Sediment isn’t necessarily a negative artifact of the brewing process, but there are a few reasons why you’d want rid of all these little floaties that dance through your beer like dust motes through a golden bar of sunlight.
The first couple of reasons are practical in nature. Brews with lots of particulate matter tend to clog the valve of your fermentor.
What’s more, it can gather like snow drifts on the inner walls of the fermentor, leaving you with one hell of a cleanup once your beer is decanted.
But perhaps most importantly of all, a crystal clear beer is more appetizing to the average drinker, as the absence of solids makes for a more refreshing sudsy treat after a difficult day.
So, let’s explore how you can build your own hop filter and clean up your home brew masterpieces.
Building A Hop Filter: The Ultimate Easy Method
There really isn’t any substitute for the fine micron filtration of an advanced system that uses a quality steel mesh, but you can get pretty close using super affordable and relatively commonplace items.
This is the method I’ve been using for ages now, and it works like a charm; here’s what you’ll need to build your very own hop filter…
- A short length of PVC pipe
- Some 5-gallon paint strainer bags
- A drill — If you don’t already have one, I can’t speak highly enough of this DeWalt kit.
- A hose clamp that will fit around your PVC pipe
- 3 ¼” x 12” threaded metal rods
- Some lock washers
- Some flat washers
- 9 ¼” hex nuts
- A couple of desk clamps
- A wrench
Okay, with the boring stuff out of the way, we can start the process in earnest!
Step 1: Marking Out Your Drill Holes
You don’t need to do it this way, but my advice when marking out your drill holes on the PVC pipe is to fit the hose clamp to the top end first.
You can then mark your drill guides just beneath the clamp, ensuring they’re all relatively level.
Draw on three equally spaced drill guides with a pencil or marker, then move on to the next step.
Step 2: Drilling
First of all, remove that hose clamp; it’s only going to get in your way during this next step. Keep it close to hand, though, as you’ll need it a bit later on.
I’d recommend securing your PVC pipe with a couple of desk clamps to ensure precision and safety when using your drill.
Once the pipe is locked down, take your drill and ¼” drill bit and make some easy passes through the plastic.
Drill the three holes you marked up earlier then move on to step 3.
Step 3: Threading & Securing The Rods
Next up, take one of your threaded rods, funnel it through one of your drill holes, and secure it on the inside with a lock wash and two nuts, then, on the outside, secure it with a nut and flat washer.
Use your wrench to tighten everything up.
Repeat this process for your remaining two rods. Be sure to keep the length of the rods on the inside of the pipe minimal, as you don’t want them to snag too much on the bag when we introduce it to the design.
Try and get the second of the inner nuts flush with the very edge of the rod and snagging shouldn’t be an issue.
Step 4: Positioning Your Strainer Bag
Now, take one of your paint strainer bags, pull it up through the inside of your PVC pipe, and fold the elastic end over the rim of the pipe so it comes to rest just above the bolts holding your threaded rods in place.
Hold the bag in this position with one hand, then move on to step 5.
Step 5: Clamping Your Strainer Bag In Place
With your free hand, grab your hose pipe clamp, and place it around the top of your PVC pipe and over the elastic edge of the strainer bag.
Tighten the hose clamp up as far as it will go to secure the strainer bag in place indefinitely.
Step 6: Give It A Whirl
Congratulations; that’s the design complete! Now you’re free to rest it on the rim of your fermentor and get to work on your next homebrew.
You may be wondering why I suggested a 5-gallon paint strainer bag as opposed to the cheaper smaller bags.
The truth of the matter is you can use smaller bags, but you run the risk of limiting the interaction between your hops and the rest of your wort.
With a large 5-gallon bag, there is plenty of room for hops engagement, ensuring you get all the hoppy goodness and none of the sediment in your final product.
Some brewers voice concerns over using plastic piping due to the thermals involved in brewing, but during my testing, the ABS never once drooped or showed any sign of structural infirmity.
The piping sits above the contents of the boil pot, so it won’t ever come into contact with your wort.
Having said that, if you really want to play it safe, you can simply use an aluminum coupling instead of PVC or ABS piping, but if you take this route, it’s recommended that you do a mock run, boiling a pot of water.
This reduces the chances of it imparting a metallic taste to your beer when you brew for real.
Then again, you could just invest in a prefabricated steel hop spider. They’re pretty affordable and will do a better job when all’s said and done, but you don’t get the benefit of an easy cleanup.
With my design, you can simply dispose of the strainer bag and its contents — No cleaning necessary!
Give your new hop filter a go and see what you think. It might not be quite what you’ve been looking for, but it can certainly get the job done in a pinch and hold you over until you’re ready to upgrade your homebrewing setup.
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