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Hop Spider - scorching?

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roper4092

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Hey all,

I've been using my Boilermaker for years without any scorching issues and have use my stainless hop spider for the last 3 batches. Batches 1 and 2 were no issues. This time, I decided to use the heat shield that came with my BoilerMaker, which I never do. The way it was set, it was not blocking the burner at all....just protecting the valve and sight glass.

I set my spider in the kettle and went through the boil. This recipe only had 1.5 oz of hops throughout the 60 minute boil and 1 oz at 1 minute. When I went to clean the pot, I noticed 2 large scorch marks on the bottom. I was able to clean it up, but this has never happened to me.

I should note that the hope spider rests on the side wi about about 2-3 inches from the bottom of the pot.

Has anyone using a spider had any scorching issues? Any idea what could be happening?
 
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roper4092

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Hmmm...the only thing I changed in my process was the use of the heat shield that comes with BoilerMakers. My guess is that it affected the heat dispersal and created some hot spots. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Next brew will be without the shield to make sure...
 

Stealthcruiser

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All grain, or extract?
Only scorching I've had, was with extract, landing in a spot, and not getting thoroughly incorporated before scorching.

But, no, I'm not using a hop spider.
 
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roper4092

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All-grain. It's weird, because of the conditions in which it happened. The two scorch marks were probably about the size of silver dollars, and they were on the side the spider was on. There is a good 2-3 inches clearance between the bottom of the kettle and the bottom of the spider, so it's not like anything was trapped under it. The boil was consistent and not running too hot. The heat shield did not cover any of the bottom of the pot really...just enough to keep it flat. We're talking maybe a 1/4". Certainly not enough to disrupt consistent heating.

This was not an over the top beer. Had an OG of 1.054 and only had one hop addition at 60 minutes with another at 1 minute. There was no sugar added to the boil. It just doesn't really point to an easily identifiable problem. I'd like to believe it was the heat shield, but that just doesn't make sense. And I've used the spider on 3 other occasions where it has been just fine.
 
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roper4092

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I will add that these two scorch marks were a bit raised and crusty. There were no other marks on the bottom of the kettle. Took a bit of scrubbing to get them off.
 

Black Island Brewer

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If nothing significant has changed with the pot, I'd look to the burner. Either a higher than usual flame (in spite of what appeared to be a normal boil), or something that has changed on the burner itself, creating hot spots. Occam's razor and all...

If the scorching created char, that flavor can come through in the finished beer as a burned taste. Voice of experience, sadly...
 
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roper4092

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The only thing that changed was the use of the heat shield. While I can appreciate the intention of its use, and it does keep the sight glass from boiling (nice but not really necessary), I think I'm going to do my next brew without it. It will be a Pliny clone, so I need to at least eliminate that variable to make sure it's not the spider due to the amount of hops going into it. I've done dozens of batches on the BoilerMaker (was using my G1 until recently...that now serves as my mash tun), and this is this first I've ever had any sort of scorching.
 

Black Island Brewer

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The only thing that changed was the use of the heat shield. While I can appreciate the intention of its use, and it does keep the sight glass from boiling (nice but not really necessary), I think I'm going to do my next brew without it. It will be a Pliny clone, so I need to at least eliminate that variable to make sure it's not the spider due to the amount of hops going into it. I've done dozens of batches on the BoilerMaker (was using my G1 until recently...that now serves as my mash tun), and this is this first I've ever had any sort of scorching.
Well, like I said, you might still want to check the burner itself, just to be sure. Light it up, see if any of the jets are flaming higher than any others. Set the pot on it and see if anything looks unusual in how they are hitting the bottom of the pot. Adjust the flame up and down and see what you notice.
 
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roper4092

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The burner is spot on. No problems there at all. I was making sure of that throughout the day to make sure it was ok since the boil looked a little weird that day. Seemed to be a bit more roll on that side, whereas usually it kinds of shifts around.
 

