Hops horticulture


Hops horticulture

Hops (Humulus lupulus) is one of the oldest horticultural crops and its cultivation goes back to a time in which most of the lands in Europe were in a state of nature. However, hops were not well developed until the 13th century when there were around two million hops plants on the soil of Champagne and Reims. Hop production began in Belgium in the 18th century, in Britain in the 19th century, in North America in the late 19th century, and in Germany in the 20th century. Currently, the world production of hops is more than 8.5 million tons and the annual hop acreage is roughly 100,000 hectares. This is mostly due to the increasing demand of hops in many beer types, from light beers to lager beers, but also to the high costs of production of hops and the growing interest for hops in the food industry.

Cultivation

Hop plantations are mainly cultivated in cooler climate zones with a temperate to cool climate and with a long growing season (at least five months), where summers are short and winters are long. The best suited regions for hop cultivation are the northern half of Germany, the north-western parts of the Netherlands and in the east of the United States and Canada. Furthermore, hop gardens can be cultivated successfully in the south of France and in North Africa. All hop varieties are grown from spring until early autumn. During this period, the female plants (bines) with the hop cones, are grown on trellis structures in order to maintain constant light and moisture supply. Hop cones begin to develop in the male plants (plants with no female parts) and are collected in the latter part of the summer or early autumn. The mature hop cones can have an overall diameter of around 5–8 ,cm. The amount of the cones on one hop plant is called a cone count and is typically between 500-2000/plant. Cones are stored during the winter until the next hop harvest season.

Preparation

Conifer cones are filled with tiny seeds (1-5 ,mm long) and are then covered with a layer of waxy scales. The scales protect the seeds during their storage on ships, by minimizing loss of moisture. The cone scales open on germination and the seeds inside germinate and the radicles grow through the cone scale and into the soil. If the radicles are cut off, the cones lose their viability.

Hops are harvested by hand. Most of the cone harvest happens automatically and mechanically. First, plants with bines are removed manually and bines are sorted out by diameter. Next, bines with hop cones are cut off and collected by means of an auger. Hops are then placed in containers for further transport.

Hops are mostly packed in wooden boxes for their transport. For storage of hop cones they are placed in plastic bags or on wooden shelves. For export, hops are packed in containers.

Harvest

Freshening

After harvest, hops are kept in storage tanks or in dry stores for a few weeks and then transferred to warehouses for processing and preparation. During this time, the cones are known as flower hops and their essential oil content increases. The oil is responsible for the aromas in beer and is extracted through the cones using either cold or hot processing methods. The dried flower hops then go through a drying process (the process of maturing). After drying, they are stored in containers until they are exported. The drying process influences the flavour profile of the dried hops. This, in turn, influences the flavour profile of the beer.

Sorting

The sorting of cones in each harvest is necessary to guarantee a uniform quality. To achieve this, machine-sorting of the cones is required. Sorting machines used for the purpose are very complex and the machines for the purposes of sorting hop cones use a combination of air and centrifugal force to sort the hop cones based on their quality.

Drying

Hop cones are dried in special dryers called hop kilns. Depending on the size of the hop yard, hops can be dried at different temperatures. Larger hop yards can have a capacity of 1000 to 6000 kilos per hour. The smallest hop yards can have a capacity of 150 kilos per hour. During the drying process, the cones are exposed to high temperatures of 120 to 200 degrees Celsius. In order to ensure a consistent quality of the dried hop cones, the duration of the drying process needs to be accurately monitored.

Processing

Hop cones are processed according to their size and shape and their essential oils. This process, too, involves machines to sort the hop cones based on quality. The hops are sent through a series of machines that make the cones whole or cut them into smaller parts. In the course of the process, the cones are exposed to a variety of different machines that may include screens, cutting machines, rollers, and grinders to achieve the desired size. After they are processed, the hop cones are sent to the cleaning and packaging area. The most common cleaning process that is used for the hop cones is a cleaning process that uses a combination of chemicals. This process, however, is carried out only after a drying process. After the drying process, the cones are ready to be packed for their journey to the customer. Depending on the size of the cones, different machines and techniques are used to package the hop cones. In order to make the best use of the hop cones, most growers are looking at developing the most effective and most efficient packaging process.

References

Category:Hops

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