How are you testing lupulin content? and how low is it? How are you drying?
As some of you might have read in other posts, I have a pilot hop farm project going on in Japan to see what varieties grow well here. My project consists of 10 varieties and 30 plants...3 of each.
My varieties are:
This last weekend, I had my first harvest. Of the 10 varieties, I have cones on 9 of them. Goldings are the lemons, but one of my 3 plants just started forming burs...they definitely won't make it to stage 2 of the project next year! I elected not to harvest from my Cascade yet, as they didn't seem ready...still small and forming, a bit hard, etc...I'll revisit them soon.
I left many of the cones on the bines to see about quality when harvesting later vs now, etc, as well as to monitor the aging process.
So while I am happy with my first year results (9/10 varieties making cones ain't bad!) my real question is about quality...
When examining the cones, the amount of lupulin seems very low. While the high alpha varieties do indeed have more than the mid and low alpha varieties, it is definitely lower than commercially purchased hops I've used.
All 30 of my plants survived the trip from the US and grew, and all look healthy for the most part...I had some bugs early season, did 2 mild sprays and that took care of the problem. I had something eat through the lower stem of a Newport that was my biggest bine last month that killed it, but another bine from the same crown rapidly took its place. My leaves look healthy for the most part, a few varieties have some brown here and there, but not bad at all. I noticed a few cones here and there had turned brown and were unharvestable, but cones right next to them were in fantastic shape, so I can't imagine that's a problem.
I have the harvested cones at home now drying...no fantastic hop aroma filling the room, most of them are more grassy/minty in aroma. On splicing, and rubbing the cones between my palms, more aroma is released and I get the resin sticking on my skin, but still...too low!
So, there's some background, now here's the questions...
Question #1: Do first year cones just produce less lupulin than more established plants? Can you expect 2nd year lupulin production to be higher?
Question #2: Environment is obviously a factor, but what factors can lead to low lupulin production in hops?
Question #3: Are there any ways you can increase lupulin production?
Any questions, comments, or attempts at educating me would be appreciated!
How are you testing lupulin content? and how low is it? How are you drying?
Not that I know anything about hop growing or farming in general, but my first thought was, why don't you try more European hops rather than the high alphas? At Japan's latitude, wouldn't aroma hops (Tettnang, Saaz & Co.) work better?
I've not used any professional methods, other than making a 'hop tea' with a Zeus cone. It is evident using basic senses that they are not producing a lot of resins...across all varieties. Low aroma, low visible resins, and low bitterness. A whole large cone of Zeus couldn't effectively bitter a cup of hop tea. The aroma was negligible.Originally Posted by canyon
I'm drying them by use of a fan/heater and a dehumidifier while they sit on screens where air can circulate all around them in an enclosed room. The temperature is about 100 F, and quite dry. The cones have not been under any duress and are all intact. They've been in this state for 3 days.
A fair question...Originally Posted by einhorn
I did some research on the latitude before I started the project. My farm is at about 36 degrees N, where many parts of the hop-growing NW US is around 46 degrees. Many of the European hop areas are at even higher latitudes, some at 48-50! I went with more US varieties for a number of reasons, a little closer in latitude to US hop fields, higher yield, growth habit, reported disease resistances, etc...
Just down the mountain from my farm, Kirin Beer used to have some hop fields years ago. It is my understanding they tried to grow Continental noble hops, and my impression is they dumped the project because of a lack of yield. This is another reason I shied away from Saaz, Tett, etc...if Kirin gave up on it, I doubt if I could do much better!
My plan was to go with higher yielding triploid and hardy German and US hops. Overall I think I chose wisely based on first year growth and production, where many people don't even get cones in the first year. My problem is, I have been unable to determine if this is just a first year issue of the plants all under-producing resins, or if there are other factors at play keeping production down...soil, latitude, etc...
I tried to go with a fair cross-section of hops for the project...you'll note I have 2 German (Brewer's Gold and Magnum), and 2 German hybrids/relatives (Mt. Hood and Sunbeam)
From US varieties, Zeus, Chinook, and Newport are the 'high Alphas', cascade being medium I suppose. Willamette is just a triploid of Fuggles, so we'll put it between US and UK varieties.
For UK types, Goldings were the absolute worst variety in both growth habit, as well as cone production.
I felt going in that English varieties weren't so suited for the environment, and I think I was right. My plan is to try another 5 or so varieties next year, while upping production on the winners of this year's test next spring.
I want to go from 30 to 300-400 plants next year, but with such low essential acids (as perceived by me anyways), I'm afraid you'd have to use 4-5 times the standard amount to get the same effect.
