Searching for the line between "hobby" and "obsession"

Attempting to harvest yeast…

I got inspired by the Nordeast homebrew club guys after my last brew session and decided to try and harvest my own yeast. Normally I just wash the yeast cake down the drain after I transfer the batch, but I figured I’d try to save myself a few bucks and see if I could maintain the same yeast strain for a few batches. This attempt to harvest the Belgian Wit yeast used for the SaiSon of a Bitch batch fit especially well with my brewing plans, as I am going to brew multiple saison batches this year.

SOB in the foreground about to be transferred, In the Name of doG fermenting away in the background.

After doing all my sanitation due diligence, I got a majority of the yeast cake from primary into a beaker, sealed it up and stuck it in the fridge to pull the yeast out of suspension. Later that evening, I was reading online and people were saying it’s better to harvest the cake after secondary, not primary as there is more trub and non-yeast particles in the primary cake. After everything settled a few hours later, I went down to the basement fridge to check out the sample for darker brown undesirable flecks. I was greeted by a fermenting sample that had blown the top off the beaker. Whoops! Live and learn. Yeast is too active still to be harvested from the primary fermenter. Noted.

I still plan to try and grab some of the saison yeast off the secondary when I bottle that batch this coming weekend. We’ll see if it explodes again… Anyone have any tips on harvesting yeast? Am I doing this completely wrong? Please let me know.

Pre-explosion...

My bad.

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4 responses

  1. Hey man, I always harvest from the primary and it usually works great, it seems like unless you transfer quite early to the secondary, sometimes there’s not so much yeast in there. The solution to the exploding yeast I use is to put it in a 750ml bottle(approx 25 oz)with a swing top (like a Grolsch bottle) but bigger, and then burp it every day or so. The first time I did this with my Saison yeast it blew as well, that stuff is a monster! I still had enough yeast left to pitch and the next time I harvested it I put it in a 1 L swing top (approx 34 oz) and there was no problem. I guess the extra air space helped. Definitely harvesting yeast is the way to go… no screwing around with starters, half the lag time so infection is less likely, and it saves tons of cash, Ive made four brews with one yeast a couple times now. Hope you don’t think I’m a know-it-all writing in all the time, just thought I could help on this one. Cheers,
    BB

    March 2, 2011 at 12:54 pm

  2. No worries BB! I appreciate the feedback. So, it sounds like I was ok taking the trub from primary and pouring into another small vessel, but maybe that vessel should be larger than 1000 ml or I shouldn’t be so greedy and take that much trub. Correct? I could have put an airlock on the beaker instead of completely closing it off. Maybe that would have helped a little? They do sell those huge Grolsch-style growlers at my homebrew shop, so maybe I need to pick up one of those… or I could just use a regular screw-cap growler I have from a local brewery, right?

    It had been over two weeks since that yeast was pitched by the time I harvested it, so I was taken by surprise when it went nuts just from moving it into a smaller space.

    March 2, 2011 at 1:12 pm

  3. Ya a big growler would probably work well, then you wouldn’t have to worry about filling it up too much. Whenever I’ve had yeast bottles overflow on me it’s usually from overfilling, and the dark trub that pours off last is the least viable stuff anyways I think, so you can probably discard it. A bottle fitted with an airlock would probably be the ultimate though, I suppose you could just chuck it in the fridge and forget about it then. Harvesting yeast is the way to go, I made a 9.3% stout a little while ago with a huge London ale yeast that was ready to bottle 2 weeks after brewday, it was awesome!

    March 2, 2011 at 3:39 pm

  4. Sweet. Pumped to try this again soon!

    March 2, 2011 at 3:59 pm

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