In the process of home beer brewing, hot break & cold break are two important phases of the brewing process that can have a significant impact on your beer in a couple of different ways. For that reason it is important to understand and control the cold break and hot break properly if we want to brew the best homebrew that we can.
So what is hot break and why is it important for the hot break to occur? Hot break is basically the coagulation of proteins, oils and other solids during the wort boil. The proteins and solids that join together during the hot break phase of a boil can be partially responsible for chill haze in a finished beer if they are not properly cleared during the hot break, cold break or beer fining processes. During a boil the hot break occurs as soon as the boil begins. At that point the proteins begin to form foam at the top of your brew kettle. A few minutes after a rolling boil is achieved, these proteins begin to merge together and eventually their mass helps drags them towards the bottom of your kettle at flame out. I personally will use whirlfloc or Irish moss at the end of my boil to help drop out as much protein, excess hop matter and fine particles as possible, which helps reduce the likelihood and quantity of chill haze in my finished beer.
Home Brewing Cold Break
So now that we have hot break squared away, what is cold break? The two are actually very similar, the may different is that where hot break occurs as the wort is heated to a boil, the cold break process occurs as wort is rapidly chilled. Cold break is the precipitation of proteins, solids, oils and hop matter as the wort rapidly cooled. Much like the hot break, as the cold break occurs, these dense solids join together and begin to fall to the bottom of the kettle, leaving the wort clearer than it would be if a proper cold break does not take place. A cold break helps improve a beers clarity, head retention and even has an impact on the flavor of your beer. Having an efficient and effective wort chiller helps make it easy to achieve an effective cold break. If you use a plate chiller or counter flow wort chiller, you may want to consider pumping the wort back into your kettle with a whirlpool valve as opposed to directly into your fermenter so that you do not transfer the cold break solids and proteins into your fermenter where they will impact the outcome of your beer.
Whirlfloc is an inexpensive addition to your brewing process that can make a significant impact on your beer. If you have not tried it, I highly recommend it.
If you have any questions or comments on hot break or cold break, just drop me a line. I will be adding a whirlpooling arm to my brew kettle here in a few days and will do my best to post some information on that process as well.
Have you ever finished up the fermentation of an IPA or pale ale, excitedly poured yourself a pint only to be dismayed that that it looked more like a hefeweizen?
That is where beer claifiers come in. Different parts of the home brewing process can contribute to chill haze or cloudiness in a finished beer. Too high of a pH or temperatures in excess of 170 F during the mash can lead to tannin extraction from the grains which will cloud and cause off flavors in your beer. Additionally, excess protein from big lighter colored beers can contribute to haze.
One of the best solutions that I have found to combating haze is a beer clarifier called whirlfloc. Whirfloc is a blend of irish moss and kappa carrageenan that encourages the precipitation of haze causing materials such as tanis, proteins and beta glucans. Best of all, whirlfloc is inexpensive and easy to use. About 10 minutes prior to the end of your boil, toss 1 tablet of whirlfloc into the kettle for every 10 gallons that you are brewing (half a tablet for a 5 gallon batch). The whirlfloc bind with the heavier solids and sinks with them to the bottle of the kettle.
Another great way that I use of fighting of haze in a beer is to cold crash at the ending of fermentation. To do so, I will knock my fermentation chamber temperature down to about 35F which will help the yeast and other residual solids in the beer precipitate to the bottom of the fermenter. I will typically allow the beer to crash for a week or two at that temperature prior to racking to a keg. This can also help clean up the flavor of a beer by removing excess yeast, prior to moving it to a keg or holding tank.
Just let me know if you have any questions on whirlfloc, cold crashing or any other beer clarifiers.
Chill haze is the cloudy or hazy appearance that a chilled beer gets when it is too high in residual proteins or tannins. For the most part, haze and turbidity are highly undesirable unless you are brewing a beer such as an American wheat, hefeweizen, or Belgian wit, where the style calls for a certain amount of haze. It is easier to try and avoid chill haze as opposed to trying to remove it from a beer.
Best practices for avoiding chill haze include properly controlling your mash out, sparging, lautering, and recirculation temperatures. Tannin extraction becomes a real issue when you exceed a temperature of 170° F in your mash tun, so always do your best to keep your sparge temp near 168° F for proper sugar extraction, but do not exceed it or else you will risk stripping too much tannin from the grain.
A consistent rolling boil and hot break are also important when it comes to reducing excess proteins. During the boil and hot break, proteins will merge together, becoming very dense and dropping out to the bottom of the kettle where they can be separated and not transferred to the fermenter. Perhaps one of the best and easiest ways to help avoid chill haze is to use an inexpensive fining such as whirlfloc. Whirlfloc is my personal favorite haze clearing fining; it is a blend of Irish moss and purified carrageenan. The Irish moss and carrageenan bind with the proteins and aid in precipitation. I will typically use one tablet per 5 to 15 gallons and add it at the last 15 minutes of the boil.
If you find yourself in the situation where when chilled your beer has haze and you have not yet bottled it, you can try one of the following methods to help clear chill haze. Extend your conditioning time and cold crash your beer to 34° F for a couple of weeks. This will aid in precipitation and help move suspended yeast and protein to the bottom of the vessel so that you can rack or transfer the clarified beer off the top of it. As a last ditch effort, you can use a beer clarifier such as gelatin. The gelatin should bind to the excess proteins, and drop some of the haze out of your beer.