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Question on all leaf boils

I am going to need some centennial hops soon. Hops direct has them in leaf but pellets wont be available until late October/early November. For those of you have used whole leaf hops, is there much of a difference? I am guessing the leaf hops will absorb more wort. Is the flavor the same?
Anything I would need to change in my process when using whole leaf? When using pellets, I always use hop bags. Will this work for leaf hops?

Pellets can often be better quality than whole hops, but it depends on how old the whole hops are and how they were stored. Whole hops do absorb more wort than pellets. I count on about 6 oz. of absorption for each oz. of whole hops I use. I bag the whole hops. Theoretically, you get about 10% more utilization from pellets than whole, so you might want to account for that. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.

Some people think that you may get more flavor/aroma from whole leaf hops because some hop oils may be lost in the pelleting process. In my experience, however, I haven’t noticed any appreciable difference between pellet and whole leaf hops. I have not done any side-by-side comparisons, though, so if there is a small difference between the two I may not have picked it up.

Whole hops do suck up quite a bit of wort. If you have a lot of leaf hops in your boil, you can try squeezing them to save some of the wort they sucked up. Just don’t do this with dry-hops, or else you may risk oxidation.

I use a hop spider (nylon paint strainer bag to pvc fitting) and brew with a lot of whole hops. It’s true that they absorb some wort, but I’ve found a way to recover it. I let the hops steep while the beer is chilling. I keep the spoon in the pot while chilling so it stays sanitized from the boil.

I pull the spider up and rest the nylon bag against the side of the pot while I start spinning the top of the spider. The bag starts to twist up and squeeze the hops. I use my spoon to press against the bag and work a lot of wort out as I keep twisting the bag. I never use my hands to squeeze the bag, but I manage to recover most of the absorbed wort with the spoon/twist combo. Works for me!

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