Each fall, Hopunion commences its annual pelletizing process. Pelletizing begins by carefully considering the individual characteristics of multiple hop lots to achieve consistency and ensure the highest quality pellet blends are produced. After selection, production begins. The hop bales are run through a bale breaker and ¾” hammer mill screen (which is adjusted to produce the appropriate size of vegetative matter and minimize particle damage) and then transferred to a blend tank where all of the contents are evenly mixed for maximum uniformity. From the blend tank, the hop powder is fed into a pellet press which forms T-90 hop pellets by utilizing centrifugal force to press the pure alpha resins and vegetative matter into a rotary die. After the pellets are formed, they are conveyed to a cooling tank where refrigerated nitrogen reduces the pellet temperature as rapidly as possible, and run through a pellet shaker to eliminate undersized pellets and residual loose powder. From the shaker, the pellets are packaged in UV-resistant, oxygen barrier foil bags with an airtight nitrogen flush system that creates a 1% or less residual oxygen atmosphere within the bag.
The two worst enemies of hops are oxygen and heat. To combat these destructive forces, Hopunion conducts pellet runs during the coolest parts of the day, adjusts the run speed to each individual variety, and utilizes sensors to monitor temperatures at every stage in the process. A nitrogen gas flush is also used to help cool the pellets and evacuate oxygen before the package is vacuum sealed. As a result of these actions, pellet temperatures consistently register below 100 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the entire process. The end result is an output pellet temperature between 75 and 85 degrees.
This process is much more difficult and time consuming than other dealer’s high speed processes, but because of this slow and methodical process, we feel we produce the highest quality pellets in the industry.