5 Tips to Brew Crystal Clear Beers
Before the advice, let's take a quick look at the main causes of a cloudy beer. Typically a beer is cloudy for one of these three sources: tannins, proteins and yeast. Tannins are elements naturally present in barley grains which are extracted together with sugars during mashing. Protein derives from both dark grains and some different grains, such as wheat, oats and barley flakes. The yeast, on the other hand, can be more or less flocculation.
Protein improves the foam hold and body of the beer, but has a negative effect on clarity: to obtain a full-bodied beer without too much protein, a delicate balance is required. Tannins, proteins and yeast also contribute to off flavors in young beer, so the sooner you clarify it, the sooner you can enjoy your beer!
1. Choose low-protein grains
Protein improves the body of beer but can harm its clarity. Use high-protein ingredients such as wheat, barley flakes and very dark malts for wheat and dark beers where clarity is not essential. If you are making a light beer that must be clear, choose pale malt or pale base malt extract and add only the amount of high protein dark malts necessary to obtain the desired color and body.
2. Quickly cool the wort
Use an immersion or counterflow coil to cool the beer as quickly as possible. Quickly bringing the must from the temperature of boiling to that of fermentation, the tannins and proteins will form lumps, precipitate and regroup in a thick layer of sediment on the bottom of the pot. The faster the cooling occurs, the more evident the effect; the fewer tannins and proteins remain in suspension, the clearer the beer will be.
3. Use Irish Moss at the end of the boil
A little Irish Moss at the end of the boil can significantly increase the clarity of the finished beer. Irish Moss is an ingredient that in practice helps the tannins and proteins present in the hot wort to clot and precipitate rapidly on the bottom of the pot during cooling. If you add a little Irish Moss to the beer you will see the proteins and tannins forming small lumps at the end of the boiling.
4. Add a clarifier
Various fining agents can be added to the finished beer which will help to quickly clean the beer, attaching itself to yeasts, tannins and proteins to facilitate its faster precipitation on the bottom of the fermenter or bottle. An easy ingredient to obtain is simple food gelatin. Dissolve it in a few cups of sterile water and add it to the secondary fermenter a few days before bottling.
5. Choose a high flocculation yeast
Flocculation is simply defined as the rate at which a particular strain of yeast precipitates upon completed fermentation. By choosing a high flocculation strain the beer will become clear much faster than a low flocculation one. Of course this is not the only factor to consider, but if you have the opportunity, choose a strain that adapts to the style of the beer and also has a medium-high flocculation.