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Hops come in three formats pellets, plugs and whole-leaf. Plugs are whole leaf hops that have been compressed into a little cake usually 0.5 ounces in size.

What are the ups and downs of using either type of hop format? Answers should include:

  1. Measuring
  2. Utilization (bitterness primarily)
  3. Storage
  4. Availability and Variety
  5. Kettle and Fermenter Implications
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You should convert this to a community wiki, so multiple people can add to each response without having to revisit information. –  hookedonwinter Jan 28 '10 at 16:58
    
I think the site needs to decide better rules for when a public wiki is more appropriate than just using the question format. I mean the whole small space brewing thing could have been a wiki too. I'd post this comment else where, but there isn't a good forum for this type of stuff. Even the FAQs are gone now> –  brewchez Jan 28 '10 at 18:14
    
Is the 5 catagories too much for one question? Maybe I should have done a 5 part question like the small space one. But I felt that doing so would be viewed as "padding" my stats. –  brewchez Jan 28 '10 at 18:18
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2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Pellet Hops

Advantages: - Very easy to measure small quantities - Readily available - Don't absorb much wort

Disadvantages: - Not as fresh, may have lost some of their Alpha Acids through processing - Crumble to dust in the wort, hard to strain, end up mixed in with yeast cake, can't really be contained in a steeping bag

Plug Hops

Advantages: - Fresher than pellets - Easy to strain

Disadvantages: - Difficult to break apart for measuring quantities other than 0.5 ounce. - Absorb more wort than pellets

Whole Hops

Advantages: - Can be the freshest, giving the most aroma and flavor - Easily strained or contained in a steeping bag

Disadvantages: - Absorb more wort than pellets - More difficult to store than pellets

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Pellet hops may be "not as fresh" as whole hops, but its an ambiguous statement. Pellet hops may also loose some AA upon processing, but the AA they have remains fresher longer than the other forms due to oxygenation. Pellet hops stay fresher longer than either form. –  brewchez Jan 28 '10 at 18:16
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There are lots of opinions about this, but I can only speak from what I've found in my brewing experience:

I've found pellet hops to be the easiest to find and measure. I like the convenience of using them in dry-hopping because they break down and end up in the yeast-cake so they don't clog my racking cane. All of this because I have a very low-tech setup. Pellets are usually very inexpensive compared to fresh plugs, at least where I usually shop. I also feel like they're usually not as fresh or that they've lost something in processing.

As far as quality-of-brew goes I really like plugs, especially when I get them from a good supplier who guarantees freshness (Home Brew Mart is where I get mine). Easy to measure like pellets, consistent like pellets but gooey and fresh like whole hops. I've found it to be a pain in the rear when I dry hop with plugs because they clog up my cane, but that I get a much crisper citrus/floral profile in my IPAs so it's often worth the hassle. As a general rule, I use 25% more by weight when converting a pellet recipe to plugs. Plugs from the above supplier are way more expensive than pellets anywhere I've bought them. So I pay more for that citrus bang from Simcoe/Cascade/Amarillo plugs, but skip plugs for anything that doesn't require a super crisp, citrus aroma... and when I'm feeling lazy or cheap.

Whole hops are basically the same as plugs as far as measurement/utilization goes. I think they can dry out faster than plugs if they're not fresh.

Whole hops and plugs are great if you can afford them and you have a false bottom in your cookpot, because you don't need to deal with bags and can pitch them right into the wort and let the false bottom strain them out.

It gets tricky when you get into using homegrown fresh hops. Let's save that for another thread.

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