Your home-brewed beer may taste delightful, and it may indeed make you feel proud, but it has a hazy appearance. Maybe you’ve never given it a second thought because it’s all about the taste, right? But then again, perhaps you’ve felt like you’re doing something wrong, questioning every step of the process.
How come your finished beer doesn’t look crystal clear like commercial beers? If you’ve ever found yourself pondering this question, you’re not alone. However, by the time you finish with this article, you’re going to have everything you need to create your batch of perfect beer – quality, taste, and color appearance.
So, what creates this cloudy beer? Well, it happens when you don’t practice the art of cold crashing beer.
What Does It Mean to Cold Crash Your Beer?
You’ll notice the beer in your homebrew looks like it has small particles in suspension floating in it, making the beer cloudy. These particles are yeast, hops, and other things encountered in the brewing process and take away from the clear appearance of the beer you buy at the bar.
Cold crashing is just like the name suggests – you want to throw your beer in the freezer to get it down to an icy cold temperature so that all those things that are floating become sediment in the bottle.
The goal of cold crashing is to end up with a glass of ice-cold beer that you can see through. That is, as long as it’s a style that is intended to be a clearer beer.
A Closer Look at Cold Crashing
Ok, so we haven’t gone through the cold crashing process yet (we’ll get to this in a minute), but you may be wondering how in the world throwing beer in a freezer can take it from hazy to clear with a snap of your fingers.
While we won’t bore you with the science and intricacies of the process, the overview is rather simple.
You know your beer comes with yeast and hops in it, which are the particles that make your beer cloudy. These particles float around your beer, bouncing off of one another, with nothing to do. However, over time, if left alone, the yeast particles and the hops particles will slowly start coming together and clumping. As they do, the particulate matter gets heavy and will begin sinking to the bottom.
This process takes time.
When you decide to use the cold crashing method, you speed up the process and make this clumping and settling happen at a much faster rate.
The Chill Haze
Since we’re on the subject, one crucial thing about cold crashing is the chill haze. After you’ve sped up the process of all your yeast and hops clumping together, you will get a chill haze.
What is it?
In simple terms, let’s say you have a homebrew non-crashed beer that you are ready to pour, but it looks like dark, murky water you wouldn’t send your worst enemy into. Then you pour it, and after it sits for a few moments, it begins to turn clear.
As everything sits together at the bottom, it begins to mingle and start going through that clumping process. Chill haze gets a bad reputation. Here, it’s a good thing.
Cold Crashing: The Process
Do you think you’re ready to move forward with cold crashing? If you have a batch of homebrew that you’d like to practice with, now is your time to shine. This relatively simple process to cold crash beer is going to leave you with some clear, delicious, bright beer that will look like you used a top-of-the-line system to create.
Ready? Let’s go!
Step One: Hold My Beer
Cold crashing requires that you put your beer in a cooler. That means you will need to have it in a bottle you can easily move and fit into the available space. Of course, having something sanitary and securely sealed is a huge bonus, too.
Keep in mind that it doesn’t need to remain in an upright position as long as you seal the container tightly.
Step Two: Bring on the Chill
You need your beer to get cold. How you choose to do this can vary. You have the option of a refrigerator, a freezer, a wine cooler, or even your uninsulated garage outside in the middle of winter. Though, if you want the best results, you’re going to need consistency.
The ideal storage place to chill your batch of beer to near-freezing temperatures is an unused refrigerator. This will give you the ability to set it to the proper target temperature (33 degrees Fahrenheit) without affecting anything else. And, because you aren’t storing it with other things, you don’t have to worry about the door being opened and closed, disrupting the temperature.
Step Three: Confirm Fermentation is Done
You cannot move forward with cold crashing your beer if it is still fermenting. Therefore you have to confirm fermentation has finished before you move on to the next step. There are various ways to do this, but using a hydrometer as the fermentation is almost done is the best method.
Fermentation is usually done two or three days before your scheduled bottling date.
Step Four: Transferring Your Beer
When you are ready, transfer your beer to that clean container you found in step one. Again, this should be sanitary, free from debris and old sediments, and able to easily fit in the designated cold spot it’s heading to.
Place your beer in a cold refrigerator that has a temperature of about 33 degrees Fahrenheit. The idea is to keep it at a temperature that will allow the beer to get as cold as possible without freezing or forming ice crystals.
Investing in an external thermometer can be a great way to monitor the temperature without opening the door and releasing the cold air.
Step Five: Store It and Check It
Now is your time to be patient. While you wait for your beer to get to your desired level of clarity and presentable, know that, on average, cold crashing should take about two to three days. On the 3rd day, check it for clarity. If it still looks a little cloudy, you may want to give it a little extra time.
Step Six: Bottle It Up – Then Drink it Up
When you reach the point that the beer in your stored container looks relatively clear, it’s time to bottle your beer. As you do, remember to give it plenty of time to sit and rest while at room temperature. This is how it will carbonate.
When it’s ready, pour yourself a glass of clear beer that you made all on your own. Cheers!
Tips and Other Things to Know About Cold Crashing
Because there is so much to know about cold crashing, we wanted to give you some advice. It won’t apply to everyone, but it may apply to you. The process of cold crashing is similar across the board, but hopefully, we’ll have you covered with these tips and other things to know if you have special circumstances.
Kegging, Not Bottling
If you choose to keg your beer rather than bottle it, you can cold crash your beer right in the keg. This saves you some time and hassle.
Why Fermentation Must Be Complete
You may get anxious to cold crash your beer and do it too early. Unfortunately, you must wait for the fermentation process to finish because the yeast will stop fermenting if the temperature drops too low (as in your temperature for cold crashing). The result is that your brew’s sugar will not convert to alcohol, and, well, nobody wants that. Besides, the taste is sure to be affected.
Choosing the Ideal Temperature
Ideally, you want your temperature-controlled fridge (or wherever you choose to cool your beer) to remain at a temperature of 33 degrees Fahrenheit. But, it can vary anywhere between 33 and 40 degrees. Some people choose to cold crash at 38 degrees, and some take their beer to temperatures a little over 40 degrees. You decide what works best for you and your brew. Just don’t let your beer freeze!
Cold Crashing and Flavor
Ok, so there are a lot of factors that contribute to the taste of your beer. Will the flavor be better with cold-crashed beer? Most people think so. The consensus is that using this method to obtain beer clarity leaves you with a more consistent taste and flavor difference.
Creating your own homebrew craft beer can be exciting, especially if you choose to experiment with different flavors and types. But, one thing is always for sure: there’s just something pleasing about drinking a clear, crisp beer.
If you’re ready to ditch your cloudy, murky beer for an excellent beer that is refreshing and looks like a commercially available brew, then you need to give cold crashing a try. The process is quick – and simple – and the results are out of this world.