I don't mean using natural yeasts from the environment. I'm wondering how feasible would it be to grow a continual yeast culture to use for my mead batches. Isn't this what the people who sell us yeast do?
If I settled on 2 or 3 yeast cultures that I really like couldn't I buy some of these and set them up to continually grow? I imagine that it would be similar to making a yeast starter. The only difference would be that you'd have to keep adding fruit juice or sugar to keep it alive (and taking out some yeast every time you add food so it doesn't get huge). Would I have to rack it from time to time?
Has anyone tried this? Are there any materials on this subject?
(edited to add a question)
I have been told this is a good little book http://www.morebeer.com/product.html?product_id=15838
I posed the very same question in a beer forum, and have drawn the conclusion this would be a good extension to the hobby although not real cost effective.
I do ranch a couple of my most used strains of ale yeasts at home, but a beer only takes a few months to ferment and clear, I would be very cautious with a mead or wine that may take a few months before you realize an infection has taken over, and most wine yeasts are fairly inexpensive.
Yes I am sure when I have the time I will still order the book in the url above and dedicate a small room in the house to culturing yeast, as a hobby, maybe even get a microscope
It sounds like something I'd like to get into someday. I would think that with proper sterilization it wouldn't be too hard. Of course you'd have to make sure all the sugars and nutrients you feed it were sterile.
The microscope would be cool - if you knew what each strand was supposed to look like you could potentially be able to periodically check up on the health of your colony.
A few years ago I picked up a copy of "Yeast Culturing for the Homebrewer" by Rog Leistad (available here, among many other places:
It is a very good overview of how to approach this without spending a lot of money on lab equipment. I haven't actually done any culturing myself, but this book (booklet, really -- only 40 pages) gives me confidence that it can be done, and on a tight budget.
The one issue not addressed in this book, however, is a mighty one in my opinion: yeast mutation. It really takes more than just a microscope to be able to watch out for yeasts that have begun passing on "flawed" gene patterns, and the fact is most hobbyists have neither the equipment nor the expertise to spot this (Homebrew being the exception). And mutation rates start to get mighty high after a while. I would hazard to say that few mutations would be readily visible under magnification to the uneducated eye, but instead, that they would become all-too-apparent in the fermenter -- exactly where we do NOT want them.
Maybe with periodic sampling by a fermentation lab this would become really viable, but I decided not to start up with this simply because I know that I don't have the skills or knowledge needed to maintain a pure strain of yeast for any length of time, and, that periodic testing by a lab would cost WAY more than simply buying fresh yeast for each batch. I really don't have a lot of money to burn, but, at about $1 USD per 5g sachet, it doesn't seem like such a big investment. Of course, we are talking about our hobby here, so, from that standpoint, it isn't about the money at all.
Home yeast culturing is a fascinating adjunct to meadmaking, and I applaud -- and eagerly await the notes of -- anyone doing it, but it's not a branch of this hobby that I think I'll be getting into.
I don't keep continually growing yeast culturess but i do try to stretch the yeast i buy considerably by culturing it up and spliting it. I use alot of liquid yeast and at $6 a tube it can start to add up. So what i do is basically make a large starter, which can then be split into 3-4 smaller jars that i can store in the back of my fridge for at least a few months if not a year. Good sanitation practices are key. The problems with keeping continually growing cultures is that its difficult to keep it from eventually becoming contaminated, and your yeast will tend to mutate with time.
Abungarism,Originally Posted by Abungerism
I have also personally experimented with cultivating yeast. It might be fun AND as in JoeM's case of liquid yeast, it has its economic benefits but for standard dry yeasts it is feasable but not particularly practical. Unless you have a scientific interest and want to set up a lab it is much more reliable and cheaper to buy a fresh pack of yeast from the supply store for less than a dollar. Making a large starter and splitting the starter between batches can be practical and provides some cost saving as JoeM stated but going any further than that in my opinion can be a risky business under non-lab conditions and without extensive knowledge. Dry yeasts come prepackaged with fillers/nutrients to insure a healthy startup. Its hard to compete with their prices on a small scale even though I admit it might be interesting to someone who is so inclined to do so.
Best of luck, should you decide to go ahead with it
Thanks for the replies all. If I do this it'll be a ways down the road.