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Craft The Perfect Draft - Tips For Clearing Your Beer

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Whenever I transfer my wort from the kettle to the fermentor or my beer from the fermentor to a keg or bottling bucket I also see it as an opportunity to clean it too. Reducing the amount of trub your finished beer contains before packaging it goes a long way in preventing the formation of chill haze, floaties and off flavors. Trub consists of yeast, proteins, hop debris and other solids left over from the beer making process that are no longer wanted or needed in your finished beer. If left unchecked trub can ruin the appearance and taste of an otherwise perfect glass of beer.

Enjoy Your Beer Cold, Clear And Colorful
The first step in removing unwanted yeast, proteins, hop debris and other solids is to use a fining agent like WhirlFloc in the boil kettle. Fining agents are added to the boil kettle about 5 minutes before flame out where they encourage smaller particles to stick together forming larger heavier clumps. The heavier clumps of debris then fall out of suspension sinking to the bottom of the kettle which in turn helps clean up the wort. The idea is to transfer the clean clear wort from the kettle without dragging any of the kettle trub along with it.

Never Worry About Chill Haze Or Floaties Again
Whirlpooling the wort as it cools in the kettle will cause the trub to collect in a tight compact pile at the center of the kettle bottom. As the turbulence of the wort slows down inside the kettle and the wort cools more and more debris will sink to the bottom of the kettle. Waiting 20 minutes for the wort in the kettle to settle down and clear before transferring it will give you the best results and the least amount of fermentor trub too.
Know Your Volumes
It's important to know how much wort will be lost to your kettle's trub layer before you calculate your preboil volume. If for example your kettle's trub loss is a .5 gallon and you plan to package 5 gallons of beer you want to make sure that your post boil volume has been sized accordingly. You will also want to add to that the amount of fermentor trub loss too. If you plan on packaging 5 gallons of beer add to that a quart for fermentor trub loss, you'll have to fill your fermentor with 5.25 gallons of wort. Your total post boil volume will then be 5 gallons to package, plus .5 gallon kettle trub loss, plus .25 gallons for fermentor trub loss or 5.75 gallons.

Nobody Wants To See Floaties In Their Beer
What Is Cold Crashing?
I'm not really sure how the term 'cold crash' originally became part of the home brewing vocabulary though. I understand that the 'cold' part of the terminology refers to dropping the beer's temperature down to only a few degrees above freezing. I guess the 'crash' part of the terminology refers to having to do so as quickly as possible. The physics behind cold crashing is what causes the yeast, proteins and other solids that are otherwise suspended in your beer, to clump together, become heavier and eventually fall out of suspension. All those unwanted particles then sink to the bottom of the fermentor where they form a compact layer of trub leaving the beer above it clean and clear.
7 Tips For Producing The Clearest Beer
  • Adding WhirlFloc or other fining agents to the boil kettle 5 minutes before flameout will help the proteins, tannins and hop particles to clump together while the wort is still boiling.
  • Putting hop additions into fine mesh hop bags is also a good way to reduce trub in the kettle during the boil.
  • Using a whirlpool to compact the kettle trub so it doesn't get pulled along into the fermentor where it just takes up room.
  • Waiting 20 or so minutes for any kettle trub to fall to the bottom of the kettle before moving the clean beer above it to the fermentors. Once the whirlpooling has stopped it can take that long for the smallest trub particles to settle out of the wort into a neat pile on the bottom of the kettle.
  • Compensating for fermentation trub loss by transferring an additional quart of wort per five gallons of packaged beer to the fermentor reduces the chance of trub getting into the packaged beer.
  • Cold crashing the fermented beer before packaging it gives the yeast and other debris time to drop out of suspension and settle to the bottom of the fermentor. Depending on the flocculation rate of the yeast used to ferment your beer it can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for the yeast to settle out.
  • Carbonating your beer while it's still cold allows the cold crash process to continue as the beer is being carbonated. Since Co2 is more easily absorbed by cold liquids your beer will also carbonate faster than if it were carbonated warm.

The Trub Layer Can Keep Debris From Entering The Finished Beer
Most of the home brewers I've met over the years have never filtered their beer before packaging it. The majority of home brewed beers I've had at club meetings and competitions are remarkably clear without ever having undergone any filtering at all. I stopped thinking about filtering my beer a long time ago just like so many other home brewers had. By following a few simple guidelines it's really pretty easy to produce a very clear, colorful and clean tasting beer everytime.
Vince Feminella [aka: ScrewyBrewer]
www.thescrewybrewer.com
[email protected]

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Comments

As far as I can tell, Gelatin fining basically takes care of most of this in one simple step. I use Brulosopher's method and don't worry about trub or hop material at all, and I can read newspapers through my beer glasses:
http://brulosophy.com/2015/01/05/the-gelatin-effect-exbeeriment-results/
Also, I assume you're not telling people to bottle-carbonate cold? That would be a very bad idea, for obvious reasons (ale yeast need at least 59-59F to get going).
 
^this. Doesn't work for vegetarians and vegans, but works for me. Cold crash and then gelatin FTW every time.
 
Yeah, this article could have been distilled to one word: gelatin. It's magic. I hardly make beer without it anymore.
 
