7 Ways To Clear Your Beer

There is no reason why your beer can’t be clear when you pour it into your glass.  While clarity does not affect the taste of the beer, some homebrewers feel that appearance is half the battle.    Here are a few tricks that will help your beer clear up.

Irish Moss

This is an adjunct added at the end of the boil (last 15min).  Take a pinch of it and add.  The way that it works is, it helps coagulate proteins to the bottom.  Proteins add to the haze of a beer.   This does not change the flavor profile of the beer.

Fining Agents (Gelatin)

This is one of my favorites that I use.   You add it into the secondary fermentation and it will literally drag down tannin, proteins, yeast,  making the beer clear.  Do not add this in while the fermentation process is ongoing.  The reason is that it will attach itself to the yeast and make it fall out as well.

Chill Wort Quickly

Ice bath, immersion chiller, counter flow, there is a ton of techniques.  Which ever one you chose, if you end up cooling down your wort quickly it helps the tannin’s and the proteins to cool down quickly and essentially dropping out.  By doing this you make your beer clearer.

Lager Your Beer

Any strain of yeast can be lagered – ale yeast or lager yeast.  By letting the fermentation finish and then bringing it down in temperature, yeast as well as tannin’s will fall out of the beer making it more clear.  If you are bottling you will want to do this after the beer has been bottled if using an ale yeast.  If you don’t the  beer will not carbonate properly.

Use Grain With Less Protein

Certain grains that are used for steeping or in all-grain are going to naturally give you more haze.  Anything that says, “flaked” you can bet that you will have a cloudier beer.  Wheat malt is another one that normally will give you a cloudy beer.  At the end if you are trying to make a clear beer, I would avoid using as many high protein grains as possible.

Secondary Fermentation

We wrote a pretty good blog about them but, secondary fermentation can help as well.  I find that better bottles do a better job when it comes to help clarifying then the glass do (I’m sure there are people who would call me crazy for saying that).  More can be elaborated about them but pretty much the gist is, the yeast will hit the sides of the better bottle and with its design it helps make the beer less cloudy because yeast will fall out.

Yeast Choice

You want to look at the flocculation of the yeast strand.   Flocculation refers to the yeast characteristic of falling out once the fermentation is complete.  The higher the flocculation rate, the clearer your beer should be.  Chose a high flocculation strand of yeast if you want a clear beer.  WYEAST & White Labs both have charts about the flocculation of the yeast which they sell.

 

What I do…

I usually end up just putting my beer into secondary fermentation and adding gelatin to it.  It works every time for me, and it’s kinda cool.  You can actually see the beer start to become more clear as the days go by.  

 

If you know of any that I missed or have a technique worth sharing tell us about it!

 

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How To Dry Hop

There’s a lot of ways to bring out a nice hop aroma in your beer.  One of the best way’s to do so in my opinion is to dry hop your beer.  So what is dry hoping? Simply dry hoping is adding hops in your beer unusually while it is in secondary fermentation.  Some myths that I feel need to be clarified about dry hopping have to be addressed maybe this is in hopes to end the hate on dry hopping.

When dry hopping, most people are concerned with contaminating their beer. This is understandable because so many in the homebrewing world are very concerned with contamination, me never been really that OCD about it. While it is true that uncooked hops (such as not boiling your hops in the wort) may contain some bacteria on them, the acts of dry hopping virtually never contaminates a beer.

There are a few reasons that you can make this assumption and continue to dry hop without any fear.  When fermentation takes place, the beer will become anaerobic. In general, most contaminates are aerobic, meaning that they need oxygen.  Next after fermentation takes place there is alcohol, this again inhibits most organisms to grow, I mean it even kills the yeast.  The last factor, when fermentation takes place the pH in beer drop, becoming more acidic again making a hostile environment for these bacteria.

Back to dry hopping when racking to your secondary fermenter, take your container of hops, open them dump them in the carboy.  Now siphon in the beer.  Allow them to sit for 2 weeks before bottling.  I know, it’s a very complicated process…

You don’t need hop bags, but if you wanted to use them it wouldn’t hurt the process.  In the case of using hop bags just make sure that they are clean and disinfected. The plus side to using a hop bag for this is that you will have less sediment.  One trick to keep a hop bag on the bottom is take a stainless steel nut, bolt, or screw, and put it in the bag after it is disinfected – this will act as a weight. Another on is you can always disinfect a marble and put it in the bag as well.  Since the weight is stainless steel or glass, you do not worry about it changing the flavor or your beer.

Dry hopping is a great technique that can totally change the flavor or any of your beers.  Most often you will find that dry hopping happens is Pale Ales as well as with IPA’s.

If you end up dry hopping beers, you’ll notice that you might not need as many hops in the boil to get the full, “hoppyness” of the beer.  The reason being in my opinion is, what you smell is what you taste.  It doesn’t matter if you’re opening from a bottle or sipping from a glass, when the first thing you smell are fresh hops you are automatically preparing your senses to taste hops.  With that said, you will taste more hops.

