How do I clarify my beer or wine?
There are many possible causes for poor clarity. Let’s go over some of the possible clarifying agents. If planning on bottling your beer, you must avoid fining agents that drop yeast. Do not worry though, the majority of clarity issues can be resolved with time, instead of additives, so the easiest solution always will be just to wait longer – or add new yeast at bottling.
Chill Haze –
Proteins suspended in the liquid are only visible when the beer is cold. Hazy or milky in appearance, possible white specs – only affects beer
Irish Moss – a natural seaweed product, this clarifier has been used for centuries and will aid the hot and cold break, removing the haze causing proteins
Whirlfloc - a powdered form of irish moss, these tablets do not go bad over time and produce the same affect so many find them easier to work with
Suspended yeast and proteins –
Visible at any temperature, affects both beer and wine
Gelatin: Yes, the same stuff you use to make gelatin deserts, like Jell-O, is an effective clarifier. Add between ½ and 1 teaspoon per 5 gallon batch, dissolved in water. This is added when the beer or wine is done fermenting and is ready to be transferred to bottles or kegs. This clarifier removes yeast and some tannin from suspension by binding them together and dropping to the bottom. It also helps reduce astringency in a harsh beer or wine. Works best when the beverage is cold, allow at least a few days for beer and 2 weeks for wine. This is our preferred choice for beers, add during a cold crash then keg and the beer is amazingly clear! It works especially well for red wines too, less so for whites.
Super-Kleer KC – This dual agent additive is sized for 5-6 gallon batches and includes two premeasured packets of clarifier that are added one after the other, yielding results within hours – but wait 2 weeks for the complete affect. Kieselsol, also known as silica dioxide, is added first. It is negatively charged and so will bind to positively charged particles, like tannin. This is followed by chitosan, a compound made of chitin, which is positively charged and attaches to negatively charged particles, like yeast cells and many proteins. The end result is that almost no dissolved particle can resist being pulled out of solution and so the beer or wine clears quickly and completely no matter the cause. Great for wines since chitosan especially is very gentle on flavors and aromas and so is our preferred option for clearing wines. It works on beer as well.
Biofine Clear – A very effective clarifier that uses silicic acid (SiO2) as the active agent. It speeds up yeast sedimentation and also removes other haze forming protein particles. It is vegan. Add between ½ tablespoon and 2 tablespoons to clarify beer or wine and should only take a couple of days to fully clarify. It is a favorite for commercial or home brewers that filter their beer as it quickly removes most particles and reduces the load on the filters. The clarifier must be stored cold.
Sparkolloid – A very cost effective clarifier that while working slowly, gives brilliantly clear results over time. This name brand clarifier is a proprietary blend of saccharides and diatomaceous earth, or fossilized algae. It is gentle enough to not remove character in wine if used in moderation – which means being patient and not adding extra. It should be added 1 month before you plan to bottle. It is not designed for beer so stick to the wines for this one. There is a cold mix for juice, but for wine you use the hot mix. Dissolve 1 tablespoon in cup of hot water and boil for 15 minutes, then add while still warm.
Isinglass – Famously extracted from fish bladders, this is a collagen based clarifier. It is recommended as a final touch or polish to already clear wine. It will remove yeast cells so is a fine option to initially clear beer. It will prove ineffective against very cloudy and hazy wine or beer though, but is the most gentle of all the options. This makes it ideal for a final polish on whites. Consider using this agent after other clarifiers or for a wine or beer that has aged and clarified naturally. Isinglass comes in a ready-to-use liquid form or if bought as a powder, must be mixed with distilled water per the manufacturer’s recommendation. Many will call for pH adjustment down to 2.5 – 3 to ensure it is effective but some may not require this extra step. Results are seen in just 1 to 2 days.
PolyClar AT(polyvinylpolypyrrolidine) – This synthetic clarifier is completely insoluble in water so none will remain in the final beer or wine, which means no affect on aging. It is often regarded as a stabilizer when used in finished beer and wine but acts as a clarifier for wort and must. It helps remove tannin in wine and can combat the affects of oxidation on flavor and color. It forms protein-polyphenol complexes that then drop out of solution and result in clear and shelf stable beer or wine. As long as you do not exceed the dosage you have no concern for any of the PVPP remaining in the final beer, as some have had concerns regarding toxicity, color, and bitterness. Also helps remove chill haze.
Bentonite – This clay mineral is naturally produced from volcanic ash. Many wine makers will be familiar with an initial addition of bentonite at the beginning of fermentation to aid in clarity and produce a healthier fermentation and ease of clearing in some musts. Bentonite is great at removing unstable proteins out of a must or wine so can be added at the beginning of fermentation or a month before bottling the wine to improve clarity and improve shelf life. It works by binding to positively charged proteins and absorbing many times its own weight in water thus clumping together and dropping as sediment at the bottom. Because of this, it must be premixed with water before use.
Note, when clarifying a wine, any dissolved CO2 left in the liquid will inhibit clarification for most of the additives available. Be sure you have fully degassed at a temperature above 72 degrees before clarifying. According to Henry’s law, less gas can remain dissolved in a warm liquid than a cold one so one must be sure the wine is warm enough when degassing or it may be less effective or take longer to clarify.
Pectin Haze –
Protein from the fleshy parts of fruits, this will cause a haze that cannot be easily cleared
Pectic enzyme/Pectinase – One in the same, this enzyme breaks down the pectin enzyme into smaller parts that are less soluble and will drop out of solution. Traditionally used ½ tsp per gallon only in wine, it is added to the must at the beginning to improve must clarity and can also make pressing more efficient and aid in tannin extraction to help with balance and mouth feel. Grapes have some pectin and many different fruits have high levels of pectin like apples, pears, plums, oranges and other citrus fruits. In a fermented, hazy wine that will not clear, it may be pectin related. Add 4 ounces of denatured alcohol to 1 ounce of wine in a test jar and look for stringy clots to form, indicating there is long chain pectin left. 1 teaspoon of pectin enzyme in 6 gallons should clear this up in the finished wine.