Yeast Wrangling

All videos and blog posts on culturing and handling yeast, as well as maintaining a yeast bank.  A full list of my available yeasts can be found here.

Video Series: Home Yeast Lab Made Easy

  1. Setting up your workspace
  2. Building & using an alcohol lamp
  3. Aseptic Techniques
  4. Streak Plates
  5. Preparing Agar Plates
  6. Choosing a Microscope
  7. DIY Yeast Bank using Slants
  8. Storing Yeast by Refrigeration and Freezing

Posts on Yeast Handling:



Posts on Yeast Banking:



Videos:

A short video showing a low-cost way of growing a yeast culture.  All you need is some dry malt extract, a 2L pop bottle, and some yeast!  Additional information can be found in the supporting blog post.


25 comments:

  1. Does the speed setting of the stir plate play a large part in growth? Should I have a large or small vortex? And should I be seeing krausen forming?

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    1. The speed is not critical, but too slow will lead to suboptimal growth and too fast may stress some yeasts. Ideally, you want a small vortex; one that reaches down to the stirbar. If the stirbar is splashing wort all over, than you've got it set too high.

      Some yeasts - ales especially - will create a kraussen, but that is not universal. The kraussens from strains that form a weak kraussen tend to get stirred in so you may not see them. Likewise, stirred starters tend to grow very fast, so often a kraussen will rise and fall without you seeing it - the only evidence being some scum dried to the side-wall of the flask above the level of the liquid.

      Hope that helps

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  2. I have a 2003 bottle of Gales Prize Old Ale that I would like to attempt to harvest the yeast from. I have had success in the past in using a technique very similar to your "budget system" but never with a beer as old as this one. Would it be helpful to add some yeast nutrient to the wort in your opinion or not? Thanks for your help in advance.

    Cheers

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    1. It is almost always beneficial to add nutrient to starter/culture wort. The nutrients from white labs/wyeast/fermentaid are best as they are a complex mix of nutrients and amino acids. These are typically beige in colour. Nutrients that are pure diammonium phosphate (DAP) are OK, but not as good as you're essentially giving the yeast two nutrients (nitrogen and phosphate) rather than the complex mix of nutrients.

      I would also strongly recommend that the first media you add to these yeast be 1.020 in gravity rather than the usual 1.040. You will not get as much growth, but the lower-gravity wort will stress the yeast less, improving the likelihood of a successful recovery. Once you have noticeable growth in the 1.020 wort you can pitch it into a 1.040 wort that is 4 to 5 times larger in volume.

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    2. Thanks so much for your quick reply regarding my Gales Old Ale experiment, I have Fermaid K available to me at the moment. The normal addition would be 5 grams for 20 liters. What would you recommend for the initial cup of wort that I will use? It would seem to be an extremely small amount if I were to scale it down exactly. Thanks.

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    3. When I add nutrient to starter wort I generally shoot for 2X the manufacturers recommended amount. I generally make 5L of starter wort at a time (I freeze it in ziplocs for future use), so its not too hard to measure out the 2.5g of nutrient I need.

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  3. Bryan, are there any benefits to using a 5L Flask versus a 2L flask when preparing a yeast starter. In your video you are very deliberate in defining the steps needed (.25l, 1.5l, 1.5l) for high gravity beers....do I need to follow this same process if I have a 5L flask? Decanting after the 1.5L steps?

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  4. First off, thanks for the awesome blog. Just getting into homebrew level yeast cultivation and banking and this has been super informative. Do you by chance have a good recommendation on an entry level microscope? I'm not looking for a super price piece of equipment, but don't want to waste my pennies on a worthless model. I read you suggested atleast 600x but is there a specific price range or brand I should look at for something of good quality for the home enthusiast?

    Thanks!
    Brian in Minneapolis,MN

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    1. Brian, I don't have a recommendation for a specific entry-level scope, but I am in the process of preparing a video on what to look for in a microscope. Hopefully it'll be up on my youtube channel within a week: www.youtube.com/suigenerisbrewing

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  5. Reading and watching your videos helped me take the step to setup my own lab, now I have a yeast a archive, microscope and share yeast to my friends, we are even planning to send yeast around via mail, helping some fellow homebrewers here in Sweden to get started. Not that bad for an computer engineer, electronic tinkerer :)

    A huge thank you for your excellent articles and videos!

    Cheers from Sweden!

    // stone

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  6. Hi I was wondering if you could help me with a few questions.

    I recently made a sourdough starter and it had a wonderful banana + yoghurt smell to it when developing but now it only has that smell when feeding (if I leave it for too long it does smell acetic).

    I've read that some of the yeast can't ferment maltose and that is what the lactic acid bacteria was for.

    I was hoping to try to make a wild beer with it and a sour wild beer, there's one or two videos on youtube where people have been successful in doing this (making a beer similar to a saison from the descriptions but not very sour - I'm guessing due to hopping rates?).

