Do Hops Lose AA Content, Even With Proper Storage?

Post #1 made 2 years ago
I had a situation recently where brewed a couple beers with Santiam hops @ 7.9% AA. Both were under hopped in my opinion...not the recipe. Flavor good - just not enough... Hops had been properly stored, and looked and smelled great. My feeling was somehow the AA, if correct initially, had somehow dropped dramatically. (?)

Brewed a beer yesterday and I took the above Santiam hops (FWH, 15 min and 1 min) and multiplied the 7.9% AA and multiplied by 70% for a 5.5% AA estimate. Used Magnums for bittering and left it at posted 13.2AA. Also - dialed in a higher IBU calculation on this brew... 40 IBUs by Tinseth vs. 30 IBU / German Pilsner. Wort tasted good...so hopefully all is good.

My LHBS manager told me yesterday that the AA of hops, even when perfectly stored, will drop dramatically. He told me the Magnums he sold me in November of this past year, which were labeled @ 13.2% AA, I should probably figure only about 70% for them as well (another 30% AA drop in seven months). (I did not follow his suggestion on the Magnums). Can his suggestion be right...? :o

For unused hops I use a Vacuum Sealer (food storage system) to suck the air out and store in the freezer.

Of course we all use the BIABacus for planning and conducting our brews, so it is a major issue if we can't trust the AA printed on our hop packages. Or that we have to make a guess and drop AA from what is posted.

I haven't noticed dramatic problems like this before. Suppose this is just a "one off" on this batch of hops and its actual AA, and if so...my LHBS manager is wrong? I'm kind of perplexed by this issue... :scratch:

Did some internet surfing to see if others had experience with this, and what I found suggested light drop (if properly stored) but nothing dramatic. http://www.beeradvocate.com/community/t ... ge.245378/

Anyhow, would love to hear others' experience on the issue. :think:

Thanks,
Scott
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Post #2 made 2 years ago
Hops definitely loose AA during storage. We need to remember that they are vegetative matter and will degrade over time. Properly sealed nitrogen filled bags will slow the process. Sealing and freezing the hops help as well but they at that point have been exposed to air.
AA's do break down over time even in packaged beer. Stored beer will not be as bitter as when fresh.
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Post #3 made 2 years ago
Yeah, I get that... And understand what you say to be correct. But there has to be some sort of a percentage or calculated drop after exposure to O2 that can be relied upon.

30% in 7 months...? That seems pretty steep, for vacuum sealed hops stored in a freezer. But if it does drop, and I know it does, there has to be a semi-reliable rule of thumb.
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Post #4 made 2 years ago
I don't think it is as simple as that Scott. You may also have to consider the variety too.

My go to for information on hops is "beerlegends".
The info for Santiam shows that it is difficult to store (scroll down to storage details).
Compare that to say Magnum hops that can still be used today from the cache discovered at the Pyramids! :lol:

I did read a blog about 10 year old hops not making any difference with fresh, but like I say things are never black & white. :think:
Last edited by mally on 09 May 2016, 15:17, edited 1 time in total.
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Post #5 made 2 years ago
That's a fantastic post mally :thumbs:. And, a great question Scott :salute:.

BeerLegends is a site I use also but had never looked/noticed the 'storability' bit. Wow! I just assumed they were all the same.

Okay, hope you don't mind but given mally's extra insight, I'm going to try and compile what I know.

Note that I have said "pellet" hops below. Flowers and cones are much further complicated and I'm a tad unsure why a home brewer would have access to well-stored, well-specced cones or flowers :scratch:.

Before You Buy Your Pellet Hops

1. As mally said, search there "storability" index on beerlegends.com.
2. Make sure that your supplier has the year and AA% clearly marked.
3. Check what conditions your supplier has them stored under. (There is a wealth of things that could go wrong there.) Ask lots of questions...

Q1 How soon after harvest do they receive their hops?
Q2 What sort of packaging do the hops arrive in from the farm/wholesaler?
Q3 How and where do they store the hops before re-packaging into smaller sizes?
Q4 In the smaller sizes, are the hops vacuum-packed?
Q5 After re-packaging, are the hops refrigerated or frozen?

If You Could Buy Direct

If you become aware of harvesting times around the world, you can, from some suppliers, pre-order that harvest. This is a good thing but has two problems. You won't know the quality of that harvest or it's alpha acid (and other compounds). Occasionally, a harvest will be poor or out of character.

