Author Topic: Reasons for why a beer wouldn't clear...  (Read 2562 times)

Offline Village Taphouse

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1413
  • Ken from Chicago
    • The new Mayfair Court Brewhouse
Reasons for why a beer wouldn't clear...
« on: April 19, 2021, 04:18:22 PM »
I know it seems like there is a ring sticking out of my back and every time you pull the string I talk about clarity... so I apologize. :D

Over the weekend I used Biofine for the first time and at some point this week I will check the clarity on that beer.  I have been a gel solution user for pretty much all my brewing since 1999.  I often get clear beer.  I sometimes get clearish beer and I have also gotten cloudy or cloudy-ish beer that stayed that way all throughout the keg.  I get very clear wort into the fermenter, I do not use exotic malts that cause haze or a lot of low-floccing yeast.  I pay attention to pH throughout the brewday and I always fine the beer.  I have very high hopes that the Biofine will work well.  I do hear some brewers say that their beer clears by itself without fining.  I hate you.  Just kidding, I don't hate you but I hate you.  :D   I added the Biofine in a way where it would mix well with the beer being transferred to the keg which seems to be one of the big things about Biofine... good dispersion.  If the biofine does not work to clear this beer (as gel sometimes doesn't) then where should I look to find the issue?  I do 60-minute, single infusion mashes around 150°.  Nothing in my notes tells me that anything is "really different" between a beer that drops bright and one that stays stubbornly cloudy.  I could point to my water but I am always using the same water so why would it vary?  Thanks gang.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2021, 04:20:14 PM by Village Taphouse »
Ken from Chicago. 
A day without beer is like... just kidding, I have no idea.

Offline tommymorris

  • Official Poobah of No Life.
  • *
  • Posts: 3024
Re: Reasons for why a beer wouldn't clear...
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2021, 05:25:12 PM »
One thing I have noticed is that beer that sits an extra week in the fermenter at fermentation temperature (not cold crashed) often clears up pretty well on its own.

I wonder if sometimes we rush things and package too soon.   In that case, yeast may resist flocculation simply because there is sugar or other nutrients still in suspension. But, in that case, if the beer has been chilled and taken off the yeast the time to finish out the fermentation completely, which the yeast really want to do, gets way slowed down. The yeast in suspension will finish it off eventually and then flocculate but only when they are ready.

When I got a Tilt hydrometer I noticed that fermentation is not always over when I think it is. A lot of fermentations go really fast for 3-5 days and then have a very slow tail (several more days) where they drop 2-3 more gravity points over that extended period.  I think the rule of thumb of waiting 3 days after the last gravity change works well if you take this tail into account.

Just a thought.

Offline Village Taphouse

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1413
  • Ken from Chicago
    • The new Mayfair Court Brewhouse
Re: Reasons for why a beer wouldn't clear...
« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2021, 05:47:08 PM »
One thing I have noticed is that beer that sits an extra week in the fermenter at fermentation temperature (not cold crashed) often clears up pretty well on its own.

I wonder if sometimes we rush things and package too soon.   In that case, yeast may resist flocculation simply because there is sugar or other nutrients still in suspension. But, in that case, if the beer has been chilled and taken off the yeast the time to finish out the fermentation completely, which the yeast really want to do, gets way slowed down. The yeast in suspension will finish it off eventually and then flocculate but only when they are ready.

When I got a Tilt hydrometer I noticed that fermentation is not always over when I think it is. A lot of fermentations go really fast for 3-5 days and then have a very slow tail (several more days) where they drop 2-3 more gravity points over that extended period.  I think the rule of thumb of waiting 3 days after the last gravity change works well if you take this tail into account.

Just a thought.
That's a good angle.  I typically let the beer sit in the fridge (ale or lager) for a good 6-7 days and then take it out and leave it on the basement floor for another week.  Activity is done and the beer is sent to the keg on day 12, 13, 14... something like that.  Are there cases when the beer is not done at that point?  I'll say no.  Are there cases where things are still settling and the beer is not clear yet?  Probably.  But I always figured that's what the finings are for and I don't necessarily want to leave the beer in the fermenter much longer than 2 weeks.  I do think my issue is more chill haze than anything but I just don't see a pattern.  I might use the same grains from the same bags and the same colony of yeast and one beer is crystal clear and one is clearish but certainly hazier.  My water is very, very consistent so it's not like a spike in TDS or bicarb or something so I don't see water being the issue.  My pH is always in the same zip code without BIG variations (I use an Omega meter) and in the old days I used pH test strips and had clear beer most of the time.  Thanks tommymorris. 
Ken from Chicago. 
A day without beer is like... just kidding, I have no idea.

Online majorvices

  • Global Moderator
  • I must live here
  • *****
  • Posts: 10694
  • Polka. If its too loud you're too young.
    • Yellowhammer Brewing Company
Re: Reasons for why a beer wouldn't clear...
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2021, 05:50:21 PM »
Mash pH? Are you getting a good cold and hot break?  Those are the keys to beer clarity for me. BioFine works well too, but only if those things are ironed out.

