Beer, the third most preferred drink, after water and tea among people, is an excellent product after the brewing process.
The brewing process involves several steps such as malting, mashing, lautering, boiling, fermenting, conditioning, filtering, and packaging. The hops are introduced in the process called boiling.
While boiling the ingredients of the beer, hops are introduced to add bitterness, flavour, and aroma to the beer. The hops are the flowers of the hop plant or hop vine Humulus Lupulus. These hops help in flavoring and preserving the ingredients in the beer.
There are different methods of brewing:
- commercial brewing, where a professional brews your beer to attain that desired taste;
- home brewing, where the home brewer traditionally brews your alcohol; and
- communal brewing adopting various traditional methods to make the beer taste delicious.
You can either get a hop spider from the shop or make one at home. The hop spiders are the easiest way of boiling the beer, by adding hops to create a desired aroma and flavor.
While boiling the beer by adding hops, you are also sterilizing the wort by removing unwanted bacteria from it. Homebrewers can consider building a hop spider for the advantages that it naturally brings with.
There are also drawbacks of this method, which you can considerably ignore for the most part. We will talk about them later in this article.
The boiling of hops occurs for one hour to 90 minutes commonly, but again, the time of boiling the beer depends on the brewer and the result they have decided to achieve.
Before making a hop spider:
- You will need to know the length of time that the wort has to be boiled to achieve the desired result.
- In many cases, hops are added in batches throughout boiling to enhance various characteristics of the beer.
- By adding the hop at the beginning, the bitterness of the beer is increased.
- The hops added in the last 30 minutes contribute flavor to the beer.
- Hops that is added in the last minute of the boil or even after the process triggers excellent aroma and flavors.
- The additions of hops are categorized into aroma, flavour, and bitterness, based on the desired results.
How to Build a Hop Spider?
The Hop spiders are one of the ways to add hops during boiling process. Hops are mostly removed after boiling process before you move on with fermenting the beer. Many people do not want their hops in the solution while fermenting it.
Adding hops during or after the fermentation process is called dry hops. Too much of dry hops will make your beer oily or greasy. Dry hops might spoil the beer taste, texture, and aroma. So, to avoid this, we need filters to remove hops after boiling process.
You can achieve this by using professional filters like Bazooka screen or the Hop Stopper, which are available commercially. The major drawbacks of these filters are the clogging up of the hops, and the cleaning of the filters after the process is challenging.
The traditional process called the Whirlpool is also an excellent choice as it collects and keeps the hops in the center of the kettle. Again, this method has a setback while you prepare super hoppy beers or pellet hops.
Hop spiders come into play at this exact moment and come in different styles:
- You can have hop spiders as a metal cylinder in the form of a mesh that hangs inside your boiler during the boiling process.
- Another style involves a large nylon bag attached to a metal frame of a coupler, which is then hanged inside the kettle during the process.
The second option that involves a nylon bag filter is the best choice for you to consider if you are trying to make hop spiders at home.
This method is quite inexpensive and easy to make. So what are we waiting for? Let’s just jump into the making process of hop spiders.
Essential Requirements to Make Hop Spiders:
Gloves, eye-mask and safety protections.
Safety comes first. Make sure you wear eye-masks and gloves before you start the drilling process.
One 4-inch diameter coupler or steel drain
This coupler or the stainless steel drain is required to hold the nylon bag in place, hanging inside the kettle. If you are using a stainless steel drainer, make sure to use a power drill to make a hole in it. By using proper tools, you can drill it without damaging the drain or hurting yourself.
3 metal rods or carriage bolts
The metal rods are necessary to hold the coupler or drain with the filter in place. It must be equal to or longer than the radius of the kettle. The length of the metal rods must be higher than the kettle to keep it hanging on top of the boiler.
Six steel washers (Nuts and bolts)
The size of nuts and bolts must be appropriate to the size of the metal rods to hold it in the coupler.
A food-grade mesh or nylon bag
The nylon bag is the filter that will hang inside your kettle, to filter the hops after the boiling process. You can add hops one after the other to the bag throughout the process.
Don’t forget the drill, drill bits, oil for lubrication, as well as the hammer, cutting pliers and the screwdriver.
Workstation clamps- You wlll need these to fit the coupler to the workstation before drilling holes.
Instructions for Building the Hop Spider:
Step 1: In case of using a coupler, drill three holes at equal distance on the fatter side of the coupler. Make sure to hold the stainless steel drain on place, before drilling it.
Step 2: Clean off the wastes or scraps after drilling. By cleaning it properly, you can continue the process, without any obstacles.
Step 3: Tighten the nut and bolt through the drilled holes. Use the metal rods to fix to the coupler or drain using nuts and bolts.
Step 4: Do not tighten one of the nuts and bolts. You can do it after checking the hop spider in the kettle.
Step 5: With the use of a clamp, attach the nylon bag to the bottom of the spider. Make sure to tighten it securely.
Step 6: Check the spider by placing it in the pot. It must be hanging at least a couple of inches away from the bottom of the kettle. The metal rods must be extending from the rim of the kettle.
Step 7: After checking the positioning of the spider, tighten the nuts and bolts.
Usage of Hop Spider:
Your hop spider is now ready for use. Before you begin to boil, place the hop spider inside the kettle. Add hops into the bag for each addition. Once you are done with the boiling process, remove the filter from the kettle.
The hops will stay in the bag and so, you don’t have to worry about the hops in the solution.
