Harvesting Hops Plants: When Is Hops Harvest Season

HOPS HARVESTING PLANTS: WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO HARVEST?

The answer to this question depends on your situation. You have to consider many factors such as climate, season, type of plants, soil conditions and so forth. But if you are planning to grow hops at home then there are some general guidelines which will help you make a decision.

Climate

If you live in a cold climate then the best time to harvest is during winter months. If you live in a hot climate then the best time to harvest is during summer months. For example, if you live in California where it’s hot all year round, then the best time to harvest would be during July or August.

Season

You need to decide whether you want to harvest in spring, summer or autumn. Spring is the most suitable season because it’s warm and you don’t have much danger of frost. Summer is the best season since it’s cool and you do get some chance of frost but not too much. Autumn is the worst season since it gets very cold and there could be no chance of any kind of frost at all!

So choose wisely!

Drying Hops Oven

Harvesting your hops every two weeks is essential. Whenever you are harvesting, always dry them right away to ensure a good supply of fresh hops throughout the year. Hops tend to lose their flavor and aroma when they get wet so it is preferable to store them in airtight containers in a dark place until you are ready to use them. Drying is easy.

Spread them out on a cloth indoors, or if the weather permits, spread them out on a clothesline to dry in the sun.

Harvesting Hops Machine

Hops are used for flavoring and stabilizing beer. They also contain mild sedative qualities. Hops are available throughout the year. The best varieties for brewing are available from September to March.

Compounds in hops tend to evaporate if not used within a year of being dried.

Harvesting Hops

Hops can be grown from seeds or small plants and should be planted in soil that is free of weeds. Hops need quite a bit of water, but not too much. It helps to keep them weeded and well watered. You can place a trellis in the ground and string the vines along it as they grow up, which helps them climb upward.

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They should be harvested when they are at their peak maturity.

Harvesting Hops

Harvesting hops is very important to the beer brewing process. The hops add bitterness, flavor and aroma to the brew. If you are using dried, pelletized hops then they do not need to be harvested, rather they can just be added to the boiling pot as desired. However if you are using fresh whole hops (ones that have not been crushed) then they will need to be clipped from the vine.

Always cut the tops off of the cone shaped flowers in an upward motion to ensure that you do not damage the rest of the plant. Cut the stems at least a few inches above where they join the vine to ensure that they have enough room to hang down and dry out properly.

Harvesting Hops

Harvesting hops can be done several ways. If you have grown your own hops, then as they start to turn yellow and loose their “fresh hop” aroma, you need to pick them. Pick them in the morning after the dew has evaporated. Spread out a blanket and put the hops on it so that they are able to dry.

You can also use a string and hang them up like Christmas tree lights. Hops kept in this manner will last longer and keep their flavor. Hops can be dried in a dehydrator or in your oven (with the heat on very low).

Harvesting Hops

Hops are an essential ingredient in beer and add bitterness as well as aroma. Most hops are grown outdoors but some, such as cascade, are grown inside because they need a certain amount of sunlight that is not always available outside. Most home brewers will plant their own hops in their backyard since they are fairly easy to grow. They can be grown as a vine or up an enclosure.

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Most people start off with stringing a piece of wire across two trees and training the vines up them. Hops should be harvested while in their hop cone stage, prior to this they are just leaves. After they are picked they can be dried out in a dehydrator, food dryer or even in your oven on low heat (200 degrees farenheit) for a couple of hours. If you are drying them in the oven rotate them every once in awhile. They can also be stored whole and used as needed. Dried hops will store well for a year or more if stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Harvesting Hops

Hops can be grown as a climbing plant or a bush variety. The climbing type is better because it gives you more flexibility on trellis types. In general hops grow well in a rich soil that has had some basic compost added to it. They need plenty of nitrogen, but don’t overdo it on the phosphorus and potassium or the vines won’t grow well and may become susceptible to disease.

Many gardeners prepare a bed and plant their hops in early spring. Hops are shallow rooted so they don’t require deep tilling. Add some more compost in early spring and work that into the soil as well before planting.

The first thing you need to do is decide what type of trellis you are going to use. Hops will climb string, wire, fences, trees, or anything else they can grab onto. A simple string trellis made of wire or something similar is the easiest to set up. Plant the hops in a line along a fence or similar structure that can act as a trellis.

Use twine or heavy duty string and loosely tie off the bottom of the hops. As the hops grow you can pull the twine up the posts to encourage the vines to grow vertically. Give each plant about a foot of space between them and train the tops to grow towards each other.

Harvesting Hops

In late spring cut down the strings that are holding up the hops. This should leave behind a row of poles that each have a hop vine growing up it. At this point they will need to be trained to grow along the poles. Don’t worry, this is much easier than it sounds.

Each hop plant is going to grow out a stem with what looks like little burs on them. These are what will eventually hold the hop flowers (or cones). Take each of these and gently bend them around the pole so that it grows in a circle. After a week or so you will notice that the stem straightens out and begins to circle the pole on its own. This is exactly what you want it to do. You can give the stem a little help by gently wrapping twine around it and the pole to hold it in place.

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The hops will grow quickly and will completely cover the trellis within a few weeks. Each hop plant will grow multiple bines (like vines, but thicker) so select the most dominant one and remove the others by clipping them off near the base of the plant so all the energy can go into the one main bine. As the season goes on you can train new shoots to grow out from the base of the bine. Select the most convenient place for a new shoot to grow and gently tie it to the trellis using more twine.

By fall you should have a nice, thick wreath of hops encircling your poles.

Before the first frost of fall you will need to harvest your hops. Pick a dry day (it’s important) and pick all the hops that are ripe. Spread them out in a single layer on a tarp and let them dry in the sun for a few days.

Sources & references used in this article:

The influence of hop harvest date on hop aroma in dry-hopped beers by B Bailey, C Schönberger, G Drexler… – Tech. Q. Master Brew …, 2009 – researchgate.net

The influence of aphid infestation during the hop growing season on the quality of harvested cones by F Weihrauch, A Baumgartner, M Felsl… – Brewing …, 2012 – researchgate.net

The impact of climate change on the yield and quality of Saaz hops in the Czech Republic by M Mozny, R Tolasz, J Nekovar, T Sparks… – Agricultural and Forest …, 2009 – Elsevier

Hops and hop growing by A Haunold – Soils, plant growth and crop production, 2010 – eolss.net

Hops—a millennium review by M Moir – Journal of the American Society of Brewing Chemists, 2000 – Taylor & Francis

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