I finally feel that I am comfortable in properly reviewing the Blichmann HopRocket. I've used the HopRocket 10 times in brewing as a Hopback and 4 times as a Randel for serving. This might not seem like a lot, but some brewers only brew once every couple of months. Lucky, I am not one of them. Honestly I would of use the HopRocket more but it has its drawbacks. (I'll get to that in a second).
The HopRocket bills itself as a one two combo. Having the ability to tie into the serving line of finished beer like a Randel, that Dogfish Head made so famous. Or hooking into your brewing system to be used as a torpedo, like Sierra Nevada developed. Once on the market people started to tap into the HopRockets filtering abilty. Switching out the hops and placing rice, rice hulls or old hops as a filter media to catch some trub out of the wort during transferring.
The idea is simple, create a stainless steel tube with mesh shields on top and bottom then filling the enclosed area with hops/media of your choice. The HopRocket is clearly marked with flow direction arrows and a simple clamp ring for opening the bottom for cleaning and hop additions.
Lets start at the build quality. The thing is a beast. The proper construction is a big plus for me. The stainless is thick, more than my brew pot. The stainless fittings are also stout. In addition, they fit perfectly. Which is necessary when you are moving hot liquid or serving pressured beer for a extended amount of time.
As a Randel the HopRocket really shines. I personally do not have any issues pouring or serving once hooked up "In-line" with my kegging system. It adds a clean fresh hoppy bite. The additional hop aroma added during the pour is unattainable without this type of addition to the beer "out" line. Once the keg has kicked we start to run into problems. With a simple male thread on the top and another male thread on the side disconnecting the HopRocket is a mess. You have up to 4 ounces of spent hops leafs soaked in beer to dispose of. Without the addition of a stainless value you will destroy the inside of your keggor with streaming hop filled beer.
|HopRocket on my Black IPA|
For the HopRocket to be completely effective I need 2 stainless valves and some sort of disconnect(s) added it to my beerline. Now, I don't want to spend another 40+ bucks for a part that should of come with the original purchase. (I know that last statement might be a little harsh, but people should be warned at least.) I have made a promise to myself that I will not use the HopRocket as a Randel until I get the proper fittings to make disconnecting a simple affair.
Using the HopRocket as a Torpedo get interesting. I can not get the damn thing from not clogging. My system uses a March pump and since the 1st clog I have tried to develop a way to overcome this hurdle.
These solutions include:
- Running it backwards
- Using 80% Rice Hulls
- Dropped the total volume from 4 oz to 1oz of hops
- Changed the pressure on the output of the march pump
- Changed my set-up into a gravity feed system.
|I know this is wrong, I was experimenting man|
I understand Blichmann has an updated cone that will reduce some of the clogging issues which I do not have yet. So for now I will plan to have a bucket next to my HopRocket so when it clogs I can save some valuable liquid and put it back in my boil kettle.
Do I recommend buying this? Yes I do, even though you will pull your hair out every time you use it. The additional flavors added are worth the spilled beer, headaches and mess that this device causes.
UPDATE: Concern about parts.
Blichmann advertises the HopRocket as stainless steel. I understand the parts shown do not touch the beer in any way but after a big home brewery tear down and cleaning session I noticed this. (Above) the crack and rust.
I sent Blichmann the above pictures and a link to this blog. They stated, "they couldn't see the pictures and said this part should not be cleaned with the HopRocket." Honestly I pisses me off and I can not recommend this product. The clogging and corrosion are not worth the hassle.