Sediment must have weirded you out a little bit, huh?
Well, you should know it’s perfectly normal to have sediment in your beer. It’s not toxic. Some beer styles even intentionally include sediment. Why is that?
And is there a way to remove sediment? There are a couple of ways, which will be shown in this guide.
What Is the Sediment in Homebrew?
As mentioned earlier, sediment is yeast and protein particles.
But where does it come from? Sediment in beer is caused by 2 things:
- Bottle conditioning
- The result of choosing not to filter beer before bottling
Other reasons why there might be sediment in your beer include the following:
- The beer is contaminated
- The beer is flavored or spiced
- Your beer has aged past 6 months to 1 year
Now, what do each of these reasons mean? Below, you’ll understand each cause and reason.
How Does Bottle Conditioning Create Sediment in Homebrew?
You’ve seen how bottle conditioning works, right? As a homebrewer, you’ve even done it several times! Bottle conditioning is essentially adding sugar and sometimes more yeast in your beer bottle.
This triggers a second fermentation that happens inside your beer bottle.
When you naturally carbonate beer this way, some of the yeast remains in your beer too.
Why Does Unfiltered Beer Have Sediment?
When brewers choose to not filter their beer, sediment is left behind.
For heavily dry-hopped IPAs like a NEIPA, for example, the sediment is a mixture of protein and polyphenols. This protein-polyphenol bond is also known as colloidal haze.
And guess what else colloidal haze is called? Chill haze particles.
Because brewers don’t filter their beer, these particles (sediment) remain.
Can Aged Beer Have Sediment?
Aged beer can definitely have sediment.
But this kind of sediment isn’t the same sediment you get from unfiltered beer or bottle conditioning.
Some even say it looks like dandruff! Yikes!
How is the sediment in aged beer different from unfiltered or bottle-conditioned beer?
It’s not yeast particles.
Protein particles that clumped together and settle in the bottom of your beer bottle. Or, they might just chill and hang out by floating in your beer.
But how exactly does this happen?
When you age beer that’s not supposed to be aged for too long, you get sediment.
And the sediment you get is tasteless, thank the gods. However, it’s a clear sign that the beer has aged past its expiration date.
That means it’s not going to taste great at all.
Why Contaminated Beer Will Have Sediment
Contaminated or infected beer is a rare case, just so you know.
It’s typically unheard of in commercial beers, so don’t worry. Now, contaminated beer will have sediment because of wild yeast and bacteria.
If these creepy crawlies somehow find their way into the bottle, well…
The bacteria and wild yeast will overwhelm the yeast that’s already in your bottle. Eventually, it will replicate and you’ll see sediment.
Fortunately, it’s easy to spot infected or contaminated beer. It will smell bad and taste horrible.
But even then, infected beer with sediment isn’t going to hurt you or cause an upset stomach.
Phew! You’re in the clear!
Does Spiced or Flavored Beer Have Sediment?
Last but not least, spiced or flavored beer will have sediment. Intentionally.
Wait – what does that mean?
When brewers add flavorings to beer, some of it will settle to the bottom of your beer as sediment. It’s not harmless and is actually part of the beer’s flavor!
Yes – brewers will even recommend that you should mix the sediment in your beer to get the right flavor.
Pretty interesting, right?
What Is the Sediment in Fermentation?
Ah. Sediment in fermentation.
It’s different from the sediment you see in an unfiltered beer. It’s not usually referred to as sediment.
Its more common name is trub.
What exactly is trub?
Trub is a byproduct of the brewing process. During fermentation, you’ll see a layer of sediment forming at the bottom of your fermentation vessel.
This sediment, A.K.A. trub, is usually composed of the following:
- Dead yeast
And finally, the yeast layer you see is also known as lees. However, it’s not as obvious since it gets clumped together with the trub.
What Is the Sediment in Fermenter?
Whether it’s fermentation or in your fermenter, the sediment you see is trub.
It’s actually a good sign even that your yeast is converting your sugars into alcohol. That means you’re on the right track!
