It’s another edition of Fermentation Friday. This month, it is being hosted by the guys at Rooftop Brew. The subject for this time around is all about brewer’s yeast.
Always make a starter… You hear time after time. I (Mike) have recommended it a thousands of times. Practical experience in the brew-garage has shown that making a starter for yeast is the way to go. The beer always seems better for it. Better lag times, better fermentation, better flocculation, better post-ferment properties….and of course better flavor.
All things being equal however, Mike uses dry yeast for most brews. With a young child at home, there never seems to be enough time to make that starter and babysit it while….when babysitting an actual child. A starter really isn’t that much work but the pre-planning stage is a time sucker. The opportunity to brew usually comes after the “make a starter” window has passed. So dry yeast to the rescue.
Dry yeast is great because it is relatively ready to pitch. The cell count in one 11-14 gram packet is generally high enough to tackle any brew under a 1.055-1.060 OG. It is recommended to rehydrate the yeast in some plain water prior to pitching, and that is the standard practice in the brew-garage. If laziness does take over and results in the dreaded direct pitch into the wort, then 2 packets can get pitched dry to make up for the poor yeast performance due to the rehydration effects in the sugar solution (wort). Usually pitching directly results in a ~40-50% cell viability loss in the packet.
The two favorite yeasts of Mike’s are both Fermentis products. The US-05 American ale and the S-04 (safale) English Ale yeast. These are fairly cheap products, easy to use and work even better on repitch from cake! But that’s another post.
I think, in the coming year, I would like to understand the number of yeast cells to gallons of wort cold. I will probably get to know Mr. Malty’s pitching rate calculator pretty well. I echo Mike’s statements about making a starter. I think for me, I would like to get even more precise in what size starter I need to make and just get better equipped to make a starter each and every time.
As for other thoughts about yeast, I use liquid yeast: White Labs primarily. I like the variety and I have had good results with their line of yeast strains. I think homebrewers tend to not focus on yeast as an ingredient. A lot of attention gets focused on malts and hops. Don’t get me wrong, they are very important. The other two main ingredients (water and yeast) are important too. With more attention paid towards yeast strains and yeast preparation, many homebrewers will be on their way to making not only good beers, but great beers.