5 Ways To Brew A Clear Beer

Imagine cracking open one of your home brews and serving a nice clear beer you can see through with no floaties to ruin the ‘look’ of the beer…

… Even if you don’t use any fining agents or Irish moss…

Well, that’s what this blog post is about… getting crystal clear beers…

I remember the first time I forgot to add Irish moss to my beer at the end of the boil… I freaked out and thought I’d just ruined my beer…

I did a little bit of research and found out it was only used to help clarify the beer…

So when I went to open up my first bottle, I was expecting… well, I actually didn’t know what to expect… a cloudy beer? floaties?

Anyways… turns out the beer was just as clear as I had hoped it would be and that was one of the notes I added to my home brewing binder…

Turns out that Irish moss and finings are not the only way to clear up your beer… Here are 5 ways you can brew a clear beer…

1. Irish Moss and Finings
Irish moss is added at the end of the boil… usually within 5 minutes before the end of the boil. Finings on the other hand are usually added after fermentation is complete, a couple of days before bottling your beer.

Irish moss helps haze producing proteins coagulate during the cool down process which yields a clearer beer. Finings on the other hand help yeast as well as proteins drop out of suspension to the bottom of the fermentor, which gives you a clearer beer.

2. Cool Your Wort Quickly
The quicker you cool down your wort after the boil the more haze producing proteins you’ll coagulate during this process. A wort chiller is usually helpful to cool your wort faster, but an ice bath done correctly can also give you a nice clear beer.

This protein coagulation is what brewers like to call the “cold break”.

3. Choose A High Flocculent Yeast
Flocculation is the term used to describe yeast clumping up together. When yeast clump up together they either rise to the top of the fermentor or drop to the bottom. Most will drop to the bottom, but either way, you can siphon the beer without sucking any of the yeast into your bottling bucket or keg…

A low flocculent yeast means the yeast will remain suspended and you will get cloudy beer if you don’t use any of the other techniques.

4. Use Grains With Low Protein Levels
This is mostly a tip for all-grain brewers, although some extract brewers may come across recipes that have you steep grains high in protein. More than likely it will be a partial mash. The point is, these grains have more haze producing proteins that will show up in your beer if you don’t use one of the other techniques…

5. Cold Store Your Beer
One thing you can do to help your yeast precipitate during conditioning is to store your beer at colder temperatures. This is one way you can get clear beer even if you forget to add Irish moss during the boil…

The first beer that I brewed without Irish moss was one of the first beers I brewed before I’d gotten a temperature controller for my fridge. The thermostat in the fridge sucks as far as precision goes and I accidentally lowered the temperature more than I had intended to…

I didn’t know it at the time, but that was one of the reasons why my beer was still crystal clear even though I forgot to add Irish moss during the boil. When you are just learning how to brew beer this isn’t as straightforward so hopefully this helps you improve your brewing…

How do you clear up your beers?

11 Comments

  • Thumpgunner

    Reply Reply February 24, 2011

    You didn’t even mention one of the most sure ways to get clear beer. My beers immediately became free of chill haze when I recirculated until I got an absolutely clear wort. Then, and only then, would I let the wort go to the boiler. There is no real substitute even though it takes a little extra work and time.

  • Jorge

    Reply Reply February 24, 2011

    @Thumpgunner
    I left out filtering and all-grain out since that’s more advanced… but yes, you are absolutely right, making sure your first runnings are clear helps clear up the beer as well… thanks for the comment

  • Thumpgunner

    Reply Reply February 25, 2011

    Thank you for that affirmation Jorge. I have been making beer since 1985, and Jim Koch was my coach and mentor. I went from an extract kit that my father gave me to a second batch that was a triple decotion. When I, after years of chill hazed beer, discovered recirculation until dead on, sho nuf, absolutely gin clear, along with corrected mash pH, I almost couldn’t get chill haze if I had wanted it. Great tips Jorge, you are making it too easy for the new guys.

    • Jorge

      Reply Reply February 25, 2011

      @Thumpgunner Thanks… you know, sometimes the hardest thing for me is I assume something is known… recirculation seems to be pretty standard nowadays so I appreciate it when someone steps in and smacks my head for leaving something out… ;)

  • Thumpgunner

    Reply Reply February 25, 2011

    Roger that.

  • Mike M

    Reply Reply February 25, 2011

    OK, so I’m a novice. Explain recirculation if you don’t mind.

    • Jorge

      Reply Reply February 25, 2011

      @Mike When you are brewing all-grain beer you have a mash tun (a pot or a cooler) with grains and water mixed in. Think of it as a giant steep like the one I did on the video where I brew an American Brown Ale. In that video I steep grains and at the end of steeping I rinse of the grains.

      When mashing you essentially do the same, but instead of using a muslin bag, you have a false bottom, which acts like a strainer and allows you to drain the pot/cooler from the bottom right before you rinse. Recirculation is the term used to take some of the draining wort and pour it back on top of the grains to help filter out proteins, lipids, tannins, etc.

  • Thumpgunner

    Reply Reply February 25, 2011

    Very clear description, no pun intended. The German word for recirculation is Vorlauf which means to run ahead. What I do Mike is let all the sweet wort in my completed mash start to run from my mash tun spigot into a grant, which is simply a smaller catch basin situated lower than my mash tun. As the fluid level in my mash tun drops I carefully take the run off in my grant and return it to the top of the grainbed. Acting just like a pool filter full of sand, the mash tun full of barley husks captures the small particles that cloud the wort and allows the sugar laden liquid to pass through, becoming clearer and clearer with each cycle. I used to do this by hand using two pyrex measuring cups. Not to discourage you, but it used to take 45 minutes. I now have a March pump that takes the liquid from the grant and puts it gently back up on my grain bed. I learned that stirring the mash well and allowing it to settle for a few minutes before I start the Vorlauf process, and using a stocking over my copper pick up tubes in the bottom of my mash tun shortens the process from the 45 minutes to 7 to 14 minutes. It is very satisfying to watch cloudy mirk become crystalline.

  • Drew

    Reply Reply January 31, 2013

    I have been homebrewing for four years now, and brew both all-grain and partial mash batches, depending on time and other factors. One thing that is ALWAYS consistent when I brew is that I following primary fermentation with a 5- to 7-day cold storage step to help the yeast precipitate out of solution; I follow this step for both ales and lagers.

    I also usually follow a “lagering” period with my ales — 1 to 2 weeks of cold storage in the secondary fermenter to help clear the beer (this also improves flavor, in my opinion). Even when I leave the beer in the secondary fermenter for more than a month at cold temperatures, I still have enough residual yeast in suspension for bottle conditioning.

    Though this process adds significant length to the overall brewing process, I believe it is worth it. When people drink my beer, it’s clear, and that matters to me…

    • Jorge

      Reply Reply January 31, 2013

      Cold storage definitely helps… I usually let the beer in my primary for 2 to 3 weeks and then keg… I don’t tap the keg for a couple more weeks and my kegerator is set at 38 °F… with time and cold temperature, the beer clears up…

      Thanks for sharing!

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