How To Make Homebrew Without Sediment (8 Tips)
Sediment is normal for bottle-conditioned beer; it’s simply particles of yeast and proteins that are entirely safe to drink. However, there are easy ways to reduce the amount of sediment and make your beer clearer.
Here are the 8 tips on reducing sediment in your homebrew:
- Add Irish moss to the boil.
- Do a secondary fermentation.
- Wait some extra time for fermentation to finish.
- Add gelatin to the fermenter.
- Upgrade the yeast.
- Use a separate bottling bucket and an auto-siphon.
- Get a filtering system.
- Get a sediment catcher.
While sediment is neither problematic nor dangerous, it is no reason to settle for cloudy beer. There is always room for improvement and a variety of ways to help you on the way. In this article, I’ll share some valuable tips on how you can reduce sediment in your homebrew.
1. Add Irish Moss to the Boil
Irish moss is a form of algae that stimulates the forming of bigger sediment clumps. This method is applied at the boiling stage and prevents the sediment from leaching into the fermenter.
The process is relatively straightforward and is as follows:
- First, you should hydrate The algae in a small amount of water.
- Use 1 tsp (1.7 g) of Irish moss per 5 gallons (19 liters) of wort.
- Add the Irish moss to the wort in the last 15 or 10 minutes of boiling.
Another similar product is Whirlfloc. It is made from Irish moss and works the same way, but it is a little easier to use, and many brewers prefer it over unprocessed algae. However, it is also more expensive.
Whirlfloc comes in the form of tablets, so it is pretty much a ready-for-use product. It’s pre-measured and doesn’t require additional hydration, so if you’re looking for a more straightforward solution, Whirlfloc may be your choice.
2. Do a Secondary Fermentation
Secondary fermentation is a term that usually refers to conditioning, so bottling is essentially a secondary fermentation, too. However, it is also a name for another process that I would like to discuss here.
Secondary Fermentation Explained
The secondary fermentation I’m talking about takes place after the primary fermentation and allows the beer to age and separate from the ‘yeast cake.’ This process is another way to reduce sediment by leaving the dormant yeast behind.
To perform this process, follow these simple steps:
- take a sterile glass carboy and transfer your beer batch to it, leaving the ‘yeast cake’ in your primary fermenter.
- Let it sit in a cool and dark place for a couple of weeks.
- The duration of secondary fermentation may vary, and in some cases, it can take up to a couple of months.
Benefits of Secondary Fermentation
While secondary fermentation is a great way to clear your brew, it can also have additional benefits.
Once you have completed the primary fermentation, we don’t recommend that you let the beer spend more time in the fermenter for two main reasons.
First, to avoid exposing the beer to oxygen, and, secondly, not to let the yeast feed on the dead yeast cells, which will negatively impact the beer flavor.
Transferring the wort to a secondary fermenter allows your beer to age for longer and develop additional flavor qualities. It is essential for lagers, so if you’ve ever tried making one, you are probably familiar with this process.
3. Wait Some Extra Time for Fermentation To Finish
Another possible reason for the excessive presence of sediment in your beer is that it hasn’t spent enough time in the primary fermenter or the secondary fermentation. A common cause of sediment occurs when you taste the brew before the bottle conditioning period is complete.
As much as homebrewing is exciting, it also requires a lot of waiting and patience. The lack of the latter can bring in some issues, such as cloudy finished beer.
The wort should spend up to four weeks in the primary fermenter. It would help if you waited for the fermentation process to die out before moving to bottling.
The most reliable way to determine if you have completed the fermentation is to measure the gravity. Typically, you would measure it at the process’s beginning and end.
You can start checking if the finish line is near about ten days in by measuring gravity every two days until you get equal numbers. Once the gravity stops changing, the fermentation is over.
Don’t leave the beer in the primary for too long, but wait a couple of days after the fermentation process is over to let the sediment settle better.
Then comes the stage of bottle conditioning, which also takes some time. If you open a bottle and see that the beer is cloudy from the sediment, try and wait some more time before opening others.
Usually, by the end of the conditioning, the layer of sediment will be concentrated at the bottom, while the rest of the beer will be as clear as it gets.
Wait until you see that the sediment went down and the cloudiness is gone, then carefully pour your beer using techniques from tip 1.
4. Add Gelatin to the Fermenter
Gelatin and other finings are another great way to stimulate sediment settling, reducing its amount in the bottles.
You may add gelatin to the primary or secondary fermenter for the last couple of days of fermentation. This process is inexpensive and helps you achieve the highest level of clarity for your beer.
The way it works is similar to that of the Irish moss. Simply put, gelatin attracts the protein particles and other solid pieces, making them stick together more actively and form bigger clumps.
As a result, these larger clumps collect most sediment from the brew and settle on the bottom more quickly. This process allows you to reduce the haziness of your beer significantly.