One thing to note, though, is you should leave it in your fermentation vessel or bucket.
Don’t include the sediment in your fermenter when you transfer it to your bottles!
How Much Sediment Is in a Fermenter?
That’s a great question.
And the answer is … it varies based on the style of your brew and the process.
Say, for example, you’re brewing a NEIPA. NEIPAs are heavily dry-hopped and use a ton of grains. Compare that to a lager that uses lesser amounts of both.
Remember: trub is a byproduct of the brewing process.
That means the more ingredients, the more trub you’ll see too. So, with a NEIPA, you’ll see more trub in your fermentation vessel than in a lager’s.
How Do I Make My Homebrew Have Less Sediment?
For starters, you’ll want to learn how to pour better.
Yes – pour better.
That way, when you pour beer with sediment from a bottle into your glass, your glass is sediment-free.
It’s a simple habit to help you achieve that crystal clear quality in a beer.
Interestingly, Business Insider has a video on how to do the perfect pour. What’s even more interesting is the video shows you that a bad pour doesn’t release CO2 in the glass. In effect, the moment you eat food and drink that beer, all that CO2 goes to your stomach.
And then you feel bloated. Not exactly what you want in any beer, right?
That aside, are there other ways to reduce sediment in your homebrew beer?
Yes, there are! A couple, actually! You’ll find most of those tips in the next section below.
How Do You Reduce the Sediment in Homebrew Beer?
Practicing the perfect pour is simple enough to do. After a few practice sessions, you should get the hang of it. But what if you want to reduce even more sediment so that it doesn’t end up in your bottle?
You’ll have to change and/or add a few things in your brewing process. The table below should give you a complete guide on how to reduce sediment:
|Ways to Reduce Sediment in Your Beer
|Use high-flocculating yeast
|Flocculation simply means how much of the yeast will clump together and drop out of the solution. If you’re using low-flocculating yeast, there’s a higher chance for sediment in your beer.
Instead, go with medium or high-flocculating yeast. However, if your recipe requires yeast with low flocculation, follow the recipe.
|Do a cold crash
|Cold crashing is the process of lowering your beer’s temperature after fermentation and before packaging.
The process usually lasts for 24 hours; however, some might do it for 2 to 3 days. The main purpose of cold crashing is to improve the clarity of your beer and reduce sediment.
|Use a beer siphon
|When transferring beer from your primary fermentation vessel to your bottling bucket, use a beer siphon. This should leave some of the yeast behind in your fermentation vessel.
|Allow fermentation to last a little longer
|What happens during fermentation? Yeast eats sugar that is then converted into alcohol. Essentially, you’re allowing the yeast to do its work.
The longer you wait, the more that yeast will be able to do its work. As a result, more yeast will clump together and settle at the bottom of your fermenter.
|Add finings to improve your beer’s clarity
|Finings or fining agents improve the clarity of beer. Irish moss/Whirlfloc, gelatin, and Chillguard are all good examples.
If you want to add Whirlfloc, add it in the last 15 minutes of your kettle boil. For gelatin, mix 1 tsp. (5.69 g) in 1 cup (237 ml) of hot water. Then, add it 5 days before racking. For Chillguard, this is a silica-based gel you can add 5 days before racking too.
How Do You Remove Sediment From Home-Brewed Beer?
Reducing sediment in your home-brewed beer is one thing.
Removing it completely is another story. It’s practically impossible to remove sediment if you’re bottle conditioning.
Now, if you’re wondering how commercial breweries produce crystal clear beer, the answer is simple.
Commercial breweries have a different process than homebrewing. In addition, breweries have fancy machines that allow them to force carbonate directly in the can or bottle.
Some breweries also have filtration systems to remove sediment. Once they remove the sediment, they repitch yeast to allow carbonation.
However, you can use a centrifuge to remove sediment. But here’s the problem.
It’s hella expensive for homebrewers to invest in. It might be something worth considering in the future, though.
But if you’ve only just begun your homebrewing journey, start with the tips mentioned above.
How Do You Filter Sediment Out of Beer?
