Dry yeast for home brewing is sometimes maligned and often overlooked. Many years ago when I started home brewing, the quality of dry yeast included with many prepackaged kits was poor. However much has changed, and now home brewers have dry yeasts available to them that are just as good as liquid yeast. So this week we take a look at some of the advantages of dry yeast, as well as how to brew with it.
Dry vs Liquid Yeast
Back in the late 80’s, there was only one option for yeast – dry packets. As we entered the 1990’s, high quality liquid yeasts entered the market for average home brewers from companies like Wyeast and White Labs. As time went on, liquid yeasts took over, offering a wide variety of yeast strains packaged in vials or smack packs. While many beginner kits still use dry yeast, many serious brewers use liquid yeast exclusively.
The Dry Yeast Advantage
I’m still a fan of liquid yeast, but recently I’ve been toying with some of the newer dry yeast offerings from Fermentis, Safeale, Lallemand and others. Used properly, they make great beer. These high quality dry yeasts do offer some advantages:
- Dry Yeast Stores Better – Liquid yeast loses about 20% of its viable yeast cells every month, which means the shelf life for an average vial or yeast packet is approximately 6 months. Dry yeast typically loses 2% or less of its viability every month, which means that if the packet is stored properly in a refrigerator you can store it for a year or two.
- No Starter Needed – Because liquid yeast does lose viability pretty rapidly, you will often need a starter to reach your target yeast pitch rate. Dry yeast requires no starter at all – you can just hydrate it in lukewarm water and then pitch it. If you need extra yeast, just buy two packets. This can be a huge advantage if you don’t have time for the starter or decide you want to brew a batch on the spur of the moment.
- Less Expensive – Quality dry yeast can be found sometimes for half the price of a comparable amount of liquid yeast. Since it stores well and is inexpensive, I’ll often keep an extra packet or two on hand for those times when I don’t have time for a starter or extra trip to the store.
On the downside, there are not as many varieties of dry yeast as liquid yeast available, so it can be difficult to match some rare or style-specific yeasts. For some specialty yeasts there is really no good alternative to liquid yeast strains.
Using Dry Yeast
Dry yeast has approximately 18 billion cells per gram of yeast. Dry yeast packets typically come in two sizes. The 5 gram (smaller) packets have approximately 90 billion cells, which is comparable to a recently purchased liquid yeast vial or large smack pack (each at 100 billion cells). The larger 11.5 gram dry yeast packets have approximately 207 billion cells, which is more than enough for a typical 5 gallon (19 liter) batch of ale with no starter. If you are brewing a lager you may need a second yeast packet – as lager requires about twice as much yeast for a comparable size batch.
Using dry yeast could not be easier. Hydrate the yeast in a half cup of lukewarm water (not too hot) for about twenty minutes while your wort is cooling, and then pitch it directly into the wort. Dry yeast requires minimal prep time – which is why its perfect for those last minute brews.
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Related Beer Brewing Articles from BeerSmith:
- Yeast Starters for Home Brewing Beer – Part 1
- Yeast Starters for Home Brewing Beer Part 2
- Making a Yeast Starter for your Home Brew Beer
- Olive Oil Instead of Aeration for Beer Brewing
- Storing Your Beer Brewing Hops, Grains and Yeast
- Five More Tips for All Grain Beer Brewing
- 5 Home Brewing Tips to Avoid the Dreaded Bottle Bomb
- Yeast Washing: Reusing your Yeast
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