7 Ways to Filter Your Hops

by Billy Broas

Used Hops in KettlePhoto: robtrent

Fresh hops are a beautiful sight, but after a 60 minute boil they’re a big green pile of gunk. Most homebrewers filter them out for a variety of reasons.

Filtering the hops will clarify your homebrew and cause you less trouble in your fermenter. During a vigorous fermentation, the hops can clog a carboy and plaster themselves to the sides, leaving you a nice mess to clean up. Also, if you are using an external chiller like a plate chiller, then you don’t want to send hop debris through those small pipes.

Homebrewers have come up with numerous ways to filter hops, and here are 7 of the most common:

1. Mesh StrainerMesh Strainer

On our first brew day, many of us frantically grabbed one of these from the kitchen cabinet to catch all the sludge that was pouring into our beer. At least I did. The mesh strainer is the simplest solution to filtering hops and it’s very likely you already own one. They’ll get the job done, but if you are brewing alone it can be a pain to hold the strainer in place and transfer the wort. They also work better with whole hops. Pellets are especially sludgy and will quickly clog the strainer, causing you to run back and forth to the sink to do the ole’ wrist flick.




2. Hop BagHomebrew Hop Bag

The hop bag and mesh strainer are the two most common filtering methods. The cheaper hop bags are muslin and the more expensive ones are nylon mesh. Hop bags do a great job of filtering, but the knock against them is decreased hop utilization. Many homebrewers have found that these bags cut down on the hop character in their beer, so many prefer to let the hops “swim free.” The bags also have an annoying habit of coming open in the boil unless you tie them like a boy scout. Photo credit




3. Hop Filter Bag Using a Paint StrainerHop Filter Bag

This is a more recent contraption that I discovered from the creative bunch over at HomebrewTalk. The benefit of this device is that it allows the hops to swim free but still does a good job of filtering. When the boil is over, you simply remove the filter and all the hop gunk is inside. I’m building one of these soon and will report my results, as well as directions for making one.




4. Chore-Boy Copper ScrubberChore-Boy Scrubber

Another cheap and simple solution, the copper scrubber works well if you have a pickup tube on your kettles. You can stick one of these puppies on the end of the tube and it will filter out most of the hops. This device is often used in conjunction with the whirlpool method, where the wort is stirred to collect the hops and other sediment in the middle of the kettle. Then the wort is sucked out from the side of the sediment with the pickup tube (and scrubber).




5. Hop StopperHomebrew Hop Stopper

The hop stopper has gotten good reviews. The biggest draw back is that it’s expensive, at $60 plus shipping. Unlike the bazooka screen, it will suck up almost every last drop of wort. This is a great option for filtering, but because of the price it may be better as a DIY project.




6. Bazooka ScreenHomebrew Bazooka Screen

Although more common in mash tuns, bazooka screens are also used as hop filters in boil kettles. These are notorious for clogging with hop pellets, so if you use one, make sure you use whole leaf hops. MoreBeer has a related product called a kettle screen that’s replaced their bazooka, but apparently the pellet issue is still a problem. They also leave behind wort because they are slightly elevated.




7. False BottomKeg False Bottom

A false bottom is a metal perforated disk that allows liquid below but keeps solids on top. So basically, a screen. Like the bazooka screen, false bottoms are common in mash tuns but can also be used for filtering hops. Also like the bazooka, they work best with whole hops.




Personally, I use a combination of the mesh strainer, hops bags, and whirlpool + Chore-Boy. It really depends on what I’m brewing, what I’m tinkering with, and what I feel like doing at that time. I must say though, I’m looking forward to trying the paint strainer method.

Do you filter your hops? What do you use?

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Jorge July 20, 2010 at 4:54 pm

I don’t really worry much about getting the hops out of the beer, unless I’m going for an extremely clear beer…. but even then, not too worried about it…

If I do want to filter it out, I have a nylon mesh hop bag I use for this, but I save some time by pouring the wort slowly into my bucket and that leaves the sediment at the bottom of my pot…. I just throw that out and loose very very little wort…

I definitely like the idea of using a paint strainer, so i may have to try that one as well…

BTW… I just saw your tweet from like 9 days ago… sorry for not replying, I’m a horrible twitterer… ha!

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Dietz July 21, 2010 at 1:05 am

I like to whirlpool and then draw the wort from the side of the keggle. Just shut off the tap at the 1st sign of any trub and watch from the top of the Keggle. Always end up with a very clean wort into the fermenter.

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Billy Broas July 21, 2010 at 6:27 pm

@Jorge I don’t do it 100% of the time either. If I’m doing a beer with only a tiny bit of hops then I’ll usually just dump then in. Since I usually use a bunch of hops though, they can really make a mess of things. The paint strainer seems promising. The one thing I know I won’t like it that I’ll have to take it out to submerge my immersion chiller, and then put it back. Might not be too bad though. Don’t apologize for being a bad twitter, that just means you have a life lol.