Once you Buy Your Hops

Here is a little test for you. Buy four crisp carrots. Put one on the top shelf of your fridge. Put another on the bottom shelf. Put the third in the crisper drawer. Put the fourth in a sealed, air-tight container in the crisper drawer.

I haven't even mentioned freezer above.

Tests (well the only ones I know of) show that humidity/moisture will be the biggest enemy for you in hop storage. Temperature is also an enemy but far less so.

Store your pellet hops in your freezer in an air-tight container. Preferably, you have bought them vacuum-sealed. Once you open the vacuum seal, put the remaining hops inside an air-tight container or freezer bag (unsure about that) and then place that inside your large air-tight container.

I have some pretty cool "satchels" to store my hops in but I'll post them later; my brain has run out of fuel*.

:)
PP

* Hope the above made some sense :dunno:.
Last edited by PistolPatch on 09 May 2016, 22:33, edited 1 time in total.
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Post #6 made 2 years ago
Gentlemen, thank you for the posting, input and detailed thought...

I'm sure that the "storagability" thing is involved here. From a quick review, Santiam and another I use frequently...Cascade (use a lot) has similarly poor storability listed (think I saw notes on the Internet from others noting that on Cascade). Hallertau, another I use semi-frequently, is moderately poor...

The flower hops I get - can get them properly sealed from suppliers here. Most have production methods that are proper with quick packaging and sealing with the proper nitrogen gas. Some homebrew shops will purchase mini bales and then break them down into smaller sizes. Hopefully using a similar method of what I use at home where the air get sucked out and it is frozen. That does not put nitrogen gas inside the bag but does some of the things that are good for preservation (air out and freezing).

EDIT: Hops in question were 2014 harvest purchased from one of my local microbreweries in August 2015. He bought from IndieHops a few months (?) previous to that. His mini bale was stored in his walk-in freezer with air pushed out and if my memory is right a fairly large Mylar bag where it has a zip lock apparatus at the top for sealing... What he uses for brewing. And I broke into 1 oz portions and vacuum sealed the bags plus put in the freezer within 24 hours of bringing home.

Besides the pelletizing process I believe that the top-notch hop producers treat flower hops in the same manner that they do pellets. Indie Hops will sell to small customers but must purchase at least mini-bales, and that's way too much for an average person to go through. Some others - one of the large Yakima WA producers and can't recall name right now - do a good job breaking down to Homebrewer sizes and marketing through homebrew shops to end customers.

Pat - the carrot example may not pertain to hops exactly as carrots need to maintain a larger percentage of moisture, right? Hops would need far less moisture.

I need to spend some more time on this when I have a little more time to review... I suspect some sort of "age" adjustment needs to be made depending upon variety. Thanks again guys...
Last edited by Scott on 18 May 2016, 11:20, edited 1 time in total.
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Post #7 made 2 years ago
Sorry Scott, what I meant with the carrots is that just small differences in the way they are stored can yield vastly different results.

Just had a quick re-read of my last ramble above and, if I had to summarise it in one sentence, it would probably be...
Unless you are fully aware of the supply line of your hops, the AA% given/quoted, if any, will be the best you will get.
That's the first thing to absorb.

Some well-known commercial software do have storagability formulas but, they are a total gimmick; a re-read of this thread should clearly show why (pre-purchase conditions unknown and mally's point).

...

The above, furthermore brings into question, the reliance on software, when 'copying' recipes. I might give you a recipe that says use 28 grams of "x" hop of 12%AA, but how do you know if my hops really were 12%?

So, while this site and the BIABacus are brilliant (way beyond anything else) at analysing recipes, this site also has several threads and posts that warn against being governed by numbers. Your tongue/palate/nose are always the best adjudicator.

...

One last thing, I'm worried about you buying flowers or cones. I always buy pellets, for many reasons. The risk/reward of flowers or cones puts them out of my personal consideration. In my mind, I would only use them if I owned a brewery and definitively knew the source and could use them quickly.

Do you reckon pellets might be a better option for you?

Great thread Scott :party:,
PP
Last edited by PistolPatch on 13 May 2016, 22:01, edited 1 time in total.
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Post #8 made 2 years ago
Hey Pat, yeah I understand what you're saying in regards to storage. But I think for flower hops that in doing it (storage) as well as can be done. (Air sucked out in food prep system in sealed bags, and freezer). No nitrogen...