    Questions: I was going to make 6 80ml starters, unhopped wort, 3-5 ibu hopped wort, 10 ibu hopped wort and unhopped wort + campden tablet, 3-5 hopped wort + campden tablet, 10 ibu hopped wort + campden tablet.

    I was hoping the sulphited wort would give a process similar to cider making where the sulphur resistant wild yeast gets a chance to out compete the other bacteria.

    Unfortunately I don't have any equipment to isolate the yeast, do you think this method is viable to produce perhaps a sour beer + build up a culture of mainly yeast? Of the two examples from YouTube I did read that the wild beer co in the UK took over a year to make something palatable with their sourdough beer (even adding brett). Also I saw a gigayeast presentation on the mbaa website where they recommend finishing it with a regular neutral yeast strain.

    Any help is much appreciated.

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    1. It should work, although simply using wort hopped to 30+ IBU's would have much the same effect. I've not used sour dough starter as a yeast source, but have tried beers made from them - both sour and not sour, and they were pretty good.

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    2. Fantastic I'll give it a shot! Thank you!

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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. I don't think you'd find fermentative yeast underwater; even in caves which were previously dry. The yeasts that we use in beer, in the wild, survive off of of the small amount of sugar secretions that come off of photosynthetic plants. Aquatic photosynthesizers don't really support that kind of growth. There are marine yeasts, but none of them belong to clades that are likely to be fermentative:

      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/yea.1599/pdf

      There may be more luck with non-yeast brewing organisms; lactobacilli, for examples, are found in the guts of almost all animals.

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  9. Hi Bryan,
    You're yeast wrangling videos and blog are great - Thank you! I've learned A LOT and they've been an invaluable resource in the expansion of my own fermentation/brewing hobbies.

    I've recently acquired the last few bits and pieces I needed to be able to start a bit of yeast wrangling myself, and one of the projects I've been really wanting to try for a long time is to capture, isolate and cultivate some yeast from the honey that my bees are producing.
    I've read a few things here and there, but I was curious to see what you'd recommend as being an ideal method?
    In you're vids you use a low gravity wort to capture airborne yeasts or yeasts growing on various fruits and flowers, would you use the same technique for raw honey?
    At the moment Im trialling sterilised filtered water with a small amount of wyeast yeast nutrient mixed with raw honey at about a 1:5 ratio. The mixture is just sitting in capped vials and Im venting them and shaking them at least twice a day.
    The plan was to basically just wait until I see some kind of sediment forming in the bottom of the tubes and then using that sediment to make some agar streak plates....
    Do you have any suggestions?
    Would it maybe have been better to use wort instead of water?

    Thanks in advance!

    - Phil from Australia

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    1. I don't think honey will work as well, as it doesn't have much protein in it, and most yeast require a fair bit of protein in their culture media to grow well. That's not to say you won't see growth, but a richer media may work better.

      Other than that your approach seems fine; I'd recommend letting ti ferment for at least a month to ensure that any nasty bacteria are killed off prior to plating.

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    2. Thanks for getting back to me!
      Since my original post Ive noticed good growth in both the honey/water tubes and also in the honey/wort tubes that Ive made since posting. The honey/wort tubes definitely took-off a lot sooner.
      One thing that is very interesting to note though is that the tubes that contained honey that had been extracted from the comb (albeit months before this) show no growth at all - whereas those that I used a whole piece of comb (wax, honey and all) are the ones that are fermenting.

      I've got another question regarding the long term storage of slants.
      So far, Ive only tried your sterilised water technique, but each time I find that the next day all the yeast colonies that were growing on the agar media become emulsified in the water. After a few days, the water finds its way under the slant and I end up with a slant tube, full of clear water, clear media and a little sediment layer of yeast at the bottom of the tube sitting under the agar....
      Am I missing something?

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    3. That is odd with the slants; usually they are fine for years. Agar should not emulsify like that. Are you using agar (i.e. not gelatin or another substitute), and at what concentration?

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    4. Sorry, the way I explained that wasnt very clear.
      The growth media, which is the agar/DME blend mixed as per the recipe on your video, stays solid - its the yeast itself which seems to get washed off the agar and into the water.

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    5. That is odd; I've never had that happen with mine. Have you tried mineral oil? Do you get the same result?

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    6. Maybe it was just something as simple as the way I poured the water into the tube...
      I haven't tried mineral oil, although I intend to... Im assuming the stuff they sell for oiling chopping boards is ok? (Its the only stuff I can find)
      Anyway, thanks again for the feedback!
      Cheers

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  10. Can a paraffin lamp be used instead of an alcohol lamp?

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    1. It should work. The only issue is that paraffin/kerosine lamps tend to produce some soot, so you may notice buildup on any instruments you flame with the lamp.

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