How to use Whirlfloc tablets when brewing

Thursday, November 30, 2023
whirlfloc tablets brewing
It's always amused me that people think it is OK to add moss to beer.

I mean really, how the heck can Irish Moss clear beer?

It's not even real moss, it's an algae from the sea!

Which makes m then wonder who the heck discovered that adding Irish Moss as a fining agent for beer?

Anyways, work the moss does.

A popular form of it is the Whirlfloc tablet which is a blend of Irish Moss and purified carrageenan ingredients. Carrageenan is another extract from seaweed that is used for gelling, thickening and stabilizing properties. This is because it bonds to proteins which means it is just perfect for brewing and removing proteins and so-called 'beta-glucans' (sugars) at the end of the boil.

You can use Whirlfloc tablets as a clarifier for both extract and all grain brewing.

Your instructions for use are simple.

If you are doing an all grain boil, you add one tablet per 10 gallons when you have 5 minutes left in your boil. If you add any earlier, the boiling of your wort will destroy the ingredients ruin their effectiveness.

If you are using an extract kit for either beer or cider, you can add the Whirlfloc when fermentation has completed.

If you are wondering whether Whirfloc tablets actually do work, here's an experiment which proves they do improve beer clarity.

There are plenty of other ways to clear beer with finings. There are other fining products such as Chillguard and Polyclar and silica gels like Kieselsol but if you are a bit of an expert, you can actually filter your beer but you'd need to be kegging it.

Cold crashing is always a good way to get rid of proteins from beer as well. 

using whirlfoc tablets as a finning agent

What is the science of how whirlfloc tablets in terms of using them as a clarifier / fining agent when making home brew beer?

These tablets work by utilizing the science of coagulation and flocculation. Coagulation occurs when particles in the wort, such as proteins, tannins, and other sediment, bind together to form larger particles. This is achieved by adding a coagulant, which is usually made of positively charged ions, to the wort. 

In the case of Whirlfloc tablets, the coagulant is purified carrageenan.

Once the particles have bound together, flocculation occurs. Flocculation is the process of the larger particles settling to the bottom of the brewing vessel, where they can be easily removed. The Whirlfloc tablets contain both carrageenan and Irish moss, which provide a high concentration of negatively charged ions. 

These ions attract the positively charged coagulant and the particles in the wort, causing them to form larger particles and settle to the bottom of the vessel.

The result of this process is a clearer, cleaner beer. 

By removing sediment and unwanted proteins, the beer has a smoother mouthfeel and a more appealing appearance. It's important to note that using too much fining agent or leaving it in the beer for too long can result in over-fining, which can strip the beer of its flavor and aroma compounds. 

How to condition home brew CIDER

Saturday, October 21, 2023
The realm of cider crafting is a symphony of processes, each contributing to the final product in its own unique way. However, many home brewers underestimate the role of conditioning, viewing it as merely an "afterthought" to the primary and secondary fermentation phases. In truth, conditioning is your final opportunity to exercise creative control over your brew. It's a phase where your cider undergoes not just maturation but also transformation.

Flavor complexities can be enhanced, off-notes can be rounded out, and even the very mouthfeel of the liquid can change, making the brew more harmonious and enjoyable. Conditioning is your last step but is by no means the least; it's the masterstroke in the art of cider crafting.

how to condition apple cider

The Importance of Conditioning: Beyond Fermentation

When primary fermentation ends, you're left with a raw, alcoholic apple liquid that has potential but lacks finesse. Think of conditioning as a kind of post-production for cider: just as a movie isn't ready for theaters straight out of the camera, your cider isn't truly finished right after fermentation. During the conditioning phase, secondary flavors have a chance to develop, interacting with primary flavors to create new complexities.

The cider's aroma can also evolve, offering a more enticing nose that complements its flavor profile. Moreover, additional biochemical reactions can occur at this stage, breaking down unwanted compounds that can make a cider taste "young" or "harsh," resulting in a smoother, more refined drink.

Pre-Conditioning Steps: Preparation is Key

Quality Check

Before you even think about conditioning, you need to confirm that primary (and, if you opted for it, secondary) fermentation has actually concluded. A hydrometer or refractometer can be your best friends here. These tools measure the specific gravity of your brew, and if readings remain consistent over several days, it's a strong indication that fermentation has ceased. Inconsistent readings could suggest ongoing fermentation or even potential contamination, both of which would need to be addressed before moving on to conditioning.