If you’re dead serious about filtering sediment out of beer, there is one option.
Get into kegging. Why?
Because you can force carbonate your beer without pitching yeast to convert sugar into CO2.
When you force carbonate, you force CO2 in your finished product until you reach your desired carbonation level.
Sounds simple enough, right?
Kegging beer is different from bottling beer. And that includes buying new equipment specifically for kegging.
Specifically, you’ll need to buy kegs and gas cylinders. But if you really want to know how it’s done, there are 2 ways you can do it:
- Chemical filtration
- Mechanical filtration
Chemical Filtration Process of Removing Sediment
With chemical filtration, the key ingredient here is fining agents.
How it works is by adding fining agents throughout the brewing process. Fining agents are useful in adding clarity to your beer.
Now, there are 4 steps in total. Here’s how it’s done:
Step 1: Add Fining Agents During Your Kettle Boil
With 15 to 20 minutes left in the kettle boil, add your fining agents. A good starter would be Irish Moss. A lot of brewers use this fining agent.
What happens is the fining agent adheres to the yeast particles in the brew. As a result, it forces yeast and other particles to fall out of suspension.
Now, you don’t need a lot of Irish Moss to add clarity to your beer. In fact, a small amount should already be enough. A good ratio to start with is 1 tsp. (5.7 g) of Irish Moss for every 5 gallons (3.8 L) of beer.
Step 2: Secondary Fermentation
After adding fining agents during the kettle boil, carry out the brewing process as you normally would. Or, according to the recipe.
After primary fermentation, rack your beer and transfer it to a secondary fermenter/vessel. This is where you add another batch of fining agents.
Since you’re adding fining agents during fermentation, they will remain in your beer even after bottling.
Should you use Irish Moss?
No – instead, go for either gelatin or lactose.
Lactose adds sweetness and a smoother texture to your beer. If you don’t want your beer to have a slight sweetness to it, go with gelatin.
It’s odorless, tasteless, and transparent.
That means adding it to your beer won’t alter its flavor profile at all. It simply adds more clarity.
Step 3: Cold Crashing
You might have heard about cold crashing before. But have you heard about why it’s beneficial to your beer?
Cold crashing forces any suspended particles left in your beer to drop out.
Sure, this will naturally happen even if you don’t cold crash. But what cold crashing does is it accelerates the process.
The concept of cold crashing is to drop your beer’s temperature significantly during or immediately after secondary fermentation.
A good temperature range for cold crashing is between 35°F (1.7°C) to 40°F (4.4°C).
Step 4: Bottle Conditioning
And finally, bottle conditioning.
Of course, you would need to add priming sugar to allow carbonation to happen.
Once done, it’s all about waiting. Bottle conditioning takes between 1 to 2 weeks. However, it’s better to wait for at least 2 weeks to get the most flavor and aroma out of your beer.
Mechanical Filtration Process of Removing Sediment
Mechanical filtration is a completely different process from chemical filtration.
Not to mention, it requires the added expense of kegs and gas cylinders. The step-by-step process is as follows:
- Choose a filter size of around 1 micron: If you get a larger filter size, it will still leave yeast sediment behind. And if you choose a smaller filter size, you risk removing flavor and aroma compounds in your beer.
- Wait for secondary fermentation to finish: Mechanical filtration should be performed at the end of the brewing process.
- Use an in-line filter between your kegs: After removing beer from your secondary fermenter, you can start mechanical filtration. Using an in-line filter will help you filter out sediment without introducing oxygen to your beer. The last thing you want is for oxidation to happen.
- Force carbonate your beer: Use a beer gas regulator and a gas cylinder for this. You’ll want to force carbonate your keg with the appropriate levels of carbonation. This will depend on how much beer you have in your keg. If you’re bottling, it’s best to use a counter-pressure bottle filler for force carbonation.
Mechanical Filtration vs. Chemical Filtration: Which is Better?
Honestly, mechanical filtration has a lot of risks, especially if you’re bottling.
Chemical filtration is safer. However, that’s not the only reason.
