Beer finings are processing aids that are added to beer to help improve its clarity, but they do not affect the final flavor of the beer.
They do this by binding to undesirable particles that cloud beer and allowing them to sink to the bottom of the vessel they’re in. Popular beer findings include Irish moss, Whirlfloc tablets, and clear gelatin.
Because of the ingredients and fine particles that are used in the production of beer, it’s prone to clouding. Luckily, there are many fining agents available to add clarity to beer, including Irish moss, Whirlfloc tablets, clear gelatin, and isinglass.
Most types of fining agents work the same way. Fining agents are made up of large, positively charged molecules. Because opposites attract, they attach to negatively charged particles and sink to the bottom of the kettle or fermenter.
The small amount of finings used in homebrewing means that they have no effect on the flavor of beer when used correctly.
Finings have no effect on yeast health or the fermentation process in general. Some fining agents, like gelatin, bind to yeast and cause them to sink to the bottom of the fermenter, but this will still leave plenty of yeast for fermentation.
Beer finings are not required to make any homebrew, however, the clarity they provide usually makes for a more pleasant, and better quality beer.
All things considered, Irish Moss is one of the best and most common fining agents for homebrewing. It’s readily available, affordable, and a pinch added at the end of a boil tends to produce perfectly clear beer.
Gelatin and isinglass are usually usable finings for both wine and beer. Other wine finings, such as egg whites, are not interchangeable and should not be used for beer.