Don’t Forget Your Yeast!

Not one to waste time in between brews, I decided to order my next brew kit while waiting for my Oktoberfest to condition.

Having performed three kit brews and feeling pretty confident with the basics, I decided that for my next brew I’d try the next step up and use a malt-extract recipe.

Having a copy of CAMRA’s Brew Your Own British Real Ale lying around, I thumbed through to find a particular favourite of mine – Fuller’s London Pride.

The recipe includes all the ingredients needed for full a full grain and an extract brew, so I jumped on t’interweb and duly purchased all the hops, extracts and irish moss needed, plus a few extras.

As I reviewed the ingredients, I had a nagging feeling that something was missing, but despite racking my brain I was unable to put my finger on it…

It wasn’t until a couple of hours after I’d clicked the buy button that it hit me: there was no yeast on the order!

I quickly returned to the CAMRA recipe and realised why I hadn’t ordered any yeast – there was none listed with the recipe … a golden lesson to think for yourself rather than blindly following instructions if ever there was one.

So – yeast. Ok then. Which one…?!

In simple terms we can split yeast from brew shops (as opposed to skimmed from your local microbrewery) into two different states:

  1. Dry
  2. Liquid

From my hurried research on a number of websites and books, I think the following generalisations are true:

Dry Yeast

Comes in fewer varieties due to fact that not many strains will survive the dehydrating process.

Is fairly hardy and can be kept for extended periods of time, but is best kept refrigerated.

Is relatively easy to prepare as it can be simply rehydrated on brew day half an hour or so prior to pitching.

Liquid Yeast

Comes in many more varieties and therefore can be better tailored to a particular beer style.

Historically, liquid yeast has come in smaller packets (50ml) and contained fewer yeast cells than dry packets, and for this reason it was necessary to produce a yeast starter several days before pitching to bring the yeast cell count up to a reasonable level.

These days, some manufacturers provide larger packs (175ml) and ready-to-pitch test tubes which have removed the need for this additional process.

To try and slow the change in my brewing process down – I am already going to have to contend with boiling the malt extract with the hops and cooling it properly before adding to the fermenter, all things I have not done before – I decided to stick with the dry yeast for now as this is a process I am familiar with and should be confident managing.

It will also, hopefully, enable me to see how much the quality of the flavour changes in small gradations rather than big jumps. Seeing how much the boil and hops helps will be fascinating, and then changing to liquid yeast should also produce a noticeable change in quality.

Once I have these processes confidently down (a few more brews at least!) then maybe next summer we’ll start looking at a full-grain mash…!

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