Are you decocting your test tea or just doing an infusion? I also just want to confirm that you are testing fully cured hops as there is a big difference in the wet hops bittering vs. the dry. I just know this empirically as I have been shocked at the amount of homegrown "wet" hops it takes to get bitterness as opposed to cured homegrown hops. You might search for posts dealing with wet hopping or green hopping as I seem to remember some from a while back.
The hops were quite dry to the touch, but admittedly they aren't done with the drying process. I'm going to try another 'tea' today, as they've been drying 2 more days. I'd been drying them for 2 days when I made the first tea, so I don't think you could call them 'wet' hops.Originally Posted by canyon
My first tea was just an infusion...this time I'll try a boil, maybe 30 minutes. The cones are still not very aromatic after 4 days of drying, so I'm still not hopeful.
One thing I'm worried about, that maybe US hop growers don't have, is the late season rain we had here in Japan. Usually the rainy season stops at the middle of July, but this year it has continued through the 10th of August...which is pretty peak for lupulin formation. I'm wondering if the resins can be 'washed out' of the cone after it forms by heavy rain.
I'll splice a few and post pictures to show the low resin content later.
Here's a picture of my new hop tea. It's 2 cones (.5 grams) of Zeus that was boiled 20 minutes in 600 ml of water...interesting red color!
The second picture is a cross section of a Zeus cone...maybe a little hard to see, but the lupulin isn't exactly jumping out at you. From my experience of brewing with Columbus (likely the same hop) Columbus had well over two times the visible resin.
I suppose I'm now not worried about AA content, as the tea was significantly bittered after the short boil, but these first year hops are devoid of aroma across the board, even the aroma varieties. You can have them 6 inches from your nose and barely catch a hint of aroma.
Jason, I have a few comments and suggestions:
First, you have an excellent project going there, and I wish you the best of luck.
Second, to answer your questions to the best of my ability:
#1 -- I have never heard anyone ever mention that lupulin content is lower during the first or even second year -- just the size of the harvest.
#2 -- I don't know the answer to the second question; it could be the weather, or length of daylight, or just the general growing conditions that affect the health of your plants. But AA content is not consistent even for commercial farmers, so I'm not sure that the cause is actually known.
#3 -- Same as #2.
Third, making a hop tea is not, in my opinion, a very good way to test AA content; I don't want to insult your intelligence by mentioning it, but I'm sure you know that it requires boiling for a long time for sufficient utilization and isomerization, and unless that's what you've done to make your "tea", I can't see how it would be very helpful on the bittering aspect, although you can probably tell a lot about the aroma and flavoring aspects. Okay, I just noticed that you posted that you made a second tea boiled for 30 minutes which is bitter; that's the ticket -- but I would boil for 60 minutes to get maximum utilization and isomerization. But better yet, I suggest that you submit samples to a laboratory for testing; although I've never done it, several folks have mentioned that it costs about forty or fifty dollars here in the U.S., and it would be a worthwhile investment considering your plans. We have tried to develop a simple titration process for the homebrewer, but after discussion back and forth, it appears that this is not a viable concept due to not being able to differentiate between alpha and beta acids. An alternative to lab testing is comparative testing using a sample of your beer made with your hops and a beer made with similar hops of a known AA content -- same recipe and boil schedule; I think this will give you a _rough_ estimate, and it depends, of course, on the accuracy of your taste buds. Personally, with plans of your magnitude, I'd go with laboratory testing.
Fourth, I had only 12 plants last year (1st year), and harvested from just eight (one died, one _barely_ survived without ANY cones, and two didn't produce enough to be worth mentioning). It took me HOURS and HOURS to harvest, by hand, from just eight first-years plants. I now have 20 plants, but have not finished harvesting yet; again ... hours and hours. In other words, hand picking is very labor intensive, so unless you have either equipment or a LOT of pickers, 300-400 plants will be a massive undertaking. Unless you can put out a keg of beer and throw a party to attract friends to volunteer their services, I think you will find that your hops will become expensive due to labor costs unless labor is very cheap in Japan. Mechanization is going to be a fairly costly investment, especially for only 300 to 400 plants; if you have no idea of what I mean by mechanization, look at these videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0LHYptlbQ8 -- more informative because of narration; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQmBgTYLUFc -- actually shows more equipment in operation.
Fifth, you are correct regarding your latitude; at 36, you are far closer to the equator than either European and U.S. commercial growers, and barely within the _recommended_ range of 35 to 55 degrees. I am at just slightly above 35, so I can relate. But for what it's worth, there are a number of Australian growers who purportedly grow below 35 and are still commercially successful; in fact, statistically, Australia has had been having better yields than the U.S. Also, there are commercially successful hop farms in South Africa, which is close enough to the equator that they need to use electrical lighting to make their days long enough (days are shorter closer to the equator). Since you and I are close to the 35 degree limit, adding lights for an extra hour or two day light _might_ help a bit, but I really haven't had problems yet.
