I used to relish opening my beer fridge a couple days before brew day and smelling that sweet aroma of fresh hops waft out as my packages of hops sat chilling in the fridge. But after doing some brief research into hop storage, I found that wasn’t a good thing. Here’s why.
To keep hops from degrading you need to keep them away from oxygen. You can also slow the degradation rate the colder you store them. For every 27 degree drop in storage temperature, you cut the degradation rate in half. Because of this, hop producers recommend you store your hops in the refrigerator or freezer.
Aside from the storage temperature, keeping oxygen out of the packaging is even more effective. If you can smell the hops when you open your fridge, that means the packaging is not airtight. And if you can smell hop aromas coming out, you know that oxygen is getting into the packaging.
The typical Local Home Brew Shop (LHBS) takes bulk pellet hop packages and breaks them down into 1 oz. plastic pouches, “seals” them and labels them to sell. However, Hopunion is one hop supplier that provides a superior package before it even gets to your LHBS. They package in a light-proof, oxygen-barrier bag, and also evacuate the air and fill the bags with nitrogen before sealing. So not only do you get a good barrier to prevent new oxygen from coming in, they make sure you don’t start out with any oxygen.
Of course the downside is you don’t get that fresh aroma when you open your fridge, but you can always use your partially-used hops for that purpose like a sort of homebrewer’s potpourri!