Hops might not be traditionally considered an essential ingredient in the age-old art of beer-making, but it’s certainly grown to be an integral part of striking that perfect balance of depth and flavor beer enthusiasts adore. Just malted barley, yeast and water, and you’ll end up with too sickly sweet a brew – which is where hops come in. Depending on which stage of the boiling process these dried flowers, originating from the perennial vine Humulus Lupulus, are incorporated into your beer, you get to balance out the malty sweetness with the bitter tang one often seeks in a good beer, fine-tuning the flavors and adding depth. Thanks to the antibacterial properties of hops, they also help your beer keep for longer.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean hops themselves are easy to keep – to the point that some beer brewers prefer to pay extra just to use fresh batches of hops per beer batch. Exposure to air, temperature imbalances and sunlight is detrimental to maintaining the freshness of hops – but thankfully, there’s a pretty pocket-friendly way of ensuring their longevity. Invest in the right vacuum sealer, and you’d be able to preserve your hops in perfectly airless bags inside the freezer at a controlled temperature, ready to be whipped out for use when you need it. Interested? Let’s take a look at our top picks.
FoodSaver V2244 Vacuum Sealing System with Starter Kit
FoodSaver all but sets the industry standard for vacuum sealers, and this great, intuitively designed vacuum sealer makes life all that much easier be it for stocking your groceries into the fridge for longer or preserving brews. The unit comes with an 11 inch by 10 inch heat seal roll, so you can cut your bags to the size you need, as well as 3 quart vacuum seal bags and 2 gallon seal bags you can re-use and reseal, so long as you’ve ensured the bags haven’t been damaged in any way, or choose to purchase more from the manufacturer.
Using the machine is a simple matter of putting in the items – in this case, hops – that you’re looking to vacuum seal into the bag, with 4 inches of clearance at the top, since if the bag is overly full it may not seal properly, and then clamping down the open end of the bag with the lid and pushing the vacuuming and sealing button. This removes all the air out of the bag (so you won’t have to worry about your perishables getting oxidized or rotting if kept in the fridge) and then applies heat to seal the item into the now air-tight bag. Because the temperature at which the sealing takes place varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, it’s best used with bags by FoodSaver themselves. The extra-wide sealing strip and secure lock latch make for simple, straightforward, and efficient sealing each time.
If you’re looking to vacuum seal jars or canisters, this sealer has a handy accessory hose port and hose, so you can vacuum seal items like coffee beans and hops in jars, if this is your preference. A jar sealer is available in both regular and wide mouth sizes to fit the standard mouths of mason jars to work in conjunction with this port, sold separately.
Other great features of the sealer include a removable drip tray to capture excess liquid run-off if you’re sealing liquids, including gravies and sauces – once the drip tray is full a light will blink on to signal to you that it’s time to clean it out. Wash, dry and replace and then you’re good to go. Though not a feature you’ll likely be using for storing hops, it’s a handy one nonetheless to make the most use out of your vacuum sealer and apply it to other perishables as well.
KAREN’S BUDGET PICK
WAOAW Compact Vacuum Sealer Machine with Starter Kit
Compatible with 11.6 inch wide quart and gallon bags and rolls, this one-touch vacuum sealer is inexpensive yet effective, easy and fuss-free to use, giving you the most bang for your buck. The unit comes with 15 heat-seal bags to start you off – usage is a matter of inserting one end of the bag between the seal strip and lower gasket before pushing the lid down, closing the hooks and pressing the Start button, and then holding the lid down with both hands when the light blinks red to seal and create a bag. Then all you have to do is drop in whatever items you’re planning to vacuum seal, making sure you don’t fill it over three-quarters of the way up, and then seal the opening the same way you did before. The Start button can be used to moderate the vacuum pressure depending on the types of items you’re vacuum sealing so you don’t risk crushing them, with a recommended 20 minutes gap between every sealing session to prevent the machine from overheating.
One of the best things about this unit is its compatibility with non-brand bags and rolls – as long as you’re using vacuum seal bags or bags with folded sides, you should be good to go. On the other hand, this machine is not usable with bags with no lines or folded sides, so keep this in mind if you’re planning on investing in this unit.
FoodSaver V3835 Automatic Vacuum Sealing System with SmartSeal Technology
With a space saving vertical design to make the most of your counterspace, this fully automatic vacuum sealer features two vacuum speeds and a CrushFree Instant Seal feature to give you better control when you’re sealing softer foods or items more prone to getting damaged. Another brilliant feature of this sealer is its in-built roll holder and cutter – rather than having to cut out your bags separately to size, this function allows one-handed operation as you cut your bags to size for storing your hops or according to the portions of the food you plan to vacuum seal. The machine is designed with both a moist and dry food mode, so you can seal up foods including those in gravy or sauce, a removable drip tray catching any excess liquid while an indicator light blinks to let you know when it’s time to empty it.