Sixth, at the risk of offending anyone by plugging my own groups, please be aware that I formed a Yahoo group specifically on the topic of growing hops, barley, and brewing herbs, but it is probably 99% about growing hops. It currently has 2,313 members -- and a few have mentioned that they are commercial or at least large scale growers. You would probably find our group very helpful. I also own a companion grow-hops site for those who don't like Yahoo, but it does not have nearly as much participation and we haven't finished working on our Wiki yet. If interested, please visit us:
Yahoo Grow-Hops Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Grow-Hops
My other group with the Wiki: http://www.grow-hops.com
Lastly, I am new here, so I hope that this has been helpful, and that it will help repay the advice that I've gotten and hope to get here in the future. My son is opening his second bar this fall, and he and his partner are very interested in the possibility of expanding it into a brewpub if things work out the way we expect. I'm therefore in the process of researching as much as I can for them. Any help that we can get along the way will be appreciated.
Bill, thanks for taking the time for the thorough response!
I joined the Yahoo group this spring and found it has been a useful tool for feedback about a number of problems for first time growers. I asked the same question there, but unfortunately didn't get so many responses...I know there's a few people doing commercial growing on here, so I was hoping they'd weigh in...I think they're busy with their own harvests though since they haven't!
My first hop 'tea' was essentially a steeping in just boiled water, but the main reason I did it was I was concerned about the lack of aroma in the varieties I'm growing. It failed the aroma test. The second test was boiled, and was a pass on bitterness, but not aroma...in the coming weeks I'm going to test some other aromatic as opposed to alpha varieties. Since this year is just a trial run, I don't plan on any professional evaluation past my senses. Next year I'll be sending samples off to labs, because I'll be trying to sell them!
For labor cost, wages run about the same as the US, so if farmers in Yakima can do it, I should be able to as well. Japan has an abundance of foreign farm workers, just as America does. If my farm ever reaches the 300 plant mark, I'll be brining in some people to help on a short time basis for harvest season, but it will be a job for me full time at that point. I can also recruit from an army of avid homebrewers and craft beer supporters who would likely work days on end for free beer or some hops to take home for their brew kettle. I might also be able to divert some brewery staff for a few days from my current employer since they will likely be the top beneficiary of my harvest.
On sunlight, I don't think it's a problem here at all. The sun rises at around 4:30 am in summer, setting around 6:30 pm, so I have a solid 12+ peak hours of strong sunlight. Judging from my first year growth success, I don't think my location is an issue...I just need to hammer out this resin content problem!
On my questions #2 and #3, I posted those here hoping someone with experience knew something about soil content or additives that can be used to boost resin production. So yes, while I do realize that the environment is a factor, I'd like to know what factors are important (if any are indeed known!) for boosting lupulin content.
Thanks for the advice, and the video links...I'll never be interested in something on that scale though...they're supplying Bud at 17 breweries they said!
Last edited by jason.koehler; 08-23-2008 at 08:28 PM.
Very informative discussion!
I am in a situation where we have to import all of our hops
because of poor quality local hops and limited varieties to choose
from. The problem with importing is that there is hefty import duty
as well as high cost of shipping/freight on top of already high hop prices.
I have often thought of trying to grow some plants but i simply
don't know enough about it to even try.
Further, to start trying I would need plants set up near Shimla or Manali
which is very far away from our site in Mumbai, India.
I am still considering getting some rhizos this spring and seeing what happens, i guess curiosity is how a lot of things start...
Very informative thread! Thanks guys and good luck to you.
FORD CE14 PLATFORM HISTORY
Last edited by india_cmb; 03-05-2011 at 12:39 AM.