The importance of sterilizing every single piece of equipment cannot be overstated. Any bacteria or wild yeast introduced at this stage could spoil your cider and undo all your hard work. A popular choice among homebrewers is iodine-based sterilizers or phosphoric acid-based solutions like Star San. These are contact sterilizers, meaning you simply need to ensure full contact with the surface and then allow them to air dry. You can also use boiling water for glass containers, but this approach is less feasible for plastic or rubber items that may be heat-sensitive.

Rack Your Cider

Racking involves siphoning the cider from one vessel into another while avoiding the sediment that has settled at the bottom of the original container. This "lees" consists of dead yeast cells and other particulates that, if left in contact with the cider for too long, could impart undesirable flavors. Additionally, racking helps in aeration, which can be beneficial for the cider's overall flavor profile. Be cautious not to over-aerate, though, as excessive oxygen contact can lead to oxidation, which might spoil the cider.

Conditioning Methods: Different Strokes for Different Brews

Bottle Conditioning

One of the most traditional and widely practiced methods of conditioning cider is in the bottle. The basic principle involves adding a small amount of sugar to the cider just before bottling, a process known as "priming." The residual yeast still present in the cider ferments this sugar, creating carbon dioxide. Because the bottle is sealed, this gas has nowhere to go and ends up dissolving into the cider, resulting in natural carbonation.

How to Bottle Condition

  1. Calculate Priming Sugar: For bottle conditioning, precision is key. Too much sugar and you risk exploding bottles; too little and your cider may be disappointingly flat. A commonly used measurement is 1/2 teaspoon of sugar per 12-ounce bottle. There are online calculators that can help you determine the exact amount based on your specific cider and desired carbonation level.

  2. Sterilize and Mix: Boil the priming sugar in a small amount of water to both dissolve it and sterilize it. Let it cool before mixing it gently with your cider. This ensures even carbonation across bottles.

  3. Bottling: Use a siphon or a bottling wand to fill your sterilized bottles, leaving roughly one inch of headspace. This space is critical; it allows for the CO2 to expand without creating too much pressure.

  4. Seal and Store: Use a bottle capper to seal your bottles with sterilized caps. Then, store your bottled cider in a dark, cool place. Temperature consistency is key here, so avoid places with fluctuating temperatures.

Keg Conditioning

Keg conditioning offers another level of flexibility and control, especially for those who prefer still cider or want more manual control over the carbonation level. Unlike bottle conditioning, kegging allows you to sample the cider during the conditioning process without sacrificing an entire bottle.

How to Keg Condition

  1. Transfer to Keg: Use a siphon to transfer your cider from the fermentation vessel to a sterilized keg, avoiding any sediment.

  2. Carbonation Options: If you opt for carbonation, you'll need a CO2 tank. You can precisely control the amount of carbon dioxide forced into the cider, giving you more control over the end product's effervescence. If you prefer still cider, simply seal the keg without introducing additional CO2.

  3. Conditioning Time: Just as with bottle conditioning, your cider will need time to mature in the keg. The duration can vary based on your specific brew and personal taste preferences, but a minimum of two weeks is generally recommended.

Monitoring and Tasting: The Cider Alchemist's Journal

A tasting journal can serve as a valuable reference for future brews. Keep meticulous records of taste changes, noting how the cider evolves over time. Is it becoming smoother? Are new flavors emerging while others are receding? Are there any signs of off-flavors developing? These notes will not only help you understand when your cider has reached its peak conditioning but will also serve as a learning tool for future brewing endeavors.

Time and Patience: The Unsung Ingredients

Conditioning is a labor of patience and intuition. While two weeks might be sufficient for some ciders, others may require months to reach their full potential. Some home brewers even age their cider for years, resulting in complex, wine-like brews that defy the common perceptions of what cider can be. The important thing to remember is that good things often come to those who wait. Patience can reward you with a brew that not only meets your expectations but also surpasses them.

Troubleshooting Common Issues


It's a disheartening experience to open a bottle of your meticulously crafted cider only to have it fizz over like a shaken soda can. Over-carbonation is usually a result of too much priming sugar or bottling before fermentation was fully complete. While you can't reverse over-carbonation in bottles that have already been sealed, you can take preventive measures in future batches by being more precise with your priming sugar calculations and ensuring complete fermentation.


