do you re-use on whatever your brewing or do you re-use on similar beers. Is it "still" considered a W.L. english ale yeast after re-using?
Sure, no problem. It's really not as difficult as some lead you to believe, just don't breathe on it.
After you rack your beer from the primary to the secondary you will have a slurry (beer and yeast, some hops maybe) leftover. You can either reuse this, pour it down the drain (which is good for your pipes and septic tank if you have one), or add it to your potting soil for your wife's garden.
Prior to racking I prepare several 22 oz bottles (or you could use about 5-6 12 oz bottles) by sterilizing them and getting some Q-tips and vodka to prepare the opening. I also sterilize my small funnel.
Basically I just slush the slurry around and pour it into the funnel and into the bottle. On a label I write the date, brand & number (Wyeast 1007 German Ale) of the yeast, and if I've used it prior. For instance, 1-1 would indicate that it came from the primary and the 1st time being re-used. These would eventually become your yeast starters for the next batch(es). From that primary it would become 2-2, and so on. Not a very good system I admit, but the trick is to use the lower number first so you would re-use the 1s before the 2s so they don't go bad. Actually they could last you for 6-12 months, some longer. Sometimes you may want to mix 2 together to clean out your fridge or blend several.
Remember it's best to stick with the style you are brewing. You don't want to make a Pilsner with a Bock yeast, but you could throw a Pilsner into a Bock as long as you are using Bock yeast. It can't hurt.
Here's an article I read (over and over) before attempting this. I did not write it and do not remember where I got it (from the net) so I can't tell you the source (because I do not know).
How to Buy Yeast Only Once a Year - Reusing Yeast to Save Money
Keeping your homebrew cost effective is important. One of the most expensive ingredients in homebrew is the yeast which can run $6 - $8 each. That's a significant cost when added to each batch. The yeast left over after fermentation is just like the yeast you paid $8 for in the tube (or smack pack), so why not reuse it?
Let me clarify something here: yeast cannot be reused indefinitely. Just like any organism, yeast can evolve or mutate over time as more and more generations are created and the characteristics that the yeast impart to the beer can change. Because yeast reproduce so rapidly, the "mutation" of the yeast can take as few as 5 or 6 batches of beer. It also can depend on the yeast strain - certain yeasts are more susceptible to mutation than others. As a general rule, I don't push my yeast past 4 uses, although I've heard of commercial breweries who reuse up to 20 times. You can find you own limitation by experimenting.
My first attempt at reusing yeast was a rousing success. It consisted of racking off beer from the primary fermenter into a secondary, then draining fresh wort directly into the primary fermenter full of yeast. The results were amazing. Activity started within 45 minutes with blow off after only 4 hours. I was impressed. The advantages to this process were obvious: quick ferment starts, no need to make a yeast starter, no need to buy yeast every time, and no cleaning a carboy on brew day. However, the main disadvantage was having to time the brew days such that racking coincided with brewing. That didn't always work out perfectly and sometimes I left beer in the primary longer than I wanted to, just to be able to reuse the yeast. This started to be a problem, so I began siphoning off the yeast into a clean and sanitized jug (my 1 gallon glass yeast starter jugs to be exact) with an air lock attached when my timing of the brewing and racking didn't quite match. I would store the jug in the refrigerator, then just warm it to room temp on brew day and pitch right into the primary.
To make the most of the yeast left in the primary fermenter, you need to understand that for a 5 gallon batch, about 1 cup of yeast slurry is all that is necessary for a healthy pitch rate. There is way more than that in the bottom of the primary usually, so splitting up the primary yeast is a good way to stretch the total amount as far as possible.
My method for this is to get 3 or 4 clean and sanitized 12 oz bottles. Siphon out your wort from the primary into the secondary fermenter and leave behind the primary yeast. Next, mix up the yeast slurry left in the primary really good, then siphon out equal amounts into each bottle. About 1/2 - 2/3 of a bottle is all you will need for a 5 gallon batch. I am usually able to get about 3 bottles worth from the primary. As I explain below, it's not really necessary to get more than that. After each bottle is filled, flush each bottle with CO2 to minimize contact with oxygen, then cap them and put them into the refrigerator.
