↠ How to 'cold crash' home brew beer

Wednesday, January 31, 2018
tips on cold crashing beer

Cold crashing home brew tips and tricks

'Cold crashing' is not missing the turn on a cold winter's evening and ending up driving into a snow bank.

It's not feeling horrible from a viral infection.

It's when you make your beer so cold that all the yeast 'leftovers' in your brew fall to the bottom meaning you can bottle or keg your beer, safe in the knowledge there will be little sediment left in the bottles and it will be quite clear.

Cold crashing is a popular alternative to using finings such as gelatin to achieve a clear beer.

For many brewers, a good color beer profile is a badge of honor and it can greatly add to the drinking experience.

Cold crashing is generally done with lagers but can be done with ales.

So how do you cold crash home brew?

What you need is a very cold area.

Maybe you brewed your beer under the kitchen sink and it's ready to bottle condition. Now is the time to cold crash. If it's winter, you're in luck, place the fermenter or carboy in your extremely cold shed for a full 24 hours.

This will cool the beer so that gravity can do its thing and the yeast can clump together (floccuate) and other impurities can fall to the bottom. If you can, leave it for a week.

Or, you can do what so many brewers do and place your 23 litre drum in an old but working refrigerator. Many brewers use temperature controllers to regulation the fridge.

The ideal temperature is as close to zero and five degrees centigrade as one can get - without freezing the beer of course!

What's happening during a cold crash is that the yeast and other solids are dropping to the bottom of the barrel and this makes the beer clear.

Different yeasts have different behaviors in the cold.  'Flocculent' yeast strains will drop out in a day or two but for some of those poncy Belgian yeasts, you might be looking closer to a week. That said, many homebrewers report that a week of cold crashing achieves the best clarity results.

It will be hard to achieve 100 percent clarity when you cold crash - commercial brewers have plenty of tricks up their sleeves to do that but remember that by properly conditioning your beer in a glass bottle or keg, the fermentation process will continue and there will be increased clarity occurring too.

When do I cold crash?

Begin the process only when you are sure that fermentation is complete otherwise you'll obviously stall the process as the cold will cause the yeast to halt fermentation mid-brew. You can use a hydrometer to determine this - make sure you take that first reading!

What is the best temperature to cold crash beer?

There are many opinions out there but the commonly recommended range varies from 33 degrees Fahrenheit to 40 degrees F, with 38 degrees F being a fairly popular temperature point.  40 F is about 4.4. Centigrade.

Just don't freeze your beer. 

What do I do after I have cold crashed?

Keg or bottle in the normal fashions. Try not to stir the trub up!

Does cold crashing affect dry hopping?

It's a fair question given many brewers like to dry hop just prior to bottling. This is when hops are added to the fermenter a day or three prior to the end of fermentation. Most brewers report that dry hopping at the normal time and then cold crashing does not cause a great deal of aroma dissipation.

You could do it the other way too...

Some tips on cold crashing beer

  • Only cold crash when your beer is fully fermented. Crashing causes yeast to fall out of the beer so if done too early, you won't end up with the beer you intended to make.
  • If you keg your brew, you can cold crash right in a keg. Let the keg condition (uncarbonated) for a few days in your 'kegerator' so the yeast flocculates and drops out. Keen brewers can then transfer the batch to a second keg, many most of the sediment is left behind as well.
  • Perhaps somewhat ironically, cold crashing can increase the chances that chill haze will occur. While chill haze is actually prevented earlier in the brewing process if it occurs during the cold crashing stage, a quick application of finings will help. Chill haze will not affect the taste of your beer though you may not like the look of it, especially if it's occurred in a light colored beer. 
  • If you are concerned that hops cause too much sediment, consider using mesh bags.
  • If you are getting serious about cold crashing in a fridge, a temperature-controlled one will keep the beer at a consistent level.
  • You do not need to re-pitch yeast for bottling as there will be sufficient yeast left for bottle carbonation. That said, it may take a little more time than usual for carbonation to occur. Results may vary!
There's another means to improve beer clarity.

Cold conditioning or 'lagering' your homebrew

Did you know that the word lager is derived from a German word, lagern?

It means ‘to store’. This should be a strong clue on how to make a good lager or any beer really. The lagering process was born when it was realised that beer left in cold caves turned out pretty good.

Due to lager yeasts operating best at lower temperatures, they actually ferment the beer at a lower rate than compared to ales which often ferment at higher temperatures.

This can mean that to get a lager brewed from a kit to be at its best for drinking, you may need to let it ‘lager’ for more weeks than you normally let an ale sit. So hide it in a dark corner of the garden shed during winter.

This will help with your beer clarity too!

If you are doing a boil, chilling your wort can also help remove unwanted items from your beer.


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