This is a topic I've brushed on before, but I get plenty of questions about it. So I decided to do a full post dedicated to my favorite fining agent: gelatin. If you ask people their feelings on using gelatin to fine beer, you'll get a number of different opinions. Personally, I find it invaluable to clear my beer quickly. Fining one's beer with gelatin isn't difficult, but it does require a few specific steps. Here's the process I've had success with.

Fermenter or Keg

The first question to ask, is: What state should our beer be in when we add the gelatin? There are two methods, and they both work equally well. You can fine with gelatin in either a fermenter (primary or secondary), or directly in the serving keg. I typically opt for the later. Although, in either case, you want the beer to be cold, and I mean ICE cold. The colder the beer is, the more haze-forming particulate will form. The more haze-forming particulate that forms, the more particulate the gelatin can fine out. I've heard people have used gelatin with some success at cellar temps (50-55F), but I've only had it work well when the beer was at serving temp (32-40F).

Which Gelatin to Buy?

Obviously, you shouldn't buy cherry jello; you're looking for unflavored gelatin. Knox is a popular brand that most supermarkets carry, but I find the store-brand works just as well. Most LHBS also carry gelatin, but they tend to include a hefty markup on the price. The specifics don't matter much, so long as you buy unflavored gelatin, you'll be fine.

The Process

With your beer chilled down and gelatin in hand, let's get to the process of fining your beer
  • Get a microwave-safe glass cup. I like to use a pyrex measuring cup. Measure out 2/3 cup cold water. Any water will work, but I wouldn't use tap water if it tastes like crap. 
  • Add one teaspoon of gelatin, and stir the solution. I like to use using my thermometer probe, so I can check the temperature at the same time.
  • Place the water/gelatin mixture in the microwave, and begin to heat it 15-30 seconds at a time, stopping to stir the solution and check the temperature. As it heats up, you'll notice the gelatin will begin to dissolve.
  • The goal is to heat the gelatin to 150F, but not much over. If it climbs to 155 or so, that's fine, but I'd be hesitant to go much over 170F. We're not trying to make jello, rather just trying to pasteurize the solution.
  • Give the mixture one last stir, and dump it straight into your beer. Gently swirl the fermenter or keg, and return it to your fridge or kegerator for 24-48 hours.
  • If you used a keg, purge the headspace with CO2 to remove any oxygen that got mixed in.
The Aftermath

Gelatin works rather quickly. It's extremely effective at dropping yeast out of solution, as well as lots of haze-forming particulates. I find that 48 hours later, the beer drops crystal clear. If you bottle your beer, rack the beer to a bottling bucket, and bottle away. Don't worry, there are still plenty of yeast in solution to carbonate the bottles.

If you keg, you'll have to draw off a couple very cloudy pints before the beer clears up. Gelatin literally drops yeast and particulates down to the bottom of the keg. Since the dip-tube draws from the bottom, that junk will be the first thing pulled from the keg. After a pint or two, it'll be smooth sailing until the keg kicks.

One Last Note

While gelatin does a fantastic job at quickly clearing beer, there's still no substitute (unless you filter) for cold conditioning if you want your beer to truly sparkle. If I fine my beer with gelatin, and then leave it for a week in the kegerator, I can obtain commercial level clarity.

That wraps up the easy, but detailed process of using gelatin as a fining agent. Cheers to clear beer!


33 Comments

  1. Doesn't the microwave radiation pretty much automatically sanitize anything it irradiates? Even if it's not heated all the way to pasteurization temps?

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    Replies
    1. Not that I'm aware of, so if you're overly concerned about pasteurizing the solution, heat it to at least 161*. 150* requires a 30min rest to pasteurize, and 161* it's only 15 seconds.

      Delete
  2. Microwave ovens use radio waves -- not x-rays, gamma-rays, or anything like that -- to heat the water in foods/liquids.

    In order to sanitize, the water needs to be heated to sanitizing (usually boiling) temperatures.

