One of the challenges of brewing beer is dealing with hops residue, aka kettle trub, that forms at the bottom of the kettle during the brewing process. The sediment can clog your chiller and end up in your fermenter and beer. Cleaning the hoses and to ensure they allow full flow is a chore most brewers would rather avoid.
One simple solution to kettle trub is brewing with a hop spider or kettle spider. Usually a basket made of steel mesh, hop spiders sit in the boil but contain the hops within the mesh. It acts similar to a tea diffuser, where you place the spider and hops right in your kettle.
The boiling water interacts with the hops like it normally would. The smaller acids and oils can pass through the mesh and into your work, while the larger pieces stay in the spider.
Why Use a Hop Spider?
Hop spiders improve the brewing process by making it easier to add hops to your brew and prevent hops residue from accumulating. It saves you work because you won’t need to strain your wort again after adding hops, making cleanup easier as well. A hop spider makes it easy to add hops to your boil without worrying about clogging your hoses or getting solid trub into your fermenter, pump, chiller, or the finished beer.
Particularly when making hop-intensive beer like IPA, recipes call for adding hops at regular intervals while the wort boils. Since you can add hops right into the spider, you can add the hops the recipe calls for without having to use multiple bags.
A hops spider makes cleanup is easier. You won’t need to fish out the spent hops or get them out of your brewing system. If you choose to use a stainless steel spider, you won’t need to deal with cheesecloths or other types of bags.
One of the drawbacks of a hop spider is that it can affect the hops utilization, or the amount of flavor, acid, and oils drawn out of the hops and into your beer. The good news is that any negative effects of a hop spider on utilization can be mitigated with a few simple steps, which are described below.
The Best Hop Spiders for Homebrewing
There are several styles of hops spiders available, but they can be divided into stainless steel spiders that are placed right into the kettle or a spider that serves to hold a bag that is filled with hops.
Steel mesh spiders will last longer and don’t require the added bag. Since the bags result in hops that are close together, which can reduce free flow and reduce utilization. Most bags used with hop spiders are nylon and can be reused.
At the end of the day which spider you choose won’t have a big effect on the final beer product. Which one is right for you depends more on your setup and preference.
Here’s a look at some of the most popular hop spiders
Hop Hopper Spider Strainer Basket Filter
- 【Family Brewing Filter】a Great Home Brew Lover's Tool, Suitable for Brew Bucket Fermenter, Great...
- 【Premium Quality】Item Made from 304 Stainless Steel Works Better than Beer Cloth Bags,...
- 【Fine Filter Mesh】This Hop Spider has a Filtration Accuracy of 300-Micron, Effectively Remove...
This model is a cylinder designed to be placed in the kettle with arms that hang over the side of the kettle. It has a large opening that allows for adding hops at regular intervals.
- Made of 304 stainless steel
- 300-micron mesh
- Comes in two sizes, 6” x 14” or 4” x 10”. The larger size can hold up to 215 oz while the smaller can hold 12.6 oz
- Manufactured by IMSurQltyPrise
- Average 4.6 stars with 32 ratings
- Inexpensive and simple
- Sturdy construction
- Can add hops at any time
- Choice of two sizes ensures you can find one to work with your kettle
- The smaller container could restrict how freely hops can flow
This model is a simple solution that should work for most brewing. It is smaller than the next model, which could reduce hops utilization if you aren’t careful. Overall a good value that will drastically reduce if not eliminate kettle trub.
Psler Basket Spider
- 〖Multipurpose〗 ---- The Brewing 13.8×13.8 inch(35×35cm) barrel Hopper Strainer to contain hops...
- 〖Built to Last〗 ---- 300-micron mesh that won’t wrinkle or damage easily. Easy cleanup.
- 〖Application〗 ---- Simply place this filter over the edge of your kettle and, during the boil,...
Unlike the more common hops spiders, this model is much larger. It is a cylinder that is placed right into the kettle.
