French press and fresh hops. The poor man's randall?

Three years ago I planted two Cascade Hop vines for home brewing. Come harvest time, I had a very nice yield. The only problem was that my wife and I are expecting a third child in December, which is when I like to brew. So what was I going to do with all these hops? I tried offering them to a few homebrewer friends but no one was interested. This was a shock considering the severe hop shortage. I was reading some posts on ratebeer and saw that another user was using a french press as a randall. Cool idea! What is a randall? Randall is a device that was created by Dogfish Head Brewing Co. out of Milton DE. It is a canister that houses fresh whole leaf hops, and connects between the keg an and the beer tap. It is basically a way of dry hopping "on the fly."

I don't drink coffee, but my wife does. She has a nice porcelain french press that collects dust in the pantry. I figured it was time to put that thing to good use. I grabbed about a quarter ounce of hops and one of my favorite IPAs, Bells Two Hearted Ale. Sorry Nashville folks, you can't buy this wonderful beer locally. You have to drive to Kentucky to get it. I chose this beer because it basically a single hop IPA using Centennial hops, which are a higher alpha acid version of Cascade hops. I dumped the hops into the press and poured the beer over them and let it sit for about 10 minutes. I then pushed down on the press and poured the beer into my tulip glass. That's it. The verdict?

It did add some subtle haze to the beer, but that's to be expected. Two Hearted has a very nice aroma, but the french press added a nice fresh wet hop aroma to the mix. This process noticeably softened the carbonation, in a cask (beer engine) sort of way. As far a flavor, the finish had semi-dry and grassy bitterness with some leafy herb and celery nuances. Did this improve the beer? Not for me. It just gave the beer a character that was interesting and different. However, I bet this process would improve mediocre pale ales and IPAs. This is a cool idea and kudos to whomever came up with it. I now have a use for all these hops and will continue to experiment.

If you are not growing your own hops, I do not recommend that you go down to your homebrew shop and attempt to purchase them for this little experiment. For starters, it's not worth the price you are going pay for whole leaf hops. Second, hops are in very low supply and the courteous thing to do is leave them for the homebrewers. Most home brew shops won't even sell you hops unless you purchase ingredients for an entire batch. I also recommend that you get a dedicated french press for beer, unless you like hop flavor in your coffee.

I will try the french press on some locally available beers like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Magic Hat Lucky Cat, and Terrapin Rye Pale Ale. Check back later and read comments to see the results. Cheers!


Jacob said...

Cool experiment. Maybe if you slowly poured the beer down the side of the press it would keep a little more carbonation, although I'd assume that sitting without pressure for 10 minutes would lose some carbonation regardless.

Smitty said...

Thanks for the suggestions Jacob. I plan to experiment some more. I often let many beers sit for 10 minutes to warm up and never have carbonation issues. Do you or anyone know the scientific reason for the carbonation loss with hops added to the mix?

Troy said...

Nice idea. May have to give it a go.
Yazoo has a wet hop IPA they will be opening for their 5yr anniversary in a couple of weeks at the taproom. Worth checking out for some good strong hoppiness.

Jacob said...

Nucleation sites. Do you have any beer glasses with the etching at the bottom that makes bubbles cascade heavily from that point? The hops are one huge mass of nooks and crannies for gas to build up and release from solution.