For whatever reason Pellets just seem..."Un-Natural". Like over-processed food or something. (Or a woman with too many "cosmetic alterations"...sorry you can delete that last bit if you like). :drink: It's what I started with and even today in our local LHBS - all of the local stores - at least 70% of hops are flower hops. Never have seen plugs or whatever they call it. But I have used pellets and am sure that I will use them again.

I reached out to Indie Hops from Oregon and Hop Union from Washington to get comment on the question. It is an interesting question in my opinion. Indie Hops answered within the hour of me sending the question this morning, very nice of them, still waiting on Hop Union... Will post question and their response(s) later when I get a chance. Thanks again!
Last edited by Scott on 14 May 2016, 10:46, edited 1 time in total.
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Post #9 made 2 years ago
70% :shock:. Over here in Ozland, it's probably 15% :scratch:. That's really interesting.

Good on you for emailing the suppliers as well :salute:.

Re the cones/plugs and flowers, I had it in my mind that they didn't like freezing. I could be wrong on this though. I think I had that in my brain because of the link given in post #1 of this thread by wizard78. Unfortunately, the link he gives is unavailable and I can't find the original article anywhere :sad:.

In wizard's thread though are some other interesting links which I've just read or listened to...

Basic Brewing RadioTalking Hops with Gerard Lemmens (Goes for 22 mins)
MoreBeer Hop Storage

I think you'll find them both of value.

Look forward to hearing what you discover. It would be great to see if they have an opinion on freezing flowers versus pellets.

:peace:
PP
Last edited by PistolPatch on 14 May 2016, 10:28, edited 1 time in total.
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Post #11 made 2 years ago
Well I've looked through both of your links PP, along with the one Joshua posted from ausiehomebrewer.com. The latter was just good general info, A to Z on hops. Not much on this topic.

By far the most informative piece I've read on hops' storage and loss of AA by aging is that "Hop Storage" link from MoreBeer that you posted PP. It backed up a lot of the things I've been doing (vacuum sealing hops and freezer storage...which is how most of the homebrew shops in Oregon store hops). It is a great link! Gave mathematical calculations of how much AA you lose on different varieties depending upon storage temperature. (Pretty "thick" math for me). I would highly suggest a read through for anyone else interested in this topic.

https://www.morebeer.com/articles/storing_hops_properly
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Post #12 made 2 years ago
And the below was the response from Indie Hops' Matt Sage:

"Generally, pellets keep their alpha better than whole cone hops traditionally stored in bales at beer cooler temps. This is one of the reasons why pellets became so widely used. That might not be so true with nitrogen purged, vacuum sealed, 28°F-stored mini-bales and 1/4-bales.

The alpha on the label is the alpha at harvest. We should do more sampling than we have about how quickly alpha is lost but it varies greatly from variety to variety and may vary within the same variety from crop year to crop year. Santiam is a variety that loses it alpha faster than most. This is possibly one of the reason this variety, released in the 90’s, was not adopted by the big brewers and nearly died out. However, it does have nice aroma so it has found a place with craft brewers. Any 2 year old whole cone hops (EDIT - they were just over 1 year old at time of brewing) will have lost quite a bit of their harvest alpha, Santiam more than most."

I suspect if Matt had thought about it a little more he would have noted lack of marketing, and lack of anyone (no hop producing company) promoting the "publicly bred" (no patent) Santiam hop as a bigger reason it almost died out... Santiam's storability is almost identical to Cascade. :think: But I think the AA drop with hops' age is something we need to keep in mind and be able to make some sort of adjustment for when we brew beer.
Last edited by Scott on 15 May 2016, 09:53, edited 1 time in total.
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Post #13 made 2 years ago
Thanks Scott for the additional info :salute:,

I'm in two, possibly three minds abut this subject :). And, I'm tired, unwinding and a tad inebriated after tasting a few very nice beers so expect a ramble...

Amarillo

I, and many others who tasted it, loved NRB's All Amarillo American Pale Ale (the recipe is on the site). After a few years, I bought 500 grams (about 17.5 ozs) and it was crap. One supplier said it was a bad year and, in the podcast I linked above, you'll have noticed that new varieties can take five years before they become consistent.

Consistency

I think the pellets hop I freeze (in satchels and then those satchels are within larger air-tight containers) store really well. But who knows what AA% they were when I originally bought them?

