Once upon a time, people discovered that if they allowed fruit to ferment, that fruit would become alcoholic and create a euphoric effect (drunkenness). They followed this same process with grain. Thus, wine and beer were invented. The same thing happened with bread. The dough was left too long, yeast developed and fermented the bread, and voila, tasty risen bread was discovered.
One story even circulates that a man in Gaul in the first century AD used beer foam in his dough and discovered the wonders of adding yeast to make bread even better.
Yeast has played a role in the foods and beverages of humans for thousands of years.
But, if people have been using yeast successfully for so long, how does it all go so wrong sometimes? It is a question on many the beer and winemakers mind when you get off flavors as you make beverages. And how on earth does yeast get “stressed?” Understanding stressed yeast off flavors can help you prevent, or even exploit, them, depending on your mood and attitude.
- 1 The History of Yeast
- 2 Turbo Yeast
- 3 Bourbon, Whiskey, Vodka and Moonshine – How Much Yeast?
- 4 How to Pitch Yeast
- 5 a Complete Guide for Moonshiners – HowtoMoonshine
- 6 How To Restart a Stuck Fermentation
The History of Yeast
Yeast is millions of years old, making its home with its fellows – mushrooms and mold – in the fungi family. Fungi were actually the first living organisms on the planet earth. Yeast is a single-celled, living organism that digests food to obtain energy for growth. That digestion is what we typically think of as fermentation. Yeast eats sugar and converts it to alcohol.
Yeast in Beer and Wine
In beer and wine, yeast is the ingredient that makes grape juice wine and barley water beer. The process early on was a natural one.
The must (grape juice) or wort (barley water) was simply left out long enough that natural fermentation took place.
Because the process relied heavily on nature, the flavors and aromas of the beer or wine were not always consistent because wild yeast is unpredictable.
Think of moonshine. The taste is not always great. But it will get you drunk. In many places, people just wanted a drink, so they did not worry too much about consistent flavors and aromas.
Yeast in Bread
The same story holds true for bread. Bakers would leave the bread out, and the naturally occurring yeast would arrive and eat the sugars in the sugar and flour. But because the carbon dioxide created during that process could not escape the elastic bread as it does in beer and wine, the bread expands and rises, coming to be known as “yeast leavened bread.”
It was only a couple hundred years ago when scientist Louis Pasteur took out his microscope to examine beer and discovered what was actually happening.
From that point on, people were able to culture, manufacture, and commercialize baker’s yeast and brewer’s yeast.
That commercialized allowed for a standard, which led to the consistency we come to expect from our breads and brews today. Thanks, Louis!
What, then, you wonder, is stressed yeast, and what does it have to do with those off flavors in beer? Stressed yeast occurs when the yeast cannot do its very simple job of converting sugar to alcohol. There are a few things that get in the way of typical fermentation.
Sometimes, there is too much sugar in the liquid to be converted to alcohol, and the job is simply too big for the yeast. It gets busy converting, alcohol (ethanol) is created at a high rate, but it gets overwhelmed, and at that point, fermentation will get stuck, creating an unexpected off flavor.
Too Much Yeast
If you pitch too much yeast into your wort, the yeast will ferment the sugar too quickly and then die off, leaving excess dead yeast in your beer. This excess is typically not a good thing in terms of flavors and aromas.
Too Little Yeast
When you pitch too little yeast into your wort, you get the same effect as excess ethanol. Your yeast becomes overwhelmed by more sugar than it can handle and gets “stressed,” essentially slowing down fermentation and possible stagnating it altogether.
Wild Temperature Fluctuations
Yeast will get stressed out by too hot or too cold conditions, and temperatures swings as well. It needs a nice cozy 68 to 70 degree F atmosphere to do its best work.
When you pitch yeast into a wort that has too high gravity, the yeast cell walls can burst, which leaves you with less yeast to convert your sugar, which winds you back to the “too little yeast” problem.
Sometimes, by circumstance, your yeast multiplies too quickly and takes up all of the oxygen in your liquid, which results in yeast cells with weak walls. This weakness can produce those off flavors in your beer.
