There is nothing more disappointing then finishing brewing your beer and having it come out hazy and cloudy. While some breweries purposely produce these hazy styled beers, many people still prefer a clearer beer. Even though the brewing process is done there are still techniques you can do to fine you beer to give you clearer final product. The most popular method being using gelatin to fine the beer.
What is Gelatin?
Gelatin is a protein that can be dissolved in water and is used in different food applications – mainly jelly. Don’t confuse gelatin with jello! Even though jello contains gelatin, it also includes many other ingredients and additives giving it its sweet flavor. Most homebrewers typically use Knox Unflavored Gelatine. When fining beer, you want to use unflavored gelatin so there is no impact on the taste of the beer.
How Does it Work?
The gelatin acts as an aid during the clarification process and speeds it up. The gelatin attracts the left-over material that causes a hazy beer. This material is made up of yeast, hops, grains, and various proteins from the fermentation process. As they start to flocculate together, causing the size and mass to increase which causes the clumps to sink. Since all the residual ingredients will be sitting on the bottom, you can simply rack the beer while avoiding all the unwanted waste and you will end up with a much clearer beer.
When to Add Gelatin?
The gelatin should be added to the fermenter after the fermentation is complete but prior to transferring it to bottles or a keg. At this point the beer is basically ready, but you just want to remove all the excess particulates from it.
The process of added the gelatin to the beer is fairly quick and simple. Depending on how large your batch determines how much gelatin to use. Typically, the suggested amount is 1 gram of gelatin per gallon of beer. Before adding the gelatin to the beer, you first need to rehydrate it. The ratio of water to gelatin is 60 mL of water per 1 gram of gelatin. For example, if you are brewing 5 gallons of beer you would use 5 grams of gelatin and 300 mL of water. Once you have determined how much water and gelatin you need, the water should be brought to a boil for about 10 to 15 minutes. This removes any excess dissolved oxygen gas that is dissolved in the water. At this point in the brewing process you do not want to add any excess oxygen to your beer. After the boiling, let the water set and cool to approximately room temperature. After the water is cool, you can add it to a bowl with a large opening. Sprinkle the gelatin into the bowl, cover it, and let it set for an hour. You do not need to stir the mixture at this point, just let it hydrate on its own. Once the hour has passed, used a sanitized whisk to stir the gelatin and water mixture. After some stirring, cover it again, and let the mixture sit for another 15 minutes before moving on the next step. Heat the gelatin and water until it is approximately 160 F, this can be done using a microwave. The time it takes is different for every microwave, to find out how long it takes yours heat it in small time increments (20-30 seconds) and measure the temperature after.
Now it is ready to be added to the fermenter! You can add it as is, or you can allow it to cool first, both options will work. But before adding it, make sure the beer is at least below 50 F. This is called cold crashing and is the ideal conditions for the yeast and other waste products to flocculate. Pour the mixture into the fermenter and purge any CO2. Then stir the fermenter to ensure proper mixing. Let the fermenter set for at least 24 hours, giving it plenty for the yeast and other ingredients to drop out. Then you can carry on with the brewing process as you normally would.
Additional Fining Agents
For those who don’t want to use gelatin, there are several alternatives that can be used. While many people choose gelatin due to how readily attainable it is (you can just stop by your local grocery store and buy some) the other alternatives are just as good if not better.
Biofine Clear – A clarifying agent that causes yeast and other particulate matter to drop out of your beer. After 24 to 48 hours it has been added you will have a much clearer and brighter beer. This agent is made of colloidal silicon dioxide and unlike gelatin it is vegan.
Whirlfloc Tablets – Clairifing tablets made up of irish moss and purified carrageenan that cause the left-over ingredients to precipitate out. Just add one tablet per 10 gallons of beer during the last 5 minutes of the boil.
If you are tired of ending up with cloudy and hazy beers, there is still hope! You can fine your beer with the addition of gelatin or a variety of other fining agents. These additives are all inexpensive and add little to no time to the brewing process. So, if you want to drink a nice clear beer like the major breweries produce you should definitely consider fining your beer with some type of clarifying agent.