To get a professional-looking and tasting beer, you may need to use bentonite, a type of clay that helps reduce hazing. Bentonite does not affect the flavor of beer, only its appearance, helping you get a clear, non-cloudy-looking beer. It is available in health food stores as well as shops catering to home brewers. Bentonite is a nonorganic material that is mixed with clay; add it directly to your brew once you mix it with water.
Clouding and Clarification
When making beer at home, you may end up with a cloudy-looking beer as small particles of protein and phenols become suspended in the liquid. These materials create the hazy look of your beer, and because they are so small, they cannot be filtered out. This type of appearance is known as a nonbiological haze, and the clarification process of removing these materials is known as fining.
Bentonite is used in the fining process, after the beer has fermented and while it is resting and aging. Fining is important, because too many proteins and phenols affect the taste and mouth-feel of the beer. They can also make the final product unstable, meaning your beer may not keep for as long.
Preparing the Bentonite
Bentonite, because it is mixed with clay, needs to be hydrated before using it. A little goes a long way, so use roughly 4 teaspoons for every 5 gallons of fermented beer. Combine the bentonite with 1/2 to 1 cup of water, letting it rest for five minutes before blending the water-bentonite mix in a blender, creating a smooth slurry.
Using the Bentonite
Add the bentonite-water mixture directly to your beer one week before you plan to bottle it. Gently pour the slurry directly into your fermenting beer, and give it a slight stir to ensure that it is fully mixed in. Keep your beer -- with added bentonite -- under the same conditions as needed for fermentation: a cool, dark environment. The beer does not need to be transferred into a new container after the bentonite has been added.
The biggest drawback with bentonite is that it can create a lot of sediment. As the clay attracts the phenols and proteins in the beer, it creates chunks that you will need to filter out before bottling. Avoid using more than one fining agent. While you can combine different fining agents, such as bentonite and unflavored gelatin, you run the risk of ruining your beer, as too many clarifiers can affect the overall taste and quality of your finished product.