December's Fermentation Friday

Yeast and I have had a tenuous relationship. It can be a bit of a prima donna, knowing how essential it is to process of brewing, and probably knowing that I spend too much time focusing on the hops. It all started with my first solo batch of beer, with the canned extract that came with a packet of dried yeast. The beer was abysmal due to a wicked bacterial infection, and I started using pitchable yeast exclusively for years. I switched between White Labs and Wyeast, though I had a strong preference for WLP0001.

For me, pitchable yeast was the single most expensive part of my brew day, so a few years ago I started looking for ways to reduce that cost (I know… who’s ever heard of a frugal brewer?). I tried both yeast washing and reusing yeast cakes, both of which were successful but I haven’t stuck with. I have stuck with using yeast starters though, and that continues to be one of the defining parts of my process. I’ve even simplified the process of making a yeast starter to ensure that I pitch a healthy population of yeast.

The last 2 years I’ve switch completely to dry yeasts from Safale and I’ve been very happy with the results. Granted, I’m making a starter with the packets, but the process is cheap, simple, and has proven easier than washing. I haven’t been able to convince my brewing pals to switch yet, each for their own reasons, but I’ve been very happy with all three varieties I’ve tried, and expect to continue using them unless I try some style that requires a different strain.

8 thoughts on “December's Fermentation Friday”

  1. I’ve switched too. For how long who knows 😉 I don’t do yeast starters though, I pitch the first batch dry or rehydrated and then reuse that yeast cake.

    Funny how things change over time as we learn more.

  2. No kidding. In my case it’s a mix of scientific method and evolutionary biology:

    “Huh, that didn’t destroy the beer and I’m still alive. Let’s try it again.”

  3. I’ve switched to Safale yeast, whenever its not convenient to get some from a local brewery. I like reusing the cake, but its seldom that I brew two batches within the same month.

  4. I use wyeast smack packs and usually do a starter since I’m doing 10 gal batches. I’d like to reuse the yeast cakes, just haven’t gotten around to trying it.

  5. Yeah, reusing the yeast cake isn’t something I’ve always done. For me it helps me keep homebrew on hand. I can brew my butt off three or four weeks in a row and just rack it into kegs.

    The local brewery thing is something I should definately do. Iron Hill is close by and they offer free yeast. I don’t know why I haven’t.

  6. Iron Hill? I went to one of their locations while out in Horsham PA last summer. Very good beer. I was pretty impressed with some of their specialty Belgians. I’m just disappointed I didn’t buy some to take home to the NW with me.

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