I'd bet my fortune that the commercial growers in Yakima Valley use machinery, as shown in the videos I referenced; if small farmers don't have the machinery, they probably contract with the big farms to strip the cones from the bines. My point was that _hand_ picking is extremely labor intensive and that you might well be able to buy the hops -- even at today's high prices -- cheaper than you can grow, harvest, dry, and package them, ... especially if you have a brewery and presumeably are getting some sort of a significant price break by buying in bulk. I just paid $3.00/ounce for several different hop varieties at my LHBS. Last year I harvested and stored 42 dry ounces, worth $126.00 at today's prices. I very easily spent at least 20 hours working the garden -- fertilizing, weeding, stringing the trellis, pruning unwanted bines and all lateral shoots off of the bottom couple of feet, watering it, harvesting the cones, drying them, and packaging them. I'm confident that it was probably significantly more than 20 hours. I didn't keep track of the cost of fertilizer, gas for my tiller, string, irrigation water, or the plastic baggies I stored the hops in, but let's use a conservative figure of $6.00. Twenty hours of work for $120.00 -- definitely minimum wage -- which might be okay if you can find laborers at that rate, but if YOUR time is worth more than that, then I think you get my drift. I do it for several reasons: I already do a lot of gardening and for the most part I enjoy it, and I wanted to try harvest beers but have no source for truly "fresh", i.e., "wet" hops. So it makes sense for me to have a small number of plants, but there is no way I'd ever be doing that with 300 to 400 plants unless I either had machinery or a cheap labor source for someone else to do it for me.Originally Posted by jason.koehler
The problem with length of daylight is not the growth of the bine, but the flowering -- the formation of burrs which grow into the cones. It _might_ also affect the quality of the cones. I'm not going to check on the length at higher latitudes, but I'm quite sure that they have something closer to 16 or even 18 hours of daylight. I don't know what the minimum or optimum amounts are for hops.On sunlight, I don't think it's a problem here at all. The sun rises at around 4:30 am in summer, setting around 6:30 pm, so I have a solid 12+ peak hours of strong sunlight. Judging from my first year growth success, I don't think my location is an issue...I just need to hammer out this resin content problem! ... snip
Last edited by billvelek; 08-24-2008 at 10:30 PM. Reason: To correct a stupid misspelling
In regards to harvest and update New Mexico 2008-
Lupulin- don't know.
One variety of ours has increased the alphas every year to the point that last year it was at 8.86% and 5 years ago it was at 5.2%. On another plant, fresh clones from this great female made cones 5 times bigger than all of the mothers' cones, and better yield. Some plants have cones that sunburn and show you that they are ready to pick, other plants never sunburn, turn pale, start to shatter(with late picking), other plants seem to develop flowers for a very extended time period and other plants grow beautiful flowers quick and then are done- like now. Feel for the non-compressing paper or a bit sooner.
I belief that real life and mass volume has a method that is available at the USDA site for determining correct moisture at harvest and per variety (which doesn't help me).
Our Cascades were at 7.71% alpha last year. What does that mean?
So, is it organic farming, year and weather, fertilizer, plant age, watering, genetics, a combo of any or all???? that relates to alpha??
Bring on the Hop gods please.
Picking issues- Bill is quite right about machinery- wish I had some. 4 cornies gone quick with about 200 more plants to go. Friends, family, kids are really enjoying helping with the harvest- it really is quite fun, calming, community, and very educational with all of the different varieties. I am afraid this may not continue next year as exponential growth is imminent.
More, more, more.
Flowering age- I find each plant is quite different. If you think like tomatoes, some hop plants are determinate, some indeterminate, and some in between. Let me explain, some plants have cones that all flower at the same time and the cones become the same size; some flower at the same time and finish cones regardless of size of cone; some plants have one bine with ripe flowers and another bine with bunny tails; and other plants have cones that mature in relationship to the age of that specific bine. I find great difference.
Fertilization- When you create the monster , it must be fed.
Water here in La Bolsa- 1.75 gal/plant/day average.
Buckets are NOT a limiting factor.
If you want videos of hop harvesting realities, check out youtube and type in "hop harvest". Machines and more. Look at all of the other countries of the world and how they harvest hops, the trellis height, drying, packaging, and more. Grab a cold or warm one and have fun!!
"Once you find what you want to do for a living you'll never work another day in your life".
Dang, back to hop harvest and a beer with friends!
Bill, I wasn't trying to suggest that Yakima farmers don't use heavy machinery, I will agree with you that they do. My point was that even using machinery, you've still got to pay someone to operate it, someone to bail the hops, etc...and the cost to do that in Japan vs. the US is about the same.
300 plants is a lot of plants, but it's not so much that 3 or 4 people can't get through them with a few weekends of work and a lot of beer.
There is a big demand for local grown produce in Japan. The government has been proposing Japan boost it's self-reliance from 38% to 50% over the next decade or so. I'm betting that Japanese brewers would like to have a locally grown product in their brewpot as well, so much so that I'm doing this crazy project in the first place. My hops will indeed be expensive, but I think that there are those who will pay the higher prices. This is a country where premium grapes, fruits, melons, etc...sell for 10 to 15 times the price of the average joe! I saw a watermelon for about $80 the other day.
This hop farm is the first step towards building my lifelong dream. The second step involves a small brewery, the third a vineyard and later winery, the final, a micro-distillery. Doing them out of order would be putting the cart before the horse. I need hops before I can have a farmhouse brewery, so...I'm growing hops!
Yes, my time is important, but this is a means to an end, and in the end, it's where I want to be!
Wild, thanks for chiming in...useful comments and information!