Jun 28, 2012

Hop Back

Some of you may be familiar with a hop back.  Essentially, it is a container that holds hops while post-boil but still-hot wort runs through the chamber on its way to the chiller and then fermenter.  Probably the most famous user of a hop back is Troegs Brewing Company (who even have an amber beer named, "HopBack").  They use a hop back for several of their beers.

Blichmann Hop Rocket
It is something that I have been curious about using.  Blichmann Engineering produces a hop back called the Hop Rocket.  I have been thinking about purchasing one for a couple of reasons.  First, I like the idea of a hob back. I like the flavor and aroma it gives - at least in the beers I know have used it. It would be similar, I think, to adding a few ounces at 0 minutes.  Second, a hop back also acts as a filter for some of the hop bits from pellets and the like.  A loaded hop back can filter out some of the hop sludge so that a plate chiller won't get clogged.  An added bonus is that all that hop gunk won't end up in the fermenter (which, on the list of things to worry about while brewing beer, is pretty low, I'll admit).

So, all good stuff, right?  More hop flavor and aroma AND a filter.  Win, win.  Except...

High-flow Filter
Except, I read reviews and they aren't that great.  People complain about the flow rate and the Hop Rocket getting a stuck flow.  I don't know if those people are idiots and don't know how to use the equipment properly or if it really is that frustrating to use.  Plus, most of the reviews I've read are several years old.  It seems that Blichmann redesigned the Hop Rocket at some point to include a high flow filter.  So, are those negative reviews of the newer or older Hop Rocket?

I don't want to add a headache to my brew day.  Chilling (behind sparging) is the most annoyingly long process on my system and if adding a Hop Rocket will make it more annoying and long, count me out.  But, if it works as advertised - filtering and adding hop flavor and aroma - it will make the overall process and product better.  Even if chilling slows down a little bit, it may help the cleanup time.  (Plate chillers can be a bi-otch to clean out when using hop pellets - which I use a lot of.)

So, a lot of unknowns.  Oh, and by the way, this thing is $125, so it's not like I'll just go pick one up and if it doesn't work, screw it.  That is some money I'd be dropping.  So, my questions to you, oh faithful reader:
  • Do you use the Hop Rocket?
  • How do you like it?
  • How is the flow?  
  • I know the Hop Rocket is used with whole leaf hops, but does it filter as advertised?
  • What else I should know before dropping $125 on this?
Thanks for your help and guidance in my beer brewing journey.