Hops will mature and be ready for harvest in mid-August to September. If these are first_year hops, expect a small harvest. They use most of their energy developing their root system which makes it difficult for the cones to reach their peak yield. Expect a full harvest in second year hop gardens. Do not pick cones too early because they will be deprived of the full potential for brewing. A ripe, mature cone will be springy, dry and sticky to the touch, have a strong hop odor and a visible thick yellow substance known as lupulin. A cone that has not quite reached maturity will feel moist and stay compressed when squeezed. There will also be no visible yellow powder. When a cone has passed this test, cut it vertically and inspect the inside. It should be full of a yellow sticky substance. Now is the time to harvest.
Harvest can be done two different ways; picking by hand or cutting down the vines. Be sure to wear protective clothing and gloves during harvest. Hops have hooked hairs that may cause a skin rash.
When harvesting by cutting down the vines, wait until most of the cones are ripe and cut the vines two to three feet from the ground. This prevents injury to the roots and crown. Then the cones are hand picked off the vines. Dispose of the vine by burning or using for a craft project. After brewing, do not mulch the cones or leave around dogs. There have been reported cases of dogs having a toxic reaction after from ingesting hops. Death may result. Cones can be picked by hand from the vine as they mature. Since cones mature at different rates, this will require multiple harvests.
Drying Your Hops
After harvest, hops must be dried. Use a food dehydrator, oven, window screen or home-made dryer. Remember, good airflow is very important and the temperature of the dryer must not exceed 140 degrees F. If using a window screen, spread hops out evenly and place screen off the ground in an enclosed area free of wind, light and bugs. The hop cones must be turned daily. This process should take two to three days. When the hops are dried completely and properly, they will be springy to the touch and the yellow lupulin will fall off easily. Check the central stem. It should break not bend. It is very important that the hops are thoroughly dry before storage because they can become moldy, wilted, or even rancid and cannot be used for brewing.
Storage and Keeping Your Hops Fresh
To store hops, place them into a plastic freezer bag or a food saver bag. Once sealed and labeled store in the freezer. Never thaw then refreeze hops as it can compromise their quality and freshness.
Marion county 1946
This woman is picking hops
by hand on Delbert Haener's place.
Photo courtesy of Salem Public Library.
These hop baskets are filled with picked hops.
Photos courtesy of Marion County Historical Society