How to clear your brew and reduce sediment

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The Easy Start Auto Syphon with bottler wand (left) and the Little Bottler (pictured right) reduce sediment
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The Easy Start Auto Syphon with bottler wand (left) and the Little Bottler (pictured right) reduce sediment
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The Easy Start Auto Syphon with bottler wand (left) and the Little Bottler (pictured right) reduce sediment

Why is my brew cloudy?


Cloudy brews and sediment can be a common issue for the home brewer, but there are various things which can be done to help with both. A brew needs some yeast suspended within the liquid to help with secondary fermentation and it is this yeast which works with the priming sugar to ferment it. It is during secondary fermentation that makes a brew carbonated and produces CO2 which then, in turn, pressurises bottles or a barrel.
 
The cloudy appearance of a brew is usually due to sediment, and many brews remain cloudy until they have been left to condition in bottles or a barrel for a few weeks. By reducing the amount of sediment which gets into the finished barrel or bottle helps the finished result clear more quickly, and results in less sediment. If your brew is cloudy it needs to be left longer to clear, which will also improve the taste of the finished drink. Remember, nothing helps more than being very careful and controlled when you syphon or transfer your brew, as minimising disturbance is essential. 

Some simple steps before and during bottling or barrelling can make a big difference:
  •  Positioning - Your fermenting vessel should be positioned on a flat surface which is free from movement or vibration, ideally out of the way where it will not be knocked or disturbed, and out of direct sunlight.
  • Finings - usually in a 1 or 2 part pack, finings can be added for a couple of days at the end of fermentation. Finings help to bind any sediment in the liquid together and it then sinks to the bottom leaving it behind in the primary fermenting vessel
  • Little Bottler - If you don't already, when filling bottles try using a 'little bottler' to fill them. By far the best way to reduce sediment is not to disturb it when filling bottles, and this is ideal. This can also be used in conjunction with a two stage vessel process, ferment as usual in the first vessel, then syphon over into a second vessel without disturbing the sediment which already has a little bottler attached , and then leave it to stand for another couple of days, so the sediment again settles and leaves the brew clearer. By doing it in 2 stages you have effectively left the sediment behind twice. We have a vessel which comes pre-drilled complete with a little bottler which is ideal. If using a barrel, then simply syphon from your first standard vessel to the second, leave to stand for a couple of days, then carefully syphon again straight in to your barrel.
  • Syphoning Technique - perfecting the art of syphoning is just practice, and a couple of simple steps greatly reduce the amount of sediment you syphon over. Firstly, keep the end of the syphon tube just below the surface of the liquid so that you draw the brew from the top as far away from the sediment at the bottom of the vessel as possible. As the level of the liquid drops, keep lowering the tube so it stays below the surface - if it keeps coming out of the liquid it disrupts the flow and will stir the liquid up making it cloudy. Secondly, whilst you want as much of your brew as possible, sacrifice the last bit as it gets down close to the sediment, by leaving it behind with the last bit of liquid it will stop it from being stirred up - once disturbed stop syphoning.  Did you know that the sediment left behind is good for the garden? Simply throw it out and watch the lawn benefit from the yeast nutrients!
  • Yeast Upgrade - Another option is to upgrade to a higher quality yeast, using one such as the Danstar means the sediment is compacted much better, and the sludge it forms is much harder to disturb resulting in a clearer finished result, and you can syphon out much closer to the sediment resulting in more sediment-free brew in your bottles or barrel
Any of these will help, or a combination of all the above, but just bear in mind that the secondary fermentation in the bottles does need a little yeast suspended in the brew to work on the priming sugar you add to each bottle or the barrel, so by removing more sediment and making the brew clearer, it can mean that the secondary fermentation takes longer. By using a second vessel along with an upgraded yeast and also by carefully syphoning and using a little bottler, we end up with bottles of brew with literally next to no sediment, but they do take longer to carbonate. It is best to try and keep the bottles upright for 24 hours before pouring if possible, and pour the brew into a glass with one smooth pouring action to minimise any disturbance.


One last thing


  Chill Haze - A chill haze is not to be confused with cloudy brews, it can sometimes develop when a brew is chilled down in a fridge, etc, and will sometimes clear again when the brew is warmed back up. It is due to haze-producing proteins and polyphenols suspended in the brew, when the brew is chilled they react and clump together into tiny particles which reflect the light, making the brew look hazy. Whilst it doesn't look great, it in no way affects the taste and is not a problem. Allowing the brew to stand so it settles may help, but there is little that can be done about it.
 
Whilst a cloudy brew with sediment in the bottom doesn't look its best, it doesn't usually affect the taste, and you could try to experiment with any of the suggestions above to improve your finished results. The brew will usually be cloudy for a while after being bottled or barrelled, so be patient and leave it to clear. If planning to transport your brews somewhere, ideally move them a day or two in advance or more and then leave to stand to allow any disturbed sediment to settle again

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