Last weekend I was given 5 one quart freezer bags full of homegrown Nugget hops from my wife’s grandma. This is just a quick post showing how I processed them for later use.
The hops came to me within a day or two of being picked, so they were very fresh and still had a lot of moisture content. This, of course, needs to be removed before storage and use. I did some quick research and learned that they need to be dried in temperatures no greater than 100ºF. This is because some of the volatile hop oils and compounds (which are important for flavor and) will start to vaporize at higher temps.
I had previously ordered a variation of the super popular STC-1000 digital thermostat when it showed up on sale on HomeBrewFinds. This thermostat can be found online for as low as $6 when ordered from Chinese eBay stores. I didn’t want to wait 3 months for that, so when the $13.50 listing showed up on Amazon Prime with fast shipping, I jumped on it. I think that is a great deal when compared to the $60+ digital controls out there. So anyway, I didn’t know what I’d be using it for at the time, but when these hops showed up, I knew I’d use it to whip up a simple hop dehydrator.
With parts I had laying around, I was able to wire up a simple temp controlled relay. All it took was the STC-1000, some wire, a used extension cord with the end cut off, and a spare wall power outlet. The STC came with a “waterproof” thermocouple (temp probe).
With the unit assembled, I plugged in the cheap food dehydrator (for the second time in the long time we’ve owned it) to act as the kiln. Since the dehydrator only had 1 heat setting (on) and was far too hot for my purposes, I programmed for a conservative 90ºF. This is because I was anticipating hotspots, since I was really cramming the hops in there and limiting the air/heat circulation. All 5 layers of the dehydrator were fully loaded. I probably should have just done the drying in two batches, but in the end it worked out.
After running all night long, the hops were nice and dry. Although some hops along the outer edges of each layer were a bit less dry, I was satisfied. I divided them into 1oz batches and bagged them into freezer bags, pressing out as much air as I could and was left with an even 4 ounces total!
Where to go from here? The packages of hops are stored in my freezer while I plan out a recipe to use them in. I’m planning on a SMaSH recipe. SMaSH stands for “single malt and single hop” so I can only use one type of malt and one type of hop. This will really showcase the Nugget hops and help me build the perfect recipe over the years as I continue to receive these hops from grandma!
Stay tuned for the recipe and brew notes!