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  • From: Rob Halgren <>
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  • Subject: [NAFEX] Re: yeast
  • Date: Fri, 01 Aug 2003 10:54:40 -0400

I've never made wine, but I do make a lot of hard cider, mead, and beer. I'll start making wine when my fruit plantings mature. Wyeast has very good yeast strains, and is probably the leader in this business although there are a few other companies. That said, there is something to be said for natural (wild) yeast, if your wild yeast is good yeast... Too much standardization is boring.

There are a couple of different formulations of liquid yeast. They usually cost less than 5 dollars. One is a foil packet with a smaller sealed packet inside. The yeast is innoculated into the outer space (by the company, under very controlled conditions), and the inner packet contains nutrients. You smack the foil packet to break the inner one, shake it up good, wait a few days, and pitch (add to the fermentor) your yeast. Even more convenient is 'pitchable' yeast, which you just allow to come to room temperature, shake up a bit, and pitch. You can get these yeasts at any homebrew store (they are pretty common now), or mail order them if you have to. Better to pick up packets in person if you can, as I don't think they ship that well.

Regardless of the packaging, liquid yeast is always more true to strain than dried yeast. And there are hundreds of yeast strains out there. Many of them are for different styles of beer, but there are a lot of wine and cider yeasts to choose from. It is a lot more convenient to buy them (I always do, and it is pretty cheap), but you can make your own yeast cultures by taking a little bit of the lees from your fermentation vessel and putting it in a sterile tube with 50% glycerol and 50% H20. That is the formulation I used in graduate school for other purposes (not yeast, but it should work). Store in the freezer. When you want to use it again, take some out, innoculate it into a small volume of wort or must, and wait until it takes off vigorously before you pitch that into the larger container.

If you are making a large amount of wine and are a cheapskate (I am too...), pitch the liquid yeast into a half gallon of your squeezin's in a clean gallon jug, put a fermentation lock on it, and wait a day or two. When that is going like crazy, you can pitch the whole thing into your larger container, or split it up into a few smaller containers. I like to do this for cider and mead, since I don't boil these like I do beer. The larger volume of yeast rapidly crowds out any competing microorganisms, and I think you get a better product.


We just recently had a wine buyer come to visit & I was talking to him about my rustic wine making process & he made the point repeatedly that quality of wine has as much to do with the complexity of the yeast culture as the fruit itself. He said many of the memorable home made wines which he's sampled over the years have used liquid yeast cultures. Have others used these & what kind of success have you had? He pointed me to the website listed below as being very high quality yeast. He thought the difference would be especially noticeable for small fruit wines such as currant, gooseberry, elderberry etc..

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