It’s worth noting the risks involved with mechanical filtration:
- The equipment needed for mechanical filtration is expensive. Not to mention, it’s an added expense on your part.
- Bottle conditioning is practically impossible after mechanical filtration. Why? Because it removes most – if not all – of the yeast. Without yeast, you have to force carbonate your beer. If you don’t force carbonate your beer carefully, too much pressure can cause your bottle to explode.
- Without yeast in your bottle, sure you have carbonation. But what you sacrifice most for mechanically filtering out sediment is flavor. In the end, you end up with a beer that tastes flat.
- Mechanical filtration methods have a higher chance of your beer becoming oxidized. This includes racking your beer too. Racking is necessary because if not, you end up with burnt or rubbery flavors. Those off-flavors are the result of leaving your beer in the primary fermenter with dead yeast.
Then again, chemical filtration does have disadvantages too.
For one, chemical filtration requires the use of animal products like gelatin or isinglass. For vegans, it’s unacceptable.
Second, adding fining agents can somewhat complicate the brewing process, but not to a large extent.
So, which is really better? Between the two, chemical filtration is without a doubt, a safer choice.
However, it all depends on you:
- If you’re willing to invest in equipment to aid you in filtering beer, learn more about mechanical filtration.
- If you want to learn more about fining agents and how they work, you lean more toward chemical filtration.
How to Bottle Homebrew Beer Without Sediment
As mentioned earlier, it’s practically impossible to bottle homebrew beer without sediment.
For one, if you try to filter your homebrew before bottling, it sounds like a great idea at first.
But here’s the catch. Two things can happen:
- After filtering, some yeast still makes its way into your bottle. So, you’ll have to condition your bottle for longer than normal.
- After filtering, you lose too much yeast. With too little yeast, you can’t carbonate your beer.
Basically, you either get beer that doesn’t taste as good as you expect. Or, you get a beer with low carbonation. Both aren’t exactly satisfying results, are they?
Honestly, it’s not worth the risk that you might ruin your entire batch in the process. By removing too much yeast, most of the flavors will taste off-balance.
At best, you can have very small amounts of sediment in your bottle. Removing 100% of sediment completely is definitely impossible.
But here’s an interesting thought.
What if there was a product that could “catch” the sediment for you? Keep reading and you’ll find out what this means.
How Do You Bottle Condition Without Sediment?
Bottle conditioning without sediment is impossible.
Why? Because it’s the nature of carbonation. You add sugar to carbonate your beer and that will inevitably lead to sediment in your beer.
There’s no way around it. Not even if you stored your beer sideways.
For bottle conditioning or carbonating beer bottles, there is a way to do so without sediment.
How Do You Carbonate Beer Bottles Without Sediment?
Is there a product that can “catch” sediment for you?
It’s a product made by Sedex Brewing. And it’s literally called a sediment catcher.
Of course, you can already tell what the purpose of these sediment catchers are. To prevent sediment in your homebrew!
And this works if you’re bottle conditioning or carbonating your beer bottles.
Where can you buy sediment catchers? Amazon!
A few other sites might sell them too, so it’s worth checking them out online.
Another great resource is a YouTube video that talks about sediment catchers and how to use one. It’s actually quite old, but it’s still a credible source.
Simply type “Say Goodbye to Sediment in Bottled Home Brew” on YouTube. The video is under the channel “CraigTube.”
Do Carbonation Drops Leave Sediment?
Yes, carbonation drops leave sediment at the bottom of your beer bottle.
In fact, the sediment is a sign that carbonation is successful or complete. Even with carbonation drops, there’s still yeast in your beer. No matter what, there will still be a small amount of sediment in your bottle.
However, if your primary fermentation lasts for 10 days and your secondary fermentation for 2 weeks, you’ll only have light sediment.
How Do You Rack Beer Without Sediment?
As every brewer will say: you have to be careful.
If you want to get every last drop of your beer, then getting some sediment is inevitable. But if you’re okay with losing a little beer volume, then it’s the best way to rack beer without sediment.