Nothing is more discouraging than discovering your hard-crafted cider has an off-flavor. Whether it's a sour note, a musty aroma, or a soapy aftertaste, off-flavors are usually the result of some form of contamination or imbalance during the brewing process. Sometimes time will resolve minor issues as the flavors continue to evolve, but other times the batch might be beyond saving. The best defense against off-flavors is rigorous sterilization, careful monitoring during fermentation, and, of course, learning from any mistakes.

Through this guide, one thing becomes abundantly clear: conditioning is not a passive waiting game. It's an active, crucial stage that invites both science and artistry into its fold. Each decision you make—from the method of conditioning to the duration—has the potential to significantly impact the cider's final profile. So, embrace the conditioning phase as an opportunity to perfect your craft. Cheers to the art and science of making exceptional cider!

How to perfectly condition home brew beer!

In the world of craft beer, home brewing stands as a revered domain where creativity, science, and an insatiable love for quality converge. Yet, amidst the excitement of worts, hops, and fermenters, one facet that often finds itself relegated to the background is the stage that follows bottling—proper storage and conditioning. This oversight is not just trivial; it can dictate whether your labor of love matures into a fine brew or deteriorates into a forgettable concoction.

The post-bottling phase is a pivotal moment where your beer continues to evolve. You've dropped in your carbonation drops and now the yeast is still at work, carbon dioxide is forming, and flavors are melding together, creating a dynamic landscape within each bottle. Just as an artist wouldn't throw a fresh painting into a damp or sunlit corner, a home brewer should exercise equal care in storing their bottled masterpieces.

Understanding the factors that can positively or negatively affect your beer post-bottling is vital. From the risks of light exposure and oxidation to the nuances of temperature control and bottle orientation, this comprehensive guide aims to arm you with actionable knowledge. Whether you're a novice taking your first brewing steps or an experienced brewer looking to refine your storage strategy, this guide offers insights that are both deep and wide-ranging.

The discussion that follows is segmented into specific parts, each focusing on unique challenges and solutions. Our objective is not merely to provide you with a checklist of dos and don'ts but to deepen your understanding of why each factor matters and how you can adapt your approach accordingly. By the end of this guide, storing and conditioning your home brewed beer should feel less like an afterthought and more like an essential chapter in your brewing journey.

conditioning home brew beer

Part I: The Importance of Proper Storage and Conditioning

When it comes to crafting beer, many aspiring brewers focus intensively on the stages of brewing and fermenting, while somewhat glossing over the post-bottling phase. However, proper storage and conditioning of your beer after bottling are not secondary or optional stages. They are equally crucial for the ultimate quality of your brew. In this part, we'll discuss why that is and what exactly happens in your bottles post-capping.

The Science Behind Conditioning

Natural Carbonation

Once the beer has been bottled, a fascinating microscopic event takes place: the second fermentation. The residual yeast in the beer consumes leftover sugars, producing carbon dioxide as a by-product. This is what carbonates your beer naturally. If you've ever wondered why certain beers have a softer, more natural fizz as compared to others, now you know—it's all about the yeast and how they've been conditioned.

Flavor Maturation

Another aspect of post-bottling life is the gradual melding and maturation of flavors. During this phase, harsh notes may mellow out, and the diverse flavors in your beer have a chance to meld into a harmonious profile. For example, in darker brews like stouts and porters, the rich malty and roasted flavors can develop additional layers of complexity, such as notes of coffee, chocolate, or even dark fruits. Similarly, in hop-forward beers like IPAs, the conditioning stage can take the edge off any overt bitterness while still retaining the beer's aromatic profile.

The Risks of Negligence

Oxidation: The Beer's Arch-Nemesis

Oxidation is one of the key risks that come with improper storage. Exposure to oxygen post-bottling can result in a flat, cardboard-like taste, destroying the nuances you’ve worked so hard to create. Oxygen can seep in if the bottles are not sealed correctly or if the caps are compromised. Therefore, making sure that you cap your bottles securely is of paramount importance.

Contamination: The Risk of Spoilage and Off-Flavors

Microbial contamination is another concern. Harmful bacteria or wild yeast strains can introduce off-flavors and spoil the beer. The risk is especially high for beers with lower alcohol content, as the alcohol acts as a natural preservative. Being meticulous about sanitizing not just your brewing equipment but also the bottles and caps can significantly mitigate this risk.

The subtext of both these risks is that your beer is still very much alive after it has been bottled. It’s an ecosystem in its own right, interacting with its environment in ways that can either elevate or degrade the quality of the final product. Hence, being mindful of the storage and conditioning environment is not just recommended, but essential.

