At the NHC last year in Philadelphia I noticed a relatively (maybe just to me) new product from Stainless Brewing. A hop spider is not a novel idea, homebrewers have been using many variations of this method for quite a while with great success but mostly rely on those nylon bags, which are really a pain to clean and look pretty dingy after a few uses. A stainless mesh basket, however, could be the answer to all my prayers, easy cleaning, virtually infinite uses without significant wear. It seemed perfect, but I was unsure if the mesh would be fine enough to keep pellet hops in, or even too fine and result in loss of hop utilization/aromatics/flavors.
"Santa" was kind enough to leave one under the tree for me this past year, and I have put it to work on some heavily hopped beers, and some not so heavily hopped as well. The results have been fantastic, I am getting clean and clear hop free wort into my fermenters, I may be getting some break break material in there but with how I whirlpool chill its very minimal. I have noticed no ill effects on hop utilization or loss of hop aromatics/flavor on beers as heavily hopped as Jah-Rod, Blazing Wards, HopWards, We Talkin 'bout Practice among others. They are bright and hoppy as I would expect them to be. Not a pellet makes it through this fine mesh, even when using up to a pound in the boil/whirlpool.
|I also run off the mash into the spider to catch any rogue grain particles I can.|
I rinse it out before I boil.
|Conveniently the strainer fits inside my immersion|
chiller. I usually remove the arms at this point.
Not so much a down side, but more of a needed adjustment in my system since the addition is the displacement caused by the basket giving me a higher then normal reading on the sight glass. This is just something I needed to dial in and figure what volume it is adding to the reading at various times in my 11 gallon batches. Other than that this is a fantastic product and far exceeds the results I have had from the HopBlocker. It is fairly pricey at close to $100, depending on the size you need, but it is well worth it for me over bags or a homemade spider.
The main reason I wanted to limit the amount of hop debris going into the fermenter was so that I could more easily "wash" yeast and re-use it batch to batch. I have settled on a 2 house sacchromyces strains of late (Wallonian Farmhouse and S-04, still many Bretts and Bacteria though) and want to get the most out of each pitch. This hop spider far exceeded my expectations in that department, I use a whirlpool immersion chiller with this and then pump into my fermenters leaving any break material in a cone on the bottom of my kettle. After I rack the beer off the yeast cake I have thick dense slurry that needs very little washing/rinsing, if at all, to re-pitch into my next batch. This is the biggest reason I love this product so much, and after 12-15 batches I nearly have this thing paid for in yeast savings, more on how I re-use yeast in an upcoming post. It may not be for everyone, but I highly recommend it.
|Running off into the basket.|