Here’s a step-by-step example of how to rack beer carefully without getting sediment.
Note: It’s preferable to use a clamp to keep your hand steady throughout the process. You can use a 1/2” Auto-Siphon Clamp.
- Use your clamp to hold your racking cane
- Start in the middle of your beer. Never start at the bottom since it’s closer to your trub/sediment.
- As the level of your beer lowers, lower your racking cane slowly.
- Keep a close eye when you’re about 1 to 2 inches away from the bottom.
- Gently tip your container/carboy/vessel. This will allow you to collect all your beer without touching the bottom of your carboy.
Finally, if your brew recipe allows for high-flocculating yeast, go with that.
How Long Does It Take for Sediment to Settle Beer?
You don’t need to wait too long for sediment to settle in beer. One hour should be enough waiting time.
For example, say you bought beer and drove home right after. The car ride might disturb the sediment, so you should give it time to settle.
As long as you store it in an upright position and let it settle for an hour or so, it should be fine. Some brewers wait 15 to 20 minutes.
Other brewers wait just 5 to 10 minutes.
However, if the sediment was aggravated heavily like say, you were driving through a dirt track, then…
A couple of hours (2 to 3 hours) should be enough to let it settle.
Now, there is an interesting formula that some brewers refer to as well. It’s only a rough calculation, so don’t take it as the absolute truth.
The formula states that it takes 8 hours for the yeast to settle every yard in beer. That’s a little shocking, isn’t it?
Ultimately, a lot of factors do come into play. Rather than dabble with the science and spend too much effort on formulas, how else can you enjoy your beer?
That said, 1 to 2 hours is the safest route you can take. Don’t overthink it. And even if small traces of sediment do end up in your glass, so be it!
Or, you can master the art of the perfect pour.
How to Pour Homebrew Without Sediment
Pouring your homebrew without sediment is definitely possible. But don’t be taken aback if you fail the first time. It’s a skill that most bartenders haven’t perfected.
Here’s how to do it:
- First, let your beer sit in an upright position for an hour or so. This allows the sediment to settle at the bottom.
- Remove the cap of your beer without shaking or aggravating your beer.
- Tilt your glass at a 45-degree angle.
- Pour the beer slowly at a low angle.
- As you’re pouring and about half-full in your glass, slowly tilt your glass back to its upright position.
- Don’t pour all the beer out. Leave at least an inch in your bottle so that the sediment doesn’t fall in your beer.
Can You Drink the Sediment in Homebrew?
Worried if sediment might mean a trip to the hospital?
Yeast and protein particles are harmless. Even if you accidentally drank contaminated beer, you’d still be fine.
Here’s what you need to remember: beer will always have yeast and protein particles.
If you’re talking about heavily dry-hopped beers like a NEIPA or West Coast IPA, then… there’s a higher amount of those particles in your beer. And it’s only natural for it to be that way.
So, go ahead and drink that sediment without worry!
Although, the taste doesn’t always agree with everyone’s tastebuds. Sure, beer might taste a little different with sediment, but more sediment doesn’t mean it’s toxic.
Is Home Brew Sediment Bad for You?
Homebrew sediment isn’t bad for you at all. Under no circumstances is it dangerous to your health.
In fact, the yeast particles need to be there because it also adds flavor to your beer. How so? In the form of esters.
Esters are basically a byproduct of fermentation. These esters can impart fruity flavors to your beer. One example of this is a NEIPA or New England IPA.
However, the flavor of esters varies depending on the strain used.
With a NEIPA, the esters you get lean towards fruity and tropical. But for a German Hefeweizen, the esters lean towards a classic banana flavor.
Pretty interesting, right?
You might not like those yeast particles floating in your homebrew. But at the same time, you owe it to your yeast if you drink delicious beer.
Yeast plays a vital role in the brewing process. Don’t be so terrified of small floaties that don’t do your body any harm.
On a final note, expect beer to always have yeast and protein particles. The only reason you can see sediment is that there’s a good quantity for you to see it.