How Long Do Hops Last?

How Long Do Hops Last?

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Hops are essential brewing ingredients. Although every homebrewer desires to end up with tasty and aromatic beer, hops can go bad, thus it’s important to know how long hops can last. Below is everything you need to know about how long do hops last.

How Long Do Hops Last?

If you put pellet hops in vacuum-sealed bags and then store them in a freezer, they can last up to 5 years. If you store them in a refrigerator, they can last up to 4 years. On the other hand, if you put whole dried hops in vacuum-sealed bags and then keep them in a freezer, they can last up to two years. If you store them in a refrigerator, they can last up to six months.

Fresh hops on a tree

The duration of time that hops can last primarily depends on whether they are whole dry hops or pellet hops, and your storage method. So, how long do hops last? This guide will help you understand how long hops can last.

Additionally, the table below provides a breakdown of how long hops can last depending on the storage method.

Method of storageHop pelletsDried whole hopsFresh hops
Open at room temperatureAbout 2 weeksAbout a weekWithin 48 hours
Open in refrigeratorAbout 2 weeksNot recommendedNot recommended
Vacuum sealed in a freezerUp to 5 yearsUp to 2 yearsNot recommended
Vacuum sealed at room temperatureAbout 4 weeksAbout a weekWithin 48 hours
Open in refrigeratorAbout 2 weeksNot recommendedNot recommended
Open in freezerAbout 5 weeksAbout 5 weeksNot recommended

What Causes Hops to Go Bad?

Fresh hops enhance the production of the best flavor and aroma in most beer styles while offering the bitterness needed for each style. The kind of flavor and the amount of bitterness that every kind of hop adds to any beer depends on the alpha acid level in the oil of the hop plant.

Many recipes that have the alpha acid profile of fresh hops balance all the flavors together and create the best recipe. However, hops tend to lose their potency, and here are some of the things that can cause hops to lose their potency more quickly:

Heat

Like all organic matter, low temperatures reduce the decomposition rate of aromatic oils and compounds. Heat lowers hops alpha acids intensity and accelerates the rate at which they decay. The rate of losing alpha acid intensity is twice for every 27 degrees Fahrenheit increase in temperature.

Oxygen

Oxygen oxidizes your hops, particularly the important oils inside the plant’s cell, resulting in chemical changes. Oxidation causes the breakdown of some molecules while forming new ones, lowering the hops alpha acid potency.  This, in turn, causes the sweet aroma in hops to wither, creating a foul odor.

Light

Light dehydrates the hops excessively making them lose the important oils. It also increases the process of oxidation, hops temperature, and eventually damages the container in which hops are stored.

Moisture

Moisture promotes bacterial and mold growth which in turn accelerates the rate at which hops decay. If hops absorb any moisture, they lose all their useful properties and end up being unusable.

Close-up photo of fresh hops

How to Store Hops

When storing hops, you should consider keeping them away from the above environments. You should make sure they are stored in a container that has an oxygen barrier inside a cold and dark freezer. 

Besides, you can go for a vacuum sealer to minimize the instances in which your hops can contact with oxygen. The quality of your hops before storage also matters a lot on how long your hops are going to last.

Does the Type of Hops Affect How Long They Can Be Stored?

Hops of different varieties have varying lifespans. This variation mainly depends on the oils in the hops. Here is how the type of hops can affect how long they can be stored:

  • Hop varieties such as Tettnanger and Saaz have poor storage ability and only retain less than 40% of Alpha acids when stored for six months in a temperature range of around 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Hop varieties such as Willamette and Cascade have medium to poor storage ability and lose around 40% to 50% of Alpha acids within six months if stored at a temperature of around 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Hop varieties such as Calypso, Amarillo, and Centennial have moderate storage ability and can retain up to 50% to 68% of the alpha acid content if you store them for 6 months at a temperature of around 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Hop varieties such as Chinook, Liberty hops, and Citra have fairly good storage ability and can retain up to 68% to 70% of the alpha acid content if you store them for six months at a temperature of around 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Hop varieties such as Nugget, Simcoe, and Mosaic have good storage ability and can retain up to 70% to 75% of Alpha acid content if you store them for six months at a temperature of around 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

How Long Can I Store Pellet Hops?

Most homebrewers prefer pellet hops as they can easily be stored, transported, measured, and used. Pellet hops come in a vacuum-sealed nitrogen-flushed pouch to enhance their storage length.

