YCH (Yakima Chief - Hopunion) Hops is a hops supplier based in the Yakima Valley of Washington state where 75% of the country’s hops are grown, according the US Department of Agriculture.
YCH Hops uses a low-temperature cryogenic hop-processing technology to separate whole cones into two components – concentrated lupulin and bract.
“Essentially we take a whole hop cone and freeze it with liquid nitrogen, then we shatter it so it’s easier to separate,” YCH Hops communications and outreach manager, Alex Rumbolz, told BeverageDaily at the Craft Brewers Conference in Nashville, Tennessee.
The goal of the cryogenic process is to separate the lupulin glands of the hop leaf to create a concentrated “high alpha” pellet with twice the amount of the oil-containing portion of the hops, according to Rumbolz.
The leftover debittered part of the leaf, known as bract, is used to make YCH Hops’ American Noble Hops available in pellet form and ideal for less ‘hoppy’ beers like a Pilsner or pale ale, according to Rumbolz.
“The biggest part of the hop is the lupulin, which is the alpha – the strongest part of the hop,” he said. That’s mostly what our Cryo Hops are, they are lupulin concentrated so there’s twice the potency.”
Cryo Hops are available in seven varieties – Cascade, Citra, Ekaunot, Loral, Mosaic, Palisade, and Simcoe.
YCH Hops has conducted early trials that claim to have found that the beers using Cryo Hops “showcase pronounced juicy and resinous flavors with greatly reduced grassy characteristics.”
Advantages for brewers
Using Cryo Hops can deliver additional savings to the oftentimes cash-strapped brewer since the dosing rate is roughly 40% to 50% of conventional hop pellets by weight, according to YCH Hops.
“We’re able to give people a more concentrated version that has a higher yield,” Rumbolz said. “They technically only need to use half of what they normally would, so it’s super-efficient in the brew house.”
The process of using Cryo Hops is similar to standard hop pellets with a few key differences that occur during brewing.
YCH Hops’ primary recommendation is to introduce Cryo Hops through wet applications under CO2 conditions, such as incorporating the pellets through the top of the tank, to preserve the flavor and aroma.
The company also suggests using Cryo Hops in combination with standard pellets to ensure that the complexity and flavors of the whole hop are retained.
YCH Hops has also seen Cryo Hops used among home brewers who with limited space and equipment are in need of hops that produce less leftover vegetal matter at the end of brewing.