Professional brewers who brew hop-driven styles generally don't freeze their hops from what I know. Instead, they manage them, batch to batch. So, they will swap out one hop from another (more commonly a blend) as an individual hops performance changes. This is why you'll often taste significant changes in craft beers from month to month. The head brewer's job is to try and minimise those changes.

Malts also change from batch to batch as does water unless the brewery (or home brewer) uses reverse osmosis and salts.

Trust your Tongue

If you brew a beer and think it lacks in hop bitterness, flavour and/or aroma, don't be scared of trusting your tongue and using your brain to make adjustments. This is actually one of the end goals of this site and the BIABacus - learning when/what numbers to respect and when/what numbers to disrespect.

One Random Idea

One idea, that might be totally stupid, could be to make a small hop tea of hops when you first buy them. Make some tasting notes, preferably with a few others. A year later, or whatever time period, depending on how they were stored, taste the hop tea again, preferably with the same people. Is it more or less bitter on a scale of 1 to ten? What about flavour and aroma?

Maybe BIABrewer.info should set up hop tea tastings and pool the results :).

Might actually be a good idea :think:
PP
Last edited by PistolPatch on 15 May 2016, 23:39, edited 1 time in total.
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Post #14 made 2 years ago
Interesting thoughts PP...

I've never made hop tea before. Seems like it could be totally subjective though. I mean, when I've bought hops, they are normally flower (not pellet). How often have the hops had an obvious problem (color, fragrance, etc.)? Almost never... I don't know, may be an interesting experiment...but not sure what concrete knowledge we end up knowing at the end (?). Well I think you are assuming larger / bulk purchase of same variety of hops...testing early then a year later. Don't normally buy that much at once.

After a few minutes more thought, it actually is a very interesting thought to get several hop teas to taste side-by-side, if possible. (Or SHaSH beers...) :drink: I'm not a member of a homebrew club, just BIABrewer.info regular, and we are so spread out (I know of no "regular contributor" within 2000 miles of me) it would make joint experiments difficult. :think:

Indie Hops stores their hops below freezing, 26-29 deg F, "for optimal freshness".
http://www.indiehops.com/products.asp?1#1

I would think breweries would store hops in a freezer or at least walk-in refrigerator... But I don't have much knowledge on what most breweries do. Only a couple of my small local microbreweries... So I could be wrong. (?)

Going to take a crack at setting up an Excel formula (as described in your MoreBeer article). If that is an accurate predictor, would be a big help.
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Post #16 made 2 years ago
Joshua, those were pretty good links, both backed up the more basic info in PP's MoreBeer link... (Get the air out, vacuum pack if possible and freeze...). They all mention Mylar bag being great too, or glass jar (think you said you do that PP)...and perhaps in addition to sucking the air out. (These were more for further isolating from other food smells if stored in a home refrigerator). The MoreBeer article (written by Mark Garetz last July) is great, provided his data and formulas are accurate... Looks better than anything else we've seen.

Alpha Acid Loss - Excel Spreadsheet:
I put together the attached spreadsheet with help of PP's MoreBeer article. Should be a lot better than what I had to estimate this before (making an educated guess...). Looks like variables exist here too, but this should get it closer, "tighten the shot group up" a little more...

With the brew from last weekend, I had multiplied 70% times original alpha which gave 5.5% AA. using this formula it came out with 5.8%. Definitely none of this is exact...as there is no way to know for sure how the hops have been treated before we get them (storage method, temperature, etc...but often there is an indication). Also the AA drop over time can range with each harvest, so it's not concrete. And some hop varieties get tested more than others. If in doubt, the Beer Legends hops data is a good backup. Maybe more concrete data like this is in a Vault, at some of the major brewers...but not much is available on-line for home brewers like us.

I think I'll run with this, for the time being...when estimating current AA value. It is lots better than what I had before!!! Feel much more informed and knowledgeable on the topic than I was a week ago. Hope it helps some of you too!

