Homebrew Hack: Reuse Brewing Yeast The Easy Way

It may sound strange, but when you’re brewing regularly you can reuse your yeast by pulling it from the dregs of your secondary fermenter. Next Monday we’ll get into a harder way (that has its own benefits).

Why Reuse Brewing Yeast?

There are many benefits to reusing yeast. Both are related to waste. First, you reduce the amount of byproduct tossed during the brewing process. Second, you save money by not having to buy yeast each time you brew. Depending on how far your yeast comes from this means even more saving: transportation and packaging is eliminated.

Like making yeast from potatoes and other organics, this method requires some experimentation and can result in different flavors than expected. But for small, simple, similar batches (ie. back to back mead or back to back herbal wine made from similar ingredients) it’s nearly foolproof.

How To Maximize Your Yeast

There are two different ways to do this and depend, mostly, on personal choice. Some homebrewers like to start completely fresh (we’ll call them freshers), even when making back to back similar batches. Then there are those who don’t mind reusing equipment (enlighteneds) if brewing the same thing in close succession.

Instructions For Freshers

This is my camp, so don’t worry: my calling the other guys “enlighteneds” is not a slight.

  1. Make a solution of sanitizer and water and funnel it into a cleaned, sanitized spray bottle.
  2. After racking off secondary into tertiary, kegs or bottles, spray the neck and lip with the sanitizer spray.
  3. Pour the dregs from the secondary into a cleaned and sanitized carboy. Add the rest of the ingredients (water, sugar, organics) and continue as usual.
  4. You can save the dregs if you’re not brewing immediately. The yeast should be fine for 8-10 weeks.

Instructions For Enlighteneds

This only works if you’re making a new batch right when you rack off the secondary. Just rack and then siphon your new batch into the secondary. It’s now your primary. And you’re done!

That’s It?!

That’s it. It’s kind of strange, at least to me, that more people are not aware of this hack. Even people who have been homebrewing for a long time are surprised to hear that it’s easy and effective to reuse.

Are there disadvantages? It depends how you look at it. The yeast has changed and has been in with a batch that has chemically altered it. But unless you’re brewing for a contest or selling it shouldn’t be a problem. The reason I include this is because if you are selling or in a contest you want your recipe to be as consistent as possible. And this is a less consistent way of brewing.

The Biggest Advantage

Besides not throwing out the dregs, yeast cake or whatever you want to call it and besides saving money, there is another advantage. This is a time when you can really explore home brewing as an art versus a science. Go crazy and have a little fun. If you wanted to you could use wine dregs to make mead and see what happens. Or beer dregs to make wine. The sky’s the limit and you might be inspired by new flavors and processes.

Next week I’ll share how to reuse yeast off of your primary. This process is a little more involved but the yeast is more consistent from batch to batch, better for when you’ve got a recipe you want to recreate more closely.

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