@Dietz Yea I mention the whirlpool int he chore boy section, but you’re right you don’t even need it. It’s just extra protection. I’m still trying to get just the right placement with my pickup tube. I want to keep it close enough to the bottom of the keggle that I minimize how much wort I leave behind, but far enough away that I don’t suck up the mound of trub. So yours is all the way on the side? Do you leave any wort behind? If so, do you just factor that into your recipe?

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Dietz July 21, 2010 at 11:14 pm

At the moment I just have the tap going through into my keggle…

http://cid-dd611ce87d270f48.photos.live.com/self.aspx/Forum%20Pics/KeggleTap.JPG

I want to add a coper tube inside that bends towards the outside and a bit lower into the keggle so I dont have as much wort left over. I am a bit worried about the false bottoms and things on keggles as while they are a good hop barrier, I think they can let Hot and Cold break through. From my reading you really dont want to just dump all your wort in… The hot break can cause off flavours and the cold break can cause haze in your beer.

I will always factor an extra gallon into my recipe so that I get 5 gallons into the fermenter. For the little bit extra of grain, I would rather have a nice clear wort (clear of hops and break material) into my fermenter.

Thanks to Billy for your blog. Videos are great and enjoy reading the blog…

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Billy Broas July 22, 2010 at 11:39 am

@Dietz Ah I see. Looks like the same size and location as mine. I do have the copper pickup tube running into the kettle (I’ll get a picture) that would pickup almost every last drop of wort when it dipped into the middle, but now that I have it off to the side it leaves about 1/4 gallon. I’m with you, a few pennies more in grain is worth it. I also try to leave the break material behind, although I’ve heard a l little bit of cold break is good for the yeast. But I’m sure I get some of that in there no matter what, even if it’s not obvious.

Thanks for the compliments and great to have you here sharing your homebrew experiences.

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Chris Starr July 22, 2010 at 11:55 am

Hey billy do you have the parts list for #3? can’t find the original post on HBT

I have a few IPAs on deck soon sure will beat the old kitchen strainer method!

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Billy Broas July 22, 2010 at 12:00 pm

@Chris Here is the original thread that has a bunch of different configurations and part lists: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f11/lil-sparky-tha-man-40738/

Let us know how it turns out and and take pictures if you can!

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Chris Starr July 27, 2010 at 12:10 am

Super Easy Build! 15 min assembly

I had a 1/2 ” paddle drill bit ( but new full set (( 3/8″ to 1″)) was on sale for 7.99 picked up full set since my 1/2″ was a bit beat and dull, new single 1/2″ was $3.49 – no brainer ) clamp pipe fitting to a solid surface when using paddle bit… it will bite and twist

4″ pipe $6.59

Pipe clamp $1.49

strainer bags $2.50 for 2 ( i use them in my 5 gallon bucket phils’s mash tun in conjunction with my plastic false bottom ((see last pic))

I used 1/2″ x 12″ L lag bolts (because I’m cheap! $1.15 per arm included nuts and washers at home depot. I added 1 extra washer & bolt per arm for about 50¢ per arm. Like I said a buck + cheaper than just the 3/8″ x 8″ lag bolts… bigger but cheaper ) They also allows me to slide it over and add my immersion chiller without pulling bag to sanitize AND my next big project may be a “Keggle” so i want to be sure it fits.

3 arms are plenty stable but a bit cumbersome at this length for indoor brewing but should fit a keggle nice, (shown on my 10gal outdoor pot) but manageable in doors

even with the new bits (which I can use else where) cost me $25 bucks and change w/ tax

Invert pipe fitting ( narrow side threaded side up and shouldn’t have any problems with slippage even with lots of hops)

can’t wait to try it and I have an extra bag for hop strainer or mash tun

C.

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/gallery/uploads/26880/0726002307.jpg
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/gallery/uploads/26880/0726002307a.jpg
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=37954&size=big

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Chris Starr July 27, 2010 at 12:25 am
Billy Broas July 28, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Chris, this looks soooo great! Ok you’ve motivated me to get this project done. I’m going to shoot for a build this weekend and maybe even brew with it Sunday. I think it will fit the keggle nicely as you said. You better come back and tell us how it works for you. Thanks!

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wine storage December 7, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Irish moss in the last 15 minutes of the boil and cold storing (after the beer is fully carbonated) is all you really need for most beers. The key to the cold storing method is time. You wait for your beer to cool before you pitch the yeast, you wait for it to ferment and age appropriately before you bottle or keg it and it is the same game here. If you want a clearer beer, toss it in a fridge just above 32F and let it settle for a couple of weeks. Cheers!

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