of information on the internet, and some of it appears to be helpful.  If nothing else, here are some shots of our Cascade hops this week.

I promised last time to include a ruler in a photo, and as you can see above, the largest hops are just under two inches long.  The cones seem to open up as they ripen, which seems to coincide with good lupulin production in the cone.

This is the most-heavily-laden bine, with what I think is a pretty good crop.

One of the tricks of determining ripeness is to break the cone open to observe and smell the lupulin inside.  Can you see the yellow powdery substance near where each leaf attaches at the center of the cone?  That's lupulin, or what we're trying to obtain from these hops.

The aroma of the lupulin was very strong when I held the cone close to my nose.  Each member of my family described the smell differently, describing it as pine, lemon, box elder bug, mint and generic green plant.  Internet sources call for a spicy, citrus and pine smell, so I think we're pretty close right now.

This is the same cone after drying indoors for two days, and photographed with the macro zoom feature on my camera.  I don't recall if the lupulin changed much over the two days, but zoomed in like this, it appears more crystalline than powdery.

This image was taken with the camera shooting into the eyepiece of our stereo microscope set at 30x magnification.  The lupulin is definitely there, and appears even more crystalline at this magnification.  Most of the cones were not as ripe as the cone pictured here, but harvest appears to be just around the corner.


  1. What are you going to do with said hops?

    Good things I hope.

  2. Are you going to make some home brew?

  3. The rhizomes actually belong to a beer-expert friend of mine, so the crop will go into his experiments in crafting fine ales.

  4. That is really cool!!! Steve loves ale! ;o)

  5. Heather -- tell Steve he's welcome to join in the festivities, both brewing and tasting!

    Jared -- yes, you're invited too!