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I'm still pretty new to home-brewing, but I've got a couple of extract kits under my belt so far and I was wondering how I could get more clarified beers. I've used both Irish moss and Whirlfloc tablets, but still would like to know what else I could do to obtain better clarity.

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I upvoted nearly every answer on this question, as they all offer good advice for various ways to clarify your beer. There is no silver bullet, and there is no one correct answer to this question. As such, I suggest making this a community wiki. –  JackSmith May 26 '11 at 18:10
    
+1 for a good question. I don't always use finings. A cloudy beer is perfectly okay to drink. Bright beer is a modern aesthetic and is really only essential if you are selling your ale. Proteins and yeast in a slightly hazy beer will do you no harm. One could argue there is a greater nutritional value to your beer: yeast is full of vitamin B12! –  iWeasel Jun 28 '11 at 17:37
    
This isn't really worthy of being an Answer, but while dry hopping is delicious, it makes the beer cloudy as well. –  Graham Jun 29 '11 at 12:10

10 Answers 10

Time and colder temps in the carbonated bottle are the main way to get it clearer without doing much else. You may need to identify the type of haze you are getting if that doesn't help. Haze comes from many different sources: yeast, protein, starches, hop oils etc etc. Irish moss and whirfloc are only going to touch the yeast.

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-1 Yeast is not removed by Irish Moss or Whirlfloc. IM and Whirlfoc are negatively charged and will only remove positively charged protein. –  iWeasel Jun 28 '11 at 17:04

Since the title of your question isn't specifically directed to extract beers, I'll also add that correct pH makes a huge difference in beer clarity. pH is less important in extract beers than in beers using grain.

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Ahhh I did not know that. Mash pH and water chemistry are the final two areas of "normal" homebrewing that I'm totally clueless in. –  Graham Jun 28 '11 at 16:59
    
@Graham Don't get hung up over pH. If you get your water treatment right for the stlye of beer you are brewing, the pH will fall into line. –  iWeasel Jun 28 '11 at 17:46
    
Yup, but I don't adjust my water treatment at all yet. I definitely need to get on that, my dark beers sometimes come out astringent, probably from pH issues. Pilsners, Hefe's and malty styles work good for me though, and those are the ones I really love anyway. –  Graham Jun 29 '11 at 12:09

Once your bottles are carbed up, store them in the fridge for a month. I've even cleared up (accidentally) hefeweizens that way.

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Just call it a "CrystalWeizen" and claim you meant to make a clear hefe! –  Graham Jun 29 '11 at 12:07

You could also filter using a plate filter Like this one. One thing to note is you will also filter out some of the beers taste and aroma.

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Keep in mind that you also need a kegging system in order to use a filter. –  Denny Conn May 26 '11 at 17:29

Get a wort chiller so you can cool the wort quickly and obtain a nice cold break. Also take the above advice of using a secondary fermenter and racking carefully between fermenters and the bottling bucket or keg.

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The Devil's Advocate in me insists that No Chill beers with long primary fermentations and no secondary often come out crystal clear as well. –  Graham Jun 28 '11 at 17:01

No one has mentioned Isinglass when barreling ale. Whereas Irish Moss and whirlfoc will remove proteins, isinglass added during barrelling will clear the yeast. Yeast is negatively charged and isinglass, a long and twisted positively charged protein, can 'trap' many yeast cells at a time. It should be prepared and added according to the producer's instructions and you might need a few trials to get the amount to add spot on. Too little and the beer won't clear, too much and the beer will be overfined, with the same result.

It is important though, that the sediment stays with the beer in the barrel, as it is needed to allow that final conditioning, so don't add it before barrelling and rack off from the sediment!

A bit fiddly, but once you get it right the result is really bright ale - assuming you have dealt with your proteins with auxiliary finings.

One thing to note, though, never add auxiliary finings and isinglass at the same time as they will bond together and cancel each other out.

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Probably worth pointing out that adding Isinglass would technically "de-vegetarianify" your homebrew. For those that care, that is. –  Poshpaws Jun 29 '11 at 18:09
    
Yep @Poshpaws (+1) I probably should have mentioned that. The ale industry in the UK will argue that isinglass is a mechanical process and not an ingredient - ergo it doesn't have to list it as such. As you say 'technically' it is not drunk but stays in the barrel if dosed correctly. You'd be hard pushed, I think, to find a cask ale in the UK that hasn't had a dose of the swim bladder! I might do a Google on veggy beers now... –  iWeasel Jun 29 '11 at 18:51

If you're brewing all-grain, try recirculating the wort back over the top of the grain bed for at least a few minutes at the end of the mash. You can literally see the wort clarifying as the sediment is caught by the spent grains.

For more information: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/wiki/index.php/Vorlauf

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My experience is that clarity of wort has no bearing on the clarity of the finished beer. –  Denny Conn Jun 28 '11 at 17:16

Here are a couple of things to try if you are not already doing them:

  • Make sure to strain the wort as you pour it into the primary fermenter. This will get rid of the larger suspended particles.
  • Use a secondary fermenter if you aren't already. Move the primary fermenter to an elevated spot and let it set there without disturbing it for a day or so before transferring to the secondary.
  • Again, move the secondary fermenter into place well before it's time to bottle to allow plenty of time for the particles to settle to the bottom.
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If you use a 3-4 week primary there's nothing to be gained by a secondary usually. –  Denny Conn May 26 '11 at 17:30
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@Denny: True, provided the brewer has learned good racking technique so as not to transfer primary trub to his bottling bucket and subsequently to his bottles. If he hasn't, a secondary can serve as a crutch to get clearer beer, but he risks oxidation and infection in pursuit of cosmetic gains. –  JackSmith May 26 '11 at 18:14

It might be blasphemy, but if too much of your wort is lost during the boil, I've been told it's fine to add water to match your recipie, which would also add some clarity to a dense wort.

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I agree with whovever down voted this. Adding water does not add clarity it just reduces gravity and increases volume. –  iWeasel Jun 28 '11 at 17:40
    
It was me. I think this guy was perhaps thinking we mean the "lightness" of the beer when we say "clarity". –  Graham Jun 29 '11 at 12:06
    
Actually, if there is X units of haze in a wort. Diluting it with water would dilute out the haze as. The beer gets diluted too of course, but eventually you could dilute the haze out and have a very weak beer. I don't think it warrants a down vote. –  brewchez Aug 15 '11 at 15:00

Allowing time for the fermentation to finish before bottling has been the most important difference for me.

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