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In a lot of recipes I have read, there is an emphasis on the freshness of the malt and hops. If I am buying online or in my homebrew store, how do I determine the freshness of what I am buying?

Are there some maltsters that are better than others?

Or is there a "born on" date on the malt? If so, what is a good length of time?

Is it the time from when the grain was harvested? or the time from when it was malted?

So: how can I make sure I am getting the freshest ingredients?

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Unless you actually have the ingredients in your hands, you just have to take someone's word for it. Once you have your ingredients, chew a few grains of malt. They should be hard and "steely", not soft and mushy. Hops should smell like hops...if they have a "cheesy" aroma or no aroma at all, they're old. You can also ask when the hops were harvested. Hops are generally harvested in late Aug./early Sept. American hops make their way to market soon after that. Continental varieties usually show up here around the first of the year. Hops should be vacuum packed and stored cold, ideally in a freezer. Grain should be kept tightly sealed in a cool, dry place. Check how your LHBS stores their ingredients.

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