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Washing Yeast

Lately I’ve become a big fan of reusing yeast.  Especially when using liquid yeast, it seems like you should get more than one batch of beer out of something that is such a large portion of your cost per brew.  I’ve read that reusing once is fine, twice is okay, but after that you’re running higher risks of contamination.  I’ll push those limits later, but for now I wanted to stretch the yeast to a third brew.

My last two batches have used and re-used a pack of Safale US-05.  Both the Blonde Ale and the Honey Ale turned out great, so why not try for a third round?  At this same time, I was reading a book about Yeast, so I was all about playing a little bit.  I wanted to go through the process of washing the yeast.  Washing yeast is basically the process of separating used yeast from the trub that has settled at the bottom of the fermenter.  You can reuse the whole yeast cake, but you’ll probably get better results over the long term if you remove old hop particles, dead yeast cells, etc., from the mix.

When I racked over my Honey Ale, I took a few scoops of the twice-used yeast from the empty fermenter.  I used a funnel and scooped it in to a sanitized growler.  I then added some boiled and cooled water and shook it all up.  It’s pretty interesting to watch the various levels of separation.  Each different element in the used yeast cake settles at a different rate.  The crud you don’t want settles the quickest, then the yeast settles on top of that.  The top area appears to be the lightest liquid levels.  The yeast stay suspended in the liquid for a while, but you can see clear-brown water remains as the yeast settle out.

I let the growler mixture settle for a few hours, then transferred to a mason jar.  I poured off the liquid layer at the top, then tried to pour the middle layers in to the new jar, leaving the heavy bottom layer behind.  I kept this new jar of cleaned yeast for a week before I was ready to use it in the Leftover Ale.

Making the Leftover Ale

As the name would suggest, I had a bunch of random ingredients around, so I decided to brew a small batch of beer.  More than anything I wanted to test out my washed yeast, but didn’t want to lose a whole batch if it wasn’t any good.  I had several types of hops left around, as well as some crystal malts.  I didn’t have grains around, but I did have some Amber Malt and some Honey.  The Mr. Beer Kegs I bought are perfect for a small batch, so I figured why don’t I make a batch of beer?

Ingredients: Leftover Ale

Fermentables

  • 27 oz Amber DME
  • .5 oz Crystal Malt 40L (steeped for 20min)
  • 16 oz Honey – added at end of boil, (0 min)

Hop Additions

  • .4 oz Simcoe – added during boil, boiled 30 min
  • 1 oz Cascade – added during boil, boiled 5 min

Yeast

Additional Details / Notes

  • SG 1.057 / FG 1.011
  • 5.95% ABV
  • Brewed: 02/05/2011, Secondary: 02/12/11, Bottled: 02/19/11
  • Efficiency 75% – Attenuation 80% (from Beer Tools)
  • Fermentation temps: ~60° in Primary, ~64° Secondary
  • Small batch.  Fermented in Mr. Beer Keg using washed yeast.

Brewing the Leftover Ale

I went with a 2.5 gallon boil for this one.  I started off by steeping 5 oz. of 40L Crystal Malt for 20 min at about  155°.  Then I raised the heat and added my DME when the temp came almost to a boil.  I let this roll for 10 minutes before making my 30 minute Simcoe hop addition. The second and final addition was 1 oz of Cascade with 5 minutes left in the boil.  Finally, I added the pound of Honey at the end of the boil, stirring it in to dissolve it.

I brewed on a cold day, so I covered the pot and set it outside for a while.  That didn’t work very fast, so I gave it an ice bath for a while longer.  It took about an hour, but once the temp was about 88° I strained the wort in to a Mr. Beer Keg.  At this point, I poured the room temp. washed yeast in to the keg and gave it a good stir, then off to the fermentation fridge.

After a couple of weeks, I racked the beer over to a second Mr. Beer Keg.  After another 2 weeks it was time to bottle.  While I have mixed feelings on the Mr. Beer brews, I have to admit these kegs are really handy for small batches.  Being able to bottle from the little tap on the side is pretty dang cool.  As with my usual “Mr. Beer” brews, I used the little measuring tool and used cane sugar for priming.  All in all, I ended up with 5 liter bottles and 1 growler.  Barely worth the work, but this batch was in the name of science!

Drinking the Leftover Ale

Jokes were made after I brewed this beer that it would be one of my best creations, but impossible to recreate.  Truth be told, that’s not too far from the truth.  The combination of the Amber Malt with the Honey created a pretty nice base for a Pale Ale, and the Simcoe & Cascade were really nice together.  I didn’t mess with filtered water (as I’d done with my Blonde & Honey Ale), so I think my hard water gave it a little bit of the bitter quality that I’ve found in my other Pales and IPA’s.

Overall, though, the Simcoe & Cascade made a really nice combination.  I’d really like to revisit that combination in the future.  I read someplace that Simcoe can have a bit of a passion-fruit flavor, and I really agreed in this beer.  Someday I’d like to try Simcoe with added orange & lime peel and go as tropical as I can go.  Whether anybody will drink it… I don’t know.

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