Truthfully, I don’t really dry hop.  The reason I don’t is that my favorite styles don’t need dry hops.  I know this will sound old to many people but I feel I must say it again, I make styles like Scottish, Milds, Browns, Irish Reds, just European brews.  I make those a lot, for what ever reason pub ale’s are just my favorite.  A lot of these you can also assume that you are going to use a total of 4 different types of hops: Fuggles, Kent, Styrian, Willamette.  In those styles you really don’t find it helping the recipe to dry hop.  But if your making other styles it’s something that you might want to consider.

Hope this helps those that are, “hop heads” or people trying to put their nerves to ease about dry hopping their beers.

Cheers

~Derek

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5 Situations To Consider Secondary Fermenting

A common question I here a lot from home brewers is, “Do I need to secondary ferment?”.  The answer to this question is a bit complicated and really is a case by case, so as of now I will say, “It depends”.

Before we dive in too deep, I should first clarify for those that don’t know what secondary fermentation is.  Secondary fermentation is when the beer is racked over (siphoned from your primary fermenter into another fermenter) into usually a carboy, acting as a second holding area for your beer, wine, mead etc.  With that said, what do you really gain by secondary fermentation? This is where the, “It depends” comes in.

Here are 5 situations when you might consider putting your beer in a secondary fermenter:  

1) If the beer has a lots of sediment, by putting it in a secondary fermenter you will not have as much sediment in your bottle.  With oatmeal stouts this can be a big plus or a brew that has lots of steeping grains.

2) By putting beer in a secondary fermenter you are allowing your beer to settle and for flavors to blend.  This can be a good idea for Belgians or beers of higher alcohols even IPA’s.  Think about chili or soup, it always taste better on the second day. Why is that that? The flavors have blended together.

3) You can use secondary fermentation to add clarifiers.  Post boil claifers work in secondary fermentation.  I personally use gelatin which helps clarify beers.  If your not kegging your beer’s this is one great way to avoid even more sediment in your bottles.

4) You can ingredients to the secondary.  Dry hopping, oak, spices, all of these work best in the secondary.  I have found with my past brews that when you add any or all of the ingredients listed above into a secondary fermentation you can smell them better.  In my opinion, if you can smell it, you will start to pick up on them even more when you taste them.  So if you are trying to bring out certain flavors, consider what you can do in the secondary.

5) Another reason for secondary fermentation to is if you know you won’t be bottling for a while.  Let’s face it we have things to do other then brewing. A good reason to secondary ferment is that if you make a brew, but you know that you aren’t going to have the time to bottle for a few weeks. In this situation I would recommend you put your beer in a secondary and just let it chill out in there for a while until you can get to bottling.  Rule of thumb for me is: I try not to keep things in primary fermentation for more then 2 weeks.  The reason for this is I’ve found that you can get some off flavors to the beer if left to long in the primary.  

So going back to it all, when would you not want to secondary ferment?  It really depends.  Some beers in my opinion really don’t need it.  If you’ve ever come down to Jay’s Brewing or know me personally, I’m sure that I’ve mentioned how I love sessions brews (Scottish 60L, Milds, Browns anything less then 2.5% -3.9% for me). Typically you don’t need to secondary ferment these.

The reason why is that there is not a lot to them.  I make sessions and will have them pumped out quickly.  Quickly as in a week, then they are bottled (really not that hard to do with such a low alcohol level).  If you are trying to stay away from beers that need secondary fermentation, rule of thumb: Don’t brew stuff that is over 6.8%.  I should emphasize rule of thumb, every one has there own rule on this one – this has worked fine for me.

If you are dead set on the secondary fermentation or think that you need to for the next brew, the question normally is, “What should I secondary ferment in?”.  I would recommend a 5 gallon carboy for secondary fermentation. Now there are 2 different types of carboys: 1) Plastic  2) Glass.

We’ll keep this short because I feel that the discussion of preference between plastic and glass carboy’s deserves its own blog post, which we will do in the coming weeks.  But, you will want a plastic or a glass carboy. If it’s for a 5 gallon batch use a 5 gallon carboy.  The reason why you want to use a carboy is that the top of the carboy goes upwards, so surface area of the brew is reduced which makes it less likely to oxidize.

The make shift way of getting around this is quite easy and something I use to do when I first got started out with brewing – I didn’t want to fork over money for a carboy.  I would take the brew from the primary, rack it over to the bottling bucket, clean out the primary/sanitize, pour the beer back into the primary close it up, then shake it up and your done.

Is that the correct way of doing it? No, but it worked and never had a ruined batch from it.  The main thing that you have to do is, make sure to shake it up a little bit. The reason for shaking up the brew is you need to get CO2 to build a layer over the beer to protect it from O2 oxidizing the beer.  By shaking up the fermenter you are getting they O2 out of the brew threw the air lock.

At the end of it, I try not to get too stressed over secondary fermentation. I do it for my, “gourmet” brews that I pride myself on with being more technical.  On just drinking beers, I don’t. I’m sure people could argue either way, on why you need to do it with every brew and people could argue why not to do it.

If your considering using secondary fermentation, I think you should know why you want to.  If it’s one of the reasons that I listed, consider doing it. If you have any other reasons why you should secondary ferment please let us know.

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