Dear Mr. Wizard,
This year is my first year at growing and harvesting hops. I am harvesting Cascade and Fuggles. I was wondering if it is necessary to dry my hops before I vacuum seal them and freeze them in the freezer? It’s my understanding that if I don’t dry them and freeze them with their moisture they may get freezer burned. And freezer burn simply is the dehydration of the frozen hops. If you just re-hydrate the hops when you add them to the wort then why dry them?
The Wiz Responds:
I have never had this question asked and cannot give a definitive answer on the topic. I do know, however, that freezer burn has a negative affect on the flavor and texture of frozen foods and is the result of sublimation or the direct change from solid water (ice) to gaseous water vapor without the water becoming liquid. This results in big, fuzzy looking ice crystals. Freshly picked hops contain about 80% moisture and are good candidates for freezer burn. If you can vacuum pack them in a moisture barrier bag, like a foil pack, you could probably store the hops in a deep freezer with limited freezer burn. The key to your question is the affect that freezer burn has on beer flavor made from freezer burned hops. If nothing else, it would certainly be worth trying to test your idea. When you go to assess the results you must compare the test beer to a control made with fresh, unkilned or “green” hops as opposed to dried hops.
When green hops are kilned they loose their grassy, fresh aroma. Many brewers have begun producing special brews with fresh hops and the hop aroma is markedly different from beers hopped with kilned hops. You ask a good question and are hereby tasked with executing a brewing trial to assess your proposed method. Drop us a reply when you are done with your homebrewing homework assignment and we will run your lab report in our mail column!