The Outsider discusses yeast!


Steven Sanders asks about yeast processes:


Sorry to bother you, but I had a question about your "no name mead" recipe. It says to toss the must onto the "dregs of Wyeast #1338 (European Ale) yeast in a glass carboy from a previous batch". I assume (perhaps wrongly) that this means from a previous batch of ale. Would using straight Wyeast #1138 be alright?

Also, I see many references to "pitching" the yeast, but I have been unable to locate any description of how this is done. Does this refer to having the yeast grow in juice for a day or so before placing in the must? If you could point me towards a source of information on this it would be greatly appreciated.

Lastly, I just wanted to say that I have found your site to be extremely helpful in getting me going on mead making. I have found more helpful information here than I have found on several other sites combined. Thanks!

Steven Sanders


No problem to answer your questions. You've got the proper amount of flattery to ensure some sort of response!

As far as the "no name mead" recipe description goes, I merely reported what it was that I did, not necessarily what you should do. In the case of pitching onto the dregs of a previous batch, it is not necessary to make a previous batch to provide the dregs! It is perfectly OK to create a starter from a Wyeast packet for use in mead. The only caveat I would add is that mead is often a high gravity brew, and that means that my number one piece of advice for home brewers is even more important. Be sure to pitch a high population of healthy, happy yeast buds into any brew, but especially high gravity ones! The advantage of pitching onto the dregs of a previous batch is that there is plenty of yeast cells with which to start. When starting out from a Wyeast package, you may have to double the population two or even three times to come close to the population needed for efficient and effective fermentation. When I first started brewing, I was known to just pour the swollen Wyeast package into the carboy. Then I sat around and wondered why my fermentation was taking so long. I'm much smarter now. Or at least I've learned a few things, anyway! I've pitched mead wort onto dregs of a previous batch, and I've often noticed fermentation action within hours of doing so! Very quick!

Regarding "pitching" the yeast, pitching is just really another word for "pouring", as in pouring the yeast onto the wort or must. (I don't know why it was necessary to invent another word for an action when a perfectly good word already existed. Must be from the British tradition of brewing!) You mentioned growing the yeast in juice for a day, and that sounds kind of fishy, so here's my take on proper yeast technique:

Start early. Like a week early. Smack that Wyeast pack and leave it in a fairly warm place. Not hot, more like room to blood temperature. On top of the refrigerator might be good. After a while (a day or two?) the package will seem like it's about to burst on its own. Prepare a starter. You'll need a half gallon of quasi beer wort, with a gravity of between 1.025 and 1.030. Any more sugar dissolved in the wort will lead to inefficient yeast growth, which is what you're really after. I just sort of wing it, and put about two cups of dry malt extract in about half a gallon of water. You may wish to measure! Boil this up for a while for sterilization purposes. You could boil with some hops, but unless you're going to boil for at least a half an hour, you won't be getting any real bittering or preservative quality from the hops, so you might as well go without. Allow this mixture to cool, and then put it in your favorite container suitable for the purpose, perhaps a gallon glass bottle. My favorite bottle had cranapple juice in it, because the mouth of the bottle is good and wide. Make sure this mix is cool, again, room temperature to blood temperature. You don't want to stun or kill the yeast. When it's the proper temperature, rinse off the Wyeast package (it's gotten dusty on top of the fridge!), and cut it open. Pour the contents into the glass bottle onto the wort, seal the bottle, and shake it until your arms scream for mercy. This oxygenation is VERY important at this stage. Then replace the bottle seal with an airlock, and ignore it for a few days.

After a day or two, you'll notice that the yeast has started and possibly finished fermenting the wort. (If not, then maybe your yeast was dead, or was killed in the hot wort.) When you determine that the fermentation is done, repeat the above steps. Make a bout a half gallon (or more, as you've got a whole gallon bottle to fill!) of low gravity wort, boil it for a while, then allow it to cool. When this is done, pour off the liquid from the small fermenter (you can drink this! And if you're paranoid about sterilization, you can flame the top of the bottle before you pour...) and pour the new liquid in. And ignore it for a few days, or at least until the day you're actually going to brew. A couple of days later, after you've made your beer or mead or whatever, you can pour off the liquid from this small fermenter, swirl the dregs around, and pitch/pour this sludge into the new batch of stuff that you're trying to make. This will ensure a large population of healthy happy yeast cells, which will do several wonderful things for your stuff. Not only will your fermentation be complete in a reasonable amount of time, but any infection present in the must will be overwhelmed by the yeast population. Great happiness and joy will ring out across the land, and much celebration will follow!

I hope this helps, and thanks for the stroke! If you have any questions about this missive or any other pages on my web site, feel free to contact me. You know where I live!
Rich Webb


This page is authored and maintained by Rich Webb.You can send E-mail to me by following this link to the contact page. And feel free to contact me if you have any comments, criticisms, or suggestions. I remain, however, perfectly capable of ignoring your useless opinion...

This document was last modified on November 11, 1998