When it comes to brewing beer, hops play a crucial role in adding bitterness, aroma, and flavour to the final product.
However, choosing the right type of hops can be challenging, especially when there are two primary forms of hop hop leaf and hop pellets and nobody ever really explains the difference. So, we’ll explore the differences and the benefits of both and tell you which one we think is best.
Hop leaf are the most traditional form of hops, using whole hop cones that have been dried and packaged. They’re sometimes called whole hops or raw hops in recipes.
The hop leaf is often used in traditional brewing methods, such as cask ale, and can be added directly to the beer during the brewing process. Many people think that hop leaf adds complexity and depth to the beer’s flavour and aroma. Others think that it gives a more floral note to their beer.
Hop leaf used in the dry hopping process may give a little bit of a fresher aroma and are easier to remove from the beer… although you’ll need a muslin bag so you can keep them submerged, and you’re likely to use around 10-15% more than with pellets.
Hop pellets, on the other hand, are made by grinding hop cones into a powder and then compressing them into small pellets. This process removes the hop cones’ stems, which can add an undesirable vegetal flavour to the beer.
Hop pellets are the most used form of hops in modern brewing and are easy to store, transport, and measure. Additionally, hop pellets have a higher utilization rate than hop leaf, meaning that more of the hop oils and compounds are extracted during the brewing process.
If you use pellets to dry hop, they do produce a little more trub than whole-leaf hops. It’s an easy fix though, just use a fine strainer so less transfers to your bottle.
The WINNER: hop pellets
While hop leaf and hop pellets can both produce excellent beer, there are several reasons why, in our opinion, hop pellets are the better option for brewers.
Hop pellets are more consistent than hop leaf as they are made from a uniform blend of hops. These blends have been tested to make sure brewers will always achieve the desired bitterness, flavour, and aroma in their beer.
Higher utilization rate
Because hop pellets have a higher utilization rate more of the oils and desirable compounds are extracted during the brewing process. You’ll get around 10% more International Bitterness Units (IBUs) from pellets than hop leaf.
Because hop pellets are that they are easier to store and transport, it starts to seem like a pretty easy choice between the two.
Hop pellets take up less space than hop leaf, making them ideal for brewers who have limited storage space.
They also have a longer shelf life than hop leaf, ensuring that they maintain their flavour and aroma for longer.
Because they last longer and you’ll use less, pellets are hands down the winner in the cost race.
The end result
More important than anything else – the end result using hop pellets tastes good! There is no loss in flavour or aroma.