Homebrew Beer Clearing & Clarity Guide

In this article, we will be explaining the topic of beer clarity and methods that can be used to obtain it. It’s important to understand that there’s no one method that will actually get the best results on its own. It’s also important to understand exactly what causes the Haze.

For more advanced brewing terms check Technical Terms Brewers Use Translated

The Haze

Haze can appear in your beer in various different forms. Mostly this can be due to excess starch, due to poor conversion during the mash, or due to a form of contamination. Both of these forms of haze will be permanent and will not be the biggest problem in the relation to the resulting beer.

2 glasses of beer. but one with beer haze and one clear
Credit: https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/05/01/brooks-on-beer-cutting-through-the-ipa-haze/

Yeast Haze

Yeast Haze is inevitable in your beer’s early life. This is simply where the yeast is still in suspension. Often you will see it when you take a gravity reading using a hydrometer and a trial jar. If you see it when you are transferring your beer then it is very likely that you are transferring too early. Too many homebrewers simply transfer beer after 14 days of fermentation by default. And in some cases, this can be way too early.

21 days in your fermenter will allow your yeast plenty of time to do its first job of fermentation and then clean up after itself and dropdown.

Do not consider this a waste of an extra week. In addition to these previously mentioned benefits, this time in bulk conditioning will also serve as conditioning time which is especially useful if you’re going to be bottling your beer.

Small mound of dry yeast
Credit: https://boileddinner.com/yeast-types/

One further consideration is to choose a yeast that is classed as having higher flocculation. This is simply the yeast’s ability to clump together and due to added weight drop down readily in your fermentation vessel. Most high flocculating yeasts are English. While American strains tend to be medium. Lager strains on the other hand are predominantly medium also. Keep in mind that if the yeast system suspension will not only provide a cloudy look to your beer. It will also give the beer a more yeasty taste which is known as an off-flavor.

Chill Haze

The chill haze will usually disappear from your beer once it has been allowed to warm up a bit. It is simply where proteins in the beer are binding with tannins. Need to be aware that this state can become permanent. If you subject your beer to repeated cycles of being heated and then cooled. Chill haze can never be completely eliminated. But it can be minimized by the use of certain agents both during brew also known as the hot side. And during and after fermentation which is also known as the cold side.

Five glasses of beer with different clarity and color
Credit: https://www.howtohomebrewbeers.com/2018/07/can-i-cold-crash-outside-in-cold-in.html

Such methods often involve particles that will bind solids and drag them down. That will be allowing the wort and beer to be free and clear. Finings are also useful for controlling protein content in beer which could also create a haze. Many wheat beer styles are known for their haze. But as a homebrewer, you may still wish to clear them up. It’s your choice.

Hot side Methods

Whirlfloc/Protofloc Tablets

This is a very well-known method. These are brand named tablets for clearing that you will usually be adding at between 10 to 15 minutes in your boil. They are made from Irish moss which is a form of red algae. And Carrageenan which is a type of seaweed.

Irish moss is actually used in food and is becoming very popular with raw food vegans due to how nutritional it is. Carrageenan is also found in food products as a binder, and a thickening agent. A combination of both of these when it comes to beer brewing is very useful for clearing beers. Also for reducing chill haze. Irish moss can be used on its own.

By adding products like this hot side, you are reducing the job reacquired by your cold side finings. Quite often we find the hot side is enough though this is dependent on the beer style. Styles like pilsner will always be going to need a little extra help. This is based purely on clarity expectations rather than them being tricky to clear.

There are two other contributors to the hot side and these will both make a night and day difference with your beer.

Whirlpooling

The main purpose is to separate water from possible clumps. By doing this you are minimizing the components within your wort that will contribute to pool clarity. For this reason, the whirlpool is a major contributor to clearing your beer.

How fast you can cool your wort down

If you are already using a counterflow chiller as opposed to a slower cooling spiral. You may find that your cooling water is not as cold as you would like. There are further things you can research to obtain to help you with this problem.

Beer chilling spiral inside the stainless steep pot
Credit: http://www.mrmalty.com/chiller.php

Cold Side Methods

Cold Crushing

This method seems to provide a popular way of clearing the beer. Cold Crushing is somewhat a controversial topic and we urge people to conduct their own testing. This method is where you simply reduce the temperature down as low as you can without going into freezing temperatures. And hold it for at least one to three days.

One of the problems you will face if you are reducing the temperature down very low is the oxygen will be subtle to your fermentation vessel resulting in what is called cold side oxidation. Put si simply this will have a detrimental effect on the life span of your beer. The other issue of cold crashing is that you will end up promoting chill haze later when done at low temperatures.

Gelatin

This is actually a protein obtained from usually cows or pigs. It is added to many different foods but its also found to be of some use in clearing the beer. You can get it from supermarkets in powder form or from homebrewing stores in liquid form.

Its availability has provided its popularity. If you are buying in the powdered form then a typical amount to use would be 1 teaspoon of powder per 5 US gallons or 19 liters. You would need to dissolve this in a cup of boiling water. Allow it to cool and add it to your beer one or two days before you intend to transfer it to kegs or bottles.

Two glasses of beer one of them extremely hazy the other one very clear
Credit: https://brulosophy.com/2015/01/05/the-gelatin-effect-exbeeriment-results/

When using gelatin we recommend a lower temperature, but 0 C is not needed. 5 C or a little more works in a very similar way and the difference in the time it takes is negligible. Keep in mind that you need your yeast to be comfortable because it will be needed for carbonation when bottling. Cold crashing at 0 C is not going to be food for the health of your yeast. The lowest you want to go is between 35 to 40 F or between 2 to 4 C. It’s ideal for adding when kegging a beer but not so great if you are bottling.

Isinglass

This is very similar to gelating in many ways. In the past was used also in food products. Before gelatin paved the way cost-wise. It’s essentially made from dry fish swim bladders. You need to follow the product instructions for use as this can vary from product to product.

Isinglass is used for clarity for both wine and beer. One piece of good news is that this fining agent can be used at higher temperatures. The general rule of thumb here is no higher than 14 C or below 10 C, meaning that you will need to do some cooling when fermenting ales.

Chitosan

This can also be considered similar to isinglass in many ways except that its most commonly derived from the shells of shrimp. There is also fungal chitosan which is vegan and vegetarian friendly as well as being GMO-Free. This fining agent is certainly gaining in popularity and does the job very well.

It works very well at higher temperatures and it’s happier when warm. Most manufacturers suggest using this at ambient temperature which is super handy. So if bottling your beer this is an ideal choice. It can also be used when kegging. Just add it to your fermenter a day or two before you intend to transfer.

Four glasses of beer with different levels of clarity
Credit: http://www.nanofiltersolutions.com/BeerSour-Beer-Breweries-Water-Filters-Solutions/application

Filters

There are actually very few beers that are filtered commercially. Part of the reason for this is that some filters will strip flavor. You also have the issue of the extra time that this takes depends on the product.

If you are bottling you will need to make sure that the filter won’t take away the yeast because you will certainly need it for bottle carbonation. Filtration can vary quite a lot.

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