In the subsequent sections, we will delve into common storage challenges, from light exposure to temperature swings, and how to navigate these to ensure that your bottled beer reaches its fullest potential.

condition beer correctly

Part II: Common Storage Challenges and How to Overcome Them

The post-bottling phase presents a range of challenges that can compromise the quality of your home brewed beer. While these challenges can be daunting, understanding their root causes and potential solutions can significantly enhance your ability to store and condition your brew effectively. Let's explore each of these challenges in detail, starting with the perils of light exposure.

Light Exposure: The Skunking Phenomenon

The Problem

Light, specifically ultraviolet (UV) light, is notorious for its ability to alter the chemical makeup of beer. When UV light interacts with the hop compounds in your beer, it triggers a reaction known as photo-oxidation. This results in the creation of mercaptans, compounds that give off a skunky odor and taste. Hence, the term "skunked" beer.

The Solution

To counteract this, amber-colored glass bottles are the most recommended for storing home brewed beer. The amber color acts as a filter that minimizes the beer's exposure to harmful UV rays. Some home brewers go a step further by storing their bottles in dark, light-proof spaces like cellars or specialized beer fridges designed to block out light.

Temperature Fluctuations: A Brewing Nightmare

The Problem

Temperature plays a vital role in the maturation and stability of beer flavors. Fluctuations in temperature can accelerate aging, cause precipitation of certain proteins, and create an environment conducive for the survival of unwanted bacteria. This can result in inconsistencies in both taste and mouthfeel.

The Solution

The ideal way to mitigate the risks posed by temperature changes is to store your bottles in a temperature-controlled environment. Dedicated beer fridges or climate-controlled cellars are excellent options. If these are beyond your budget, even a consistent corner of your basement can serve as an effective storage location, provided you monitor the temperature regularly.

Humidity: The Forgotten Factor

The Problem

Often overlooked, humidity can affect your beer storage in subtle ways. High humidity can compromise the adhesive on bottle labels and encourage mold growth. Low humidity can cause wine corks to dry out in corked bottles, compromising the seal and inviting oxidation.

The Solution

A balanced level of humidity is crucial for effective beer storage. This can be monitored using a hygrometer, and adjusted using either a humidifier or dehumidifier, depending on the needs of your storage environment. Some advanced beer fridges come with built-in humidity controls.

Horizontal vs. Vertical Storage

The Problem

The orientation of your bottles during storage might seem like a trivial concern, but it can have a significant impact. Horizontal storage can lead to sediment settling along the length of the bottle, which can result in uneven flavor distribution when the beer is eventually poured.

The Solution

The generally recommended practice is vertical storage. This allows any sediment to settle at the bottom of the bottle, making it easier to pour a clear beer later on. Moreover, vertical storage reduces the surface area exposed to air, thereby minimizing the risk of oxidation.

Having explored these challenges, we are better equipped to delve into advanced techniques and solutions that can further elevate your beer storage game. Prepare to discover cellaring methods, alternative storage options, and considerations for unique styles of beer in the next part of this comprehensive guide.

best way to condition homebrew beer and cider

Part III: Advanced Techniques and Solutions

You've bottled your beer and ensured that it's safely stored away from light, at a consistent temperature, and in an environment with controlled humidity. It seems like you've covered all your bases, but the world of beer storage has more to offer for those looking to elevate their homebrew to the next level. In this section, we will explore advanced storage techniques that can further refine the maturation process of your brew.

Bulk Aging: The Cellaring Approach

When to Consider

Not all beers benefit from extended aging, but for those that do—like barleywines, imperial stouts, and certain Belgian styles—the rewards can be ample. Aging these beers allows their complex flavor profiles to evolve, softening the harsh edges of alcohol and enriching their nuanced flavors.


The benefits of bulk aging, often referred to as cellaring, go beyond simple flavor maturation. It also allows for a gradual, even carbonation process and can imbue your beer with a vintage character that's hard to achieve through shorter storage periods. The resultant brew can offer a more sophisticated drinking experience, akin to enjoying a well-aged wine or whiskey.

Kegging: An Alternative to Bottling

CO2 Control

Kegging your beer provides you with greater control over carbonation levels. Using a CO2 tank, you can fine-tune the pressure to achieve the exact level of fizziness you desire. This method is especially useful for styles that benefit from lower or higher carbonation levels than what natural bottle conditioning can reliably produce.