Black Island Brewer

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Glad you rechecked it. Another possibility, then, is air flow in your brewing space while it was boiling. Is it possible there was enough wind that the flames would be less on the windward side and more on the leeward side?
Let us know what you eventually figure out.
 
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roper4092

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Glad you rechecked it. Another possibility, then, is air flow in your brewing space while it was boiling. Is it possible there was enough wind that the flames would be less on the windward side and more on the leeward side?
Let us know what you eventually figure out.
Brewing was done in a garage with the door open but on a calm day. Wind was not a factor.

What I have been wondering is if the hop basket is restricting the boil so much as to create hot spots. I have a 10g BoilerMaker (which I think is about 14" in diameter) and the basket itself is 6" in diameter. Plus I have the HopBlocker in there on the bottom as well. And although the bottom of the basket is 2-3 inches above bottom, maybe the decrease in more open surface area is creating those hot spots.

The other 2 brews I used this hop basket with were very light on hops (1 oz max in boil), and even though this one only had 1.5 oz in the boil, perhaps that was enough to affect the heating near the bottom.

I'm going to run some tests this weekend with water to see if I can see how the boil is under a variety of conditions: With neither shield nor basket, then with basket alone, then with shield alone, and finally with shield and basket. Perhaps with the clarity of water I can see if there are hot spots. I've got some pretty old hops I'll use to see how they are affecting it as well.

One more thing I can try is the positioning of the hop basket in the pot. I can actually angle it a bit so that the bottom ridge is resting on the HopBlocker, so that it gets it off the bottom some more and frees up some bottom surface area. If I find that it is actually the basket causing issues, then I guess I'll have to ditch it.
 
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roper4092

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Oh, and this basket is 400 micron so it is not clogging as much as the 300 would.
 
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roper4092

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Ok, more babbling on this....

You know how one shouldn't use a false bottom in the boil kettle due to the high risk of scorching? I think what I have effectively created here is a smaller area false bottom and the flow of boiling wort is restricted to the point of causing scorching in spots. I think I am going to see what it would take to have my spider modified to be 10" L instead of 14" so that I have a full 6" between the bottom of the spider and the bottom of the pot.
 
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roper4092

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More babbling you ask? Well I shall oblige.

Finished some testing and I really do think it's the hop spider/basket/thingie. With the heat shield on and just water, there were really no issues with the boil. Very consistent and spread out. adding the basket didn't really change the characteristic of the boil.

Adding an ounce of hops changed the perspective. There was a whole lot of "burping" occurring under the basket. Every 10 seconds or so, there would be a large "burp" that would come up through the hops in the bottom of the basket. Now that may be normal, but I do believe that there is an increase in heat under the basket. The stainless steel is so rigid, it's keeping the mass of hops on the bottom in a solid state and the wort boiling up into the bottom underneath it is having a hard time penetrating it. Every now and then the pressure is enough to burp, but the increase in heat I think is leading to my issues. Not sure why no one else is seeming to have this problem. The more hops that go in, the more dense the mass on the bottom which will only exacerbate the issue.

I think I will be going back to the paint strainer spider method. In that way, the hop mass can be allowed to be more fluid and flowing since there is not a steel structure holding it in place. I may also try keeping it at an angle with the bottom resting against the HopBlocker to help with the flow, as long as the fluid level in the pot is enough to keep the hops submerged. If it doesn't, I may keep the stainless spider to try in another batch down the road, but I may just end up selling it.

Thanks for the feedback Black Island.
 

acidrain

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Is it possible that the boil kettle was not completely clean?
A small area of crud (previous buildup) will cause a hot spot and scorch there. Sadly, also a voice of experience.
 
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roper4092

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I thought that may be the case as well, but I cleaned it very well after the brew day. And this latest test I was sure to make sure. And from what I've read, it's difficult to scorch all grain, so something must be "helping" that along.
 
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