Which yeasts are best for distilling?
Whatever kind of alcoholic beverage you’re making, the yeast you use will be one of the most important ingredients you choose, if not the most important. After all, it’s the yeast that converts sugar into alcohol and allows fermentation to take place. This affects the taste, aroma and color that arise during the fermentation process. Therefore, you will have to choose the yeast you use according to the kind of spirit you want as an end product.
Yeasts used in the production of alcoholic liquids usually belong to the genus Saccharomyces. Saccharomyces has many subspecies of its own including S.bayanus, S.cariocanus and S.cerevisiae among others. Furthermore, these subspecies can be further divided into numerous strains; there are thousands of subspecies of S.cerevisiae alone. Yeasts used in the distillation of whiskey and rum are usually some variation of S.cerevisiae.
Yeast stress response
Fermentation predictability and liquor quality are directly dependent on yeast attributes that assist in the rapid establishment of numerical dominance in the initial phases of fermentation. This is what determines how easy it will be to get to your desired alcohol percentage without acquiring any off flavors.
There is a direct correlation between fermentation efficiency and stress resistance which refers to the yeasts ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions and unfavorable growth conditions. Therefore, any yeast used for distilling will have to be one that can ferment efficiently and have resistance to stress.
Attributes of Distillers Yeast
Most distillers and yeast producers agree that the principle properties of good distillers yeast would include the following attributes:
- High ethanol yield (attenuation)
- Tolerance to ethanol, heat and high sugar concentration
- Rapid fermentation of available sugars (for whisky fermentation these are glucose, maltose and maltotriose)
- Production of correct balance of flavor congeners
- High viability during storage (3 to 5 degrees Celsius)
- Supply uncontaminated with wild yeast or bacteria
- Non-flocculent chemicals
You’ll be able to find yeast that meets your needs and requirements.
Commonly used distillers yeasts
Ideally, you should select yeast that can handle the amount of alcohol in the mash as well as ferment in the appropriate temperature range of your mash. Here is a list of yeasts that are often used by distillers.
Ale Yeast – This is a great yeast strain for winter fermenting, especially for those who ferment in their basement. It works particularly well for rye whiskey.
Wine Yeast – This type of yeast has a high alcohol tolerance, works great for a sugar shine and a high starting ABV.
Turbo Yeast – This is the strain for you if you want to make mediocre whiskey fast. It is also recommended if you want to produce high quality whiskey this is not appropriate yeast.
Generic distiller’s yeast – This kind of yeast works well but doesn’t always produce good results.
Bread Yeast – Bread yeast leaves behind a nice flavor, and works best with rye and rum recipes. The flavor it leaves behind is a result of bread yeast not fermenting as low as most other yeasts.
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