When you get stuck fermentation, one of the most common pieces of advice is to agitate it. You stir your wort up with a sanitized spoon and wait for the yeast to wake up and get back to work. When you agitate it too much, however, the yeast can become stressed and freeze, resulting in stuck or sluggish fermentation.
What to Do About Stressed Yeast
- When yeast is stressed, you must then deal with the vitality (energy of your yeast) and viability (number of live yeast cells) issues.
- You will know right away if your yeast is stressed, because you will smell the off aromas and you will notice fermentation is stuck.
- The best thing to do to prevent this stress it to ensure you are pitching the right amount of yeast, maintaining a comfortable temperature, and that you are not over-agitating your fermentation tank.
- If you need to restart your fermentation process because your yeast is stuck, check out our article on how to do that here.
- Here’s to a stress free brewing process!
Passionate about the beer and/or wine making process? So are we! If you’re interested in finding out how you can use our technology to control fermentation and monitor your yeast, save work hours and improve the cost-efficiency of your business, drop us a line at [email protected] or check out our product pages:
Also, you can now get access to a fully functional demo account to test our Web App. Completely free of charge and with no commitment to purchase.
First off, to answer the question of what turbo yeast is. Turbo yeast is a special type of yeast that yields higher alcohol (ABV%) levels and in a shorter period of time. This is in contrast to normal bakers yeast which isn’t a valid type of yeast to use when producing alcohol or spirits of any kind.
Mile Hi Distilling is home to a number of different turbo yeast distiller yeast for alcohol strains. This article is written to describe the differences to help you pinpoint what kind of distillers alcohol yeast suits you the best, what kind of yeast is used to make moonshine and other spirits, and the processes associated with using them.
Turbo Yeast Varieties
Take a look at the below list to get a general idea of the differences and similarities of available distilling yeasts, the best yeast for alcohol distilling and the best yeast for moonshine:
- 24-Hour Turbo Yeast will make 14% Alcohol by Volume in 1 day, and up to 20% in 5. This yeast has extra yeast nutrients to help the fermentation process happen quickly. Excellent yeast for moonshine sugar wash.
- 48-Hour Turbo Yeast will make 14% Alcohol by Volume in 2 days, and up to 20% in 5. This yeast is an excellent yeast for simple sugar wash fermentations.
- Vodka Turbo Yeast has a low congener profile and a great sugar-to-ethanol conversion rate, making it the best yeast for vodka, high purity neutral spirits or moonshine alcohol.
- Rum Turbo Yeast
Bourbon, Whiskey, Vodka and Moonshine – How Much Yeast?
This blog provides information for educational purposes only. Read our complete summary for more info.
We get a lot of questions about yeast. Everyone seems to want to know how much yeast is needed for making 5 or 10 gallons of mash. For those that have read The Best Yeasts for Distilling, it's obvious we are very fond of bread yeast. We have found over the years that bread yeast can easily produce as much alcohol as other yeasts if used correctly.
The question we hear a lot is “How much yeast do I need for the ____ recipe?” The answer is “It Depends.” Every type of yeast is slightly different.
In general, yeast can be categorized into three different groups: champagne & beer yeast, distillers yeast, and bread yeast.
Use the following guidelines for measuring the quantity of yeast that is added to a mash.
Before we get started, a reminder: Distilling alcohol is illegal without a federal fuel alcohol or distilled spirit plant permit as well as relevant state permits.
Our distillation equipment is designed for legal uses only and the information in this article is for educational purposes only.
Please read our complete legal summary for more information on the legalities of distillation.
When using a champagne or beer yeast it will have directions on the packet. Every champagne/ beer yeast we have ever used is packaged to ferment 5 gallons of beer. When using champagne/beer yeast use 1 packet for every 5 gallons of mash.
When using distillers yeast follow the directions on the packet. If there are no directions we suggest 1 tablespoon of yeast per 5 gallons of mash.
When using bread yeast we have had great results with Fleischmann's bread yeast over the years. Bread yeast can be bought in packet form or in 1-2 pound bulk packages.
It is normally cheaper to buy in bulk but it is more convenient to store the yeast in packets. We prefer packets and can justify the slight cost increase for the convenience/storage factor.
