Sediments in wort, such as hop leaves and cold break proteins, can clog up your wort chiller and cause problems in your beer. There are several methods of filtering debris out of your wort, varying in cost and effectiveness.
Filtering Hop Debris
If you are looking primarily to remove hop debris from your wort before running the wort through a chiller the easiest methods are screens and bags.
There are multiple screen systems available to remove hops from the wort, but they will only be effective when whole hops are used. Hop pellet debris will pass through most screens.
1. A false bottom in the brew kettle will catch hop debris while allowing the wort to pass beneath and through the outlet of the kettle.
2. A bazooka screen can also be used on a valve of the chiller inlet to keep out large hop debris.
3. A mesh strainer can be used to remove hops from the wort, but these are more likely to be used after the wort is already cooled and is on its way to the fermenter.
4. Hop bags are a popular way to keep all hop debris from floating free in the wort. They are typically a small-mesh nylon bag that the hops are contained in, and the entire bag is allowed to float in the wort. Hop bags make filtering easy, but they are known to decrease utilization of the hops, taking away some of the flavor and aroma.
5. There are also different ways of using paint strainers to filter out hops. We like the method demonstrated by Billy at billybrew.com for its simplicity and ease of use. Paint strainers are a great way to filter out hops while still allowing for utilization of the hop oils, as the hops can float more freely in these bags than in hop bags.
Filtering Both Hop Debris and Smaller Debris
6. If you are looking to remove smaller items like cold break proteins from your wort it may be best to use a siphoning system. The best way to siphon wort out of the kettle without bringing any hops or proteins with is to first whirlpool the wort and then siphon out the liquid from the side of the kettle, away from the cone of debris at the center.
7. Filters can be added to the end of the siphon to ensure that no debris is caught. Many auto-siphons and racking canes come with a filter tip, but you can also use a copper scrubber to keep sediment out.
Have you tried any of these filtering methods? How did it work for you?