Filtering through Hop Spider at the End of Boil

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Feb 12, 2018
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I just switched to the Clawhammer system, which was my first time using a hop spider. My first hoppy-ish beer (an english bitter) came out noticeably lacking bitterness, which was surprising as it is a recipe I've made 4 or 5 times before with very consistent results. The difference unfortunately was not subtle. The beer ended up being syrupy sweet as there was very little hop bitterness to balance the malty sweetness from the base and crystal malts.

My assumption is that I got decreased hop utilization due to the hop spider. I didn't do anything specifically to encourage utilization like stirring in the spider, or recirculating through it. I know that this effect is pretty well documented.

So given that discouraging result, I started looking at ways to set the hops free, and still not clog my plate chiller. Here's what I came up with:

1. remove the bazooka screen from the kettle
2. recirculate through the chiller at the beginning of the boil before any hop additions to sanitize it, and then remove the chiller from the recirculation loop
3. add all hops directly to the kettle and brew as normal (including bittering, aroma, whirlpool hops)
4. as a final step before moving the wort to the fermenter, add the clean hop spider to the kettle, recirculate through the hop spider for ~5 minutes to remove the hops

I did this with a hazy pale ale this weekend, and was successful in the sense that I added hops directly to the kettle during the boil and whirlpool without bags, a spider etc, and I did not clog the chiller. This beer had about 2.5 oz of kettle hops in a 5 gallon batch, so not crazy hoppy, but still significant. In my estimation, I was able to remove the vast majority of the hop material after whirlpooling.

I know some may be thinking "Why do you need to remove hops after whirlpooling? If you whirlpooled correctly, you should have a nice trub cone, and can rack clear wort." In my experience, this helps, but it just doesn't work well enough at a 5 gallon homebrew scale to be the only defense.

Anyway, does anyone else do this? Thoughts or comments on this approach?
Sounds like a good plan. I have similar concerns. I like to transfer from MT to BK via the hop spider to catch any grains and rinse them out. Maybe you can just keep the spider in the boil to sanitize it.
I've never used that system but the picture shows the pump and hop spider. I have a 3V2p system and use a hop spider and plate chiller. You recirculated at the end through the hops spider. Just wondering, did you run a hose up to the opening on the hop spider? There's no guarantee you are going to catch all the hops because the free floating hops are outside the hop spider. You may not have clogged your chiller this time but you may indeed be getting hops into the chiller. Definitely going into your pump too but I don't know how that might behave as I haven't ever done it but may clog it too with a big hop bill or whole hops.

You also would want to account for the time you are spending recirculating through the chiller as time spent whirlpooling. If you try to add just flameout hops and need to recirculate for at least five minutes, I am not sure how much aroma you might get. Also, how might you know it's going to take five minutes? You won't know and the hops will be in for an indeterminant length as well as indeterminant percentage in the boil vs the spider while you are removing them to the hop spider which you are acknowledging has a lower efficiency. Not trying to nitpick at all, just trying to help out on reproducibility.

I've actually finally had it with my plate chiller. I flushed it multiple times, then ran hot PBW through it for 60 minutes recently where the recirculation goes through the hop spider to catch bits and little bits still fell out of it when I checked it at the end. Normally I only do the 30 minutes but I do it every single time through the hop stopper. Planning on going back to my immersion chiller and considering a Hop Stopper 2 from the Electric Brewery. I already replumbed my BK to reflect taking out the plate chiller.

What diameter is the hop spider? I have a wider diameter (6")and while I know it may reduce efficiency, I also adjust my recipes so it's relative to my system.
All great points. I am absolutely certain that I didn’t get all the hops out of the wort before chilling. I was just assuming that by recirculating hot PBW after brew day, that I’d get the chiller clean.

While recirculating, I ran a hose directly from the pump out into the hop spider in the kettle. I’m really relying on the larger ID of the pump and the silicone hose to not clog.

Your points on timing make sense. Potentially the worst part is something that I didn’t mention. Post boil, and pre whirlpool, I have no way to chill the wort to whirlpool temp because I haven’t removed the hops from the wort yet, and therefore can’t use the chiller. So I just recirculated and waited it out. It took about 10 minutes or so to drop from boiling (201 at my altitude) to 170 for the whirlpool.

I have a 4 inch hop spider. Maybe a larger one, or an 800 micron mesh one would help.

I guess I’m just kind of annoyed that I didn’t realize the limitations of hop spider dependent systems before taking the plunge on the claw hammer BIAB. Using the spider, even if I were to compensate with more hops, or stirring, or something, I cannot imagine that the flavor will ever be as good as naked hops floating around in the wort. It just seems to me a flawed concept. A search of this forum will reveal a massive amount of hate for the things, so it’s clearly not just me. We’ll see how long it takes before I just say screw it and get an immersion chiller.
I usually use hop spider in post whirlpool hop step at around 160F. after wort speed cooled from boiling w immersion chiller.

Usually whole hops in spider, mostly from my own vines these days. The 4th vessel is just the mash tun after grist is dumped and it is rinsed.
, but even if no hops used in this step, use spider to remove the bulk of any hot break trub that gets though torpedo screen, and occasional bits of grain.
Well, I've noticed the level of dislike for hop spiders but as I mentioned, I just build into the recipe what I think it needs when I brew it again since it's relative. You have to pay particular attention to what is said because I've seen reports where the brewer just says I switched to the hop spider and didn't get the same hop bitterness or aroma. But then they don't adjust for the hop spider and give up. Double isn't necessary and double is 100% more. I don't think it's 50% more either because even in the spider, if I threw in 50% more hops, it would be a bitter bomb! Perhaps it's as much as 25% more hops is needed. Well that's not a lot of $ really, particularly since I try to buy upwards of 4 ounce packages typically.

The problem isn't really the whole system you've purchased it's the plate chiller that you can't see inside. You can make yourself feel better by sanitizing it with boiling wort and I think it probably is sufficient. It bugs me though to see stuff come out after I have given it a good cleaning. You can bake the things but I haven't seen being able to put anything caustic in them. You can get away with not clogging the pump perhaps and you can also take apart the pump head to inspect.

I'm always getting the micron size mixed up on my spider (It's either 300 or 400). I haven't tried a different one either but others have mentioned that as a possible mitigating factor. Cheap hop socks have wide spacing as opposed to nylon bags. I use them to dry hop and again, it's relative to my system and recipe. I did use to hang them over the side before the spider but they do let some material through.

So something that may not be calculated by the brewing program you are using is how much bitterness the boil hops continue to contribute during the whirlpool. Last time I checked, Beersmith doesn't do this. Now some might say that if you add hops at 60 minutes, there isn't anything left at the end of that 60. Whatever. But if you add boil hops at 30 or 15 minutes, there's going to be some bitterness left in the hops. If you don't remove them before whirlpooling, you'll want to account for them. Particularly if they are high in alpha acid. My first few whirlpooling attempts were overly bitter until I figured this out.

You could also use a set time period of say 10 minutes of recirculation through the spider as perhaps a maximum needed. Then you could work with that time in your recipe.
I use a false bottom mash tun but I do have a bag that I use as my filter after the boil. I basically line a 5 gallon tap bucket with the bag and after sanitizing a whole lot I strain my boiled wort through it to my fermentation vessel. This process is worked very well for me over the years.