What are the most basic signs a beer has dropped bright? Specifically, should I be waiting to see if the beer becomes totally clear? I haven’t seen it get there yet, but most of my beers have been wheat beers if that matters? I usually give all beers a month in the fermenter, but realize that could not matter if the fermentation isn’t complete. Biggest question are what are the physical signs the beer has dropped bright?
I don’t think you need to ferment for a month. I generally ferment 10-14 days. I don’t cold crash and I don’t worry much about clarity before packaging. I keg so the cold crash happens in the keg. I have found the first pint or two are cloudy (I drink all but the grossest pours) but after that the beer is clear.
I use a Big Mouth Bubbler so the fermenter is clear. I can see the yeast has flocculated because the beer looks darker. Even lighter beers look dark in the fermenter because it is concentrated. The yeast is white colored and when there are billions of cells floating around the beer lightens.
Also, generally, when the Krausen drops you can wait 3-7 days and package. I have a Tilt Hydrometer so I am able to confirm fermentation is indeed finished. But, I have only had the Tilt for a few months. For years, I relied on the krausen as my primary guide.
Regarding wheat beers, many of those are supposed to be hazy. So, the yeast you are using may not flocculate much.