- Comes in two sizes – 11.8 x 12.2 inch or 13.8 x 13.8 inches
- 300-micron mesh
- Bucket style
- Comes with a filter spoon and cleaning brush
- Weighs just under five pounds
- 4.4 stars out of five with 14 ratings
- With the large size, the hops can move around freely. You won’t need to worry about them clumping together and affecting hops utilization.
- The one complaint of this model is that it is too big to fit into the reviewer’s kettle. You’ll want to make sure your kettle is large enough for this to fit into.
- More expensive
Because of the large size of this spider, full hops utilization is less of an issue. This is a great solution if you are worried about hops utilization, but make sure your kettle is large enough for it to fit.
Strange Brew Hop Spider
- Makes Hop Additions Easier
- Less Mess
- Great For New Brewers
Unlike the first two models, the Strange Brew Hop Spider holds a mesh bag in the middle of the wort. It sits on top of the kettle and holds your bag open at the top so you can access it during the brew.
It is designed to be used with a reusable nylon mesh bag that has drawstrings, or you can use a disposable bag. You’ll need to fit the bag around the middle flange, rest it on the lip around the ring and tie it off.
- For holding bags (not included)
- Places the bag in the middle of the kettle, which helps circulation and to extract the maximum amount of flavor, oils, and aid from the hops.
- The bag remains open so you can add hops continually
- Features a tripod that sits on top of your kettle
- The hole is 3.75” and the arms are 9”
- 304 stainless steel
- 4 stars from 8 ratings
- Can be used to steep grains as well as for adding hops
- Mid-level price
- Unlike the other models, you’ll need to have a bag, not included, to use it
- Because the bag will hold the hops tighter than a stainless steel spider, full hops utilization is more of a concern.
This Strange Brew model allows you to use a mesh bag that sits in the middle of your brew. Because the bag is in the middle instead of resting against the side of the kettle, the hops will move around more than they would if you held the bag over a side. It is more affordable than other models.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Hop Spider
To find the hop spider that works best for your situation, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- Size – you want to make sure you have a spider that will hold the hops, let them move around freely, and fit into your kettle.
- Material – You want the spider to be durable and allow for maximum hop utilization. Most spiders are at the 300-micron level. A micron describes the size of the particles that can pass through the mesh. A 300-micron mesh ensures that all the good stuff can get out while keeping the larger residue in the spider.
- Cleaning – One of the main problems you’re trying to solve with a spider is to make cleanup easier. Make sure your spider can be cleaned easily.
Spiders and Hops Utilization
The main potential drawback of using a hop spider is that it could reduce hops utilization. Hops utilization refers to how much of the properties of the hops make it into the final beer. The flavor, acid, and oils you get from the hops depend on how freely the hops can move around in the wort.
Because many hop spiders restrict how freely the hops flow around the wort, some brewers claim that a hop spider doesn’t make full use of the hops, which could impact the flavor. Most users have found that if you follow the steps to ensure circulation, the impact on the finished beer is minimal and worth the convenience.
The more the hops are able to move around in the boil, the more they are utilized. Being able to move freely ensures all the acids and oils in hops are drawn out and distributed throughout your wort.
Most of the steps needed to ensure full hops utilization come back to ensuring the hops can move about freely. To help ensure hops properly circulate, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- Don’t overfill the spider – too many hops will restrict how freely they move around in your boil. It could even result in some hops escaping the spider and ending up in your wort.
- You’ll want the bottom of the hops container to be at least two inches from the bottom of the kettle.
- You can stir and agitate the hops to make sure they are moving around rather than clumping together. Make sure you use a spoon that can reach the bottom of the spider so that they don’t stick together at the bottom.
- Compensate for a decrease in hops utilization by adding extra hops. You can add more hops than the recipe calls for if you think the hops are not being fully utilized
- When you pull the spider out, let it fully drain so that you get every last bit of flavor, acid, and oils from the hops. Hold it over the boil while you wait for it to stop dripping. If you are using a bag, don’t squeeze it because you can force out solids.
A hops spider can make brewing a much easier experience, especially when the recipe calls for adding hops at various intervals. You can easily ad hops without having to deal with the residue that results when you add the hops directly to the wort. There’s a variety of hop spider styles, and which is best for you comes down to personal preference.