Sparkolloid is a proprietary wine fining made by Scott Laboratories. It is a combination of diatomaceous earth and polysaccharides. It is more suitable for vegans in that it is derived from fossils of algae. It is easy to prepare, you need only boil it in water for five minutes and add it to your wine hot. It has a neutral odour and very little effect on the flavour of the finished product.
It is suitable for wine, beer, lemonade, ginger ale and most other beverages and in the majority of cases works miraculously in a few days to a week. In fact, when sparkolloid works it can often be seen to clear a wine very dramatically in an hour or two. Other wines may take an entire week but still clear.
Sparkolloid is a positively charged fining agent so if it doesn’t work satisfactorily in a week it can be followed by a bentonite treatment which, being negatively charged, may remove the remaining haze the sparkolloid did not clear.
Sparkolloid is most suitable for wines or liquors that have dropped much sediment already and have been racked at least once. If your liquor is heavily soiled it may be necessary to use bentonite first, but if it is only a light to moderate cloudy then you can proceed directly to sparkolloid. I favour going directly to the sparkolloid for two reasons: First, when it works it is quite miraculous, and secondly, there are benefits to doing the bentonite treatment second, after the sparkolloid addition anyway. In a truly dire case of heavy haze it might be necessary to use bentonite both before and after, but that is rare.
The first disadvantage to sparkolloid is that it occasionally takes a long time, but I have not found this so. The second disadvantage is that it can produce very light sediment which can be difficult to leave behind during racking. You may have to leave behind more of the liquor than is ideal to avoid rousing the fine floaty sediment.
It is because of this light, fluffy sediment that, where possible, you should treat the liquor with bentonite after a week, or sooner if the liquor clears sooner. Even if the liquor is bright and sparkly clean, as it often is, the bentonite will weigh down the sparkolloid sediment making it easier to rack. If the liquor is not crystal clear after a week then the negatively charged bentonite may perfectly compliment the prior positively charged sparkolloid treatment.
Overall I have found sparkolloid a very satisfactory treatment which doesn’t change the beverage much beyond clearing it. Bentonite can strip and mellow some flavours, but if undesired you may be able to avoid using it if the sparkolloid works well and you are very careful in racking. However, because I am also fond of the simplicity of bentonite and generally happy with its results, I find this combination to be my preferred way to clear nearly all beverages.
Should the sparkolloid and bentonite combination fail to clear your beverage, you can always rack it anyway and try a kieselsol and isinglass treatment, as described in Using Isinglass Wine Finings.
You should prefer the directions that come with your sparkolloid or bentonite, but this is the method I generally use.
Your liquor should not have abundant CO2 dissolved in it, so degass it by shaking or stirring if it is gassy. It must be well finished fermenting.
For sparkolloid treatment use a half teaspoon of sparkolloid powder and 40 ml water to treat every gallon / 5 litres of liquor. You need to boil the sparkolloid powder and water together at a temperature greater than 82 degrees for five minutes This can be difficult to do if the quantity is small but you can always add a splash more water. It is easier to boil up larger quantities and treat multiple gallons of liquor at a time, and you should multiply up as so:
- 5 litres (1 gallon) of liquor takes ½ teaspoon powder and 40 ml water;
- 10 litres takes 1 teaspoon and 80 ml water;
- 30 litres takes 1 tablespoon and 240 ml water;
- 90 litres takes 3 tablespoons and 720 lm water.
Pick your quantity carefully because you will need to boil up the solution, stirring continuously for five minutes and add it into your liquor while it is still fairly hot. You don’t want any left over (I have never tried reheating it.)
Add 40 ml per gallon / 5 litres of liquor and either stir or shake as appropriate. Release any pressure from the liquor and store in a cold room or fridge.
Clearing may begin within hours or may take longer. Once the liquor is clear you have the option of proceeding to bentonite treatment to make the sediment heavier or you may wait out the week and rack more carefully.
Avoiding bentonite addition has the advantage of leaving more flavour in the liquor, so if you like the flavour of your liquor and it is clear then you may just want to skip the bentonite and rack it more carefully. Sparkolloid has negligible effect on flavour.
If the liquor is not clear after a week you will definitely want to try bentonite which has an opposite charge to sparkolloid and is very likely to finishing the clearing process the sparkolloid started. Try to use the minimum quantity of bentonite to avoid flavour loss and the buildup of sodium or calcium in the liquor that will result from bentonite treatment. This is usually not a problem as long as you don’t use too much or repeat the treatment many times.
Dissolve 2 teaspoons of bentonite in 100 ml of boiling water in an old container (As the bentonite will scratch plastic and some other materials.) Stir it well and let it sit for at least 4 hours to hydrate, though upto 24 is better.
You can add the bentonite cold, using a tablespoon per gallon / 5 litres for a lightly clouded liquor, or two tablespoons per gallon for a heavily soiled liquor. If you are treating a clear liquor simply to hold down the light sediment resulting from sparkolloid treatment then a half tablespoon should be enough.
Mix the liquor to distribute the bentonite but not so much as to completely scatter the sparkolloid sediment. Irrespective of how your liquor looks now put it aside for a few days to a week or two in a cool place and it should be crystal clear with a nice weighty sediment and racking to a clean container to bottle should be easy.