Hunterlab, Enhance Transparency in Pale Beer Through Spectrophotometry

November 29, 2023

I once inquired from a beer critic about the criteria for a top-notch glass of light beer, such as American lager or German pilsner. His response was, “I want to see every line of my fingerprint through the glass.” In essence, he prefers the lightest beer to exhibit more clarity than a denser style like stout. However, brewers encounter difficulties in accurately measuring this clarity in lighter beers. Translucent liquids scatter light and can create optical illusions. This underscores the significance of using a spectrophotometer to measure beer before bottling. Employing this method ensures consistent color and guarantees that the beer is devoid of any cloudy haze.

Clearness Plays a Crucial Role in Pale Beer

Light beers, especially those with yellow or gold hues (as opposed to amber or brown tones), demand greater clarity compared to their darker counterparts. While amber ales and stouts may embrace a certain haziness or opacity, the appeal of yellow beer often lies in its crystal-clear appearance. Achieving this clarity involves specific brewing techniques, typically placing light yellow beer around a 3 on the Lovibond unit scale, occasionally even as low as 1.

To attain this measurement, the brewing process must be meticulous. This includes maintaining a lower pH in the water used compared to brewing darker beer. Breweries must also reduce the steep and kettle boil times during the mash to achieve the desired light color and opacity. Furthermore, brewers crafting pale yellow beer must employ filtration methods during fermentation to eliminate proteinous matter, ensuring a clear and non-turbid appearance, which, in turn, enhances the beer’s perceived lightness to the human eye.

Discerning beer critics and consumers actively seek the clearest yellow beers, as it signifies that the brewery has adhered to these meticulous steps, demonstrating a commitment to the brewing process. Breweries successfully producing a translucent final batch are perceived as of higher quality by discerning drinkers compared to those with hazier products.

Assess Prior to Bottling

To make your beer stand out on the shelf or impress even the most discerning critics, it’s crucial to ensure the right level of opacity long before the bottling stage. For optimal results, it’s recommended to measure your beer’s color and opacity at four key points in the brewing process. Start by measuring the color as you steep the mash; once it reaches a shade slightly lighter than your desired final product, you’ll know it’s ready for the next step. Measure the color again during the kettle boil to prevent the brew from becoming too dark. When entering the fermentation stage, continue measuring both the color and turbidity. The final measurement occurs after filtering out excess protein and should focus on assessing the beer’s opacity, especially in the case of light yellow beer.

A significant challenge with light-colored beer lies in the difficulty of visually measuring color and opacity due to diffused light. What may seem too dark might be a misperception caused by surrounding dark objects. This emphasizes the need for actual spectrophotometers in these calculations—relying solely on your eyes is not recommended.

Optimal Spectrophotometers for Light-Colored Beers

Prior to acquiring a spectrophotometer, it’s essential to verify its capability to accurately measure transparent liquids and accommodate the extensive number of measurements required. The choice of the most suitable instrument is contingent on the desired level of translucency for the final brew.

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