How long do hops last

How long do hops last? As simple as possible!

Out of the four main ingredients needed to brew beer, water is the only one we can get easily at home. The other three, malts, hops and yeast, have to be purchased at a homebrew shop (if there’s one in your area) or online vie some brewing specialized e-shops.

Shopping at a homebrew store in person is not a big hassle, you just go in when you need to, buy whatever you need for your specific brew and go back home. No need to worry about storage or raw materials going bad.

But when you buy online, you need to think in advance and you may often find that buying in bulk is much more cost-efficient. This is when you start wondering, should I buy more of this or that? Where do I have to keep it? How long will it last?

I will go into all of the information for every ingredient in detail in separate posts, and today we will focus on hops and its storage.

Let’s get started…

How long do Hops last?

Pellets hops, if they are vacuum sealed, will last between 2 to 3 years in a fridge (max 5°C/41°F), up to 5 years if kept in the freezer, and for no me than a year if stored at ambient temperature. Once opened, however, they will start to lose their flavor and aroma in just a couple of weeks.

Whole dried hops, on the contrary, won’t last fresh more than a year if they are frozen and a few months if they are left in a fridge.

Once opened, it’s is recommended to use them as quickly as possible since some of the aroma and flavor is going to fade in a few days, or maybe weeks, depending on the variety. For whole dried hops this process is always faster.

Different Hop products

To really know how long our hops will last we need to know the hop products available and their differences. Generally speaking we can distinguish between 3 hop types: Pellets, Whole, Extract.

Hop pellets varieties
Hop Pellets varieties

Hop Pellets

Hop Pellets.

Hop pellets are the most common product available on the market. They look like rabbit food but are packed with almost every compound of the original hop cone.

We can find 2 types of hop pellets:

  • Type 90, where 90 grams of pellets are made out of 100 grams whole hops.
  • Type 45, where we need 100 grams whole hops to produce 45 grams of pellets.

Pellets are the most used hop product because they keep most of the compounds of the whole hop, with the advantage of being able to be stored for a longer time, plus they take way less space than the whole hop.

Whole Hops

Cone hop in half
Cone hop split in half.

Also known as cone hop, a whole hop is the flower of the female hop plant.

After harvesting, the cones are dried as fast as possible making them reach a moisture content of approximately 10%, which prevents them from getting spoiled.

Even though there are some commercial breweries that still use cone hops (mainly out of tradition), they are actually quite hard to het ahold of, especially for anyone making beer at a homebrew level.

Hop Extract

Hop Extract.

Hop extract is made via an extraction method with alcohol or Co2, where a really thick and concentrated syrup is created.

This extract is then used in the same way as any other hop product would.

The advantages of using hop extract is that it saves a lot of space and that only small amounts are needed for every brew, which is why it’s mainly used by big commercial breweries.

What factors make hops degrade faster?

Temperatures above 5° C or 41° F, humidity, contact with oxygen, and time, will be the main causes of hop degradation.

In order to keep hops from degrading, we need to store them properly in the best conditions possible, and they also should be used as fast as possible to keep them from degrading, as well as losing their taste and aromas.

For example; if you store them at room temperature, they will loose 10% to 20% of the Alpha-Acid content in pellets, and up to 100% of the Alpha-Acids in whole dried hops in about a year.

How to properly store hops?

Avoiding hop degradation is all about storing them properly, but what’s s the best way to do it?

In short; The place where they’re stored has to be cool, dry, and they need to be kept away from oxygen as much as possible. So, the first place that comes to mind is a fridge, but a freezer would be even better.

Storing hops in a fridge, or a freezer, solves the cooling part of the equation, which means that we now only need to focus on the other two factors; Oxygen and humidity.

Pellets stored in a freezer
Hops inside a freezer

Luckily, there’s a way where you can kill two birds with one stone here, and this would be using a vacuum sealer and to store the hops in a vacuum-sealed bag. This ensures that neither humidity nor oxygen will be in contact with your hop pellets.

If you don’t have access to a vacuum sealer, then try and find ways to store them in a way where oxygen and humidity can’t reach them; You could reuse the same bag where they came in, a Tupperware, or even some old jars.

These last last methods will introduce some oxygen, so if you don’t have a vacuum sealer then I’d recommended using the hops as fast as possible.

How long can hop pellets be stored?

As stated above, hop pellets con be stored for a maximum of 3 years in a fridge or up to 5 years in a freezer. This is, of course, for unopened sealed packages.

Pellets Type90 sealed
Pellets Type 90 sealed

Once opened, pellets will start loosing aroma and flavor compounds really quickly. That’s why they have to be used as soon as possible. Some manufacturers even say that the aroma and flavor will be gone in a matter of weeks, so keep that in mind.

How long can whole hops be stored?

Whole hops are meant to be used as quickly as possible. Properly sealed bags can be stored no longer than a year in a fridge and up to 1.5 or two years in a freezer.

At room temperature, cones will lose all of their alpha-acids within a year.

Can Fresh hops be used to brew beer?

Fresh hops.

Up until this point, we talked only about whole dried hops (and pellets, and extract), but not about fresh hops. So, what happens with the cones that are not dried? Can we used them as well in beermaking?

The answer is yes, they can be used for brewing. But you have to use them right at the harvesting time.

Another recommendation is to used them during the boil or whirpool (hot side) to avoid any possible contamination.

If we are using fresh hops for brewing right after the harvest, there’s not much a point of storing them. But if you need to, fresh hops will stay OK for 48 hours if they are frozen.

Fresh cone hops will have a moisture content of about 80%, so they have to be used or dried fast in order to avoid them going bad.

How to tell when hops have gone bad

It will definitely happen to you at some point that you find in the back corner of your fridge or freezer an old bag of hops, and you wonder if you can use them or not.

If they were stored well, it’s more likely that you can use them, but they won’t have the same flavor, aroma or alpha-acid content as a fresh bag of pellets, but they will definitely get the job done.

To check if your hops are still OK for brewing, the first thing you have to do is open the bag or container and to take a look as well as smell the hops.

Old or bad hops will lose their aroma as well as some of the green color of the pellets will have faded. Bad hops will have a cheesy smell (stinky feet smell) and will look brownish. That’s a sign not to use those for brewing.

If they are still green and have some hop related smell, they are good to go, just keep in mind that you will have to use a lot more to compensate for the aroma, flavor and alpha-acid losses.

And if you really want to use your old hops, try brewing a Lambic style beer.

Do hops lose alpha acid over time?

In terms of aroma and flavor, alpha acid content will be one of the biggest things hops lose over time. During the course of a year at room temperature, the alpha-acids losses will be as follows:

  • Whole: 100%
  • Pellets: 10%-20%
  • Extract: 2%-4%

So if you are brewing with old hops, you need to take this into consideration.

Weighing hop pellets
Weighing hop pellets


Hops are one of the most sensitive ingredients in beer, and we can notice the difference in the final product when we use old or bad hops in our brews.

Since well stored hops will last for a couple or weeks or months, you need to plan your brews in advance to be sure you buy what you need and avoid getting stuck with hops that have gone bad.

Getting and old 2nd hand fridge to store your hops is a really good idea, and if you want to go all the way, buy a vacuum sealer and you will be safe.

Hope all the information in the article was of help to you.


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