Clarifying or clearing a wash is a controversial topic amongst home-distillers.
Some skip the step altogether and add anti-foaming agents to mitigate any problems that come with distilling solids. While others take the extra time to ensure everything going into the boiler is as clean as possible.
There’s no right or wrong. But I’ve always achieved better results when I clarify my moonshine wash; it prevents puking and preserves the flavors in my drink.
There’s a plethora of techniques you can use to clear your wash, but my tried and tested one entails:
- Adding gelatin to the wash.
- Cold crashing it at 1-4°C (34-39°F).
- Racking the clear liquid into a still.
This makes the distillation process run a whole lot smoother!
In this post, you’ll learn about different methods and agents you can use to clarify your wash for crystal-clear results. Let’s dive in!
(Jump to step by step instructions)
What Do We Mean By Clarification?
Clarification is the process of removing solids and impurities from your wash by straining, adding clearing agents, and many others. This results in a clear liquid ready for distillation and can improve the quality of your moonshine.
Why Should We Clarify Our Wash Before Distilling?
When solids are present, they can settle at the bottom of your still and create hot spots. This can lead to scorching, which imparts unpleasant flavors to your final product. When your wash is clear, it allows for more uniform heat distribution, ensuring a cleaner, smoother distillate.
Puking, also known as foaming, is a messy process that occurs when solids in your wash react with heat. This results in excessive bubbling and overflow from your still. Clarifying your wash removes any particles that contribute to foam formation.
Nothing is as frustrating as compromising the delicate flavors you’ve worked hard to develop. Impurities can introduce off-flavors, from scorching, for example, or undesirable characteristics to the final product. If you want to preserve and showcase the flavors and aromas of your product, it’s best to clarify your wash!
Do You Need To Clear Your Wash Before Distilling?
You don’t need to clear your wash before distilling, but I recommend you do. This extra step reduces the likelihood of off-flavors, scorching, and puking, which improves the quality of your final product.
What Are The Methods To Clarify A Wash (Explained)
Straining is by far the simplest and most cost-effective way to clarify your wash. The process involves passing your wash through a fine mesh or cheesecloth to remove larger particles. This method does not effectively remove finer substances so you might have to add fining agents to achieve the desired clarity.
2. Cold crashing
When cold crashing, you chill your wash in an environment with near-freezing temperatures. The cold causes fatty acids and any other sediments to solidify. Because they’re heavy, they settle at the bottom, making it easier to rack.
3. Adding finings
Finings are agents or substances that bind to suspended particles, causing them to clump together and settle at the bottom of the bucket. Because they’re designed to effectively bind to finer particles, it makes it far easier to rack the clear liquid.
Here are some examples of finings.
- Sodium Bentonite
- Turbo Clear
- Bentonite Clay
- Irish Moss
Racking, sometimes called siphoning, involves transferring clarified liquid from one container to another, leaving behind any sediments. Racking is more effective when performed after cold crashing or adding finings.
Filtering involves passing your wash through various filtration media, like activated carbon. This method helps remove even the tiniest impurities, resulting in a pristine, clear wash ready for distillation. The downside to filtering is it can strip away any congeners that contribute to the aroma and taste of your moonshine.
The Best Clearing Agents
Sodium bentonite is derived from weathering volcanic rock, making it one of the most natural ways to clarify your wash. You add it to your fermentation and wait about 24 hours for the solids to settle at the bottom of your bucket. From here, you can siphon the liquid into your still.
Gelatin (My Favorite)
Gelatin is extracted from animal collagen and acts as a natural adhesive, binding to suspended particles and forming larger sediment clusters. These clusters sink to the bottom of the bucket, making it easier to rack the liquid. Gelatin effectively removes the smaller particles in your wash and works best in conjunction with cold crashing.
Isinglass comes from fish bladders and it’s incredibly effective in clearing haze-causing proteins. When added to the wash, it binds to suspended particles, forming solids that settle at the bottom.
Turbo clear is a fast-acting agent that allows you to have a crystal clear product within 24 hours. It consists of two compounds: Kieselsol and Chitosan. Kieselsol, attracts and binds to haze-causing compounds like proteins, forming larger particles that settle more easily. Chitosan acts as a fining agent and removes positively charged particles, like yeast cells. The components are added at different intervals to optimize their effects.
How To Clarify Your Wash (My Method-Step By Step)
As mentioned earlier in the post, there are various techniques you can use to clarify your wash, but the method I’m about to share has always worked without fail.
For a 19L (5-gallon) wash, you’ll need:
- 1 Tbsp Gelatin (unflavored and sugar-free)
- ½ cup cold water + ½ cup hot water
- Stir in the gelatin in the cold water.
- Let it sit for about 2 minutes.
- Add the hot water and stir until fully dissolved.
- Pour the solution into your wash and stir well.
- Place your fermenter in a cold room or refrigerator, preferably at 1-4°C (34-39°F).
- Let the wash chill for at least 48 hours.
Rack into a still
- Carefully rack the clear liquid into your still.
- Now you’re ready to distill!
There are several techniques you can use to clarify your wash: straining, filtering and many more. My go-to involves a combination of three methods: adding gelatin, cold crashing, and then racking the wash into the still. It saves me the hassle of experiencing any nasty surprises.
But, this technique might not work for you. In this case, you can add Turbo Clear or sodium bentonite. These finings remove large and small particles, reducing the need to employ anti-foaming agents to prevent scorching and puking. From here, you can rack into a still and produce moonshine you’ll be proud of.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Why is my sugar wash cloudy?
A cloudy sugar wash means there are suspended yeast particles and residue. This is mostly due to the yeast activity so the best way to clean it up is to add finings and cod crash it in a refrigerator.
Q. What can I use to clear my sugar wash?
You can clear your sugar wash by adding a fining agent like gelatin or sodium bentonite. For a pristine product, you can also cold crash your wash after adding the agent.
Q. How do you make moonshine not cloudy?
To make moonshine not cloudy, you can add clearing agents like gelatin or Turbo Clear. If necessary, you can follow this by cold crashing the wash at 1-4°C (34-39°F).