Tuesday, October 27, 2015

So, I quit washing yeast.

I quit washing yeast.   Now, I just save the entire yeast cake.   Ok maybe I shouldn't say I quit washing entirely.  But after following the work of Steven Deeds at Woodland Brewing Research, I made the decision to save the part of the yeast cake that had the least bacterial content, and the most viable cells.  And that is the crud I've always left in the bottom.

The elusive creamy layer
of supposedly good yeast.
We have all been taught that you want to go through the process of washing yeast to get that small band of creamy light colored yeast just on top of the trub.    Turns out that isn't the case.   The trub has just as many viable cells, and less bacterial content.  

If you're not following Steven and Woodland Brewing Research.  You need to be.  Along with Marshall Schott (Brulosophy.com). Steven is taking a practical common sense approach to brewing.  He doesn't care what tradition or cannon says.   He follows the science.  He also wrote a book.  I have it, it is somewhat technical, but it is also pretty excellent.  I don't recommend it for brand new brewers, but if you are intermediate or advanced, there is loads of great information in Brewing Engineering.   Steven has also pioneered a 15 minute brewing approach that is truly fascinating.

For me the big take away has been in how I handle yeast.   Any step or process that I can eliminate, gets eliminated.   Not only does this save time, it also reduces the chances of a process error or problem.   12 pint canning jars are $10.00 at your local Target.  This is a way easier way to handle your yeast cake.   Just save it.   The whole thing.   Drain the beer off, add a little pre boiled room temperature water to lower the viscosity, and package the whole thing.   Done.  

If you really want to manage your cell counts, and build starters Steven also has great information about setting up a home laboratory, viability testing, and cell growth testing.  I don't do any of that.   I brew.   So I find that two pint jars of slurry (yeast cake)  will give the same kind of fermentation as a starter, in most of my beers.  


  1. "So I find that two pint jars of slurry (yeast cake) will give the same kind of fermentation as a starter, in most of my beers."

    So you skip the starter buy dumping both pints in? I guess it's no different than putting the wort right on the existing yeast cake in the carboy. Thanks for the tip!

    1. That's exactly right. I still do make starters for competitions. But for everyday beer, I just pitch 2 pints into a 5 and 1 into a 2.25. Easy.

  2. What is your target slurry to beer-like liquid ratio? Do you decant off the liquid before pitching?

  3. I will point out that this post is from over a year ago, and We have really embraced vitality starters in that period of time. But what I was doing back then was gravity ramp ups. So I would start with a low gravity beer, ferment, package... then I would brew a higher gravity beer and pitch it right on top of the slurry of the previous beer. Usually there was about .5 gallon to .75 gallon of slurry in the fermenter. WE had O problems with this approach. But vitality starters are so easy and dependable, we have just embraced them for our brewing.