Yeast

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Harvesting Wild Yeast

Generally it’s nice to brew with predictable ingredients in controlled conditions. You purchase your ingredients, follow your process, pitch your yeast, and leave your beer in a temperature stable environment. After some time the yeast consumes all the sugars and leaves behind its own flavor characters and some alcohol. I decided that I’d carry out a little experiment to mix the process up a little. I wanted to catch some wild yeast. Yeast grows on a number of plants and also drifts through the air. In the old days people fermented things without even knowing what was causing it. Later brewer’s yeast was isolated and then carefully selected and bred to the different strains we use today. There is however no reason we cannot make use of wild yeast in our beers and see what we end up with at the end. Wild yeast tends to have a particular character and doesn’t ferment as clean as some commercial yeasts. Some beers rely on this unique character to create their particular flavor...

Hefeweizen Yeast Selection Experiment

One of the beers that made me enter the hobby of brewing was a nice and fluffy Paulaner hefe-eeissbier. It was the first hefeweizen I tasted and I fell in love instantly with the style: phenolic, estery, wheaty, refreshing, bubbly… simply delicious. Since then I tried to brew some examples of the style, using the materials I had at hand; good wheat and barley malts, good German hops and some dried yeast (WB-06). It didn’t go well. The beer was crystal clear (an accidental kristallweizen?) and the classic banana and clove were very, very subtle. Not my favorite brew. Then I tried another yeast, Lallemand’s Munich. Same results. I live in Mexico City so liquid strains were hard to find. I was really frustrated because I was brewing nice blondes, American wheats, IPA, stouts and so on, but couldn’t brew my favorite style… Until I found a guy that could bring me a good vial of White Labs bavarian weisse Yeast (WLP 380). I was so excited that the next day after I had in my hands the...

Starting a Home Lab

Starting your own lab at home can be rewarding and fun. Not only does it provide a more in-depth understanding of how yeast and other microorganisms function, but it can be fun at the same time. Now if being extremely sanitary and always on the alert for risk of contamination isn’t your thing, then this may not be for you. This is where you really need to step up your sanitation game. After brewing for a few years, I became more curious about the science behind brewing and fermentation. During research, I came to the realization that yeast is the most important brewing ingredient. I knew this before, but I didn’t understand fully how and why. After all, it is a living organism and, just like any other organism, it needs the proper attention and environment to thrive. This research led me to the book Yeast by Chris White and Jamil Zanishaff. After this, I was hooked on all things brewing science and especially microbiology. I was also interested in sour beers, so this led me to Milk...

Using a Microscope with Homebrewing: A Primer

So why would a homebrewer ever think of getting a microscope? Isn’t it just one more unnecessary expensive gadget? Isn’t it just for the ultra-geeks? Don’t you need to be a microbiologist to know how to use one? The short answer to the last 3 questions is: no. For the long answer to the first question, read on. In an ideal homebrew environment yeast is always pitched at the correct time and pitching rate, wort oxygenated precisely, temperature controlled perfectly, and perfect beer is created every time. If that’s you, I’m impressed! My world isn’t that perfect. I had been doing yeast starters and re-pitching yeast for years and thought I knew enough about the importance of yeast health to make great beer. But it wasn’t until a few years ago when I spent a day with a pro brewer who let me look through his microscope that I realized how much I had to learn and I became somewhat obsessed with looking at yeast. By staining and looking at my yeast I found out quickly that I’d been...

Correctly Rehydrating Dry Yeast

Advantages of Using Dry Yeast Here is how to rehydrate one packet or 11.5g of dry yeast. You can scale the numbers accordingly to your quantities. Things you need: Microwaveable container (best with lid): This could be a drinking glass, mason jar, or Pyrex measuring glass. Microwave safe plastic should also work well. For one packet of yeast you need around 2 cup (~475 ml) of volume. Microwave: Any microwave is ok, it just needs to be big enough for your container. Thermometer: You can take your default brewing thermometer. A quick measurement and long probe are beneficial. Yeast rehydration nutrient: Go Ferm Protect is the standard - you will need 1.25 grams per gram of dry yeast (13.75g for the 11.5g yeast packet). Water: Bottled spring water is best; however, whatever water you normally use for brewing should probably suffice (the small amount of chlorine found in tap water has not been shown to have a negative impact here. You will need 20X the weight of Go Ferm as your water...

