Growing your own homegrown hops is an incredibly rewarding process that adds another level of pride and self-sufficiency to your homebrew. Hops are very easy to grow and produce an attractive, fast-growing plant. During their peak growing season, the vines (called “bines”) can grow over a foot per day in all directions searching for something to climb. They’re excellent climbers and will take over any lattice, pergola, or other climbable surface. Growing hops requires very little equipment and costs almost nothing. Once you have harvested your hops, how do you get them to dry quickly to avoid spoilage? A food dehydrator works well, but can only dry a small amount of hops at a time. Luckily, a DIY Hop Drying Screen is just about the easiest homebrewing DIY project you can do, and you might even have the materials you need lying around!
- Standard window screen (even an old used one is fine!)
- 10’ 2×4 cut into 4 pieces:
- 2 x 19” pieces
- 2 x 30.75” pieces
- 14 x 2” interior construction screws
Check your screen to make sure the dimensions we have below will fit your screen. A standard household window screen is 30.75 x 22 inches, but adjust your 2×4 sides to match your particular screen. If you have a standard screen like we used, measure and cut your 2×4 into the following pieces:
- 2 x 19” pieces
- 2 x 30.75” pieces
Drill a few pilot holes in the frame of the screen. We drilled three holes in each long side and two holes in each short side, approximately evenly spaced (but we didn’t stress about measuring carefully).
Starting with one of the long sides, align the frame to the thin edge of the 2×4 and use your construction screws to attach the 2×4 to the frame. Attach each piece the same way.
Use your remaining screws to attach the pieces of 2×4 together by screwing the edges together. This will remove the strain from the screen and help your hop dryer last longer.
See? I told you that was probably the easiest homebrewing DIY project ever! These frames work exceptionally well at drying hops, and keep them secure from blowing around in the wind while they dry. They are stackable as well, so depending on the size of your hop growing operation, you may need to build several to dry all of your hops. If it’s a warm, dry day, I set the frame on a couple of stools so that it is suspended with good airflow, and let it sit in a partially shaded area to dry for about 24 – 48 hours. At night, I move it into my garage where I have a fan gently blowing on it to keep the air flowing.
Once the hops are dried, store them in airtight ziplock bags with the air pressed out as much as possible. If you have or are willing to invest in a vacuum sealer, your hops will last even longer. Once the bags are sealed, keep your hops in the freezer until you’re ready to use them. Stored properly, your homegrown hops will last between 6 months and a year before you lose too much flavor and aroma. I have used homegrown Cascade after about a year in my Cascade SMaSH and it turned out just fine. In fact, I recommend brewing a SMaSH with your homegrown hops at least once, because it’s a really interesting way to fully appreciate their unique flavor and aroma.
Have you built your own DIY hop drying screen and have tips to share? Leave a comment below or post in the Forums!
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