The sealing helps to ensure there are zero chances of oxidation. The formulation of the pellets also ensures oxygen won’t penetrate easily. If you keep them in a freezer with this kind of sealing, they can last up to 5 years.

If you keep them in a refrigerator, this duration will reduce to two to four years. On the other hand, they can only last for around one month if stored at room temperature. After this duration, the aroma and the flavor significantly degrades.

A man holding a fresh hops

Storing Pellet Hops in an Open Container

Pellet hops in an open bag or container can only be stored in a freezer for around five weeks. Surprisingly, you can store them for two weeks at room temperature or in the fridge. After this duration, the aroma and the flavor will start dropping off rapidly.

It is therefore advisable to try and keep the pellet hops in their original sealed packaging and store them in a freezer until when you will need to use them. Keep in mind that the duration you can keep them without getting bad will also depend on the variety of the hops.

How Long Can I Store Whole Dried Hops?

Some brewers may prefer using whole dried hops because of the different flavors they provide or because they grow them on their farms. You will need to dry the hops immediately when you pick them, and then keep them in a vacuum-sealed bag and store them in a freezer if you want to store them for long.

In case you purchase them commercially, they will come with nitrogen-flushed bags just like they pellet hops. If you put them into vacuum-sealed bags and then store them in a freezer, they can retain their flavor and bitterness for up to two years.

You can store them this way for 6 months in a refrigerator and around one week at room temperature. After this duration, they will degrade rapidly and might even begin to mold.

Storing Whole Dried Hops in an Open Container

Whole dried hops have a larger surface area to contact with oxygen which increases the chances of oxidation, making them get ruined faster if you don’t keep them in vacuum-sealed bags.

In an open bag or container, whole dry hops can retain their bitterness and flavor for around five weeks if you keep them in a freezer. At room temperature, dry hops can retain their flavor and bitterness for around 1 week.

However, it is not advisable to store whole dry hops in a refrigerator if they are unsealed as the moisture can cause molding. Remember that the duration that whole dried hops can last will also depend on the age and quality of the hops.

How Long Can I Store Fresh Hops?

Considering that fresh hops go bad quickly, it is unlikely that you will ever use fresh hops for brewing unless you are growing them yourself or you can access them fast enough from a friend.

Under normal conditions, it is advisable to use fresh hops within 48 hours after picking them. Typically, fresh hops degrade rapidly and might begin molding in several days.

It is also not advisable to freeze fresh hops because the water in the hops can expand and cause problems when it is thawed out.

How to Know Hops Have Gone Bad

Although hop pellets can last longer than whole dried hops and fresh hops, they can all go bad. Do not use them to add flavor or aroma to your beer if they exhibit the following traits:

  • If they exhibit a musty scent
  • If the hops have turned brown
  • If the smell of the hops is cheesy
Fresh hops hanging on a tree

Related questions

Can I Use Old Hops for Brewing?

You can use old hops for brewing if you want to make a new flavor profile for spontaneous ale and brett projects. Typically, hops offer a subtle flavor profile that blends well with the wild yeast flavor without making the beer bitter. However, you should remember that using old hops for beer can make the beer musty, cheesy, and funky.

What Is the Best Temperature to Store Hops?

The optimum storage temperature for hops is the lowest temperature possible. Typically, the hops deterioration rate reduces by half for every 27 degrees Fahrenheit reduction in temperature. It is therefore advisable to set your freezer temperature at around 30 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

How Can I Dry Fresh Hops Before Storage?

You can dry fresh hops using a well-ventilated oven or a food dehydrator. You can also improvise a hop-drying screen using a window screen or a regular air filter. It is advisable not to dry hops with temperatures higher than 140 degrees Fahrenheit or for more than 3 days.

Can I Refreeze the Hops After Thawing?

Although it is possible to refreeze the hops after thawing, doing it through many cycles can affect the alpha acids. It is therefore advisable to portion out hops that you are going to use in a batch. You can also plan your brew batches so you don’t end up purchasing a bigger hops quantity than you require.

Final Thoughts

So, how long do hops last? Ideally, hops pellets are the best option when it comes to long-term storage, and can last up to 5 years if put in vacuum-sealed bags and stored in a freezer. For fresh hops, it is advisable to use them within 48 hours after picking.