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Different pitching rates for wine and beer yeast

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Nick Z

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I was having a discussion over in the One Gallon thread and it was suggested I post my query here.

So far all I have made is cider, fruit wines, and one batch of mead. When looking at the directions for wine and cider yeast the pitch rates are pretty simple. About one gram per gallon. But when I looked at the directions for beer yeast it used a more complex formula that is dependent on the gravity of the wort. Usually something like "X number of cells per liter/ degree plato."

Why are the wine yeast pitching directions so much more simple? A gram a gallon basically works out to about 1/4 teaspoon per gallon. Since I am doing one gallon batches that makes it pretty simple. And it makes a five gram packet of yeast stretch pretty far, even if I double the pitch rate.

Someone suggested the specific gravity of wine/cider/mead must is less variable than wort. But I have pitched yeast into fruit wines of different SG and ciders of different SG and ran into no issues and haven't read about any issues inherent in doing this.

So why is the determination of how much yeast to pitch for beer so much more complex than other concoctions?

I know that wine and beer yeasts are (probably) different species and therefore different organisms.

This question is partly out of curiosity and partly because calculating "X cells per liter/degree plato" sounds like kind of a pain in the butt. Especially considering my hydrometer doesn't measure the plato scale. It does specific gravity, brix, and potential alcohol.

Thanks in advance.
 

bierhaus15

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Generally speaking, wort composition and yeast-wort nutritional needs are more complicated than typical wine/cider must. Most hobby winemakers and small wineries use dry yeast almost exclusively and the pitching rates for those yeasts has been standardized by the yeast manufacturers. Typically, 20-30 g/hl, or 0.9-1.1 g/gal, depending on gravity for dry wine yeast. Even with large production wineries, those amounts don't change much although nutrition and enzyme use is substantially different.

In contrast, beer brewing is still dominated by liquid yeast usage and starting pitch rates for normal wort fermentation require anywhere from 0.5-1.0+ million cells per ml per degree plato. Beer style, yeast strain, fermentation process, ect, will impact the amount of yeast pitched. Generally speaking, 0.5 m/c/ml/P is sufficient for most beer styles and that equates to around 1 dry pack of yeast for 5 gallons, or thereabouts a fresh pack of liquid yeast. By doing some simple math, one can approximate how much yeast they will need to pitch via their target pitching rate and the gravity (plato or SG) of the starting wort.

For instance, 0.5 m/c/ml/P for a 12 plato (1.048 SG) fermentation requires about 113 billion cells for 5 gallons. Say we want to pitch a lager beer at 1.0 m/c/ml/P, at the same gravity and volume, we'd need approximately double the yeast, or 2 packs, ect.
 
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Nick Z

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I'm going to be doing one gallon batches exclusively, at least for a while. Is there a way to scale down the pitch rate for one gallon batches?

Also, the amount of nutrients for wine and cider are, I think, fairly standardized on a per gallon basis. Is this not true for beer? With my ciders and fruit wines I've been doing about one teaspoon per gallon of DAP with 1/4 teaspoon of yeast energizer or Fermaid K. I'm guessing it's not so simple for beer?
 

bierhaus15

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I'm going to be doing one gallon batches exclusively, at least for a while. Is there a way to scale down the pitch rate for one gallon batches?

Also, the amount of nutrients for wine and cider are, I think, fairly standardized on a per gallon basis. Is this not true for beer? With my ciders and fruit wines I've been doing about one teaspoon per gallon of DAP with 1/4 teaspoon of yeast energizer or Fermaid K. I'm guessing it's not so simple for beer?
The most simplistic method is to use 1/5th packet of dry yeast per gallon, for an average strength fermentation (1.040-60).

Or do the math: 0.5 m/c/ml/P for 1 gallon of 12 P (1.048) wort = 500,000 x 3,785.41 x 12 = 22 billion cells. Most dry yeast contains about 8-20 billion cells per gram, so you'd need 1-2+ grams per gallon, depending on the dried yeast.

As for wine nutrients, the really big wine producers are tailoring their usage for that years must; acidity, variety, ect. Enzymes are a huge part of that. For beer, wort nutrients are not always needed depending on process/ingredients, but using a small amount of yeast nutrient is not a bad thing when starting out.
 

SEndorf

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I'm no expert on small volume brewing, as I just started experimenting with 2.5G batch cider.
But here's another take on it from E.C. Kraus Winemaking:
https://blog.eckraus.com/how-much-wine-yeast-to-use

Thank you for this great question on how much wine yeast to use. You’ve done what many home winemakers have done. It make perfect sense and is very logical. However, the amount of wine yeast you should use is one whole packet, even if you are just making 1 gallon of wine. There are a couple of reasons for this:


What you are adding to the wine is not an amount of wine yeast as much as you are adding a starting colony of yeast. The wine yeast in the packet represents the minimum number of yeast cells recommend to start a viable, active fermentation, regardless of batch size. When adding a packet of yeast to 5 or 6 gallons of wine, the yeast will typically multiply to around 100 to 150 times what you start with.


In the case of a one gallon batch of wine, the yeast will multiply to many times its original size, but not quite as many times as it does when pitched into a larger batch. The yeast will reproduce itself into great enough numbers to complete the job at hand.


So, when you add a whole packet of wine yeast to 1 gallon of wine, you are not adding too much yeast. You are simply adding the minimum amount required to support a healthy, active fermentation. Adding less then a packet could result in a slow starting fermentation that will take extra time to finish the job. It may also over-work the yeast which can result in off-flavors.


There is also the issue of what to do with the rest of the wine yeast anyway. These packets of yeast are packaged under sterile – not food-grade – conditions. They are sealed with nitrogen gas to maintain this sterile level of freshness while in the package.


Once they are opened, they are no longer sterile. The seal has been compromised. So, storing an opened package of wine yeast for any length of time is really not a good idea, particularly when you weigh it against how much a packet of wine yeast costs.


So the answer to the question: “how much wine yeast to use?”, is very simple. Always use the whole packet up to 5 or 6 gallons. If you are making more wine than this, add a second packet.
 
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Nick Z

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This is interesting because I have read a bunch of stuff about the dangers of over pitching yeast for beer. But I have not (yet) heard anything about the dangers of over pitching cider and wine.

I'm sure their answer is the careful one and I have not made wine out of actual wine grapes yet. But I've made a couple of fruit wines and a cyser whose specific gravity was about as high as you would get with wine grapes. I didn't use the whole packet (about a heaping 1/4 teaspoon of dried yeast per gallon) and I have not had any issues with fermentation not starting and going strong.

Now, the packets I have re-used have not been very old (less than a month) so they probably haven't had time to go bad. I will probably keep using the same pitch rate for cider.

But beer, clearly, is a different animal.
 
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