How To Brew Clear Beer

Clear beer in equals clear beer out…

In order to brew clear beer, many homebrewers follow the practice of fermenting clear wort (no trub, hop junk, etc.)… Seems to be a logical assumption, but I’ve been playing around with this theory and have found some interesting results…

For some batches after the boil, I siphon my wort out of the kettle to avoid carrying the trub (hot break, hop particles, etc.) into the fermentor…

For other batches, I just open the valve of my brew pot and let it drain with trub and everything…

What I’m concerned with the most is the proteins from the hot break (and to a lesser extent the cold break) since proteins are supposed to cause haze… but some proteins are good for head formation… so how do you separate each?

Well, I have yet to find a definitive answer to this and what I’m about to share is more of a hypothesis than an actual fact…

What I found with my test batches was that keeping the hot break material from going into the fermentor did not exactly help me get a clear beer… in fact, the batches that had the hot break in the fermentor seemed to have cleared out better.

My theory, or at least the only explanation I have come up with that makes sense is that the hot break carries nutrients which yeast need to live and grow… which is why I think those fermentors with the hot break in the fermentor had better fermentations…

That leaves the haze forming proteins to the intensity of the hot break or the cold break…

If you overdo the hot break (like it’s the case in many extract and high gravity boils) you may coagulate too many proteins and cause foam instability in your beers… but if you do enough, then you should have enough proteins to form a good head…

In other words, if you don’t achieve a hot break you’ll get hazy beer because proteins won’t coagulate… if you coagulate too many proteins, you’ll get a clear beer, but your foam will suffer… therefore the key here is to find the perfect balance between coagulating proteins with the hot break to remove haze and not coagulating too many proteins that your foam suffers…

Now my question at first was… wouldn’t throwing the hot break cause hazyness because of the protein? or reduce head formation because of the lipids?

Well… I think that once the proteins are coagulated, they won’t mix back into the wort…

Now as far as lipids… I’m still trying to figure out if it is affecting head formation… so far, not enough to be noticeable, but I’m still testing…

Have you had similar experiences… or different ones?

How To Brew Beer

12 Comments

  • jeff

    Reply Reply September 11, 2011

    Jorge, I am going to keg my first batch next weekend. I’ve bottled several times before. My question to you is.. If I were to use gelatin, would that make the beer clearer from the tap? If so how much would I use? I have read anywhere from tsp to the whole box of knox gelatin. Thanks for you help..

    jeff

    • Jorge

      Reply Reply September 11, 2011

      Jeff,

      I don’t have much experience with gelatin… I use mostly Irish Moss and crash cooling to clear up my beers… however, I know brewers who use about 1 tsp for 5 gallons. They prepare it in 100 ml of water. They boil the water and let the water cool down to about 170 F before adding the gelatin. They then heat up the water (without bringing it back to a boil) until it is dissolved.

      This is then added to the beer after fermentation and any yeast activity you want is done. This makes proteins and yeast settle down and give you a really clear beer. Hope that answers your question.

  • jeff

    Reply Reply September 19, 2011

    Thanks Jorge. I added the gelatin and as far as the haze I had it was stil there. The beer itsefl tasted great went over very big with the family party. Could the haze been cuz of the boil.. not hard enough?
    Thanks for your help..

    jeff

  • Jorge

    Reply Reply September 19, 2011

    Jeff,

    It’s hard to know without knowing much about your process. Are you brewing with extract, all grain? Are you dry hopping? How fast are you cooling your wort? Are you using high, medium or low flocculent yeast?

    I doubt that it’s because you’re not boiling hard enough…

  • jeff

    Reply Reply September 19, 2011

    Well I’m using extract kits. This one was an american light brew kit w/ dry yeast. No dry hopping and I use a a 50′ 1/4 in cooper wort chiller. When I tranfered from the plastic pale to the glass carboy I could see that it was hazy then. After the fermentation which was strong for about 4 days and slowed to a stop day 6 did fg and added the fining per directions waited 3 days checked and fg was the same. So I kegged it. It was still hazy really no change in haze. But the beer tastes very good. Thanks for the quick reply..

    jeff

    • Jorge

      Reply Reply September 20, 2011

      It could be the quality of the extract or the yeast. Also, I know wort chillers aren’t very effective at bringing the temperature down fast enough unless you run ice cold water through them. If you don’t cool down the wort fast enough it creates chill haze, but it doesn’t sound like that’s your problem.

      I would recommend leaving the beer in the fermentor longer and not adding finings until after all yeast activity is done. Remember that after fermentation is complete – when you hit fg – yeast clean up the beer. If you add gelatin right after you hit fg then your yeast won’t clean up.

      On that note, sounds like you gauged fermentation by airlock activity not gravity readings. Just because the airlock stops bubbling, it doesn’t mean that gravity isn’t dropping. Once you add gelatin, you won’t see a change in gravity readings because the gelatin clumps up all the yeast and they stop fermenting.

