Clarifiers and Fining Agents
Clarifiers and Fining Agents
Fining agents and clarifiers are additives used to aid in the clarification of beer. Clarifiers are used during the boil, while fining agents are used after fermentation. These additives work by clumping up dissolved matter and helping it to drop out of suspension, thus clarifying the beer. Clarifiers will coagulate proteins, while fining agents will aid in yeast flocculation. Common clarifiers include irish moss and whirlfloc. Common fining agents include isinglass and gelatin.
Clarification is important for the aesthetics of the beer. A crisp, clear blonde ale looks much more attractive than a cloudy blonde. Usually, only pale to brown colored beers need to be fined. Black beers can be fined, but because the beer will be black anyway (and thus, not clear), they do not require it. Similarly, German wheat beers should not be fined, as a cloudy hefe is a trademark of the style.
Clarifiers help the coagulation of proteins created by the hot break. Irish moss and whirfloc are both commonly used by homebrewers for the clarification of their wort.
Irish moss is a species of red algae composed of an abundance of carrageenan. The carrageenan, in hot wort, helps to coagulate, or clump together, proteins. Coagulated proteins drop out of suspension much more readily, and help prevent chill haze down the line. Common dosage is ½ teaspoon per 5 gallons, and is added 15 minutes from the end of the boil.
Whirlfloc is a very similar product. It is made from irish moss, processed into an easy-to-use tablet form. Dosage is 1 tablet per 5 gallons, added at 15 minutes from the end of the boil.
Fining agents typically will aid in yeast flocculation; they help yeast drop out of suspension and create a more compacted layer of trub on the bottom of the fermenter. Commonly used fining agents used by homebrewers are isinglass and gelatin. They should be used after fermentation has completed, when the beer is ready to be packaged
Isinglass is made from the dried swim bladders of fish, and is a form of collagen. Dosage is usually 1 fluid ounce per 5 gallons of beer. The isinglass requires 2-3 days of contact time to allow it to settle out. After, the beer can then be racked and packaged.
Gelatin is also effective at helping yeast settle out. While it requires a bit more work to do, it is typically less expensive compared to isinglass. A dosage of ½ teaspoon is dissolved into ¼ cup of hot water. Be sure not to boil the gelatin. The solution is added to finished beer, and allowed a minimum of 3 days’ contact time before the beer can be racked.
Some brewers will perform a cold-crash post fermentation to help clear beers. Here, the brewer will cool the beer down to ~40°F for a couple days. The cold will help dissolved solids quickly settle out of suspension. This method does not require extra ingredients and is quite effective. The only downside is that some brewers may not have the capability to cool their beer down so much, as this method is typically done in a temperature-controlled refrigerator or chest freezer.