Offline Village Taphouse

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1413
  • Ken from Chicago
    • The new Mayfair Court Brewhouse
Re: Reasons for why a beer wouldn't clear...
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2021, 06:01:41 PM »
Mash pH of between 5.3 and 5.4 (at room temp) with my Omega meter which has been excellent.  Cold break when I chill (especially now with cold ground water temps) and then I rest the kettle in the sink with ice and water while everything settles.  It's usually 100% crystal clear wort going into the fermenter but occasionally I have had a bit of trub in the last half-gallon or so.  As far as hot break, when the boil is over and I go to chill, I do see the "egg drop soup" pieces floating in the wort so I think that's in place as well.  But you do bring up something that could be the culprit:  Lower boil rate.  The LOers have mentioned something about reducing boil rate (I can't remember the exact reason) and it's possible that I have had some boils that were more sluggish in the past 6-12 months.  I also remember being a new brewer and hearing that a good, strong boil is one good way to ensure clarity (NO WIMPY BOILS!) but a lot of things I heard when I was a new brewer turned out to be questionable so take it for what it's worth.  But it could absolutely be part of the issue.  Thanks for the jolt on that one.   
Ken from Chicago. 
A day without beer is like... just kidding, I have no idea.

Online majorvices

  • Global Moderator
  • I must live here
  • *****
  • Posts: 10694
  • Polka. If its too loud you're too young.
    • Yellowhammer Brewing Company
Re: Reasons for why a beer wouldn't clear...
« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2021, 06:09:54 PM »
I have always just boiled where it it was just turning over. Mostly because i am always trying to squeeze too much into an undersized kettle. Boiling temp is boiling temp. Aggressive boils don't get hotter than gentle boils.

Offline Village Taphouse

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1413
  • Ken from Chicago
    • The new Mayfair Court Brewhouse
Re: Reasons for why a beer wouldn't clear...
« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2021, 06:15:54 PM »
I have always just boiled where it it was just turning over. Mostly because i am always trying to squeeze too much into an undersized kettle. Boiling temp is boiling temp. Aggressive boils don't get hotter than gentle boils.
But do you remember some of the old-school homebrewing commandments that said that a vigorous boil helped to ensure clear beer?  Or am I remembering that wrong?  Some of my boils are stronger than others which could explain why some beers are clearer than others.  I also wonder if a weak boil does something where even finings don't help (that's been my issue with some beers even when adding gel solution TWICE!).  I might be grabbing at straws but a weak boil seems to check a lot of boxes. 
Ken from Chicago. 
A day without beer is like... just kidding, I have no idea.

Offline Village Taphouse

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1413
  • Ken from Chicago
    • The new Mayfair Court Brewhouse
Re: Reasons for why a beer wouldn't clear...
« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2021, 06:22:42 PM »
There was a Brulosophy Exbeeriment on this and the conclusion was that a weak boil and stronger boil created beers with very similar clarity.  So there's that.  But I found a BYO article that does address the hot break and the relationship to clarity:

Quote
Homebrewers know that clarity is often a desirable quality, and also that any number of factors can cause the beer to be otherwise. Boiling is part of the solution to this problem. Malt contains proteins and compounds known as polyphenols are present in both the grain husks and hops. Some of these are necessary because they contribute to beer foam and an attractive head on the glass, but in excessive amounts they are a major cause of haze. Many of us have seen the chill haze that can develop when beer is refrigerated and the proteins flocculate (coagulate and become visible). Some of the same occurs when wort is boiled.

During the boil, the heat and agitation — both are necessary — causes the larger proteins and polyphenols to separate from attached water molecules and collect together. The phenomenon is clearly (pun intended) noticeable, and results in the hot break material that appears soon after the beginning of the boil. In worts with significant amounts of protein, such as those containing wheat, the appearance is pronounced, something like that of Chinese egg drop soup (which is caused by denatured egg proteins). Rather quickly (generally within 10–15 minutes) the wort, which has become cloudy as the boil begins, clears considerably, with large particles of hot break floating throughout.

To further assist in the coagulation of proteins and polyphenols, Irish moss is typically added during the last 15 minutes of the boil. Made from a type of seaweed that contains a polymer called carageenan, the moss has a negative electrical charge that is attracted and bound to the positively charged protein molecules.

Unless it is strained, much of the coagulated proteins, break material and Irish moss remain in the wort when it is chilled and transferred to the fermenter, but they are ultimately left behind when the beer is packaged, thus promoting the desired clarity. There is also some indication they provide necessary nutrients for healthy yeast reproduction.