    Forget the marketing gimmicks where someone holds a Geiger-counter near a microwave oven to show how 'safe' their ovens are. There's never been any germ-killing 'radioactive' rays in them (unless you try cooking a household smoke detector -- but that's beside the point).

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    Replies
    1. Boiling temps aren't needed. 15 seconds at 161* will pasteurize the solution.

      Delete
  3. Does this replace the need for an additive like irish moss/whirlfloc?

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    1. I would say no. Irish moss/whirlfloc help facilitate the formation of break in the kettle. I use either Irish moss or whirlfloc for every batch. Those fining agents are so easy to toss in the kettle, i see no reason not to

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  4. Scott, have you noticed that using gelatin in dry-hopped beers reduces the amount of hop aroma? It seems like this might be happening with the first two beers (both IPA's) that I have tried the gelatin on. Or maybe I am just crazy.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Ya, I've found it does drop a little hop aroma. I've found two things though:

      A. It gets rid of a hop aroma that I don't like. I feel like what's left is a much cleaner hop aroma.

      B. I just add more dry hops, =) But seriously, I've had IPAs and DIPAs sore 43's and 44's in competitions. It doesn't strip out enough where it's a big deal to me. I doubt it strips out any more than filtering would.

      Delete
  5. thanks for the great writeup I have heard of doing this before but never done it. I will book mark this post and try this in the future

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  6. Love the article. You mension that you can botle Beer and use gelatin. Will the yeast then mix Up the Beer in the carbonate prosess after the gelatin effect has finished after 24-48 hours? You aldri say that you should chill down the Beer, you can not do that when you carbonate in bottle, then the yeast Will lose the effect. Could you Please go through the prosess when carbonate on bottle, thanks, from amateur brewer from Norway.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. You can still bottle after fining with gelatin directly in the fermenter. There are still enough yeast to properly carbonate the beer, although it will take a little longer. The beer won't be cloudier after bottle conditioning.

      I used that technique for a few batches before I had a kegerator up and running.

      Delete
  7. Will the amount of Gelatin work with 11gals of beer, versus 5-6 gals? I have 11 gals in the primary right now.

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    1. I've never specially done it, but I would just double the amount. 2tsp (which is almost exactly one packet) should work just fine.

      Delete
  8. No issues with gelatin and bottle carbonation. Different additives strip out different things. There's suspended yeast, proteins, unconverted startches, and some sort of big molecule that forms when tannins react to hop bits, then theres actually a thing called "bits" which could be foreign bodies or precipitates. I don't know the name of these big things that result from the tannins, but they're a huge issue.

    You don't deal with a shitty beer in the fermenter. You have to deal with it at the time of creation. Strong vigorous boil will chop up the floaty proteins up during the boil. Irish moss will cause bind to some of the material, a proper mash and check with iodine will ensure you got complete conversion. That's about 90% of it right there.

    If your calcium is low, add more. My water only has about 20-40 ppm so I add at least enough to get it to 90ppm just to make sure I have adequate protein. This helps tremendously.

    You don't have to let it sit for ages in the fermenter. I have bottled cloudy beer. It clears up just fine without gelatin. Though I've used gelatin with some stubborn beer.

    Different haze causing compounds need different finings. Gelatin will clear some the haze, but not all. PVPP will clear some but not all, isinglass will clear some but not all. Cold conditioning causes a chill haze, but if you can get your beer to about 31F and keep it there for a day, it will clear in a hurry. Just a day or two at 31 is better than a week at 45F. You have to know what causes the haze before you can find a fining for it.

    But in general, time and cold condition work the best. In the winter, I just set the beers outside for a week. Problem solved.

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  9. Oh, I forgot to add, read this:
    http://www.brewerssupplygroup.com/FileCabinet/WortandBeerFining_Manual[1].pdf

    That will explain more.

