I was doing some plate chiller related forum browsing tonight, and saw so many different threads on how people are keeping hops out of their plate chiller. I figured I'd add my method to the mix, though this may be old news.
I've brewed close to 15 batches with my plate chiller, and learned quickly that hops inside the chiller can not only decrease chiller performance, but can ruin a brewday if they cause a clog. That being said, I have always been a huge believer that hops should be floating freely in a boil.
Here's what I do:
1. only use hop pellets. let them float freely in the boil so not to compromise utilization.
2. When flameout time comes, place my hop spider
over the pot (strainer bag empty of course).
3. pump wort out of kettle, thru pump, and into hop spider. Stirring throughout. Do this for 5-10 minutes.
4. Start draining hop spider by carefully twisting the bag around the PVC/lag bolts.
5. Whirlpool (still not using plate chiller at all). Whirlpool for 5-10 minutes.
6. Start using chiller as a component to the whirlpool. This is "batch chilling" as opposed to going from kettle, thru chiller, and directly into fermenter.
7. Once satisfied with the whirlpool, start draining into fermenter. Note: you can also "batch chill" all the way down to pitching temps. I do this sometimes unintentionally because I get distracted and it's already below 70.
When I first was given this idea from a friend, I was amazed at how much broken up hop material gets caught in the strainer bag.
I tried a few homemade filter provisions but never had any success. Of course my method requires a somewhat annoying amount of pump/tubing configuration changes, but to me it's worthwhile.