Fining with Gelatin

Modern fashion is for most beers to be crystal clear, particularly lagers and light ales.  Yet we sometimes end up with cloudy beer.  There’s nothing wrong with the beer, you can’t taste the haze, it just detracts from the overall visual impression of the beer.  Additionally, hazy beers get marked down in competitions.  Appearance isn’t much of the overall score but haze gives the judges a poor first impression, one you’re not likely to overcome.

Haze comes in a few forms.  There’s a general murkiness that accompanies infections. You’ll recognize that one immediately by the off flavors.  Yeast haze, the kind we want in hefeweizens, also has a flavor, bready-yeasty.  Given enough time and cool temps, it will settle out and leave your beer bright, or clear.  Chill haze is a protein complex that forms at low temperatures.  It’s easy to detect:  Just warm the beer.  If it goes away, it’s chill haze.

The proteins in haze are negatively charged.  Fining agents attract them and cause the proteins to settle out of the beer.  Gelatin is one of the cheapest, most available, easy to use fining agents out there and, take it from experience, its use results in bright beers.

To use, get some unflavored gelatin.  You can find it in the jell-o aisle and, perhaps, with nail care products.  All I’ve been able to find comes in little packages with about two teaspoons of gelatin in them – expensive packaging!  If you can find it in bulk, buy it that way.  Most homebrew shops have it.

Cool your beer as cold as possible.  Gelatin works cold so colder is better.

Dissolve 1 tsp unflavored gelatin in 1 cup water for five gallons of beer.  Any decent-tasting water will do.

Heat the water and gelatin to 150 degres Fahrenheit.  You can do this in the microwave or on the stovetop.  You need to get the solution to at least 150 degrees to dissolve the gelatin and sanitize the mixture, a bit warmer won’t hurt but keep it below 170 – you don’t want it gelling.  A good way to get to the proper temperature without overheating is to stir with your thermometer or digital thermometer probe.

When the mixture is warm and everything is dissolved, add it directly to the cold beer.  Swirl the fermentor or keg a bit to mix, let the beer stand cold for 24-48 hours.

Package as usual.  The beer will benefit from longer cold storage and if you’ve been fermenting at room temperature, bring the beer back to room temperature before packaging to keep your priming sugar calculations accurate.

Gelatin is an easy, inexpensive way to clear a hazy beer.  Using it will make your beers prettier.

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