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  10. Hi Scott,
    We're trying the "add gelatin to the serving keg" method vs. "add to secondary and then rack to serving keg a couple days later" method. I was wondering: do you ever have a problem with the junk on the bottom clogging the narrow gap around the keg beer-out poppet?

    Thanks for your great blog!
    -tom

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    Replies
    1. Nope, the gelatin never really 'gels' for me. The downside to that method is if you bump the keg, it pours cloudy for a couple pints before clearing up again.

      Delete
    2. I thought I'd provide an update. I followed your directions exactly and it worked out very well.

      In the past I took boiling water and let it cool to to around 149F-150F-ish, then mixed in the gelatin. This would sometimes result in jello in the keg :( If instead you start with room temp water, add gelatin, then start heating in microwave 30-sec at a time, stirring with temp probe, repeat until temp hits 149F-150F-ish, there is no jello. I don't know why this should be true, but it is in our experience.

      Anyway, thanks again for the great blog!

      Delete
    3. Glad it hear it works well for you!

      Delete
  11. Scott,

    I'm about to use this technique for the first time.

    I am currently dry-hopping in a carboy with a lot of leaf hops still at the surface. If I pour gelatin in, won't it just sit on top of the hops and not work its magic? Any suggestions? TIA

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I'm not entirely sure to be honest. If waiting to add the gelatin until after you pull the hops out is an option, I would go that route.

      Or, add the gelatin, wait a day or two, then add your dry hops.

      Delete
  12. If you add gelatin to the primary, can you still harvest viable yeast from the bottom of the carboy after racking off the beer?

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    Replies
    1. Great question? I'm genuinely not sure. Try it?

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  13. Hi, question. Do you think I can do this for beer that is done? I have a couple 5 gallon batches that are completely done and just chilling in my kegerator with a mild amount of CO2. Can I mix up this sloosh and throw it in there, and then just leave it for a week or two?

    I am a big fan of a super clear beer. It makes a difference. So, I don't mind letting beer sit for weeks or months, as it get tastier over time. I also find a well aged ale doesn't taste so 'homebrewed'. Does that make sense?

    anyhow, thanks for the great post and information!

    Kevin
    Denver, CO

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    Replies
    1. I've added gelatin to already carbonated beer. You'll just need to re-close the lid quickly after adding it, as it might foam up when you dump the gelatin in.

      Delete
  14. How would you recommend adding the gelatin to a carboy fermentor? It would be easy to stir with a bucket fermentor, but not so much with the carboy...

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  15. Great Article, I would say from my experience that the most important thing here is to get the beer very cold first and during the process. The first time i tried gelatin the beer was around 10c and it did not work! Cold crashing is the key to this!

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  16. As someone who hates wasting beer, I was wondering how the first few pints will taste out of a keg (the cloudy pours) before you get to the clear beer. Do you usually dispose of them, or do they not taste too bad?

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Um, I guess you can drink them. Gelatin is obviously food safe, as it's the same thing you find in jello.

      It definitely doesn't taste quite right, as the ratio of beer to 'crap that makes your beer cloudy' is much higher than a normal pint.

      Think of it this way: You really can't taste the haze producing crap in a pint, as it's very diluted, but if you concentrate a full keg of that crap into 1-2 pints, it does taste different.

      Delete
  17. Is it ok to boiling, let the temp drop to 150f and then add gelatin?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sure. If anything that's more safe.

      Delete
  18. Scott - When you transfer the beer from the fermenter to the keg, I assume you purge the head space with CO2, then chill the beer to serving temp (without force cabonating it up to now), then add your gelatin, let it do it's thing for 24 - 48 hours, push it out of the beer and then force carbonate? Basically I'm trying to understand when in the process to begin carbonating the beer? Thanks. Ken.

    ReplyDelete
  19. What about adding the priming sugar to the gelatin mix and adding to a keg? Leave in the warm to prime and then chill?

    My extract brews never seem to clear properly. Some bottles have only the top few inches clear.

    ReplyDelete

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