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Using 'finings' to clear homebrew beer

clearing beer with finings

If you've ever bought a beginner's beer kit it may have come with a sachet of 'finings'. That's basically how I was introduced to them when I got a brewing kit for Christmas.

So this (then!?) inexperienced homebrewer naturally had to ask:

What are beer 'finings' ?


Finings are agents that are usually added at or near the completion of brewing beer.

Their purpose is to remove unwanted organic compounds to help improve the beer clarity - as no one likes cloudy beer.

They are also used for wine and non alcoholic drinks such as juice.

The finings act by precipitating and binding with compounds that reduce beer clarity. They they then fall to the bottom of the brewing fermenter drum or carboy and so are effectively removed from the beer.

How do I use beer finings?


If you have made a batch of beer in a drum or carboy, just add in the sachet to the beer, about 3 days before you intend to bottle the beer.

Do it quickly and reseal the drum so that there's no chance of infection occur by way of a stray spider or sneaky germs.

If you have done a boil, you can simply add the finings at the end of that process.

That's all you have to do!

What are finings made from?


Finings can be made from all kinds of things. 

Isinglass (biofine) is a clearing agent made from the protein called collagen. It is extracted from the swim bladders of fish!

Ordinary gelatin is an effective fining agent as it will remove proteins and polyphenols. It's similar to isinglass in that it is also collagen agent but the key difference is that gelatin is made from hooved animals.

That's right, if you use gelatin to clear your beer, you are adding horse feet! Kinda...

You can use unflavoured gelatin by add one tea spoon to a cup of hot water, mix and then add gently into the fermenter.

Add the finings a couple of days before you intend to bottle to give the fining time to do its thing.


A very popular fining is Irish Moss. It seems to be a bit of a misnomer as Irish Moss is actually derived from seaweed! Irish moss is added in the last 10-15 minutes of the boil and not generally used with beer kits. 

Whirlfloc tablets are also very similar to Irish Moss and can be used in the same way.

There are other fining products that you can use such as Chillguard and Polyclar and silica gels like Kieselsol.

How do finings actually bind with unwanted compounds?


Fining products usually have large molecules that are 'positively' charged.

Think back to your science class days at school!

These molecules attach themselves to negatively charged contaminants (opposites attract remember) and then precipitate them out of the finished beer - and by that we mean they fall to the bottom of your fermenter.

Silica gels like Kieselsol are actually negatively charged! They are basically silicon dioxide products.

So do I actually need to use finings?


The choice is yours and it depends on how much you care about beer clarity.

If you are after clear or cloud free beer, then using finings is one very easy trick to help you with that goal.

If you are adding hops to your beer, you may want to consider it. This is because hops leave polyphenols in the beer which can cause a lack of clarity. Finings will work on the polyphenols as per usual.

Malt also produces polyphenols so finings can take care of any the malt in your beer may produce.

Finings definitely work however it would be fair to say that it's not a necessary part of the brewing process for ordinary home brewers.

If you are intending to enter your beer into a competition where the clarity of beer is considered an important criteria, you'd be silly not to employ this method. 

One thing to beer in mind is that the use of finings does add to the cost per bottle ration of your beer.

It's the same argument for using beer enhancers. You don't need them but they really do improve your beer's mouth feel and all round taste performance. 

6 comments:

  1. Does fining affect the following carbonation process?

    My ginger beer has a bit of a funny taste and is a bit cloudy - I'm wondering whether there will be enough yeast left in solution to effectively carbonate when I bottle if I use finings?

    Do you think the slightly unpleasant taste comes from contamination or from using lemon peel from the beginning of the brew?

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    Replies
    1. The finnings play no role in carbonation so you can follow standard ginger beer making processes. I can't comment on the taste sorry!

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  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  3. does adding finings stop the bubbles in the air trap going? I see that it gets rid of the yeast. does it matter later that day I removed the lid to check the seal?

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    Replies
    1. You'll be fine but suggest opening the lid up when you REALLLY need too.

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  4. cool. thanks. the bubbling has stopped though

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