Brewing for clarity

Clear homebrew

For me one of the most frustrating things when buying beer is pouring the beer (being careful to not disturb the sediment if there is some) and it comes out of the glass looking like mud, or even worse, buying a beer in the pub and it looks the same.

I know that its currently en vogue to serve hazy beers akin to that shown below, but personally I prefer to know that the brewer has gone to a lot of effort to create a beer that not only tastes and smells good but looks good too.

Unclear pint

There are two types of haze, Biological and non-biological and I’m specifically talking about non-biological haze.

Proteins and polyphenols from hops are the two main causes of haze but it can also be caused by:

  • Calcium deficient worts
  • Wheat derived adjuncts
  • Under modified malt

For the most part though beer that looks like mud is due to the protein and polyphenol load in the beer.

Techniques for ensuring the limitation of proteins and polyphenols in wort:

  1. Use low protein malts
  2. Use Irish Moss
  3. Cool your wort quickly
  4. Cold store your beer
  5. Keep trub out of the fermenter

We know all these tips, they make common sense and we’re probably doing them or trying to do them anyway.

But what if you want to use a ridiculous amount of hops in your IPA and no matter what you try it still looks like mud? You’re a homebrewer, you don’t have a chiller that can run -10 degree glycol round your conditioning tank, you don’t have a centrifuge and you don’t have a filter…isn’t there some other way to make bright beer?

There are a quite a few finings products that you can use, typical ones are:

  • Isinglass – great at dealing with yeast but for the most part yeast in suspension isn’t my problem, my beer is clear until I put it in the fridge and then it turns to mud.
  • PVPP – a great product but I find it difficult to deal with because it requires the beer to be chilled at application. If I don’t have that chilling capability how do I use it? Added to this is the need for it to be filtered out of the beer, not an easy thing to do with a homebrew set up.
  • Silica based finning agents – these work on protein load well but I’ve been experimenting with it recently and it’s shown less than satisfactory results.
  • Gelatine –  As a combination of efficacy and ease of use for the homebrewer I like gelatine, it dissolves easily, mixes well and it targets proteins and polyphenols. I’ve recently been using it on all beers I’ve brewed that are dry hopped, even if I’m in a hurry and bottling straight from FV the resulting beers are beautifully bright even at fridge temperatures. This goes for moderate dry hopping to Imperial IPA’s that are dry hopped at 10g/l or more!

So for me the use of the 5 techniques listed above, plus Gelatine, consistently produces bright and clear homebrew beers. If you have any further tips for getting clarity in your homebrew share them in the comments below.

 

Formerly of Fullers, Thornbridge and Buxton. Now a freelance Black IPA advocate, homebrew geezer and creator of Baby Back Bacon Black IPA™

9 Comments

  • Reply October 2, 2014

    Daniel

    Poor ol’ vegetarians..

  • Reply October 2, 2014

    Ed

    I’ve used PVPP (actually polyclar, which also has silca xerogel) without filtering. It will settle to the bottom of tanks.

  • Reply October 3, 2014

    Matt Howgate

    Low temperature & patience.

    Patience was one of the biggest issues with production in a previous life. Given time in tank at the right temperature yeast, protein, etc. will settle out. Sometimes as little as an extra 24 hours would reduce total solid counts by around 75%

  • Reply October 3, 2014

    Josh

    Great article! Have had a few recent homebrews in the summer months that turned out horridly hazy.

    Could I ask your technique with gelatine, James? I don’t currently have a way to cold crash my fermenter, so just wondering If I can still use it without doing that.

  • Reply October 3, 2014

    Ralph

    Any tips for using Gelatine?

  • Reply October 3, 2014

    Dr David Griggs

    I can recommend our Clear Choice malt for haze-free beers. Its made from a barley variety that has been conventionally bred to remove proanthocyanidins (polyphenols) so one of the major haze contributors is lacking in the malt

  • Reply October 4, 2014

    JK

    Thanks for your comments!

    Daniel, sorry.

    Ed, I agree, PVPP is a great product but it is a little more involved and still requires chilling of the beer to low temperatures for it to be effective. I’ve tried it without chilling and I’ve tried using it at the end of the boil and it’s just not as effective as gelatine.

    Matt, Absolutely I couldn’t agree more and I’m trying not to go into a long rant about it :0) I wrote this more for homebrewers that don’t necessarily have the ability to chill but would still like clear beer.

    Josh and Ralph, there are loads of different ways to use gelatine and you can tailor it to however you currently brew and package.
    You can:
    • Add them to FV at the end of fermentation and then bottle
    • Transfer the beer to a bottling bucket adding the finings and then bottle
    • Transfer the beer to secondary adding the finings, leave for 24-48 hours then bottle
    • Transfer beer to keg adding the finings, leave for 24-48 hours then transfer to a second keg for carbonation

    Or you can do any combination of these; I usually boil some water, say 100-200ml, allow cooling till it’s below 90C then add 2.5-5g gelatine and stir/swirl till dissolved.
    I think it’s very important for every brewer to experiment and determine the best regime for them, rates, amounts and times will differ depending on the beer and the haze.

    I really do think that a haze free beer is a much better, much more professional product. I for one prefer the less astringent smoother qualities of a bright beer.

  • […] The Port 66 home-brewing site continues to impress with this very practical advice on achieving clarity by James ‘Kempicus’ Kemp, late of Fuller’s, Thornbridge and Buxton […]

  • […] The blind taste results would suggest they are true as there were no big surprises. The only unexpected finding was the haziness of the DME lager. Though we have previously blogged about how this type of haze can be reduced – http://www.port66.co.uk/brewing-clarity/. […]

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