I've been homebrewing for a couple of years now, and the first thing I realized about homebrewing is that it can be a very expensive hobby. That being said, I'm constantly trying to acquire or build gear that will actually make a difference. But I don't want to spend a fortune on it.
I had seen several designs and builds of the trusty hop spider on various websites. The basic idea of the hop spider is to keep the hop debris out of your wort.I thought that this was the sort of thing that you would need if you were using whole hops, and that a guy like me (whole just uses pellet hops) would not really need one. I will tell you right now that the hop spider really showed how wrong I was. Even the pellet hops disintegrate and expand, creating a large amount of debris. I made a two gallon batch using the hop spider, and I recovered about 3/4 cup of debris.
Before you start this project, you should know the diameter of your brewing kettle. The pictures in this instructible are for the version I made for my 20 quart brew pot. If you need a bigger version then you will need bigger hardware. If you have multiple brew pots for various sized batches, go with the biggest diameter brewpot. Or make multiple spiders. Whatever works for you...
Step 1: What Will You Need?
You will need the following tools:
Measuring tape (preferably a flexible one like my wife has in her sewing box)
Step Drill Bit
You will probably need a couple of adjustable wrenches
You will need the following materials:
4" PVC Coupler
4" Hose Clamp
6" Eye Bolts ( x4 )
3/8" Nuts ( x8)
Hop Sock (or similar)
Remember, if you decide to build a different sized one, you will probably need to get different sized hardware. The version I have built is good for anything up to a 14" wide kettle
Step 2: Measuring and Drilling
I'm not going to even pretend that I spent all afternoon measuring this thing out. I started with the PVC coupler, which will be the center of the hop spider. I decided that I wanted the bolts to sit about one inch from the edge, so I marked off one inch from the edge of the coupler. I then took my wife's measuring tape and measured the circumference of the coupler. It came out to about 12 and 1/2 inches in circumference. Divide that into four parts and you will end up with about 3 and 1/8 inches. I then made a single mark along the 1 inch line. Starting from that line I measured 3 and 1/8 inch and made a mark; do this three times to create four marks.
Once we have our four marks, we will start with the drilling. I used a step drill bit capable of going up to at least 3/8". But first, we're going to make a pilot hole using a smaller bit. Try to keep it as straight and level as you can. I used a 1/16" bit, clamped the coupler into my vice, and drilled four pilot holes. Then I switched to the step drill bit and bored out the hole to 3/8".
Step 3: Installing the Hardware
Once we have our bolt holes, it's time to install the hardware. Take each eye bolt and thread one of the nuts onto it. Slide each bolt into one of the holes in the coupler. As you install each bolt, thread a nut onto each bolt to hold it in place. Once all of the bolts were installed, I went back and adjusted the nuts. I moved the nut on the inside of the coupler to almost the end of the bolt shank, leaving about 1/8" of the shank.Then I adjusted the nut on the outside of the coupler until it was snug against the coupler. I then tightened it using two adjustable wrenches. Do not overtighten it, or you might crack it.
The only thing left to install is the hose clamp. This goes around the outside of the coupler and will hold our hop sock in place. Simply slide it on the other end of the coupler and, using a screwdriver, tighten the screw until it is snug. When it is brewing time, you will add the hop sock or whatever it is you're using. Untighten and remove the hose clamp, slide the hop sock into place around the outside of the coupler, slide the hose clamp back into place, and tighten it.
Step 4: It's Brewing Time!
You are ready to roll! Once you're at a rolling boil and it's time to add the hops, simply set this on top of your brew kettle, put your hops in the middle, and start your timer. Also, be careful when removing it from the top of the kettle. The spider will be hot, and the hop debris in the hop sock will have expanded (probably more than you think). I use an oven mitt to remove it and I set on a metal mixing bowl to cool. Once it's fairly cool, you just untighten the hose clamp and remove the hop sock.
Here's my other thoughts on this little project:
- The hop sock might want to float on top of the wort when it's boiling. I've since commandeered a few glass beads from my wife's craft supplies (don't worry, she'll never know they're gone). I put the glass beads in the hop sock to give it a little weight and keep it from floating.
- Hop socks are kind of expensive. You know what isn't? Pantyhose; specifically the pantyhose that one can find at a thrift store. I paid 50 cents for one package, and I cut them at about 8 inches from the toe. Bam! Now you have two hop socks! Just make sure that they're unopened (unless you're going for some specific flavor that you plan on deriving from used pantyhose).
- Remember that a big part of this project was to not spend a fortune building something that is very application specific and will probably only get used a few times a year. That being said, the coupler is about $2.50, the eye bolts are about $1.50 each, the hose clamp is about $1.50, and the nuts were less than a buck. Add in the cost of the pantyhose and I think we may almost be at $12. Depending on what state you live in, the prices and taxes will vary.
Lastly, use this design, modify it, improve it, do whatever you want with it! It wasn't my idea. I'm just trying to show you how to put it together...