It is best to cold crash the fermenter before adding gelatin. This method can work on its own if you let the beer cool down for long enough before bottling it. Many brewers report that cold crashing results in a distinctively clear brew.
Depending on how many fermentation steps you choose, you can add gelatin to the primary or secondary fermenter. The process is as follows:
- First, add ½ tsp (1.5 g) of gelatin to ¼ or ½ cup (355 ml) of filtered water and let it partially dissolve.
- Next, heat in the microwave or add some hot water (in this case, add less water in the beginning) to reach a temperature of about 150-155°F (66-68°C) and stir.
- Then add to the fermenter and leave for 24 to 48 hours until the beer becomes clear.
5. Upgrade the Yeast
As sediment in large part is yeast, switching the yeast you use is another thing to consider. Of course, the recipe requires a specific type of yeast in many cases, so only go for this option if changing the yeast type is possible for the beer you’re making.
Yeast does differ in quality, and upgrading to a better type will result in a clearer brew for two reasons. Firstly, the yeast will settle better, and the sediment will clump up more tightly, usually without needing extra fining.
Secondly, because the ‘yeast cake’ is tighter, it is not as easily disturbed. This density means that the final brew that makes it into the bottles will be much less hazy, and you will be able to bottle more beer from the bottom of the fermenter.
All of the above applies to the bottle conditioning stage as well. Not only will the yeast form a tighter bottom layer, leaving little to no sediment in the beer, but also you can be less worried about disturbing the sediment while pouring the beer out of the bottle.
If you want to try this method, some types of yeast to consider are Danstar and Fermentis.
6. Use a Separate Bottling Bucket and an Auto-Siphon
If that’s not something you’re already doing, start doing it. These simple adjustments contribute immensely to the clearness of your brew.
Before bottling, transfer the beer to a separate bottling bucket, ensuring not to disturb the sediment. This method is widespread as it is one of the most effective ways to improve beer clarity.
Siphoning without disturbing the sediment layer is also an essential skill to master. Always keep the end of the tube just below the surface of the liquid and maintain it in this position as you go down to the bottom layers.
This technique helps to capture all the clear top layers of your brew while leaving the sediment behind. As less liquid is left and you’re approaching the settled sediment, watch the liquid with extra caution and stop siphoning as soon as you see the haze appear.
You will probably have to leave behind some of the brew, but if you’re aiming to make your beer less cloudy, there is no avoiding it.
A way to minimize the amount of liquid you have to leave behind is getting an auto-siphon. The siphon doesn’t disturb the sediment layer, and many auto-siphons come with anti-sediment tips. You may also buy such tips separately for relatively cheap.
7. Get a Filtering System
This method is expensive, wouldn’t be suitable for every beer, and is technically unnecessary. We’ve already discussed many ways to achieve beer clarity without filtering. Still, if you would prefer your beer filtered, that is possible.
The best way to filter homebrew is to do it between two kegs. Transfer the beer to one keg and prepare a second clean one, then set the filter of your choice to the transfer line between the two.
Choose paper single-use filters as they are less likely to impact the beer flavor and are most suitable for filtering out the yeast and other particles.
Regarding the size, don’t use filters smaller than 0.5 microns, as they will filter out too much and leave the brew lacking flavor. On the other hand, oversized filters won’t be able to filter all the sediment.
The best approach would be to use two filters of different sizes. Go for about 3 to 5 microns for the first stage of filtering and 1 micron for the second.
Beer filtering makes it impossible to perform the second fermentation in the bottles, as all the yeast is filtered out, so you will also have to force carbonate your beer in a keg instead.
To force carbonate your beer, follow these simple steps:
- You will need a keg with a keg lid connected to the gas line.
- Set the pressure to 40 psi and put your keg into a fridge. This process will improve efficiency.
- Leave the keg for 24 hours, halve the pressure to 20 psi, and wait for 24 hours more.
- Lower your psi to serving pressure at 10 psi.
8. Get a Sediment Catcher
Lastly, here’s another simple way to avoid getting sediment from the bottle into your glass. Sediment catchers can be expensive but practical and easy to use.
As mentioned, sediment usually settles at the bottom, which is why the bottom layer of the beer has to be left in the bottle most of the time.
Sediment catchers capture the yeast and other particles as they settle down and leave the beer clear of the haze. Instead of letting sediment gather at the bottom, you add the catcher to the top and turn the bottle upside down.
The sediment gets captured in the catcher cap, which you can remove, leaving the other half of the catcher on the bottle. The process is simple, and you can filter your beer from the yeast after the bottle conditioning stage without complications.
Several means are available to ensure your brew is clear and free from unsightly sediment. These methods include:
- Irish moss
- Secondary fermentation
- Extra waiting time after fermentation
- Gelatin additions
- Yeast upgrades
- Filtration system addition
- Sediment catchers.