Last Saturday I made a Helles and had a pretty vigorous boil.  The hot break was VERY noticeable in this batch.  That is not always the case with my batches so when that beer is kegged and Biofine is used on it, I will be paying close attention to clarity.  I know there is evidence that I'm sniffing around the wrong fire hydrant but it feels like there is something there.
Ken from Chicago. 
A day without beer is like... just kidding, I have no idea.

Offline denny

  • Administrator
  • Retired with too much time on my hands
  • *****
  • Posts: 24153
  • Noti OR [1991.4, 287.6deg] AR
    • Dennybrew
Re: Reasons for why a beer wouldn't clear...
« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2021, 06:25:53 PM »
I have always just boiled where it it was just turning over. Mostly because i am always trying to squeeze too much into an undersized kettle. Boiling temp is boiling temp. Aggressive boils don't get hotter than gentle boils.
But do you remember some of the old-school homebrewing commandments that said that a vigorous boil helped to ensure clear beer?  Or am I remembering that wrong?  Some of my boils are stronger than others which could explain why some beers are clearer than others.  I also wonder if a weak boil does something where even finings don't help (that's been my issue with some beers even when adding gel solution TWICE!).  I might be grabbing at straws but a weak boil seems to check a lot of boxes.

Pilsner Urquell "boils" at a bare simmer I'm told.  They have pretty good clarity.

Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

www.dennybrew.com

The best, sharpest, funniest, weirdest and most knowledgable minds in home brewing contribute on the AHA forum. - Alewyfe

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell

Online majorvices

  • Global Moderator
  • I must live here
  • *****
  • Posts: 10694
  • Polka. If its too loud you're too young.
    • Yellowhammer Brewing Company
Re: Reasons for why a beer wouldn't clear...
« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2021, 06:31:55 PM »
Stronger boils just increase your evaporation rate.

Offline Village Taphouse

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1413
  • Ken from Chicago
    • The new Mayfair Court Brewhouse
Re: Reasons for why a beer wouldn't clear...
« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2021, 06:35:12 PM »
So what if I came to the end of the boil and I did not see that noticeable hot break?  Would that guarantee me a cloudy beer or maybe just make it more likely?  I'm not married to this being the culprit but it seems to check a lot of boxes. 
Ken from Chicago. 
A day without beer is like... just kidding, I have no idea.

Online majorvices

  • Global Moderator
  • I must live here
  • *****
  • Posts: 10694
  • Polka. If its too loud you're too young.
    • Yellowhammer Brewing Company
Re: Reasons for why a beer wouldn't clear...
« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2021, 06:39:03 PM »
So what if I came to the end of the boil and I did not see that noticeable hot break?  Would that guarantee me a cloudy beer or maybe just make it more likely?  I'm not married to this being the culprit but it seems to check a lot of boxes.

Yes I think a hot break is important to beer clarity. Different malts have differing proteins and some have more break material that others. I get a huge hot break with pils but much less than ... say, Maris Otter. That said my maris otter beers come as clear as I want them too

Offline Village Taphouse

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1413
  • Ken from Chicago
    • The new Mayfair Court Brewhouse
Re: Reasons for why a beer wouldn't clear...
« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2021, 06:40:18 PM »
Pilsner Urquell "boils" at a bare simmer I'm told.  They have pretty good clarity.
Do they filter their beer?  Could the beer be clearish and then finely polished with a filter which would get the remaining schputz out of the picture?
Ken from Chicago. 
A day without beer is like... just kidding, I have no idea.

Offline Village Taphouse

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1413
  • Ken from Chicago
    • The new Mayfair Court Brewhouse
Re: Reasons for why a beer wouldn't clear...
« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2021, 06:42:01 PM »
So what if I came to the end of the boil and I did not see that noticeable hot break?  Would that guarantee me a cloudy beer or maybe just make it more likely?  I'm not married to this being the culprit but it seems to check a lot of boxes.

Yes I think a hot break is important to beer clarity. Different malts have differing proteins and some have more break material that others. I get a huge hot break with pils but much less than ... say, Maris Otter. That said my maris otter beers come as clear as I want them too
Yeah, this helles was 80% Best Malz pils.  Lots of hot break in this one.  I'm going to just put this info in my back pocket and keep it in mind.  Might be something there, might not. 
Ken from Chicago. 
A day without beer is like... just kidding, I have no idea.

Online majorvices

  • Global Moderator
  • I must live here
  • *****
  • Posts: 10694
  • Polka. If its too loud you're too young.
    • Yellowhammer Brewing Company
Re: Reasons for why a beer wouldn't clear...
« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2021, 07:00:05 PM »
Pilsner Urquell "boils" at a bare simmer I'm told.  They have pretty good clarity.
Do they filter their beer?  Could the beer be clearish and then finely polished with a filter which would get the remaining schputz out of the picture?

Most commercial breweries either filter or centrifuge ... the latter being probably the most common now due to less loss.  BioFine works really well if all the other stuff falls in line