A cloudy beer: Exploring the Causes of Turbidity in Beer
A cloudy beer is a beer that contains a specific amount of live yeast in the finished product and has a turbidity unit of 2.0 to 5.0 EBC. For brewers who are delving into the hazy side of beer, it can be intriguing to investigate the reasons behind the cloudiness in beer. While many believe that turbidity surged in popularity with hazy IPAs, it is a phenomenon that has always existed in beer. However, it has become less prevalent as the demand for clarity has grown.
Turbidity of beer
Turbidity in a liquid refers to the presence of suspended particles or solid matter in the liquid. In the case of water, these particles can be minerals that take time to settle due to their small size, resulting in a cloudy appearance.
However, the cloudiness in beer is quite different. Generally, the cloudiness in beer is caused by the yeast used to ferment the beer and create its alcohol content.
The production process for beer involves soaking, sprouting, and heating barley to extract the sugars from the grain. The barley is then crushed or ground to facilitate better sugar extraction. Subsequently, the crushed barley is boiled or soaked in filtered water to release the sugars into the water. Finally, yeast is added. The yeast consumes the sugars in the water (now called wort) and converts them into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Yeast plays a significant role in contributing to flavor and aroma characteristics.
While most brewers are aware of this, what many may not know is that yeast is also responsible for approximately 450 other components in beer, including proteins, polyphenols, nucleic acids, and polysaccharides. It is from these ingredients, including the yeast itself, that turbidity can arise.
The fermentation process can introduce various other microorganisms, leading to an undesired increase in the beer’s temperature. This can reduce the efficacy of beer sterilization and occur when there are dead corners in the brewing environment that prevent proper yeast and microorganism removal. Strict adherence to procedural hygiene can effectively prevent biological turbidity.
Since the pH value of beer is akin to the isoelectric factor of healthy protein and the beer contains a high content of healthy protein, the sanitation and heating process can impact and damage the water film surrounding the healthy protein throughout the beer production process.
After the beer is stored for a certain period, the polyphenols, anthocyanins, and healthy proteins oxidize and polymerize, forming oxidized polyphenols. Simultaneously, the healthy proteins undergo polymerization as well. These two polymers bind together, creating larger fragments known as healthy protein-polyphenol polymers. These fragments rise to the top of the beer at an accelerated rate, initially appearing cloudy before settling at the bottom of the container as a thin layer of loose fragments. As a result, the beer returns to its clear and transparent state. This form of cloudiness is irreversible.
Whether the cloudiness in your beer stems from residual yeast byproducts or additives like hops, consistency is paramount. Consistency is key in producing high-quality beer. Regardless of whether you desire a hazy beer or a crystal-clear brew, it is essential to understand how the cloudiness arises. Providing the same visual appeal, flavor, and aroma consistently is crucial for retaining customers. The right equipment can help maintain the desired level of clarity or haze, and it doesn’t have to be complicated to use.
How to Fix Haze in Beer Recipes
If refrigerating the yeast beer for a few days does not resolve the haze, another option is to strain out the yeast. Fixing haze caused by yeast-related factors is as simple as removing the problematic yeast cells.
When using the same ingredients and brewing equipment, it may be tempting to adjust your ingredient selection by incorporating low-protein grains or adjuncts such as corn, rice, or refined sugar. Additionally, reducing pre-fermentation protein residues and properly separating the wort from hot and cold trub can help minimize beer haze.
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