So I was finally able to have a brewday where I had the opportunity to test out my new Blichmann Hop Rocket. I’ve been coveting one of these for awhile but never pulled the trigger on it as there were many other things that had a higher priority in my homebrew setup. Fortunately my dad is a fan of beer and brewing and decided this was precisely the thing that I needed, so he bought me one for my birthday. Thanks dad!
My first impression when taking it out of the box was that this thing was solidly built. The construction looked top quality, and the stainless steel body had a nice heft to it. The screens were equally as sturdy and the rubber gaskets were definitely good quality. Putting it together was fairly straight forward. The only snag I hit was when putting in the top screen the wiper gasket around it kept slipping off. Too much friction was causing it to peel off the side of the screen. This was an easy problem to solve – a couple of sprays from my bottle of pre-mixed StarSan and it slid right in. The clamp was a bit of a pain to get tight, but a little elbow grease and it was sealed up nicely. I know this because the first thing I did was pull out my pump and run StarSan through the whole set up to flush everything out and to check for leaks. The only leaks I found were from the hoses attached to the quick disconnects. Nothing a couple twists of a screwdriver on the clamp couldn’t fix.
A test with StarSan was all fine and well, but I was really looking forward to finally brewing with this thing! Well the day came and I decided I was going to try out a fairly basic IPA recipe. Of course I’d be using the Hop Rocket to infuse the wort with an ounce of Amarillo and an ounce of Simcoe whole leaf hops. A lot of Cascade and Centennial in pellet form would be added throughout the brew. I had initially thought about going with hop bursting for this one, but since I have yet to do that on my homebrew setup I decided one new method per batch was probably a good idea.
The brewday was straight forward enough. I employed my hop spider for the bittering additions and late boil additions. I pulled it out prior to whirlpool and then added in some whirlpool hops and let that stand for about 15 minutes. During that time I set up the pump. Hop Rocket, and plate chiller. I set it up so that the wort went from kettle to pump to hop rocket, and finally through the chiller before going in to the fermenter. Actually I started to set it up with the Hop Rocket between the kettle and the pump before realizing that setting it up that way was just asking for nothing to pump through the system at all – I can’t imagine it would have gotten any kind of prime. Fortunately my brain kicked in before I started running things and I was able to switch it around to the proper configuration with the Hop Rocket between the pump and plate chiller. This also allowed me to adjust the flow out of the pump so that I could get a good amount of contact time between the wort and the hops in the Hop Rocket. It took about 15 minutes to run off the 5 gallons of wort. Sadly I underestimated how much loss I’d have due to the hop rocket and extra house and only ended up with 4.5 gallons in the fermenter. I just have to remember when using it to increase the recipe for about half a gallon extra of wort so that I can fill the fermenter to the proper mark.
Everything ran without a hitch and I was amazed by the aroma of the wort as I was aerating and pitching in the yeast. It’s been in the fermenter for a week now, held at 67F, and I am excited to keg it this weekend and see how it smells and tastes. I have a feeling the Hop Rocket is going to work its way in to more of my brewdays – probably even a few beers I wouldn’t have considered giving this treatment to.