The Science of Suds: Interview with Neva Parker from White Labs

White Labs needs no introduction to homebrewers. As one of the largest providers of brewing yeast in the United States, all of us at one time or another have used their products. Founded way back in 1995 by President and CEO Chris White, their mission has been simple to sum up, though perhaps not so simple to accomplish: to provide, save, and develop scores of high quality yeast strains for the more than 1.2 million homebrewers (and counting) in the United States, and countless more beyond. We recently had an opportunity to catch up with Neva Parker, White Labs’ VP of Operations, to talk about her unusual road into the world of brewing, how science and brewing intersect, and how homebrewers can get the most out of their experimentation. Neva came to the world of brewing by way of science rather than by beer. With a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA, she joined the White Labs team in 2003 and has played a vital role in what they do ever since. She...

Maintaining A Healthy Yeast Bank Long Term

One of the most important things you can do to brew great beer is ensure you have a healthy, unstressed yeast population. From pitching rates, fermentation temperature, avoiding contamination by competitive organisms, all the way through bottle conditioning; an unhappy yeast culture will kill a batch faster than you can drop a 5 gallon glass carboy on a concrete patio. As long as your clean, you can do prepare your yeast for storage outside of a lab. The best way to ensure you have the happiest yeast possible is to completely control the cold-chain of your yeast supply. By that I mean yeast ranching, and doing it the right way to ensure you have a real, pitchable amount on brew day. Add in the ability to archive rare strains, as well as save you a few bucks per batch, and you’re now wondering “why haven’t I done this sooner?” You don’t have to own a certified lab to do this either (ie, my “laboratory”, an unfinished plywood tabletop in a storage room). All you need is a little...

Heads Up: Yeast Bent on World Domination

When you make beer, you may think you're the boss of your ingredients. But have you stopped to think about how seemingly innocent Yeast may have the upper hand over humans, at least when it comes to world domination (are you paying attention, gamers)? To investigate Yeast's grand strategy for taking over Mother Earth, we set aside our videogame controllers and spoke with Neva Parker, head of laboratory operations at White Labs in San Diego. What we discovered pulled the rug out from under our malt-dusted brewing boots. [/hide]

Preparing A Yeast Starter Using Canned Wort

In my previous article Wort Canning To Save Time, one commenter questioned where the time savings were. Well, ask and ye shall receive! In this article, I'll show you how I use pre-canned starter wort to make preparing a yeast starter an extremely quick process. As I mentioned in the previous article, the problem with yeast starters is that they're time-constrained; you generally have to prepare them a set number of days prior to your brew day to ensure the maximum freshness and viability of the yeast. I usually brew on the weekend, which generally means I have to prepare my starter on Wednesday night. This is still true using the pre-canned method, but most of the work has already been done. Instead of boiling and chilling, I only need to pop a few lids open. It used to take me about 30 minutes to just make the wort. With pre-canned starter wort, making a starter only takes about 10 minutes from start to finish. The required materials for this task are very minimal, and are shown...

For Starters. Flatulence, Flasks and Fermcap

There are many benefits to making a yeast starter, and a plethora of threads on this forum discussing their merits and the techniques used to make them. It was through my involvement in one such thread I discovered that some people consider making a starter in an Erlenmeyer to be potentially dangerous. I hold the view that with correct materials and methods, making a starter directly in the flask is arguably the simplest and most sanitary method one can employ. The purpose of this article is to illustrate this straightforward process, whilst highlighting some important steps along the way eliminating any messy or potentially injurious errors. As with any task, having the right tools for the job is imperative. Let's look at what's needed. [/hide]

Collecting Wild Yeast

Yeast can be the difference between a good recipe and a great recipe. I have been making cider, wine and mead for over a year now and I am learning quite a bit about the strains out there and what they can bring to the table. While experimenting with the prominent strains found at my local home brew shop is fun and rewarding, I wanted to go one step further. My supervisor at work (I work at a craft brewery), who happens to be my source for all my information involving fermentation, was telling me about Lambic style beers and how they use wild yeast and spontaneous fermentation to achieve their goals. This got me thinking about how I could try this in my tiny "office" at home. I researched ways in which people collect wild yeast. Most of what I found was for bread making purposes, but I did find out that raisins are a common source for natural occurring yeast. And that they are very high in natural sugars making them an ideal candidate for this experiment Looking into raisins and...

Craft The Perfect Draft - Grow Your Own

When planning to brew an Irish Red Ale a few weeks ago I decided to use White Labs WLP004 - Irish Ale Yeast to ferment it, that is until I found out my LHBS had none in stock. After investing so much time in formulating this recipe I already had my heart set on pitching nothing else, I wanted everything to be perfect for my very first attempt at this beer style. So I postponed my plans to brew that weekend and decided to just wait for a fresh batch of WLP-004 to be delivered, in stock and ready for me to use. Of course that never happened, either I brewed that weekend as originally planned, or I had to wait three more weeks before having time available for another brewday. Ultimately my brewday was saved by a few packets of Safale S-04 Dry Ale yeast that I bought on brewday morning, along with some hops and freshly crushed grain. Nearly a month later this Irish Red Ale fermented with S-04 both tastes and looks remarkably good and if the WLP-004 could have improved this beer any I'm...

