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Hops Types Pellet Plug Leaf

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

Hops come in three different packages, pellet, plug and leaf (whole/loose leaf). The difference between pellet, plug and whole leaf hops is much more than cosmetic. Aside from looking different, these variations will affect hop utilization (to a degree), freshness, and ease of storage/use. The best hop type for you will be based on your brewing style, storage room and equipment.

Pellet Hops:

Pellet hops are hop cones which have been pulverized and then squeezed into compact little pellets. These hops are highly processed which generally leads to a slightly higher cost per ounce. Listed below are some facts about hop pellets:

  • They are no less “fresh” than whole/loose leaf hops
  • They are the easiest of the three to store as they are very compact and require less room
  • The fact that they are pulverized leads to approximately 10% better utilization over leaf hops
  • They are very effective as “dry hops” as well since the processing pulverizes the lupulin glands
  • They stay fresh longer than plug or leaf hops due to being compacted into pellets, reducing surface area, and reducing oxidation of the alpha acids
  • They settle out in the kettle and in the fermenter easily along with trub and yeast
  • Soak up less wort than plug or leaf hops
  • Cannot be strained from the wort easily, will plug strainer

hop pellets

Plug Hops:

Plug hops are nearly a hybrid of pellet and whole leaf hops, being whole leaf hops that are simply compressed into 2 oz. (typically) plugs, about the size of a wine cork. With this process you get leaf hops (not pulverized), but in a more compact state than if you simply buy loose leaf hops. Here are a few facts about plug hops:

  • They are no less “fresh” than leaf hops
  • They are much easier to store than leaf hops
  • They have only slightly higher utilization than leaf hops
  • They do not settle out in the kettle and fermenter nicely like pellet hops do
  • You will need a way to filter out these hop leaves when transferring liquids so that they do not plug tubing, siphons and dip tubes
  • They will retain freshness longer than loose leaf hops due to being compressed, thus leading to less surface area and oxidation.
  • Will soak up noticeably more wort than pellet hops
  • Can be strained from the wort easily
  • Design to fit through the neck of a carboy

Whole Leaf Hops:
Leaf hops are just that… the whole leaf, nothing else. These hops are also called loose leaf hops, as they are simply dry hop cones, not pulverized and not compressed in any way. Typically, these are cheaper to purchase than pellet or plug hops as there is less processing involved, but this is not always the case. Here are some facts about loose leaf hops:

  • They are no more “fresh“ than pellet or plug hops
  • They require much more space to store (3-4x as much)
  • They do not settle out in the kettle and fermenter nicely like pellet hops do
  • You will need a way to filter out these hop leaves when transferring liquids so that they do not plug tubing, siphons, chillers and dip tubes
  • Due to their loose structure and greater surface area, these hops are more susceptible to oxidation and degradation than plug hops, and much more so than pellet hops.
  • Will soak up noticeably more wort than pellet hops
  • Can be strained from the wort easily

hop pellets

Finally, to preserve the characteristics (alpha acids) of any hops, you should vacuum seal them in either a vacuum sealed plastic bag, or in vacuum sealed Mason jars. Once sealed, the hops should be frozen, or at the very least, stored cold. Doing so will mitigate the dangers of oxidizing the hops and keep them fresh much longer. If you do have the capability to store hops vacuum sealed and frozen, you also open up the possibility of buying them in bulk and saving 50%-75% over buying them at most local home brew stores.

hop pellets

  1. 2 Responses to “Hops Types Pellet Plug Leaf”

  2. Great article. Very good information. One thing I’ve noticed is brewing with whole leaf hops is that the hop flavour seems better balanced and less harsh. It also tends to create a better head.

    By NightBrewer on Mar 4, 2011

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  2. Apr 30, 2010: Nugget Hop Pellets for Home Brewing 3oz | Keg-o-Beer

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