Why You Can’t Reuse Lees from Cider or Wine

March 17, 2010

Lees are the sediment of dead yeast in the bottom of cider and wine, which is called trub in beer making.

There is a temptation in home brewing to use yeast in one successful batch in another successful batch, especially if it was fermented with wild yeasts. In fact, reusing trub is sometimes practiced in the beer making world. In the wine and cider world, it is discouraged.

First off, wine or cider that is allowed to sit on the lees, that is, not rack the wine or cider off, can develop off flavors from the lees. Another reason is that, unknown to the brewer, the first batch could have bacteria that is then transferred over to the new batch, which is part of the reason beer makers “scrub” their trub between batches. Since yeast is so cheap to buy, the risk involved really isn’t a cost savings.

The biggest reason that beer makers can reuse trub and wine and cider makers can’t is the timeline. Beer can be brewed and ready to bottle in as little as six weeks, and is not really seasonally dependent. Wine and cider are both started in the fall with the harvest. This means that the lees would have to be saved for an entire year! That is plenty of time for sicknesses, bacteria, and off flavors to develop in the lees. The short brew period of beer allows for continuous use a few times before new yeast is pitched.

For more information on reusing lees in cider making, read the following discussions on the Cider Workshop:

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