How To Cold Crash Beer for Crystal Clear Beer
It’s almost time to bottle your beer! You’ve been working hard, and your homebrew has been conditioning in the fermenter for a few weeks. But wait—is there a way to keep your beer from turning cloudy?
To cold crash your beer for a crystal clear brew, replace your airlock with a seal and put your beer in a cold crash chamber. Then, leave your beer in the fridge for a few days and bottle it as you normally would.
Below, I’ll expand into cold crashing and why homebrewers do it. Then, I’ll walk you through the process of cold crashing. I’ll wrap up this article with a few tips and tricks on getting a crystal-clear brew.
1. Make Your Homebrew
First things first: you’ll need your homebrew. If you’ve never made your own beer, I’ve compiled this comprehensive guide to get you started.
However, if you’re interested in cold crashing your beer for a clearer look—which is a pretty advanced process—then I’ll assume you’re already familiar with homebrewing.
2. Gather Your Supplies
To cold crash your beer, you’ll need the following:
- A thermometer
- A cold crashing chamber or something similar
A cold crashing chamber isn’t necessary, but it does make things easier. For small batches, some will use their fridge or a mini fridge.
The temperature must stay between 34°F and 40°F (1.11 to 4.44°C) for this process to work successfully.
Some homebrewers will create a Keezer, which is a keg freezer.
You can also use a cooler if you’re in a jam, but make sure you keep it at the right temperature.
The best way to use a cooler for this process is to add some activated carbon into the bottom of your vessel and fill it with ice water (use filtered water so as not to introduce any off flavors).
Next, you’ll need a thermometer. If you don’t know how cold your freezer, your fridge, or cold crash chamber is, you’ll need a thermometer to ensure it’s not too warm and not too cold. Cold crashing works best when the temperature’s just above freezing.
Never let the temperature get below freezing! If your beer freezes, you’ll run into a wide array of issues.
How To Make A Cold Crash Chamber In A Pinch
Place your beer inside an insulated box (that can hold at least 2-3 gallons or 7.57-11.36 liters). Cover the whole thing with blankets or towels to provide some insulation, then let it sit for 12-24 hours, depending on how much time you want between crashing and bottling.
3. Put Your Beer In The Chamber
This process is so simple that you only have two steps to worry about: put your beer in the cold fridge or chamber, then take it out. Seriously!
Make sure to take your airlock off, so the cold doesn’t create a vacuum, sucking in sanitizer and air. You can plug the hole with a cork, a ball, a tinfoil, or something to keep your beer fresh.
Some will skip this step, and it’s usually okay if you do. There should be enough CO2 on top of your beer so that the air penetrating it won’t cause too much trouble.
However, if you do this, use a steady hand to put your beer in the cold crash chamber. Shaking it up too much might result in this blanket falling through, causing air to penetrate your beer and change the taste.
4. Leave Your Beer To Cool
You’ll want to leave your beer in the fridge for a couple of days. Don’t worry about the ABV—the fermentation is paused when the liquid is cold. You’ll know your beer is ready when the big lumps of debris inside it clump together and float to the bottom of the liquid.
5. Enjoy Your Clear Beer!
Once you take your beer out and bottle or store it as normal, if done right, all of the yeast and clumps should be down at the bottom of your bottle, too heavy to get into your beer. Now, your beer should be crystal clear, and ready for you to enjoy on a hot summer day.
What Is Cold Crashing, and Why Would Someone Do It?
Cold crashing is a process that helps you get rid of excess yeast from your beer. It also helps clarify your beer, which means it will have less chill haze. Basically: it makes your beer clearer.
You can use cold crashing anytime after fermentation, but it makes sense to do it right away because you won’t have as much work to do later when it comes to bottling or kegging your brew.
So, if you think your beer might benefit from a couple more days in the fermenter before bottling or kegging, don’t worry about rushing the process!
When you cold crash beer, shocking your beer with cold temperatures makes the suspended particles within the liquid drop to the bottom because of their weight.
Typically, when you make homebrew, there will be a lot of yeast and sediment floating around. You’ll strain these out, but your beer will likely still be foggy or cloudy.
Cold crashing can help make your beer as clear as possible—even crystal clear if you leave it in for a good while.
Some brewers also do this to stop the yeast from yeasting during their process—maybe if the beer has gotten to the alcoholic volume you like, or you just need to take a pause and don’t want to waste your product—and this will stop the yeasting process for the time being.
However, remember it’ll start doing its thing right away once you stop cold crashing it!
Other Ways To Make Your Beer More Clear
The secondary fermentation process might make your beer less cloudy when you’re making homebrew beer.
The reason why is simple: secondary fermentation changes the protein content of your beer, which changes its viscosity.
Viscosity is a measure of how thick something is; in this case, it refers to the ability of a substance to flow. A high-viscosity liquid will flow slowly, while a low-viscosity liquid will flow quickly.
In the first stage of the brewing process—the primary fermentation—yeast converts sugars into alcohol and CO2 gas. This process creates a high-viscosity liquid perfect for carbonating and aging your beer.
