WHY IS MY BEER CLOUDY?
With more Saveur Bière and HOPT customers getting into brewing, there are more and more questions that need answering. That’s why we’re answering some of your home brewing FAQs in our blog. Maybe you’re just starting out on your brewing journey, or maybe you’re a confirmed home brewer, but sometimes you’re just not sure whether what you see is normal or a serious issue.
So to get started, today we’re looking at cloudy beers: hazy IPA and NEIPA is all the rage right now, so is cloudiness in beer normal or not?
Why are some beers cloudy?
It used to be said that cloudy beer was bad. You should get your draft pub beer bright, sparkling clean and free from any impurities. But some styles are more likely to have a cloudiness, like wheat beers – Witbier, Weiss and Blanche – thanks to the formation of protein clumps when they react with polyphenols in the beer.
What are polyphenols, and how do they affect beer?
A polyhenol is an organic molecule present in most plant matter. When polyphenols combine with proteins, cloudy beers keep less well than other styles and are more easily affected by oxidation and contamination. If you want to limit these effects and brighten up your finished beer, rest assured it is possible. Let us show you how...
Biological brewing problems
There are two types of problems that can affect your beer: one of is biological nature and the other is chemical. In the worst case, wild yeasts and bacteria can contaminate your beer. This is often due to poor hygiene and can cause unpleasant vinegar and mouldy flavours during the tasting. It can also be a result of an excess of yeast in suspension.
To combat this biological problem, it is necessary to use yeasts with ‘flocculant’ or ‘flocculation’ properties. Flocculation is yeasts’ capacity to collapse and collect at the bottom of your fermenter at the end of fermentation. Some strains have the ability to bind together to form aggregates and flocculate to the bottom. This phenomenon can be accelerated by a cold shock – rapidly chilling your fermenter or demijohn for 12 to 24 hours at the end of the fermentation.
If cooling your beer does not sufficiently reduce the cloudiness, then you can filter your beer by centrifugation or filtration, although these require special equipment.
Cloudy beer from chemical problems
These are caused by a combination of proteins and polyphenols. These polyphenols, also called tannins, are linked to notes of astringency and bitterness in beer. The brewer devotes a lot of resources to this type of problem because polyphenols are the first compounds to undergo oxidation in beer.
This oxidation causes the polyphenols to bind to proteins and the precipitation of proteins in the wort, which reduces the shelf life of the beer.
Cold cloudiness or cold breakage is the main cause of cloudiness issues in home-brewed beer. It is created when the beer is cooled to 0°C and then dissolves when the beer warms to 20°C. It is caused by too slow cooling of the wort after boiling. By investing in a wort chiller, you can chill you beer faster and avoid this issue.
How to treat chemical problems in beer
- Ensure the quality of the ingredients, for example hops must be stored away from light and oxygen.
- Limit the use of protein-rich grains (wheat, oats,...) and favour barley instead.
- Correct the pH of your mash (water + malts) by adding acid (lactic acid for example), aim for a pH of 5.3 before the first level of beta-amylase saccharification (62-63°C).
- Chill your wort as quickly as possible using a plate cooler or coil.
- At the end of boiling, do a flameout – basically turning off the heat under the boiling wort – then add a clarifying agent or finings. The best known finings are carrageen moss, an Irish moss which coagulates the proteins at the bottom of your fermenter. You can also use ordinary kitchen gelatine. Some professional breweries use isinglass, which is dried, powdered fishguts. Yummy!!!
- An efficient filtration system for insoluble matter will also help, but requires more investment in equipment.
- Avoid any oxidation by limiting contact between your beer with open air and be careful not to splash it during your transfers.
Too much starch in my beer?
With all-grain brewing, it’s just possible that the starch conversion was not complete and therefore required a longer period of mashing. If your all-grain beer is still hazy, then it’s just possible that there are still traces of starch in the wort. To solve this problem, go through the mashing stages again and brew for longer. It’s a annoying, but it might result in better beer.
How to test your beer for starch with iodine
This test makes it possible to verify the presence of starch, and therefore the complete saccharification using the reaction between iodine and starch. Take a sample of your wort and add a few drops of iodine. The iodine will reveal turn blue if there is any starch that has not been transformed into simple sugars. Warning: Iodine is a poison and cannot be reincorporated!