Just follow the steps we have outlined below in order have great results using bread yeast.
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Create a simple yeast starter for 5 gallons of mash
Add 1/2 cup of 110 degree water to a sanitized jar.
Add 2 teaspoons of sugar to the water and mix thoroughly.
Add 2 packets of yeast (14 grams or 1 tablespoon if using bulk yeast).
Swirl the glass to mix in the yeast with the sugar water.
Let the glass sit for 20 minutes and it will double in size.
- Once the starter has doubled in size add it to the mash and aerate.
To learn more about yeast and fermentation check out our article on “Fermentation and Yeast”.
Remember, it is illegal to distill alcohol at home for consumption. Do not do this.
How to Pitch Yeast
There are two types of yeast that home brewers use when fermenting their beer. You have dry and liquid yeast available. We’ll cover both types and how to use them.
Dry yeast can be sprinkled right into the cooled wort if you want. You do not need to rehydrate, but some people still like to get the yeast going before they pitch it. This is what you need to do if you plan on rehydrating it:
- Add 1 cup of 80° F water to sanitized container.
- Add 1 package of dry yeast to the water.
- Stir the water and yeast mixture for 30 seconds. Do not stir vigorously.
- Let the yeast sit for 15 – 30 minutes until you notice a light foam forming on top of the liquid.
- Pitch (add) the yeast to your fermenter.
Liquid yeast can be added directly to the wort once the wort cools to a temperature below 80° F. You may decide to do a yeast starter, which is recommended for high gravity/alcohol beers. Read our Making a Yeast Starter article for more info. Here is how you prep an Activator pack:
- To activate, locate and move inner packet to a corner. Place this area in palm of one hand and firmly smack package with the other hand to break inner nutrient packet. Confirm inner packet is broken.
- Shake the package well to release the nutrients.
- Allow package to incubate and swell for three hours or more at 70-75°F (21-24°C).
- Use sanitizing solution to sanitize the package before opening.
- Pitch into your wort or yeast starter that has been cooled to below 80°
- Signs of fermentation should be evident within 24 hours, depending on yeast strain, brewing procedures and fermentation temperatures.
Note: Do not panic if you pack does not swell. Sometimes the inner pouch can be difficult to break. Just cut off the top and pitch into your wort. It takes a lot to kill yeast, so try the pack anyway. 99% of the time everything will turn out just fine.Note: Yeast can take 24 – 72 hours to show signs of fermentation.
Give the yeast time to work before you start becoming concerned. If after 72 hours and no signs of fermentation, add dry yeast. If you are not sure if the yeast has worked or not; take a hydrometer reading, or taste the beer. If it is very sweet, the yeast has not worked.
Dry yeast may start in a couple hours, but it can ferment a beer in less than 12 hours.
If you are not sure about the viability of your yeast then make a starter first. This will give you the opportunity to ensure that the yeast is working before you pitch it into your wort. Even if there are only two yeast cells left, that is all you need to ferment a beer.
- Check out Fast Pitch Canned Wort, our instant yeast starter!
- To begin or continue your homebrewing education, check out Northern Brewer University for our Homebrew Video Courses.
a Complete Guide for Moonshiners
When it comes to moonshine ingredients, yeast is one of the most important. However, those new to shining face a lot of confusion of what type to use and even what amount. Check out our complete guide on everything related to using yeast in moonshine.
Yeast is arguably the most important ingredient in your mash. While it only amounts to a tablespoon or two, it does all of the heavy lifting during the fermentation process.
Many people who are new to the craft of moonshine have a lot of questions around yeast. After all, many of the recipes available online gloss around the subject-yet it is of the utmost importance.
One of the reasons that most recipes do not specify the amount of yeast to use is that it will often vary depending on the type used. Of course to someone new to moonshining who is trying to gather their ingredients for their first mash this can be very frustrating.
Knowing how much yeast to buy is only half the battle. There is also the very important question of what type of yeast to buy. Of course, this can come down to personal preference. There are many different types of yeast available that will work-even the bread yeast you probably have in your cupboard!
Types of Yeast to Use in Moonshine
Beer/Champagne Yeast: This type of yeast is usually packaged so that one packet is used for 5 gallons of mash. Unless otherwise written on the directions, use one package for 5 gallons of mash.