However, in the second stage—the secondary fermentation—you add fresh yeast to help with clarifying (getting rid of excess protein) and carbonation processes. This creates a lower-viscosity liquid that’s easier for you to drink!
Filtering Your Beer
If you want more clarity in your brews, try using a colloidal filter instead of just straining through cheesecloth or other types of cloths with holes too big for straining out particles that are small enough for us humans.
Alternatively, as discussed above, many are using a second filter system to create clearer beers. That’s why you’ll hear tons of beer brewers advertising how often their beer gets filtered through—the more, the better, especially if you have the time and energy!
Cold Crashing vs. Filtering
The idea behind the filter process is to remove suspended particles from your beer using a filter that catches all the particles and allows you to pour clear beer into your bottling bucket or keg.
This can be done in two ways: by using a plate-and-frame filter or a plate-and-cloth filter. Both methods work well and will produce clear beer with minimal effort on your part—so why choose one over the other?
There are several reasons why someone might choose a cold crash over these filtering processes:
- It’s faster than filtering—you can get some clarity in just a couple of days, whereas some filters may take weeks or months to do their job.
- It doesn’t require additional equipment (like filters), so there are no added costs or space requirements.
- It seems to work well on all types of beer styles.
However, filtering might be the best bet for you if you don’t have a cold crash chamber, no room for one, and no desire to create one.
Why Is My Homebrew Beer So Cloudy?
When brewing beer at home, you’ll often notice cloudiness in your final product. This happens because of the proteins in your beer—they want to bond together and form clumps, which will float around in your brew until you filter them out.
Most commercial breweries use a filter system that removes these proteins from beer before packaging. However, this isn’t necessary for home brewers since they don’t have to worry about keeping their product shelf-stable as retail shops do!
It’s important not to worry too much if you see some cloudiness in your batch. It doesn’t affect the taste or quality of your beer (though it may make it look less appealing).
Cloudiness Is Typically Sediment in the Beer, Which Is Normal
So, let’s make one thing clear right off the bat: it’s not necessarily a bad thing for your beer to be cloudy unless there are other signs something is amiss.
Trub is the sediment left behind after fermentation. It consists of proteins, hops resins, yeast cells, and other particles. You can remove trub by racking your beer to a secondary fermenter.
This process allows you to put clear beer into your keg or bottle without leaving any particulate in suspension.
The first thing to do is figure out if the yeast has just not had time to settle or if it’s still in your beer. If you’re certain that it’s been long enough for the yeast to fall out of suspension (about one week), you can start troubleshooting by checking for obvious problems.
If Something Else Seems Off, Do Some Investigating
If your homebrew batch contains mold or bacterial infection, or if there are signs of an infection like a milky appearance and/or rotten egg smell, then it’s likely that something other than high-gravity fermentation is going on with your beer.
If everything looks great visually and smells good, it may be time to examine the cause of this cloudiness using basic science principles related specifically to how yeast behaves during brewing processes like high-gravity fermentation or bottle conditioning.
It could just be that a cold crash is in order! However, if you think something is off, consider the following.
Check The Recipe Again
First of all, make sure that you have the right recipe for your style of beer. If you’re brewing an American pale ale and it ends up cloudy and yeasty, this may be due to a lack of hops or wheat in the grain bill.
If you’ve made a mistake from the beginning, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to resolve it through cold crashing.
Clean Your Beer Bottles
It goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyways–make sure the problem isn’t your beer bottle. You should constantly be sanitizing and cleaning your beer bottles so they’re clear (even if they’re made of colored glass).
Without doing this, your beer is at risk, and your homebrew may look cloudy or foggy even when it isn’t.
Your Hazy Is Probably Always Going To Be Hazy
Making a hazy IPA? Expect it to come out a little, well, hazier than your normal beer.
There are two main reasons why hazy IPA beers come out looking like they do: the hops and the yeast. Hops add color to your beer, but they also affect the proteins in your wort that help prevent haziness (cloudiness).
So why does this matter? Well, first of all—it’s not a bad thing! Cloudy IPAs are all about showcasing the fruity nature of hops without being too bitter or overpowering.
Some people think having a little haze in their beer makes it taste better!
And while some breweries do their best to minimize this haziness by filtering their beer or adding another clarifying agent after fermentation, others embrace the cloudiness as part of its unique character.
Some Beers Are Just Darker
Ask yourself this: is your beer cloudy? Or is it just dark?
Some beers, particularly stouts, will come out darker and thicker. This can give the illusion of cloudiness, even though you’ve done everything right and cold-crashed your beer.
Cold crashing lowers your beer’s temperature, allowing the yeast to settle out of your brew. It also helps with clarity and encourages the creation of a good head on your beer. So, is cold crashing beer worth it?
In short, yes. Cold-crushing beers can help clarify the final product, which you might find will taste better. Additionally, cold crashing can help remove some of the harsher flavors and aromas often present in young beer.