When you shop for hops, do you ever wonder what the “T – 90” description means? Because it is on the Kettle to Keg website, we felt that it should be explained to better aid our customers in selecting their hops and for our advanced brewers who are trying to dial in their process. At Kettle to Keg we carry hops in the three major forms: pellets, plugs, and cones, but it will be the pellets we talk most about as they are the most available and easiest to use. As a quick review let us look at the other two styles:
Cones are simply the flowering bud of the hop plant that has been dried and are then added direct to the boil or the fermentors/keg for dry hopping. They tend to add a lot of chunky material that plugs siphons and air locks.
Plugs are ground hops pressed into a disk about half an inch around and quarter of an inch thick. These were initially made for cask beer so they would fit through the bung. They also add chunky material to the wort/beer causing the same problem noted above.
Pellets come in two forms: T-45 and T-90 formats which are determined by the way they are processed. T-90 Pellets are milled into a powder and then squeezed through a die. They retain all of the vegetative matter that came in the hop cones and can be used as a full replacement for cone hops. T-45 pellets follow a similar process except that when they are milled it is with the addition of heat to make the lupulin less sticky. Once through the mill some of the vegetative matter is removed and the remaining material is then pressed through a die to make the familiar pellet shape. T-45 pellets can also be used a full replacement for hop cones. The difference between the two types of pellets is that with the T-45 version you get he same alpha acid numbers with less over all material in the kettle at the end of the day. Because hop pellets have small relative surface area in relation to leaf and plug hops, pellets have a lower oxygen exposure per surface area than the other forms, which means a drop in degradation over time.
So how should we protect our hops once we have them home? There are two major hop destroying entities; light and oxygen. Heat and bacteria are two more that play a lesser destructive role. Without going into a long and boring lecture on the chemistry of hop degradation, suffice it to say that light causes the hops to degrade and produce a chemical that is akin to that of a skunks spray and oxygen causes hops to oxidize decreasing the life of the hop oils. Both reactions shorten the already short shelf life of hops. The way we protect our little bittering buddies is to shelter them in a dark, cool place (like a freezer) and store them in an oxygen impermeable vessel. The best way to ensure that you are getting the freshest hops is to shop at Kettle to Keg where our stock of hops rotates fair frequently.
The K-2-K Team.