If you are looking to cut down your homebrew costs you may have thought about reusing yeast. But if you’re like me you take one look and say nope, that’s disgusting. But the cost factor has been beginning to change my mind.
Liquid yeast costs between 8 and 10 dollars from White Labs or Imperial. Homebrewers generally brew once per month. Over the course of one year you could spend between 96 and 120 dollars. Dry yeast is cheaper but more difficult to use. The cost of reusing yeast is negligible.
Reusing yeast is the cheapest way to homebrew beer but there are some costs associated with reusing yeast. You may also be able to cut costs by using dry yeast instead of liquid yeast.
Supplies Associated with Reusing Yeast
You will need a few supplies in order to reuse your yeast these include the following:
- Sterile Mason Jar
- rubber band
- plastic wrap
- Finished homebrew
- Some sanitizer
The supplies used for the above method of reusing your yeast is known as washing your yeast.
In order to wash your yeast you will need to make sure you transfer yeast from a brew leaving as much sediment behind as possible. You will then need to let it settle in the fridge for about an hour.
This is probably the cheapest method of reusing your yeast. You will only require the above supplies. The cost of these items is negligible, it will probably cost less than a dollar, assuming you already have or are using a cheap jar.
A possibly less disgusting way of saving money on yeast is to try a yeast starter, you could grow your own yeast and then continue to add to it over time.
In order to make a yeast starter you will need:
- Dried malt extract
- Flask with cover
The cost of the yeast will likely be the highest cost. Malt extract can vary but you likely won’t need all of it. You can get a 4 lb pack for about 5 dollars. The amount of malt extract you will need is small so it should keep your cost low.
All you need to do is add water to the malt extract boil it and then let it cool. Once it is cool you can then throw in the yeast. The yeast should be done between 8-24 hours it should eat the sugar and multiply. There is no real official time if it looks like its grown in size you are good to go.
When all of the sugar is gone you can separate add more sugar and multiply your yeast again.
Liquid Yeast vs Dry Yeast
liquid yeast is much more expensive than dry yeast. Liquid yeast tends to be activated so you can just throw it right into your brew along with your sugar starter.
Dry yeast can be as low as 4 dollars to purchase. But while it is less expensive than liquid yeast it requires a bit more work.
You will need to activate the dry yeast first before pitching it into the brew. The process for this is much the same as creating a yeast starter. You will need warm water and sugar. It will need to sit for a while before you can pitch into the beer.
Dry yeast is much more processed than liquid yeast as the process of drying out the yeast is difficult. While dry yeast is generally cheaper than liquid yeast some new methods of making heartier dry yeast have resulting in some more expensive forms of dry yeast.
Limits of Reusing Yeast
While reusing yeast is a great way to save money there are some limits to reusing yeast.
Some say that you can only reuse yeast 5 or 6 times. That is you can only brew with one particular yeast batch for that many times. But the real answer is it depends.
There are a few reasons that you may not want to reuse your yeast.
- Flavor Changes
It is essential for you to keep your yeast from being contaminated from wild yeasts in order to keep reusing your yeast for every brew.
Aside from contamination of wild yeast your yeast can also mutate. If mutation occurs it could sour your brew in much the way a wild yeast could.
If you are enjoy sour beers and want to have something new each time then go right ahead and keep reusing your yeast.
If you are worried about consistency you may just want to buy yeast from a lab each time. That is unless you are a bioligist yourself. Then you could theoretically monitor your yeast for any of the above changes. The problem with this is it becomes much more expensive, and we are trying to save money.
At the end of the day we are just experimenting and trying to save a little money in the process. Go ahead and keep reusing your yeast until your newest brew doesnt taste the way you want it to.
You may even consider small batching your beer on the 5th or 6th round to make sure its still good and don’t end up spoiling an entire 5 gallon batch.
If there is one thing you need to avoid, its reusing yeast from beer with especially high alcohol content. Alcohol will kill off the yeast, as it is a byproduct of the yeast eating the sugars.
As an example I would save yeast from lagers, hefeweizens or ales. If you are trying to save yeast from a double IPA or anything above an alcohol content of 10% it will probably be much more difficult.
How to Store Yeast
In order to store an activated yeast you will need to make sure you have an airtight seal. You don’t want any contamination to take place so this part is important.
Next you will need to make sure to keep the yeast cold, as cold as possible, without freezing. The less trub or particles from washing the yeast the better.
Saving Yeast isn’t Disgusting
When I took a look at all that sediment at the bottom of my homebrew it looked disgusting.
I thought that all of that crap and sediment at the bottom was the yeast. It’s actually not.
That sediment is just a collection of particles such as hops, grain, and dead yeast. Once you realize that’s not what you are actually going to be reusing the entire process starts to look a little better.
I don’t really think anything of pitching fresh yeast, and once you get all of that sediment out of the yeast you are going to save and reuse, it will look a lot better.
Non Financial Reasons to Save Yeast
While it will likely be more or less important to save yeast depending on how much you brew. It could also be fun and necessary to save your own yeast.
Lets say you favorite yeast that makes the best beer is no longer available. It may be necessary to save your yeast for as long as possible.
Not only could you run out of your favorite yeast but you could also experiment with saving yeast from beers you didn’t even brew.
You could save yeast from a delicious unfiltered beer that you drank, or maybe your homebrew friend made an excellent beer with an expensive yeast. You could try and save that.
If you are feeling experimental you could always go out and try and catch some wild yeast. Who knows you might even create an interesting new sour beer. If you are the only one with that specific yeast you could have yourself a monopoly.
Large Breweries Reuse Yeast
Commercial breweries always reuse their yeast as much as they can. With the amount of beer they brew it can save them boatloads of money.
However there are still limits to where they can reuse their yeast. It is likely that they will inspect the yeast to see if its still identical to the fresh yeast before they use it again.
Large breweries will even take the yeast from the fermenter and wash it like the above method. While it won’t be as simple it is likely the best way to preserve yeast and not waste any sugars in the process.
One other trick is to take yeast from the fermentor with the fewest generations. You will want to have the youngest yeast, to make sure there are not any mutations or wild yeast contamination.