There are many articles on the internet about how to dry your own hops, or build a tiny oast house and I’m sure they’re all very good. However being in the UK I don’t really have the space for even more brew kit, and my chest freezer is full of vacuum packed hops from last year. Which left me with a problem of what to do with this years, it was either give them away, throw them away ( never! ) or experiment with drying them. Obviously drying them was the way to go, but how to do so without building/buying yet more equipment and without sacrificing the sitting room or such for a week whilst hops dried. The obvious and easy answer was to second the loft, which was already full of stuff anyway. It already had good airflow, which is to say it’s drafty, so that’s a plus and it’s dry so that’s also good. But no flat surfaces or much space and it’s not exactly warm so that’s a problem.
These minor details were not however insurmountable issues. A clean dust sheet stretched out between the rafters provided somewhere to put the hops and to help them dry a small electric heater and a dehumidifier beneath the dust sheet did the job.
As this was an experiment and I was being cautious I kept the heater at a fairly low-level and turned it off when I went to sleep or went out – as it’s not worth burning my house down for a few hops. I think I was being over-cautious and could have left it running at a higher setting without much danger. I had 6kg of Northdown and 4kg of Fuggles to dry, I did them as separate batches to avoid mixing and as I only had a single sheet up and due to weather I had to harvest them a few days apart anyway. Next year I might use multiple sheets to speed up the process, depending on the spacing of harvesting. To make sure they dried evenly I tried to turn the hops a few times a day with an old tennis racket I had lying around in the loft, this actually worked really rather well. After a couple of days drying that had become 1.4kg of Northdown and 0.6Kg of Fuggles, which when vacuum packed don’t take up too much room.
Two months later and no sign of rot or decay so I think I’m probably safe to say that the drying worked, though I’ve yet to brew with them which will be the real test. Assuming that they brew OK then I’ll certainly be taking this approach with the majority of my hops again next year. Though i will still keep a certain amount in the freezer for green hop brewing.
So with no construction involved and only using stuff already lying around the house it seems I can quite happily dry 10Kg or more of hops ready to be vacuum packed and stored. Really the only downside is everything that was under the dust sheet has been covered with a fine coating of lupulin and I’ll be finding stray bits of hop in the loft for years to come. Not really too much of a price to pay.