A suitable Yeast to use for Moonshine Whiskey

edited October 2016 in General

Hi all.

For my day to day ferments I use bread yeast, I started using this because it was a cheaper alternative while I R&D. I have been playing around with a few variants of distillers yeast to.

I wanted to see how you guys felts about bread yeast and whether the pros outweighed the cons of using distillers yeast. When I search online for distillers yeast I think the bias is more towards turbo yeasts, so I want to make sure I am getting the right type of yeast recommended by you.

At the moment my recipe is fairly consistent, and it usually takes 9 days for the bread yeast to finish. I see some recipes and other distillers saying it only takes them 4 days. Is there a way I can still create a good product, but reduce the fermenting time, I presume that some of this is based on recipe and the yeast they are using, plus the amount of sugar avaliable for the yeast to consume.


  • edited October 2016

    IMHO, I think temperature is a critical factor alongside yeast type to yield the highest contribution of "whiskiness" by the yeast.

    Ferment with something like EC-1118 in the mid/high-70s, and you are going to get a product that is extremely clean. Using an ale yeast and fermenting in the mid-80s, you are going to get a very high ester contribution. Etc etc.

    Even using a more traditional american whiskey yeast like Lallemand GW (cogener profile is very much what people think when they think of whiskey) - temperature makes a significant difference. Fermenting at mid 80s is going to yield a much different flavor contribution than mid 70s.

    For a white whiskey, no age, I would shoot for cooler and cleaner. Even distill it differently than a whiskey to be aged. Eau de Vie of Grain, and not new-make Bourbon. While it's interesting to try new-make from time to time, I think there are more interesting ways to make a white.

    I have no issues with bread yeast, it will yield a good product if you keep the parameters in check for a non-specialized yeast. Lower starting gravity, good temp control (no spikes), you probably don't want to push it higher than the low 80s.

    Keep in mind that "bread" yeast is typically propagated on molasses. While the specific strain may differ, it is still the same beast. I think though, something I've think I've realized, is specific yeast strain flavor contribution is emphasized at temperature, and as you pull different strains of yeast back to around the mid-70s point, they begin to be more similar. Just my two cents.

    Also be careful if you start pushing longer than 5 days, as your bacterial contribution will start to increase significantly.

  • edited October 2016

    @zizther said: Is there a way I can still create a good product, but reduce the fermenting time, I presume that some of this is based on recipe and the yeast they are using, plus the amount of sugar avaliable for the yeast to consume.

    As @grim mentions, temps are a major factor. Higher temps may get you dryer more quickly but also more esters. If you take this route you may be able to negate any negative ester impact by distilling at a higher reflux ratio.

    You could also over pitch to speed things up. But this can give your finish product a real yeasty sort of quality. Again collecting at a higher abv (Reflux Ratio) will help.

    You just have to play with it imo.

    If I had ever distilled,,,and I haven't,,,I would have only used a beer yeast once,,,because I would have been primarily a rum guy if I distilled,,,But I don't. The beer yeast I would have used absolutely installs what would be a familiar beer like quality that did translate to familiar whiskey notes in the finished product. So yeast choice can very much affect the outcome. For me however, the Whitelabs 007 was spendy at the small scale and made the finished rum product veer to far away from what I was looking to accomplish,,,theoretically accomplish that is what I meant to say... Evidently the 007 does well in warm temps,,but the dude at the supply house (in retrospect) didn't know doodly about rum. Now if you ever want your rum to have strong whiskey notes....Yeast matters.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • Thanks guys, good advice and it is good to get a little bit more knowledge. Will play around once again.

  • coming from a beer background, yeast selection and care (pitching rate, temp, nutrient supply etc) have a big impact on the quality of your wash which in turn flows through to your new make.

    How you do your cuts further complicates matters as does oak choice as well as the aging conditions (think temp and humidity).

    To my mind, they all layer up to the end product. Without a decent base, you will not get a top quality end product. Yeast choice and management play a key role.

    Get in touch with yeast suppliers like lallemand and white labs. they have good products and advice.

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