Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Do it for the Yeast! Brewing an Ordinary Bitter.

New fermentor, just after pitching.
Basically open fermenting this batch
I brewed this beer on National Learn to Homebrew Day and invited some friends over. As such, this ended up being a more-social affair than brewing typically is for me, so there's no photo evidence of the actual brewing.

As I've written before, the whole point of this beer was to grow up a pack of Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire to be able to reuse the yeast in a number of beers. The general consensus is that a smack pack doesn't have the yeast needed to properly ferment 5 gallons of most beers, so a lot of people make yeast starters. I've done that in the past, but I broke my e flask and sold my stirplate a few years ago. I don't usually mind using dry yeast--they've gotten really good--but sometimes you want something different. One lazy-ish solution is to brew a low-OG beer (this one was aiming for 1.038) and pitch the yeast from that. It's still technically under-pitching, but the yeast isn't very stressed by the experience and the beer turns out just fine in a way a bigger beer might not. Basically, you drink your starter.

The good news is that this works. As of right now, I've harvested about 200 ml of vigorous, top-cropped yeast that I'll pitch into the next beer. The krausen on this thing came back with a vengeance, even after harvesting that yeast, letting it grow back and swirling the fermenter to beat that krausen back into suspension. And, all this is with using Fermcap S. I'll probably harvest a bit more to see how much I can get, and then let it finish up. We'll see whether I've taken too much out too early, but I bet it'll be fine. My only concern is whether, in using Fermcap S instead of just letting the giant krausen from this yeast run rampant, I am selecting for a population of the yeast that is more or less floculant than I want. I'll find out in the next beer, I guess. For now, I'm happy to not have to clean out my fermentor. My last experience with this strain involved a huge mess.

Top-cropped 1469.
This compacted down to about 150 ml of clean yeast slurry.

This was my second brew using the new mashtun and improved volume tracking, and I'm very happy with how it's going.  Beersmith appears to have a cooler mashtun's number, and the beer came out right where it should have. I ended up with a bit more extract than expected (this seems to happen with little beers), so the OG was 1.039 instead of 1.038, pretty inconsequential even assuming my hydrometer is that accurate.
Third Krausen? Fourth? I've lost track. 

BeerSmith 2 Recipe Printout -
Recipe: Ordinary Bitter (growing up yeast)
Brewer: VAD
Asst Brewer:
Style: Standard/Ordinary Bitter
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (30.0)

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 7.77 gal
Post Boil Volume: 6.77 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal 
Bottling Volume: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.038 SG
Estimated Color: 6.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 30.9 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 82.7 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt                   Name                                                               Type          #        %/IBU       
5.00 g                Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) (Mash 60.0 mins Water Agent   2        -         
2.00 g                Epsom Salt (MgSO4) (Mash 60.0 mins)        Water Agent   3        -           
1.00 g                Calcium Chloride (Mash 60.0 mins)              Water Agent   4        -           
8 lbs                 Pale Malt (2 Row) UK (3.0 SRM)                    Grain         5        97.0 %     
4.0 oz                Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L (120.0 SRM)     Grain         6        3.0 %       
43 g                  Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] - Boil 60.0        Hop           7        28.4 IBUs   
14 g                  Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] - Boil 15.0        Hop           8        2.5 IBUs   
28 g                  Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] - Boil 0.0          Hop           9        0.0 IBUs   
1.0 pkg               1469 West Yorkshire (Wyeast #)                    Yeast         10       -           

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Medium Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 8 lbs 4.0 oz
Name              Description                             Step Temperat Step Time   
Mash In           Add 3.4 gal of water at 161.3 F         152.0 F       60 min     

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (1.74gal, 4.14gal) of 168.0 F water

Created with BeerSmith 2 -


  1. I have brewed ordinary bitters for the yeast before, though I have tried washing the yeast rather than top cropping. How do you do the top cropping?

    1. Here you go. About halfway through this episode of Brewing TV (back when it was a great show), Dawson makes an open fermented hefeweizen and top crops the yeast. That's pretty much what I do.

  2. I feel like I always mess up washing yeast, ending up with a jar of trub, so I've stopped trying. For top cropping, I skim most of the brown stuff that shows up in the first day, then skim and keep the thicker yeasty krausen that forms later. I put it in a jar in the fridge and usually end up with decently clean yeast with a bit of beer on top. I've got a batch I plan to skim today or tomorrow, so maybe I'll make a post.


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