(EDIT: Just had thought that IndieHops store at around 28 deg F, and brewer, maybe similar(?), so added a second leg onto the spreadsheet where I can make some sort of estimate on this where they store for at A time at X temperature, and I store for B time at Y temperature. Looks like my beer freezer where I put hops is -5F / -20C. With doing that, AA estimate dropped to 5.4%...still "in the range" but even lower yet.)
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Last edited by Scott on 16 May 2016, 06:26, edited 6 times in total.
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Post #18 made 2 years ago
Same brand as what I have (Food Saver). But what you linked includes actual containers, not vacuum seal bag kit... Seems to me you should be able to suck more air out with the actual vacuum seal bags than the containers (but containers - certainly better than nothing). (?) That would be my thought, anyhow. I'll attach link something that is a 10-year newer version of what I have.

http://www.amazon.com/FoodSaver-GameSav ... acuum+seal
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Post #19 made 2 years ago
I forgot to say, the Vacuum sealed bags(1oz/25gram), will fit in another Vacuum Seal Container/

Kind of a Belt and Suspender concept.
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Post #20 made 2 years ago
The intent of the thread was to correctly figure out what AA to dial in for hops that are in good condition...other than age. With hops that are old, tan color (rather than green) and cheesy smelling...that is an obvious "hops are bad / old / oxidized" scenario. Not talking about that. But when you have hops a year or two old that look and smell great - the drop in AA situation that a guy isn't going to "catch" just by chance - being able to more correctly dial in the proper drop in AA / new AA. That was the intent of the thread and the research. I think we got it! :thumbs:
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Post #21 made 2 years ago
The Only Question I have, that nobody answers, is the MACHINE the Hop growers use to determine the AA% on the Bag.

Experts Say a Very Costly Device using Complicate Sensors. see http://www.karlabs.com/hops.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

If you Grow you own Hop Vines, How do you determine where to Start you Program.

Micro brewers have told me they adjust to hop amounts by rubbing to Hops(pellets/cones/flowers between their Hand, and determining there Freshness.

So, your Original Question Cannot be answered by anything else then YES.

The Problem is the FAITH, you MUST put in the Number on the Bag

Buy a few 1 oz bags of you Favorite hops and see if Each bag passes the Rub Test.

My Best advice is to only buy the amount of Hops you need Per Batch, and Put your Faith into the Printed AA%.

If You do not have Faith in Hop storage, Do not Buy Pounds or Kilo's, just enough to brew.

EDIT: for anyone interested is trying to determine there Own hops AA% see http://www.uvm.edu/~pass/perry/hopsanalysis.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Last edited by joshua on 16 May 2016, 09:23, edited 1 time in total.
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Post #22 made 2 years ago
Sorry for my anal noes poking in but hops grow on bines not vines.
We have no choice but to have faith in the printed numbers on the package.
Having some kind of formula and spread sheet can give us a small idea as to how to treat our stored hops. Homebrewers have no hope of knowing exactly what our hops hold . I think taking tasting notes and hop age notes along with the spreadsheet and we can dial in our hpo profiles better
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Post #23 made 2 years ago
Thanks Lumpy!!! Exactly what I had hoped for. That is precisely my thoughts. Thought my communication might have drifted off course...
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Post #24 made 2 years ago
I'm not sure if any of the links above cover it (too lazy to read them all), but I am not as interested in alpha degradation as Beta/essential oils.

What I am saying is for my preference I could drink a beer with zero bitterness as long as it had hop flavour/aroma, but wouldn't like a bitter beer with no hop flavour/aroma (aka Bud with lime)!

Or are people presuming the degradation is linear across all hop compounds?
My guess is they are not linear.
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Post #25 made 2 years ago
Well, the compound tested for Storability (in the hop industry) is Alpha Acid drop at 20 Deg C for 6 months, not Beta, etc). Didn't you send me the link to the Beer Legends chart earlier in this thread? I think they are assuming linear degradation, but have not graphed their numbers...and don't plan to at this point - just looking for a logical, measured way of hopefully figuring out the drop in AA (plus other oils???) over time with proper storage.

AA is always the one being used to dial in hop quantities for brew sessions, not the others... Even if linear with all essential oils, no way to know without testing if a hop varietiy's others essential oils drop at same rate as its Alpha Acid. Think this test method assumes everything drops at same rate and gives you an adjustment for lowering estimated AA so a brewer can plan brews more accurately.

This formula would seem to give a more reliable, accurate and repeatable way of estimating AA drop over time than me (or anyone else) making a total guess so I'm going to use it for making adjustments and see if it works for me. The spreadsheet I put together makes it possible for me to use the formula.

:!: If interested, this is the most important link:
https://www.morebeer.com/articles/storing_hops_properly
Last edited by Scott on 17 May 2016, 00:00, edited 4 times in total.
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