A few weeks ago, I whipped up a hop spider… just troll the plastic plumbing fixtures at Lowe’s and found a 3 or 4 inch PVC coupler for three or four bucks. Next, head on over to the decorative wood-working aisle and find the dowel rods… the only trick to picking out a dowel rod is finding one sturdy enough to not bend or flex while choosing one that’ll match the diameter of a drill bit you have at home. Another fun thing about dowel rods is they make great fencing foils when you’re slightly-annoyed wife starts complaining that you’re dragging her from one end of Lowe’s to the other.
After you’ve got the PVC coupler and dowel rod, head over to the plumbing section and find a stainless steel worm clamp big enough to fit on the bottom diameter of the PVC coupler. Got it? Good. Now, walk over to the paint section. In amongst all the painting accessories is a blue plastic pack of two five gallon mesh paint strainer bags. They’re basically big white mesh bags… get the five gallon size. After you’ve picked up the strainer bags, you should be close to the cash registers… because every Lowe’s is designed damn near identical.
Find the drill bit that matches the diameter of the dowel rod you bought, and drill a hole through the PVC coupler about one inch from the top. Directly opposite that hole, drill another hole, so the dowel rod will bisect the coupler. Now, 90 degrees from that second hole, drill another hole in the coupler. Opposite that hole, drill the fourth and final hole for the other piece of dowel rod. You’re basically making a big ‘X’ with the dowel rods… just make sure to offset the holes so the two pieces of dowel rod don’t intersect and bump into each other in the middle. Break (or saw) the dowel rod in half. Use a hammer to pound the rod through one hole across to the other, and the same for the other set of holes. Use the worm clamp to secure one of the five gallon strainer bags to the coupler. Bingo.
So now that you have this dubious-looking device, you might be asking yourself, “soooo…. what’s it for?” Well, have no fear… the answer is quite simple. You set the hop spider over your brew pot with the strainer bag sitting in the boiling wort. You add the hop pellets (you’ll probably need a bigger couple to fit whole leaf) through the coupler so they’re contained int he bag, but still in the boiling wort. This will allow you to easily remove the hops from the wort when the hop schedule is done… and will also eliminate the hop particles from finding their way into the fermenter when you transfer wort. This way they’ll not plug up autsiphons or racking canes and no particles will be waiting for you int he trub to have to worry about washing out when you harvest yeast. Plus, they look cool…. so there’s that. Until next time, folks.