To clean the filter, loosen the clamps and remove the bag. Turn the bag upside down and remove the used hops. Rinse off the particles with water. Hang to dry the bag off.
If there are any residual particles after drying, you can brush it away. This makes it the simplest way of filtering process during boiling.
Maintenance of Hop Spider:
Cleaning the hop spider after the brewing process is a must for the next brewing process. You can wash the mesh or the bag cleanly before using it inside the boiler next time.
You can also choose to replace the mesh if you can’t clean it well. Choose a larger filter or bag to add a significant amount of hops in one batch.
In case of pellet hop addition, the pellets might circulate throughout the kettle during boiling. It might get dissolved into the wort, and revolve on the top of the wort in the kettle.
The pellets might also stick on the drain tube and other places of the kettle. Too much of hops in the solution can be harmful to the beer.
The wort must be void of these pellets, for you to avoid it going into the fermenter. The hop spider does this exactly for you. It hangs inside the kettle, and you will be adding the hops inside the bag. Therefore, it filters the pellets inside the bag and does not allow it to dissolve into the wort.
The potential drawback of the hop spiders is the lowered utilization of hops. The hops inside the filter, if added in large quantities, will not have space to revolve inside the wort.
If hop is not utilized much during the boiling process, then the deliciousness of the beer will be affected. Either the small hop spider or large quantity of hops can result in this problem.
How to Increase the Utilization of Hops Using Hop Spider?
Here are a few simple tips to help you get started. It’s easier than you think, as you will see.
Size of the Hop Spider:
Choose the size of the hop spider depending on the beer that you are trying to prepare. The size of the hop spider must be more prominent if you are anticipating to add large quantities of hop in a single batch. The hops swell when they absorb wort.
Remember, if you add large quantities of hop, then it will expand occupying a larger space of the filter. If the filter is too small to fit them, then the hops cannot revolve around the solution.
Overfilling the Spider:
By overfilling the spider, you are blocking the circulation of hops inside the wort. As already mentioned, the hops swell and occupy larger space inside the filter. If you overfill the filter, then the hops might swell and overflow the filter. It might get inside the kettle and overrides the filter’s purpose.
The Spider must hang inside the Kettle:
While using the metal rods to suspend the spider inside the kettle, make sure it does not touch the bottom of the kettle.
Stirring the Hops:
After adding the hops desirable to the size of the filter, stir it occasionally. Stirring the hops could let every hop to make in contact with the wort. You need not stir it often, but a few vigorous stirring during boiling will give a chance for every hop to utilize the wort. Stir cautiously and don’t spill the hops inside the kettle.
Draining the Spider:
After the utilization of the filter, unclamp the bag and remove the filter. Turn it upside down, and empty the used hops. By cleaning it properly, you are reducing the chances of these used hops to dissolve in the solution, in the next brewing process.
Let’s also discuss the best types of hop spiders that you can use to brew at home.
The Weekend Brewer:
This weekend brewer uses a hop spider bag for removing the hops after the boiling process. You will just have to add the hops inside the bag and stir it occasionally. This method is inexpensive and very preferable by first-time homebrewers.
The cleaning and maintenance of the brewer is also easy. To use it, drape this brewer over the kettle and tighten it using the string. This bag is made up of high-quality polyester.
This Strange brew method involves a spider metal arms and a stainless mesh or bag attached to it. This spider arms and the mesh can be easily cleaned.
Good Day Stainless Steel:
This bag is built in the form of a tank or cylinder to provide safe and mess-free brewing. You can hang this in the side of the kettle. You can add hops into this cylinder. It is easy to use and can be maintained well.
Even if you boil excessively, it will not damage the cylinder. But the major drawback is, you cannot have different sizes of this cylinder.
Francis Stainless Steel:
This cylinder-like hop is easy to hang inside the kettle. You can suspend the cylinder inside the kettle. This filter holds one gallon of hops and you can clean it easily. You cannot use it in smaller-sized kettles.
Home Brew Ohio Nylon Straining Bag:
This straining back does not have drawstrings or a zipper. So, it can be easily attached to the kettle. It is 23 inches long and therefore you can use it in larger kettles as well. It is inexpensive, and so you can use it if you are a first-time brewer.
Grainfather Hop Spider:
This spider collects all the hops and prevents them from spilling inside the kettle. The 800-micron mesh increases the circulation of hops, and therefore, the hop utilization in the wort. It can be used in most of the kettles. The hooked design of the hop lets you attach it to the kettle easily using the hook.
The usage of hop spiders is easy for any type of brewers. Even if you are a first-time brewer, you can easily use this method to bring the best out of the brewing process.
You can also choose the size of the hop spiders depending on which kind of brewer you are. The boiling time and the number of hops decide the flavor, aroma, and bitterness of the beer.
Get the Best Hop Spider for Yourself!
So, here is the complete guide on the usage of hop spiders. Do try building your own hop spider at home and enjoy the brewing process. You can start with small spiders for practice. Make sure to hold the bag tightly to the coupler using the clamp.
When you are excessively boiling the hops to increase the bitterness of the beer, choose the appropriate material of the bag. A lighter weight or quality of the bag can result in spilling of the hops into the kettle.
But, of course, the mistakes you make during this brewing process will help you out in the next. Share us in the comments about your experience with the brewing.
Lead marketer, brewer, dad, and husband. Pretty much an all-round awesome guy. I’ve been homebrewing for +20 yrs, an aspiring pro-brewer and micro brewery owner!