The Benefits of Whole Cone Hops for Brewing Beer

Whole cone , also known as raw hops, are a popular choice among brewers for their unique characteristics and cost-effectiveness. These hops are the dried and pressed inflorescences of female hop plants, harvested and processed without any further treatment.

The process of producing whole leaf hops begins with the removal of the hop cones from the plants. These cones are then carefully kiln-dried to reduce their moisture content to around 8.5-10.5%. After drying, the hops are pressed into 200lb bales on the farms where they are grown. This entire process takes place within hours of harvesting, ensuring that the hops retain their freshness and flavor.

One of the advantages of using whole cone hops is their immediate usability. Since they are not further processed, they can be used straight after harvesting, saving time and effort. Additionally, whole cone hops tend to be more affordable compared to processed hop products.

However, it is important to note that whole cone hops have a shorter shelf life due to oxidation processes. Brewers need to use them quickly to preserve their quality and flavor. This makes them perfect for dry-hopping, where the hops are added directly to the fermenter or keg, or for use in devices like a Randal or hop rocket to infuse the with hop aroma and flavor.

When it comes to specific hop varieties, Cascade Whole Cone hops are particularly popular. They can be used not only for their aromatic properties but also in the mash to increase thiol precursors. Thiol precursors are compounds that contribute to the fruity and tropical flavors found in certain hoppy beers.

Whole cone hops have a rich history in and are part of a group of hops known as the “Three Cs.” This group includes Cascade and Columbus, with some also including Chinook. These hops have become iconic in the industry, known for their distinct characteristics and versatility in brewing different beer styles.

Whole cone hops offer brewers a cost-effective and versatile option for enhancing the aroma and flavor of their beers. With their immediate usability and unique characteristics, these hops have become a favorite among brewers looking to take their brews to the next level.

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What Are Whole Cone Hops?

Whole cone hops, also known as whole leaf hops or raw hops, are the intact inflorescences or flower cones of female hop plants. These cones are carefully harvested from the hop plants and then undergo a process to preserve their quality.

Here is a breakdown of the steps involved in the production of whole cone hops:

1. Harvesting: When the hop plants reach maturity, usually in late summer or early fall, the cones are hand-picked from the vines. This process ensures that only the ripest and highest-quality cones are selected.

2. Drying: After harvesting, the cones are spread out in a well-ventilated area or in drying facilities to remove excess moisture. This drying process is crucial for preserving the hop cones and preventing spoilage.

3. Pressing: Once the cones have been dried to the desired moisture content, typically around 8.5-10.5%, they are compacted into bales. This is done by pressing the cones tightly together into 200-pound bales. The baling process helps to protect the cones and maintain their shape during storage and transportation.

4. Storage: The bales of whole cone hops are stored in a cool and dry environment to maintain their quality and prevent deterioration. Proper storage conditions are essential for preserving the aroma and flavor characteristics of the hops.

Whole cone hops have several advantages compared to other hop forms, such as hop pellets or extracts. Here are some key benefits:

– Aroma: Whole cone hops are known for their complex and vibrant aromas. The intact cones contain essential oils and other aromatic compounds that can contribute unique flavors and aromas to beer.

– Freshness: Since whole cone hops are minimally processed and typically used shortly after harvest, they retain a high level of freshness. This can result in more pronounced and nuanced hop flavors in the final beer.

– Brewing versatility: Whole cone hops are commonly used in various brewing processes, including boiling, dry hopping, and whirlpool additions. Their intact form allows for greater control over the brewing process and the extraction of desired flavors and bitterness.

– Natural filtration: When used during the brewing process, whole cone hops can act as a natural filter, helping to clarify the beer by trapping sediment and proteins.

– Visual appeal: The intact cones of whole leaf hops can add visual appeal to the brewing process. Brewers often enjoy the vibrant green color and unique shape of the cones.

Whole cone hops offer brewers the opportunity to create beers with distinct hop profiles and fuller flavors. Their natural form and minimal processing make them a preferred choice for many craft brewers and beer enthusiasts.

Why Use Whole Cone Hops?

Whole cone hops are a popular choice for brewers due to several advantages they offer. Here are the reasons why many brewers opt for whole cone hops:

1. Minimal Processing: Whole cone hops require minimal processing compared to other forms of hops. After being harvested, they are simply dried and packaged, making them ready for immediate use in the brewing process. This saves time and effort in further processing stages.

2. Immediate Use: Since whole cone hops are not extensively processed, they can be used immediately after harvesting. This is beneficial for brewers who want to start brewing right away without any additional steps or delays.

3. Cost-Effective: Whole cone hops are generally cheaper to purchase compared to other hop products. The minimal processing required keeps the production costs lower, making them a more affordable option for brewers, particularly those on a budget.

4. Enhanced Flavor and Aroma: Whole cone hops are known to provide a more intense flavor and aroma profile compared to processed hop products. The intact hop cones contain all the essential oils, resins, and other compounds that contribute to the hop character in beer. This can result in a more complex and vibrant flavor profile in the final product.

5. Natural Filtering: When using whole cone hops, the cones act as a natural filter during the brewing process. They can help in trapping sediments and unwanted particles, resulting in a clearer beer. This can be particularly useful for brewers who prefer a visually appealing and clean final product.

6. Tradition and Craftsmanship: Whole cone hops have a long history in brewing and are often associated with traditional brewing methods and craft beer. Using whole cone hops can add a touch of authenticity and craftsmanship to the brewing process, appealing to beer enthusiasts who appreciate the art and tradition of brewing.

It is important to note that whole cone hops have a shorter shelf life compared to processed hop products. Due to their minimal processing, they are more susceptible to oxidation processes. Brewers need to use them quickly to maintain their freshness and quality. This time sensitivity is something that brewers should consider when choosing to use whole cone hops in their brewing process.


Whole cone hops offer a unique and advantageous option for brewers. These raw, unprocessed hop cones are harvested, dried, and packaged without any further processing, making them a cost-effective choice. The immediacy of their use after harvesting allows for a fresher and more vibrant hop flavor in the beer. However, due to their lack of processing, whole cone hops must be used quickly to avoid oxidation and maintain their quality.

Whole cone hops are particularly well-suited for dry-hopping, where they can impart a strong hop aroma and enhance the overall flavor profile of the beer. They can also be utilized in brewing techniques such as mashing, where they can contribute to the production of thiol precursors, adding complexity and depth to the final product.

Centennial hops, one of the popular varieties of whole cone hops, have a rich history as part of the “Three Cs” hops group. Alongside Cascade and Columbus hops, Centennial has been a staple in the brewing industry and has played a significant role in the development of hop-forward American craft beers.

Whole cone hops offer brewers a versatile and cost-effective option to enhance the aroma, flavor, and complexity of their beers. With their immediate use after harvesting and their ability to be incorporated into various brewing techniques, whole cone hops are a valuable tool in the hands of brewers seeking to create unique and high-quality brews.

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Thomas Ashford

Thomas Ashford is a highly educated brewer with years of experience in the industry. He has a Bachelor Degree in Chemistry and a Master Degree in Brewing Science. He is also BJCP Certified Beer Judge. Tom has worked hard to become one of the most experienced brewers in the industry. He has experience monitoring brewhouse and cellaring operations, coordinating brewhouse projects, and optimizing brewery operations for maximum efficiency. He is also familiar mixology and an experienced sommelier. Tom is an expert organizer of beer festivals, wine tastings, and brewery tours.