Typically, I brew 16 - 20 times a year in 5 gallon batches. Since I don't like to push yeast past 4 uses, I can get 3 more uses out of each bottle, but each of those bottles will in turn yield another 3 bottles of yeast. When you do the math, it turns out that you can get 40 bottles of yeast from just 1 yeast tube using this method. That's 3 bottles from each primary ferment for 4 total yeast uses. This is way more yeast than I could possibly use in a year. If you find yourself needing more than that, you could probably split the primary yeast and get 4 bottles per, which would then give you 85 bottles over the course of 4 uses. In any case, it would certainly last any reasonable homebrewer an entire year.
1. Use an Auto-Siphon. The Auto-Siphon is the best way to siphon wort or yeast. When you are done siphoning out the wort from the primary, remove the debris guard from the inlet end of the Auto-Siphon. Swirl the yeast really well and then put the inlet end of the siphon right down into the yeast slurry. Tilt the carboy so that all of the slurry is gathered in one big pool. Put the discharge tip of the Auto-Siphon into a container of liquid sanitizer. Leave it there and then give the Auto-Siphon a few pumps. It will start to draw up the yeast slurry as you pump. After a couple of strokes, take the tip out of the sanitizer and insert it into one of the sanitized bottles and continue pumping. The yeast slurry is too thick to siphon by itself, so you will have to pump it out manually with the Auto-Siphon. Pump until the bottle is about 1/2 - 2/3 full. Then go to the next bottle, pump some more, etc, etc. The reason you have to submerge the siphon tip at the beginning is so that the Auto-Siphon can prime itself. (I just pour it from the primary into the bottles through the funnel myself.)
2. Bleed off the pressure in the COLD bottles every few days or so by taking a bottle opener and barely lifting up the bottle cap to let pressure escape, then release the cap and let it seal back up. I've had problems warming bottles to room temperature without bleeding the pressure off when they were cold. The yeast wants to foam right out of the bottle for some reason. Just remember to "burp" the cold bottles every week or so. (I put a double layer of aluminum foil over the top and twist the ends until it looks like Pippi Longstockings hair. I've also used an airlock, but it doesn't always want to fit into the fridge. You could use flippies and open them every other day until the pressure is gone.)
3. Label your bottles! Put a date, yeast type, and generation number on each bottle. This will help you maintain a first-in-first-out inventory on your yeast. It is also helpful to include the type of beer that was fermented by the yeast in the bottle. (As stated earlier.)
4. Don't worry too much about going from a dark beer to a light beer with the same yeast. I have successfully brewed an American Wheat with the yeast from a Porter with no problem. However, if you are concerned about it, label each bottle with the type of beer fermented by the yeast in the bottle, then progress from lighter beers to darker beers. (Ditto.)
5. Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize. (Enough said.)
6. Don't worry about cold break or other products of fermentation getting into the yeast population in the bottle. I've never had any problems with this and I've never had to resort to yeast washing or other procedure. Just pump it straight from the primary into the bottle and be done with it. Personally, I think it's not worth worrying about. (Hop residuals, etc. Don't worry about them.)
7. Choose your yeast strains carefully. Since my homebrewing horizons are fairly narrow, I typically use one type of yeast for everything - Wyeast 1056 American Ale Yeast. This is a great yeast for just about any style beer (at least the styles that I brew, see the Recipe Section). It's got good flocculation and attenuation characteristics and stores really well in the refrigerator. Other yeasts may not store well as well. I know that many of the British and English ale yeasts do not store as well and you may have a problem using the yeast after it has been stored in the fridge for a month or so. You will have to try it and see. Try making a starter from a bottle that has been stored for a prolonged period to make sure that the yeast is active at pitching. (No comment.)
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