Distillers Yeast: If you are using distillers yeast it is important to first refer to the directions on the package. If there are no directions available, use 1 tablespoon per 5 gallons of mash.
Bread Yeast: Bread yeast is readily available, inexpensive and works well. Bread yeast can be purchased in individual packets or in bulk. You can use one tablespoon of yeast per 5 gallons of mash or follow the directions below to make a yeast starter.
How to Make a Yeast Starter
Making a yeast starter is a great idea. It is one small extra step that can make a big difference to your end results.
By making a yeast starter you are adding healthy yeast cells to your mash. It is a great way to ensure an accelerated fermentation and to ward off the growth of wild bacteria which can alter the final taste of your moonshine.
If you have ever baked a loaf of bread you will have an advantage for this step since you have already made a yeast starter. The process is pretty much identical for making a yeast starter for your mash. In fact, you can even use bread yeast!
- ½ cup Warm Water
- 2 teaspoons of sugar
- 2 packets of yeast(1 TBSP or 14 grams if using bulk yeast)
Heat water to 110°F and add to a sterilized jar
Add your sugar to the water and mix thoroughly
Add both packets of yeast
Swirl the jar to mix the ingredients thoroughly.
Place plastic wrap over the top.
Let the jar sit for 20 minutes (or until your yeast has doubled in size.)
Add to your mash and aerate.
How To Restart a Stuck Fermentation
There are a lot of reasons why your fermentation can start normally and then get “stuck,” regardless if you’re making moonshine, wine, beer, or other spirits. Here are a few suggestions from Rick on why this can happen and how to solve the problem.
Your wash isn’t the right temperature
One issue people have with fermenting when they’re making moonshine is their wash being too cold. It’s especially common when people ferment in their basement or garage during cooler months.
It’s also easy to assume that most yeasts require the same temperature to ferment, but that’s simply not true. Make sure that you read the fermenting temperatures that are printed on the yeast that you’re using.
I’ve pasted a quick reference guide for some of the yeasts often used for making moonshine that we sell below:
- High Spirits Turbo 48 Turbo Yeast: 86-100°F
- High Spirits Turbo 24 Turbo Yeast: 86-100°F
- Prestige 8kg Turbo Yeast: 75-80°F
- Prestige Turbo Pure 48 Turbo Yeast: 68-86°F
- Prestige Black Label Turbo Yeast: 68-86°F
- Prestige Batch Yeast: 68-83°F
- Black Bull Turbo Distillers Yeast: 68-82°F
This issue is pretty easy to solve by just increasing the temperature, and you have a few ways to do that. One way is to use a heating element such as a Brew Belt or FermHeater. You can also try the following DIY tips:
- • Start your fermentation near 100° and wrap your container in a small blanket or towel to keep that heat in there.
- If you’re fermenting on a cold ground such as stone or concrete, so elevate it by using some 2x4s with blankets to insulate it.
On the other hand, your wash can become too hot, which will damage or even kill the yeast. If specific gravity is high (very little fermentation has taken place) you can try adding more yeast, but there’s a chance you’ll have to give up on it and start over. It’s important to keep an eye on the temperature throughout fermenting.
There’s too much sugar for the yeast strain you’re using
The reason why you use sugar in a mash is basically because your yeast consumes the sugar, converting it into alcohol. So it’s easy to assume that more sugar = more alcohol.
However, too much sugar in your mash can actually hinder your yeast’s ability to make alcohol, and most people want to get as high an alcohol content as possible when making moonshine.
This is where hydrometer readings are handy, because helps you determine how much sugar is already in the mash and how much sugar you need to add in order to get the potential alcohol level you're looking for. If you do wind up with more sugar than needed, simply add more water in order to reduce the sugar concentration.
There’s not enough nutrients in your yeast
Finally, your mash might not have enough nutrients to perform its best. Most turbo yeasts already contain the proper ingredients optimal for that particular yeast strain. However, if you are using baker’s yeast or a basic distiller’s yeast for making moonshine, you may still need to add some distiller’s nutrients to really get it going.