"Fining agents are added to the boil kettle about 10 minutes before flame out"
This isn't exactly correct. Boiling Whirlfloc for 10 minutes denatures it and renders it useless/less effective. The correct timing is 5 minutes before flameout.
"The idea is to transfer the clean clear wort from the kettle without dragging any of the kettle trub along with it. "
This has been proven to have no effect on final beer clarity, in fact it seems to help clarity to have *some* trub transfer. Cold break settles out after fermentation. If you one-shot your wort through a counterflow or a plate chiller, you'll get cold break into the fermenter. Again, not an issue.
Also, it's wasting wort that would otherwise become beer.
 
I've found gelatin has made my hoppy beers less hoppy and no longer use it. I care more about the taste than the appearance though have a very clear homebrew is a joy.Usually cold crashing and 2 weeks in the keg is all it takes for my beers.
 
@joe_four_strings Irish moss combined with the BK's SS braid pickup tube, while additionally transferring through a 10" (overkill) SS strainer before wort enters fermenter is my method, and not once have I had a "non-clear" brew. Cheers!
 
Still a great article to spark discussion about clarity. I find a strong boil (vigorous, but not volcanic) and quickly cooling the wort the best method to reducing chill haze and generally improving clarity. I don't filter or whirlpool and almost all the hop/trub gets transferred right into primary. I almost always use Whirlfloc as well to help things settle and only use gelatin at kegging if i'm rushed. I haven't had a beer not clear in years following these simple steps.
 
The Great Trub ExBeeriments and the Gelatin ExBeeriment of the Brlosopher are enough for me to stop reading at: "The idea is to transfer the clean clear wort from the kettle without dragging any of the kettle trub along with it." Please help reducing the dissemination of homebrewing myths. :)
 
@Micha ^^^ You beat me to it. This article must be from 2005 or something. It really should be removed or corrected as this info is not accurate as of 2015. And AFAIK Whirlfloc should be added at 5 minutes, not 10.
 
I bottle condition and never cold crash my fermentor or use cold side finings, but I get crystal clear beer with the following:
-Use RO Water with minerals, ensuring adequate calcium levels.
-Irish moss @ 15 minutes remaining in boil.
-Medium to high flocculating yeast.
- 5-10 days cold conditioning after carbing (i.e.: bung 'em in the fridge).
 
I use Whirlfloc at 5 to 15 minutes, I whirlpool to some extent, but most of the trub ends up in the fermenter. My Blichmann kettle draws from the bottom so it pulls a lot of trub with it.
I have tried letting the trub settle in a carboy before transferring to my pair of 3 gallon Better Bottles, and I end up with one completely clear bottle and a second less clear one for fermentation in the fridge for my lagers. They get combined in the keg anyway, carbs cold, and after the first few pulls from the keg it is crystal clear.
 
@The_Bishop
Understood, but chilling for any length of time, bottle or keg, is technically cold crashing... or lagering. I just do it once rather than twice.
 
Nice article. I don't have a ball valve on my kettle, so just dump everything straight into my fermentor. Would you recommend using an auto-siphon to avoid transferring the stuff on the bottom, or will that all fall out in the fermentor anyway? Btw, I use Irish Moss, but my beers always have chill haze. I bottle, so cold crashing and gelatin is not an option.
 
@joe_four_strings I do the same thing. I put a mesh bag over the end of the racking cane to help. The little bit of fine material that makes it to the keg usually settles out by the time it is ready to serve. Get maybe a 1/3 to 1/2 glass of crud from around the dip tube and then pours clear till the keg kicks.
 
@Micha I read that too. In the beginning I didn't worry about trub and I think my beer was the worse for it when I started trying to get rid of it. The only filtering I do is a mesh bag or bucket filter over the end of a racking arm.
 
15 minutes for WhirlFloc is fine.
I can't agree with the insinuation that clearer beer = better beer. Some obsess over this and for specific styles I can agree, but unless you are packaging with a lot of trub in suspension, any sediment will settle out in the keg or bottle and most definitely not "ruin your beer."
 
Carbonating your beer while it's still cold allows the cold crash process to continue as the beer is being carbonated. Since Co2 is more easily absorbed by cold liquids your beer will also carbonate faster than if it were carbonated warm.
Everybody said the opposite to me. Warmer beer is carbonating faster.
 
I've always understood that lack of clarity is caused by chill haze and other suspended proteins, not trub. Trub is heavy enough to settle out eventually. For the most part trub can be kept out of the bottle or keg by whirlpooling, careful transfer to the fermenter, cold crashing and careful transfer again to the bottling bucket or keg. For removing suspended proteins I use Irish moss at 15 min., rapid cooling after the boil and cold-crashing the fermented beer. This combination has done the trick just fine.
 
@MikeSkril: Sounds like he means while kegging.
Straight chem/physics. Cold liquid will hold more c02 in solution.
He's talking about kegging the beer and force carbing with tank of CO2.
Your talking bottle carb by yeast. Yeast that will go to sleep in the cold.
When force carbing it doesn't matter if the yeast are asleep or not...... They aren't making the CO2
 
This topic is very important to me. My beer is not clear and all my brewer friends have clear beer. I don't believe in gelatin as the big companies don't use it. I am going to build a keg on a bearing and use it as a whirlpool tub that spins a lot like the milk industry. I harvest my yeast and need clean yeast from my fermenters.
 
@Beer-lord
How long do you cold crash? I recently picked up a fridge for just this purpose, but I'm not sure how long to leave it in there. Secondary has finished, been in the cold crash fridge for 4 days now. It is a winter warmer if that makes a difference.
 
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