Seal Integrity

Kegs are generally more robust and offer a better seal compared to individual bottles, reducing the risk of oxidation and contamination. Also, the one-time filling process minimizes the exposure to air, further mitigating the risk of oxidation.

Specialized Storage Equipment

Custom Beer Fridges

These are not your average kitchen fridges. Custom beer fridges can offer features like UV light protection, humidity control, and precise temperature settings that can be adjusted for different styles of beer.

Beer Cellars

An underground beer cellar can provide a naturally cool and stable environment. When properly constructed, it can serve as the ultimate storage solution, offering not just optimal temperature and humidity conditions, but also protection from light.

Advanced techniques and equipment represent a further investment in your brewing journey. They're not necessary for everyone, but for those looking to master the craft, they offer additional avenues for experimentation and refinement. Up next, we'll explore how different styles of beer have their own unique storage needs, rounding out our exhaustive look into the multifaceted world of beer storage and conditioning.

Part IV: Tailoring Your Storage Strategy to Different Beer Styles

After mastering the basics of beer storage and conditioning, and perhaps even venturing into some advanced techniques, it's essential to recognize that not all beers are created equal. Different styles of beer not only offer unique taste profiles but also have varying requirements for optimal storage and maturation. Understanding these nuances can elevate your home brewing prowess to the realm of true craftsmanship.

High-ABV Beers: The Long-Haul Travelers

Aging Potential

Beers with high alcohol content, such as barleywines, imperial stouts, and strong Belgian ales, often benefit from extended aging. The high alcohol content serves as a natural preservative, allowing these beers to mature gracefully over long periods.

Temperature Range

A slightly cooler environment, perhaps in the range of 50-55°F, is typically suitable for these beers, slowing down the aging process and allowing for more nuanced development.

Hop-Forward Beers: The Sprinters

Freshness First

Beers like India Pale Ales (IPAs) and Pale Ales often prioritize hop aroma and freshness. These beers are best consumed relatively quickly after bottling.

Light Sensitivity

Given their hop-forward nature, these styles are particularly susceptible to skunking. Storing them in amber bottles and away from light is even more crucial than with other styles.

Sour Beers: The Wild Bunch

Microbial Complexity

Sour beers often incorporate wild yeasts and bacteria, like Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus, creating a complex microbial landscape. These beers can evolve in unexpected and exciting ways over time.

Oxygen Sensitivity

Because of their complex microbial profile, sour beers are extremely sensitive to oxygen exposure, which can lead to unwanted changes in acidity and flavor profile.

Lagers: The Minimalists

Low and Slow

Lagers generally benefit from being stored at lower temperatures for more extended periods. This "lagering" process refines their flavors and offers a cleaner finish.

Minimalist Conditions

Given their typically simpler flavor profiles, lagers don't benefit as much from the maturation process as ales. Consistency in temperature is more critical here, rather than an extended aging process.

Each style presents its own set of challenges and opportunities, demanding distinct approaches to storage and conditioning. By tailoring your techniques to suit the specific needs of the beer style you're working with, you open the door to a higher echelon of brewing sophistication. Armed with this knowledge, your homebrewing journey transitions from mere practice to an evolving form of art, steeped in science, tradition, and a bit of alchemy for good measure.

Conclusion: The Alchemy of Beer Storage and Conditioning

When setting out on a journey in homebrewing, it's easy to become enamored with the initial stages of brewing and fermenting, overlooking the equally important steps that follow. The storage and conditioning phase, far from being a mere afterthought, can make or break the quality of your beer. It's a stage where science and art blend seamlessly, where microorganisms continue to work their magic, and where flavors evolve, often in surprising and delightful ways.

Understanding the risks and opportunities that come with this phase can not only avert disasters like oxidation and skunking but also unlock hidden layers of flavor complexity. Whether you're storing a hop-forward IPA that's best consumed fresh, or a high-ABV ale worthy of extended aging, your storage decisions wield considerable influence over the final experience in the glass.

From the basic must-dos of protecting your brew from light and temperature fluctuations to advanced techniques like bulk aging and kegging, each approach offers a set of tools to elevate your homebrew. And by tailoring your methods to meet the unique demands of different beer styles, you can explore the limitless possibilities that this craft has to offer.

So as you cap your bottles and tuck them away, remember: your beer is still very much alive, an evolving blend of flavors and aromas waiting for the perfect moment to be enjoyed. It's a form of alchemy that doesn't stop once the brewing kettle is turned off. In the dark, quiet corners of your cellar or fridge, the journey continues. And what could be more exciting than that?

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