      Patience will be your best friend… I usually leave my beers at least 2 to 3 weeks in the fermentor.

  • Vern Reyno

    Reply Reply November 18, 2011

    Hey Guys,

    I have been trying to get clear beer for a while now and have not found the perfect solution. I brew all grain, mostly IPAs and I do dry hop.

    Here is what I have done to attempt to get clear beer –

    1. I have focused on cooling as quickly as possible after the boil which using my 25′ copper wort chiller takes about 25 minutes.
    2. I use a tsp of gelatin for 5 gal.
    3. I use a 5 micron filter before kegging

    I have had no success. The beer tastes great with a nice head, but still hazy. A few days ago I found a 22oz bottle in the back of my fridge from a batch I brewed about 2 months ago. I poured it and it was clear! My new theory is that I just need to let the beer sit longer. It difficult because I am ALWAYS thirsty, but I will try to have more self control and wait a few more weeks next time.

    • Jorge

      Reply Reply November 18, 2011

      @Vern I’m a bit pressed for time…. I’ll try to post something more detailed in an upcoming newsletter, but here’s the quick scoop…

      You have to realize that there are different types of Haze…

      Yeast haze
      Protein haze
      Polyphenol haze

      Yeast haze is what you see in beers like Hefeweizens… protein is what you see in light lagers or beers brewed with undermodified malts (some times those that use wheat malts or malts with high protein content)

      Polyphenol haze is a tricky one…

      There are different fining agents and ways to clarify beer…

      Some times you can get chill haze and that comes from not cooling your beer fast enough after the boil.

      So depending on the source of the haze you’ll choose your fining agent

      Irish moss coagulates proteins and therefore helps with protein derived haze…

      Gelatin and Isinglass absorbs proteins and flocculates yeast so it takes care of yeast and proteins… PVPP (Polyclar) absorbs polyphenols and helps with polyphenol haze…

      You may have a combination of sources of haze depending on your recipe, your process, etc.

      This is about as simple as I can keep it for now… hope it helps!

      Cheers!

      Jorge

  • Brian Becker

    Reply Reply May 16, 2012

    Jorge,

    When I first started brewing, there was a lot of discussion (on the forums) about weather to transfer to a secondary for different reasons. Mine was to help clear the beer. My conclusion was that when primary was complete and I had reached fg, there were still “floaters” in the beer which left sediment in the bottles.

    When I would transfer, at that point, to the secondary I noticed a drastic improvement in the clearness of my beer. At that point I decided I would always transfer to a secondary and depending on how thirsty i was would let it sit to condition. It only takes a day or two to let the remaining “floaters” drop out. I use Irish Moss and have used gelatine and what I have found is that a secondary always clears up my beers to the point where I can pop a bottle and drink it to the last drop right out of the bottle if I wanted to and I have yet to brew a hazy beer. Maybe I just have a good process, but I couldn’t tell you what it is cause I don’t know. I had a good teacher so maybe he was on to something he didn’t outright explain to me.

    If you are interested, include it in your testing and see if there is any legitimate help without sacrifice. I’m curious to know.

    “Beer is the perfect blend of science and art”

    ~Brian~

    P.S. What are your thoughts on racking to a secondary?

    • Jorge

      Reply Reply May 16, 2012

      There are various reasons to rack to a secondary… brewing clear beer (for me) is not exactly one of them…

      Yeast will drop out if you give them enough time… that can be in the primary or secondary… if it’s just yeast haze we are talking about, you can avoid it by racking your beer carefully from the primary alone… most brewers (myself included) end up getting some yeast into their bottling bucket/keg…

      When you transfer to a secondary, you leave a lot of yeast behind and when you transfer again, the chances of getting yeast into your bottling bucket/keg are less than racking from a primary… so when it comes to yeast haze, racking to a secondary does help…

      However, protein haze or polyphenol haze are two different animals and racking to a secondary doesn’t help get rid of them… conditioning or finings do (recipe and process may be at fault too, but not necessarily)…

      I don’t think there is anything wrong with racking to a secondary, but I don’t see the need to do it if you are careful in the primary…

  • Michael

    Reply Reply July 8, 2013

    I’ve gotten very clear beer by achieving good hot and cold breaks and using whirlflock but I’ve found that medium filtering gives crystal clear results. I do not filter my IPAs since there seems to be an intangible that disappears but my german pilsners are unaffected. Many craft brewers centrifuge but that option isn’t available to the typical homebrewer.

    • jorgitoz

      Reply Reply July 12, 2013

      Breaks are good… time and storage temperature are my favorite ways of clearing up beer… I do also think filtering does change some beers and personally don’t like to either filter or use gelatin, etc.

      Cheers!

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