When the brewclub built its 50 gallons system, the issue of chilling the wort was of major importance. An Immersion chiller wasn’t going to do the job and no one likes counterflow chillers in these parts. Bernie had a plate chiller that worked well for him, but we needed to ensure that the hops were filtered out before running the hot wort to the plate chiller where it would otherwise clog.
How would we filter out the hops?
One day, Rob came across The Hop Stopper, basically a screen pillow with a pickup tube inside. The large surface area would prevent clogging as found in other kettle screens like a bazooka tube.
The Hop Stopper was awesome and just what we needed… until we saw the price. $60 for the cheap model. $90 if you wanted stainless steel. Why would we pay that much for such a simple design of a few pieces of material? We can build our own.
Our first attempt was something that looked like and pretty much was the Hop Stopper. We had bought two splatter screens at a local kitchen store. A splatter screen is a fine stainless steel mesh that goes over your frying pan to stop grease and other food from splattering out.
We cut the screen off the frame of two of these devices (only a few bucks a piece) and stitched them together using some stainless steel wire we bought online. (you can also check your local craft or building supply stores). The shipping cost more than the wire, itself.
We left one little piece open in the stitch where we inserted a pickup tube and used a clamp to hold it together.
Simple! It was done, we used it, and it worked great! But… The time came to clean the thing. Even with the jet spray of the hose, some hop particles that managed to get into the Hop Strainer somehow, wouldn’t come back out. Hell, I even tried burning them out- no luck. I removed the diptube and it was still impossible to get the thing clean.
We needed a bigger mesh.
Our second attempt used the stainless steel mesh of a food strainer. They look similar to a colander and are used for rinsing off food. Like the splatter screen, it can be found on the cheap at your local kitchen store. I recently saw them at Bed Bath and Beyond.
We bought a large one, cut it free from its frame, and proceeded to stitch it up. Being conical, we basically folded it over to stitch it. The resulting shape was much like a taco, hence the name.
The larger mesh screen has worked just as well as the Hop Strainer, and it’s much much easier to clean. We’ve done IPAs with pellet hops and it’s performed flawlessly.