You may have heard the saying, ‘You eat with your eyes,’ and if that’s true, then you also drink with your eyes. Nothing says crisp, clean, and refreshing like a crystal clear brew.
But achieving a clear beer is not the easiest thing to do. So, today, I’m breaking down all the ways for you to get the clearest beer possible. I’m Trent Musho, and this is the Bru Sho.
Let’s talk beer clarity.
In most cases, the look of your beer doesn’t really matter as long as it tastes good. Then, I wouldn’t worry too much about clarity. But sometimes, a certain beer begs to be clear. It might be the style of beer or just your personal preference.
While, in theory, it should be easy to attain, it can be a bit tricky to master.
But thankfully, there are some important things to know about your ingredients as well as some tricks you can do to get to clear beer heaven. Before I jump in, I’d love to hear from you.
- Does clear beer even matter?
- Do you do anything special to ensure a clear final product?
Now, let’s first start at the beginning. The ingredients you choose have a major impact on your beer’s clarity. Grains that are rich in proteins, like wheat, oats, and flaked barley, which are used to improve the body and head retention, can also leave behind what’s called a protein haze.
This is a permanent cloudiness that, in most cases, won’t go away. An example of this is a hazy IPA, which is expected to be cloudy. Another ingredient that can impact clarity is yeast choice.
Some yeast flocculate or fall out of suspension better than others. If the yeast has a low flocculation rate, then your beer will appear to be foggier because of the yeast floating around. British and lager yeast tend to flocculate the most, but you can always check your yeast provider’s website to see its flocculation rate.
Lastly, when and how much hops to use impact haze. The more hops you’re adding, the more hop debris will be in your beer. But also, depending on yeast choice and if you dry hop or add hops during active fermentation, you’ll get what’s called hop bio-transformation, which can lead to a permanent haze in your beer.
Many hazy brewers use a combo of all these methods to achieve the look in the New England IPAs. If you enjoy this type of brewing content, go ahead and hit subscribe for more simplified home brewing videos.
So, now that we have an understanding of what to avoid if we’re trying to make a clear beer, let’s talk about what we can do to improve our chances of ultimate clarity.
Starting on the brew day, outside of those ingredient choices, there are a few things you can do. Some people claim that a short mash time can lead to a haze in a beer, but I haven’t seen that to be true in my experience. But if you’re trying to check all the clarity boxes, you can extend the mash time to a full 60 minutes.
The next thing to look at is near the end of the boil and what are called kettle finings. Kettle finings are used to clump up proteins and drop them out of your wart toward the bottom in the hopes that it will lead to a clearer beer.
There are a few options here, but most common are Irish moss and wolflock tablets. Irish moss is actually a type of algae that has carrageenan, a negatively charged component that attracts those proteins.
Whirlflock also has Irish moss in it as well as additional carrageenans. In it as well as additional carrageenans, they both work about the same, although Wolflock is easier to use since it’s pre-portioned and all you need to do is drop it in around the 15-minute mark.
These products are also said to reduce chill haze, which is a haze in your beer that can come about when you go to lower your final beer temp down to serving range. This can be hard to remove, so adding one of these is highly recommended. Another way to improve clarity on brew day is to chill your work down as fast as possible.
The faster you chill, the greater chance you’ll have for a good cold break, which is when all those proteins again clump together and fall to the bottom of the truck. You’ll see this happen as you start to chill your wart. It kind of looks a bit like miso soup down there, and that’s a good sign.
Basically, on brew day, you’re doing everything you can to minimize the amount of proteins in suspension so you have less work to do later to get clear beer.
Now let’s talk post fermentation. As long as you picked a good flocculating yeast and didn’t add a buttload of hops, the next step should help you out. The first thing people might tell you is to cold crash your beer to get the clearest beer possible into your keg.
Cold crashing is where you chill your fermented beer down to just above freezing to get all the yeast to drop to the bottom and this certainly works, but it’s hard to do unless you have a dedicated fermentation chamber or freezer.
But honestly, I haven’t noticed much of a difference between cold crashing and just putting room temp beer into my keg. Eventually, they’ll both get chilled down, and the yeast will fall out, but in the keg, you’ll just get an extra pint or so of yeast.
So, don’t stress if you can’t cold crash yet. Probably the easiest, cheapest, and best way to get clear beer is thanks to father time. Giving your beer a few extra weeks in cold storage or what’s also called lagering is how brewers have been getting clear beer for years.
It’s just like cold crashing, the chilled beer helps the yeast slowly fall to the bottom and in turn creates a clearer beer. Plus, waiting a little longer can help the beer smooth out and clean up any off flavors that might be lingering around.
But I get it, who wants to wait weeks or even months for beer? Not me. So, that’s where clarifying agents come into play. There are a bunch of options for finding your finished beer, but I’ll talk about some of the most popular. They mostly all work the same, they bind proteins, yeasts, and polyphenols in the beer and drop them to the bottom.
You can add them into the keg before or after racking your beer in and within a few days, you should be golden. Probably the one you’ll see used most on the homebrew scale is gelatin.
Gelatin, if you didn’t know, is basically boiled skin, bones, and tendons of animals, usually cows, pigs, or even horses. And while it’s cheap and works very well to clear your beer, I prefer not to have animal parts in my beer.
There’s also eisenglass, which is made from fish bladders, again, also works well, but my preferred choice is Biofine Clear, which is made of acetic acid and is used by a lot of professional breweries. It does lean a bit more expensive than the other options, but it works wonders at getting clear beer faster.
Another popular option is a combo of Kieselsol and Chitosan. You may have seen these sold together as Super Clear. You add in the Kieselsol on day one and then you add the Chitosan on day two. Since they’re oppositely charged, they’ll work together to help pull everything out of suspension.
Oh, and if you’re curious, Chitosan is made from crustaceans and Kieselsol is a silicic acid-based product, just like Biofine. Lastly, I want to touch on a few other clarifiers that are more common in wine, mead, and cider making.
First up is Sparkloid, which is a powder made from diatomaceous earth and a few other things and Bentonite, which is made from clay. They both help with clarity and are oppositely charged, so if you use one and don’t get the results you want, you can try the other.
In conclusion, there are many ways to achieve a clear beer. It depends on your personal preference and the style of beer you’re making. Some methods such as using the right ingredients, proper brewing techniques, cold crashing, lagering, and using clarifying agents can help you to get a clearer beer.
Remember, clear beer doesn’t always mean better beer, but if it’s a personal preference or the style of beer requires it, there are ways to make it happen. As always, happy brewing!
Lead marketer, brewer, dad, and husband. Pretty much an all-round awesome guy.