Cloudy Homebrew – Clarifying and Clearing your Brews

Jun 23, 2012 by

How to clear a Cloudy Homebrew?

A cloudy homebrew is a disconcerting sight for many home brewers who are new to brewing their own alcoholic drinks. We have all become overwhelmingly accustomed to crystal clear beer, cider and wine. There is a very simple reason for this and i will get to that in a minute.

The method to “fix” a cloudy homebrew however is actually very simple. First you will need to find out what exactly is causing the cloudy homebrew to begin with.


Tips on fixing a Cloudy Homebrew:

Let’s take a Cider (Hard Cider) clarification process as an example. The first and most obvious step to reducing a cloudy homebrew is to refrigerate your drink. Refrigeration will help with the clarification process as it causes most of the solids in the drink (yeast cells and non-microbiological particles) to fall and form a sediment at the bottom of the bottle. But if you’ve done this already and it isn’t producing a clear enough drink then it’s likely that the original fruit juice used to make the alcoholic Cider was high in a fruit protein known as pectin. The cloudiness of the brew is caused by many, virtually weightless, particles floating in the drink. They eventually bind together and become heavy enough to fall into the sediment below, however when pectin is present it prevents the binding process so the particles continue to float.


Defeat Pectin Haze and Clear your Cloudy Homebrew

The best way to defeat pectin haze and to force further clarification is to use a fining agent. These agents work by attaching themselves to the suspended particles and dragging them down to the sediment. One easily obtained ingredient is plain gelatin. Dissolve it in a little warm sterile water and add it to your bottle. A fining agent known as Bentonite is also good to use. I’ve even heard that Egg Whites can be used for clarification in the same way. In fact they’ve been used for hundreds of years to clear haze from wines throughout history.

Another good method for aiding clarification is the rapid cooling of the brew. A sparkling clear beer for instance can be brewed by cooling the wort to just above freezing until it becomes slushy. This procedure somewhat reduces the need for further clarification. A long, slow cooling however does not give a good cold break in the same way rapid cooling does and more NMPs (non-microbiological particles) become trapped in suspension producing the dreaded chill haze and sometimes a sulfur-like aftertaste in the brew.


How to prevent a Cloudy Homebrew – A Preemptive Brewing approach

A few good things to do to help prevent a cloudy homebrew from occurring in the first place is to reduce the time the brew is open to the air before pitching your yeast. The longer your juice sits waiting to begin fermenting, the more possibilities there are for wayward ambient flora and fauna to invade. Unless you brew in a sterile lab environment, there are bacteriae, wild yeast, and many other creatures in your brewery just waiting for a snack. If you’re making beer then you will need to try to chill the liquid down after boiling and pitch the yeast within an hour of the end of boil. If that’s not possible, then keep it covered/sealed until it is cool enough.

Sanitation is the key. All equipment must be not only clean but also sanitized. Chlorine bleach, iodine, really hot water, autoclave… whatever method you choose, you cannot get your equipment “too sanitary”. This includes all items that come in contact with the brew after boiling – bottles, spoons, hydrometer and test jar, pots and pans, lids, caps, etc. etc

This is one of the great advantages of the Home Brewing Cap. The prevention of contamination is one of its key capabilities. It completely eliminates a major step in the brewing process, namely the secondary fermentation phase, and as such it reduces exposure to outside elements in the air that would otherwise cause infection and lead to a cloudy homebrew. Having the entire brewing process take place in a single step inside a single container makes contamination almost impossible and massively improves the likelihood of brewing a crystal clear homebrew. Check out your free Home Brewing Caps eBook and Recipe guide here.

Finally, just to clarify, the particles that cause haze and cloudiness are actually perfectly OK to drink, in fact they’re said to promote good health throughout the body. This brings me back to the question of why we are so overwhelmingly accustomed to expect our beer, wine and cider to be perfectly clear despite there being nothing inherently wrong with a cloudy homebrew.


Why do we hate Cloudy homebrews?

Well thanks to many decades worth of mass produced highly refined and excruciatingly filtered alcoholic drinks coming out of the big breweries, our expectations of what an alcoholic drink should look like has been massively altered.

The big commercial brewers filter their brew. They strip it of all the live yeast and basically bottle a “dead” product. Many small breweries, and virtually all home brewers, bottle a brew that still contains live yeast, this is primarily how we get our carbonation. So naturally there is more likelihood of producing a cloudy homebrew than a clear one. There used to be a time when a crystal clear beer was unheard of and cloudy beers were the norm, but now a cloudy brew is almost looked down upon as an inferior product.

The strange thing is that this has virtually nothing to do with taste or quality. It’s a purely visual issue. And although it is perfectly good to drink a cloudy home brew beer, cider or wine, many people prefer the now all too common sight of a crystal clear brew and won’t accept anything less. To be honest I can’t blame them. There is something beautiful about a perfectly clarified brew, and if you follow the advice above you will be well on your way to turning your cloudy homebrew into a crystal clear prize winning beer, cider or wine that even the most fastidious of drinkers will greatly appreciate.

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