Realising that I soon need to pick my home-grown hops but have nothing to dry them with, and inspired by this post by Justin Bruce, I got to work on the weekend building a hop oast. Here is how I did it.
Equipment and Materials:
- 8 pieces of untreated wood each 2.4m in length
- 3m of insect mesh (I bought 5m to have some spare in case any ripped)
- (Mitre) saw
- Pencil for marking the wood
- Cordless drill
- 64 x self-tapping long wood screws
- Staple gun
- Stanley knife
- Card holder sleeves
I began using a mitre saw (but you can use a circular saw or hand saw if that’s what you have) to cut the wood into 32 x 60cm pieces.
Next I marked the wood in pencil and drilled 2 pilot holes at each edge of 16 pieces of wood. With the pilot holes in place I then proceeded to join the pieces together using 2 screws at each join to make a slight rectangle. Unlike Justin’s post I did not make my oast trays completely square due to the width of the mesh being just 1.2m.
When all 8 of my oast tray frames were built I moved them outside to a flat surface and laid them out in a tight 2×4 formation. I then unrolled my mesh and laid it out over the top of the 8 frames, taking the staple gun and fixing the mesh to the frames. Don’t feel like you need to have the mesh very tight as it will only rip if a little too much weight is ever applied.
Take your Stanley knife and cut the mesh and separate each tray. Justin mentions in his post to glue along the inside edges of the mesh to the wood and this is something I am going to consider after first use.
All that is needed now is to take your card holder sleeves and fix them to each tray so you can slot in some labels to indicate the hop variety inside. I have 12 plants, 6 varieties, and will be making some cool label designs for Cascade, Challenger, Nugget, Phoenix, Styrian Goldings, and Target hops.
Take one of the trays and turn it upside-down (screen on top) to use as a base. With the screen-side on the bottom, fill your first tray with hops and stack it on top of the base. Repeat for each variety, using the 8th tray as a ‘lid’. I will be storing my hops in a barn to dry out so will probably put a sheet of flat wood over the top to stop any dust getting through the mesh and onto the hops.
Store the hops in a dry place out of direct sunlight. You may wish to use a box fan like Justin but I don’t fancy the barn catching fire (it nearly burned down on our wedding night due to a faulty fridge!) so I am going to see how they dry out naturally. EDIT: I ended up getting access to a fan out of an old cold store refrigeration unit. After a good clean up it was attached it to a wooden stand, plugged in and left to run for a few days.
Fluff the hops up often, every day if you can, rotating the trays at the same time.
It’s also useful to have a helper, and my son Joshua was only too keen to lend a hand! I have to also thank my father-in-law for use of his workshop (again), providing the wood, and for helping me out with some of the work.