Ramble On

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

@hawksbillhops Preparing for the Hops Harvest - Dry Matter Test

Here are the raw hops in the dehydrator.
We're getting close to harvest time for Hawksbill Hop Yards.  This year, while the bines are still maturing, we are looking for ways to improve our harvest and processing efforts - we potentially will use an oasting and pelletizing service this year, for example.

The folks that operate the processing center in Loudoun County, Organarchy, have requested that we measure dry matter in our hops, which involves a little test of a sample picked from the field.  There's a guide video from the University of Vermont here - and essentially that is the test I ran overnight last Friday and Saturday.

I picked just about 100 grams of wet hops for the test - enough to fill one tray of a typically vegetable dryer.  Then I ran it at high temperature overnight, actually around 15 hours.
Calculation notes - our hops are not ready to pick.

Using the calculations in the video, I had determined that the target weight of the dry matter in my sample would be around 23 grams.  This means that the difference between 100 grams of raw hops and the 23 grams of dry hops is all moisture that would evaporate out of the cones during the process.

Our test results show a higher number, which we interpreted as meaning they are not ready yet.  We'll run a test again next weekend.

There are other "rules of thumb" methods we can use for a sanity check.  For one thing, many of the hops growers south of us are already harvesting - they are in different USDA zones than us, so we can make an adjustment based on that information to estimate when the hops will be ready, in this case, about three weeks later.

After the test, I broke a cone apart for inspection.
Lupulin city!
One of my commitments to the hops farm is that we will continuously learn and improve our processes.  For example, last year we may have harvested early, because we used most of the other farms as a guide.  But they're south of us - so now we adjusted for the ag zone and added this dryness test.

Also last year, we did a lot of work to figure out how to oast the hops.  We didn't get them quite to where we want them to be, so we decided to hold this year's crop off the larger market to make sure that we get the process correct (we will sell them all to Hawksbill Brewing in Luray, which will open this fall or winter, so that they can use the local product in their beers).  Once I can be sure of a consistently high quality product, I will take them back to the market.

Next year, many of our bines will be three years old, and at full maturity.  The yields will be good, and with refined processes we should have plenty to sell to Virginia brewers.

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