The article entitled Dusseldorf Altbier, A How To Guide discusses my recipe and process for making this style of beer. Well that beer has now been in the primary fermenter for 2 and a half weeks and the specific gravity has dropped from 1.052 to 1.011 which is pretty close to my target. There is just one problem though yeast is showing zero signs of flocculation. We are talking totally opaque beer. And worst of all it tastes so yeasty that it’s almost undrinkable!
Not to panic, I research things remember? It’s kinda my thing.
After a good web scour, I was able to find consensus among the internet community that the strain of yeast that I used, WY1007, German Ale yeast, is an extremely non-flocculating yeast. In fact, this complaint was so common that there are entire threads dedicated to getting this mess-o-yeast to sink. So how am I going to clear my beer?
Gelatin to the rescue!
This common kitchen ingredient is the brewers best friend for a clear and yeast free beer. Gelatin is hydrolyzed collagen.
Collagen is the protein that makes up hair and fingernails and gives most of our tissues their ability to retain a shape. Without Collagen, we would just be puddles of goo. Hydrolysis is a process where water is permanently used to break chemical bonds in another substance and becomes a permanent part of the new compound being formed.
None of the chemistry really matters. What does matter, is that when gelatin is added to cold water and slowly warmed up until it dissolves, then poured into really cold beer the protein molecules bond to anything and everything solid in that beer and make it heavy enough to sink. Gelatin is what’s known as a fining agent. Fining (from the Latin Finire “to finish”) means adding anything used to force the particulates in a beer to settle thus making the beer clearer, like this.
the same beer before and after gelatin
There are severally commercially available fining agents, however, the consensus among the vast majority of homebrewers is that gelatin is the easiest, cheapest, and most widely available method for fining beer, and it’s dead easy. Here’s my procedure!
If someone says there’s no room in their fridge for beer, they aren’t trying hard enough!
Now when I say cold, I mean really cold here – less than 40 degrees. This is called “cold crashing.” What happens when the beer gets cold? Well first, more yeast goes dormant and flocculates so it’s helpful for getting the yeast to settle. It also causes the proteins already in the beer to clump together forming what’s called “chill haze.” these larger clumps of protein are then easier for the gelatin to bind to.
Next I measure 2/3 cup of cold reverse osmosis filtered water and add 1 tsp of unflavored gelatin to it and stir.
I put this mixture in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time stopping to stir and check the temperature between each blast of microwaves. I’ll continue this process until the solution reaches about 150 degrees F.
I’ll give the solution one final good stir and pour it right into my primary fermenter. Do not stir it, but give the fermenter a gentle swirl.The fermenter then goes back in the fridge for at least 48 hours.
That’s it! After the 48 hours are up, you can rack the beer over to your bottling bucket and bottle cold. There’s no need to let it warm up first and there’s still plenty of yeast in suspension to carbonate with. Just add your carbonation sugar as usual and store the bottles at about 70 degrees F for 3 weeks.
So if your beer is yeasty or cloudy, don’t worry about a thing, just add some gelatin and time!