If you drink mostly commercial beer you may be used to a completely translucent brew without any particles or sediment. That can make your first bottle of homebrew a startling experience. Even the clearest home-brewed beer has a thin film of sediment on the bottom, while some naturally carbonated ales can be almost murky. While this substance is harmless to drink, it's not always visually appealing. You have several options to help reduce the amount of sediment before you bottle.
Racking is the process of moving beer from one fermenter to another. It allows you to drain off the clear liquid, leaving fermentation sediment behind. Home brewers commonly use a siphon to draw the beer from one container to another. To rack your beer, fill a sanitized flexible tube with clean water and clamp one end. Place the other end into the beer, then remove the clamp. Allow the water to drain out into a sink or bucket so that it is replaced by beer. Place the open end of the tube into the bottom of the new fermenter, allowing the beer to fill it without splashing or pouring. Leave a little beer in the first fermenter to avoid disturbing the sediment.
Yeast sediment isn't the only substance that can cloud your beer. It can also be damaged by cold trub, a fine sediment that resists normal racking. Cold trub is made up of proteins and carbohydrates that precipitate out of the beer as the wort cools. You must remove cold trub early in the brewing process, before active fermentation begins. Do this by chilling wort that has already been aerated and pitched. Move the wort to its own tank and allow it to settle for between 12 and 16 hours. Rack the settled wort to another tank, leaving the fine, whitish cold trub behind.
Traditional beers and ales get their carbonation during the secondary fermentation, but commercial brews are typically carbonated artificially. This process involves pressurizing the sealed container with carbon dioxide. It provides a faster turnaround time and reduces the amount of sediment in the finished brew. To force-carbonate your beer, transfer it to a sanitized, pressurized keg. Chill the keg and add carbon dioxide at a rate of 30 pounds of pressure while shaking the keg vigorously. This encourages the beer to absorb the carbonation. Allow the keg to sit for several hours before serving to prevent excessive foaming.
Large amounts of sediment can change the taste of your beer and make it visually unappealing, but small quantities indicate a homemade product. In fact, naturally finished beers are even expected to be a little cloudy. Avoid spending too much time and effort trying to clarify your beer. According to Hervey Bay Homebrew, brewers often allow their beer to settle too long, spoiling the finished product, or attempt to filter their beer, leading to oxidation. A little sediment is preferable to a ruined batch, and it gives the beer a special handmade character that large commercial brews can't match.
- Brew Your Own Magazine: Enjoy the Real Thing; Cask-Conditioned Ale
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- The Brewmaster's Bible; Stephen Snyder
- Dave Miller's Homebrewing Guide; Dave Miller
- Hervey Bay Homebrew: Hints and Tips to Solve Common Brewing Issues
- Brewing Techniques: Cold Trub; Implications for Finished Beer, and Methods of Removal
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