What yeast you can use

Bakers yeast vs Special yeast (turbo)

Bakers yeast will produce a maximum of around 8% alcohol, whereas the "turbos" can generate up to 20% alcohol. Obviously you'd use different amounts of sugar for either case. Its not that the Turbo makes a higher % from less sugar, its advantage is that it can handle the higher concentrations (first of heaps of sugar, then later, the high alcohol %), and hence you need proportionally less water.

Conclusion: you will end up with more alcohol in your 20L wash when using turbo yeast, because you are able to put more sugar in.

But....only use the Turbo's if you're after a "neutral" alcohol. If you're trying to make a flavoured spirit, (eg corn whisky, brandy, rum, etc) then use a yeast which will help give you the flavour profile that you desire.

In Summary:
- Neutral alcohol: Turbo yeast combined with Sugar based wash.
- Flavoured alcohol: Brewing yeast combined with a Grain or Fruit based wash.

While making the ethanol, the yeasts will also generate very small amounts of other organic compounds - including other alcohols, aldehydes, esters, etc. These are known as the "fusel oils" (or the "cogeners"). It is the presence of these that give the alcohol its flavour which we are looking for in corn whisky etc.

 

Bakers yeast

All common available bakers yeast are suitable for fermenting the wash. Use at least 150g for a 20L wash.

 

Turbo yeast

Benefit of Turbo yeast is that it is pre-packed with all the nutrient needed, so you do not need to worry about what additional nutrients you need to add. That makes life simple, however there are quite some brands available though online stores and local homebrew shops.

Some of the turbo yeast brands available are:
- Pot Distillers yeast 18% (Gert Strand, www.turbo-yeast.com)
- Prestige 8 kg Turbo alcohol yeast (Gert Strand, www.turbo-yeast.com)

 

Brewing yeast

For whiskey (corn or malt) a dry ale yeast is the best yeast type available.

 

Yeast from commercial beers

There are many quality microbrewed beers on the market that are bottle conditioned, i.e. naturally carbonated and unfiltered, much the same as homebrewed beers are. The yeast layer from a bottle conditioned beer can be harvested and grown just like the yeast from a liquid yeast packet. This is a common practice among homebrewers because it allows for the use of some special yeast strains in homebrew that would not otherwise be available. Keep in mind that some brewers add a different type of yeast prior to bottling.

Harvesting yeast from a bottle conditioned beer is quite simple.
Step 1. After opening the bottle, thoroughly clean the bottle neck and opening with sanitizer to prevent bacterial contamination.
Step 2. Simply pour the beer into a glass as you would normally, leaving the yeast layer on the bottom of the bottle intact.
Step 3. Swirl up the sediment with the beer remaining in the bottle and pour the yeast sediment into a prepared starter solution as described in the previous section- Preparing a Liquid Yeast Starter.

For best results, add the sediment from 2-3 bottles and be sure to use the freshest beer you can find. The starter should behave the same as any other liquid yeast pack starter, though it may take longer to build due to the smaller amount of yeast that you start out with. In fact, you may not notice any activity in the starter for the first couple wort additions until the amount of yeast builds to higher levels. Add more wort as necessary to build the yeast slurry to pitching level.

Best of both worlds: mixing different yeasts

It is sometimes useful to use two different stains of yeast at the same time; one strain for flavor and another for the alcohol content. Sometimes distilleries will mix brewers yeast with distillers yeast - thinking that the brewers yeast will add a heavier, fatter, mealier quality to new spirit. It is quite a common practise to use a combination of yeast strains to acheive the desired result e.g. I have seen a good general purpose type yeast which is designed to go to around 13% mixed with a high alcohol yeast strain which is designed to go to 18% or higher, the idea being that the general purpose yeast does the majority of the work converting the sugar to alcohol then the high alcohol yeast kicks in and takes the percentage up to the next level.


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