Hop heads and “mad” brew scientists would enjoy a Randall in their homebrew setup. But what is a Randall and what does it do?
A Randall is an in-line hop and flavor infuser that can be connected to a draft beer system. Similar to a hop back, a Randall allows the bartender to experiment with fresh flavor or dry hop infusions without affecting the entire keg of beer. This device can also be used to filter beer through any ingredient that won’t clog the device.
Below, I will cover what a Randall is in more detail. Additionally, I will go over how it works, how to make one yourself, and potential alternatives.
Topics We Cover
What is a Randall?
If you’re at all like me, when you first read this question your first thought was of something you might find on the Urban Dictionary. In this case, we’d both be wrong. In reality, it’s fairly similar to a hop back. The chief difference is when it is used.
A Randall, or “Randall the Enamel Animal,” is a hop-infusing device that can be attached to a draft beer system. It is designed to add any flavor to any beer. This device was originally intended to infuse hops, though it can be used with any ingredient that will transfer flavor.
Unlike a hop back, which is used on brew day, a Randall is used when serving. This ensures that the flavors are as fresh as possible. As you can imagine, there are endless possibilities.
A Randall can be used to add the pine notes of mosaic hops to an IPA or the citrus of an orange to a summer ale. It could be used to add the heat of jalapeños to a pilsner or the sweetness of vanilla to a stout.
How does a Randall Work?
A Randall is a relatively simple device. That said, the original creator thought of all the major complications.
The Randall is a two-chambered filtration device. Beer flows into the first chamber from the bottom where it filters through the chosen flavor infuser. It then exits through the top into another chamber. This second chamber is meant to allow any foaming to settle. The beer then goes through a filter to remove any particles and into your glass.
Its prototype (and many DIY Randalls) was a single-chambered device. This was deemed to be insufficient as the hops often caused the beer to foam. The current version solves this with a second chamber. This chamber allows some extra time for the beer to settle. The space is an important factor in this.
The infusion that the device is designed for is carried out by the alcohol content of beer. The beer is filtered through the hops, spice, or whatever is chosen, but without the alcohol, it would not infuse as much flavor.
The alcohol acts as a solvent that picks up the flavor. This means that low-strength beers won’t absorb as much flavor. This process is assisted by the design of the first chamber. It is meant to allow the most interaction between the beer and the flavor is infused.
Overall, a Randall is essentially just a fancy hop back used in a draft system.
Who invented the Randall?
You may be wondering who is the creative mind we have to thank for this invention. Look no further than Dogfish Head Alehouse.
Sam Calagione, the founder of Dogfish Head Alehouse, invented the Randall hop and flavor infuser. Calagione invented the infuser in 2002 for a hop festival that year.
What started as a one-off experiment has evolved into a new craft brewing tool. Here’s a quick video of Calagione explaining the device in his own words.
How do you make a hop Randall DIY?
If this seems like the type of device you’d love to use you’ll want to make one. It isn’t especially hard to make a Randall. It just takes time and a bit of effort–nothing new for homebrewers. This quick guide will cover how to make a single-chambered Randall for your DIY use.
First, the supplies:
- Pentek 158116 Container
- 2 ¼” Stainless steel male flare connectors
- 1” Silicone hose, ¾” Outside Diameter, ½” inside diameter
- 12” of 316L Stainless steel tube, ½” Outside Diameter
- Teflon tape
- 2 5’ beer lines, 3/16” inside diameter
When you have all the parts you can get started.
- First, you need to cut your stainless steel pipe down to size. This piece will go inside the Pentek. Cut it so that when installed in the lid it will touch the bottom of the container. Measure twice, cut once.
- Next, drill holes into one half of the pipe. This half will become the bottom. The holes should be no bigger than ⅛”. A good choice is 1/16” holes but you can decide for yourself. You should have up to 20 holes. Make sure to clean up the holes after drilling.
- Then, insert the silicone hose into the interior filter opening on the bottom of the Pentek cap. Once you’ve done this you can insert the metal pipe into the silicone hose.
- After this, you’ll need to install the male flare connectors. Since the Pentek openings and the connectors are all ¼” you simply need to screw them in. For a better seal, you can wrap the connectors in Teflon tape before screwing them in.
- Lastly, you need to attach the beer lines to both sides. The Pentek’s out connector will connect to the spout while the in connects to the beer source.
At this point, your DIY Randall should be all set up. When you use it you’ll need to prime it with beer. Just add your flavor ingredient and hook everything up. Since this is a single-chambered design watch out for foaming.
Alternatives to using a Randall for beer hop and flavor infusions
There are a few alternatives if you don’t want to make a Randall. All you need is something that will allow you to infuse flavor into the beer. You may already have some of these alternatives.
- French Press
- Hop Rocket
- Randall Jr.
The concept of a french press is nearly identical to a Randall. Of course, a french press won’t be in-line like a Randall would. However, it would be the perfect alternative for infusing flavors on a small scale.
Just like making coffee with a french press you just need to add the flavor ingredient and the beer. When the beer has sat long enough to absorb some flavor simply depress the plunger and pour your beer. Just make sure to clean it well before using it. Coffee flavors only mix well with some beers.
More specific to the brewing hobby is the HopRocket from Blichmann Engineering. This fancy little device can function as both a hop back and a Randall. This device comes premade for your brewing purposes.
This one will work in-line just like a Randall. It does not have a dual-chamber design so you may run into some foaming issues.
Lastly, we have another version of a Randall. Similar to a french press this is meant for small quantities. The Randall Jr. can hold up to 16 oz. of beer. Simply throw in the beer with your flavor ingredient and let it sit.
When you’re done, Junior comes with a filter in the lid. All you need to do is pour it out into a glass. You can get a Randall Jr. on Dogfish Head Alehouse’s website.