Pitch It, Don't Toss It! Using Yeast That's Past It's Prime

It happens, maybe you found a pack of yeast in the back of your fridge from last summer you forgot about, or you took a break for a while and still had yeast on hand before you stopped brewing, maybe you got your ingredients from a homebrew shop that doesn't check dates. However it happened you have found yourself staring at an expired pack of yeast thinking, "can I use this?". On a recent trip to the LHBS I was presented with the opportunity to dig through the expired yeast & see if there was anything I would like to try & revive. I picked out several different tubes of varying age & took them home to see what I could do with them. I researched as best I could on using expired yeast and came up with the following procedures that have now worked for me on several batches using yeast well past it's best by date. For this article I will be attempting to revive one of the older vials I chose, a vial of WLP566 Belgian Saison II that expired November of 2013(a bit more than a year ago)...

Make Beer, Not Starters

In this hobby it doesn't take long to learn the importance of yeast starters for a healthy and vigorous fermentation, and after making several starters & pouring the fermented DME down the drain I have come to the conclusion that this is a waste. I am constantly looking for an excuse to brew up a batch, and who doesn't like a bit more variety in their pipeline? In this article I will address how you can make that starter while also finding an excuse to brew more, increasing the diversity of your pipeline, as well as your chance to experiment and reduce the amount of beer you are pouring down the drain. I don't know about you, but I don't like to buy DME solely for the purpose of making starters and then pouring it down the drain once it has served it's purpose. After spending some time thinking about this issue, it dawned on me. Why not just make a small batch of beer to bottle and consume instead? What You will Need 2- 1 gallon glass carboys... 1 for primary and 1 for secondary 1-...

Get To Know Your Yeast - Making A Starter

A typical Saturday brewday for me begins on Monday before sitting down to eat dinner. After picking up the liquid yeast vials needed for my recipe I boil up a batch of yeast starter wort made from extra light dried malt extract and filtered water. My LHBS The Brewers Apprentice stocks Munton's Extra Light DME packaged in convenient one pound plastic bags, they're perfect for making up starter wort on short notice and easy to store on a refrigerator shelf once opened. To make up the wort I use a pretty simple formula of one cup of dried malt extract to two liters of filtered water, it gets me within the 1.030 to 1.040 gravity range every time and it's easy for me to remember. Once you've measured out the water pour it into a small pot and begin heating it up as you stir in the DME making sure to break up any clumps with the back of a long spoon if any form. Let the wort boil for ten or fifteen minutes and prepare an ice bath to cool the finished wort down to pitching temperature...

Get To Know Your Yeast - Fermentation Phases

I remember as a new brewer it took me quite a while before I understood exactly what was going on inside the fermentor while I anxiously waited for my latest batch of beer to be ready for bottling. Eventually I did learn that a lot of the flavors that develop in a batch of beer are contributed by the yeast, those flavors taste great when the yeast is healthy, not so much when the yeast is stressed out. Today I still see posts on beer forums, from both new and conditioned brewers alike, questioning why they ended up with off flavors in their beer and how. [/hide]

Wrong Yeast? Time to Experiment!

Sometimes I actively plan out homebrewing experiments. There will be some aspect of the hobby that I'd like to figure out and I will take the time to design a test with the intent of learning something. Then, there are times where an opportunity for an experiment comes up due to a mistake on my part. It's not my preferred method, but it does give me a chance to make a positive out of a negative. My latest experiment came about because I ordered the wrong yeast strain for a Belgian Witbier. I purchased a Belgian wheat strain, which is a fine product I'm sure, but I wanted to use the specific witbier strain that Wyeast provides to homebrewers. Instead of buying another smack pack from my local homebrew shop, I decided to use this erroneous purchase as a reason to jump into trying to culture commercial yeast strains. [/hide]

Wrong Yeast? Time to Experiment!

Sometimes I actively plan out homebrewing experiments. There will be some aspect of the hobby that I'd like to figure out and I will take the time to design a test with the intent of learning something. Then, there are times where an opportunity for an experiment comes up due to a mistake on my part. It's not my preferred method, but it does give me a chance to make a positive out of a negative. My latest experiment came about because I ordered the wrong yeast strain for a Belgian Witbier. I purchased a Belgian wheat strain, which is a fine product I'm sure, but I wanted to use the specific witbier strain that Wyeast provides to homebrewers. Instead of buying another smack pack from my local homebrew shop, I decided to use this erroneous purchase as a reason to jump into trying to culture commercial yeast strains. [/hide]
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