Picking a Yeast

March 16, 2010

For my first batch of wine, the gal at the homebrew store handed me Red Star Premier Cuvée yeast. Later, I asked around, and was told that Montrachet yeast ate through concrete. This last time, on a whim, I bought Lalvin 71B-1122 and K1-V116. How are they different? Why are they different? What is the best one for the batch I am making/going to make? Answer is – look for the tables.

There are probably hundreds of manufactured yeasts out there, and each one is better for a particular type of ferment style (beer, wine, cider, mead, sake, etc), a preferred temperature which they ferment at, at what point they die because the alcohol poisons them, the flavors they give off, and how vigorous they are.

I have made a list of websites that help when it comes to picking out yeast for wine, mead, and cider.

Other good places for research include yeast maker’s websites, such as Wyeast, White Labs, and Lalvin.

Another thing to consider when shopping for yeast is how available it is to you. It might be difficult to buy some yeasts in your area and/or have them shipped to you.

Of course, purchasing yeast isn’t always necessary. Grape wine makers rarely use commercial yeast, and instead let the natural yeast that have deposited on the grapes do the fermenting. The same is true for apples if they are not washed prior to pressing. However, if potassium metasulfite is used on the juice to kill bacteria, it may inadvertently kill the weaker, less populated wild yeasts. Options are take a risk that the wild yeast will survive, not use potassium metasulfite and risk bacteria growth, or go ahead and use a manufactured yeast, or at least have it as a backup.

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