Author Topic: Culturing from Commercial Beer  (Read 2133 times)

Offline flbrewer

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Culturing from Commercial Beer
« on: February 14, 2015, 12:44:41 AM »
Seems simple enough, was going to give this a try for fun and perhaps to use with a SN Pale Ale recipe.

If you do it, how has it turned out? I'm guessing you have to do this a few times (building up, decanting, repeat) before you get enough cells to pitch.


Offline erockrph

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Re: Culturing from Commercial Beer
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2015, 01:31:37 AM »
First and foremost, since the culture is not in the greatest health and is a fairly low cell count, proper sanitation is an absolute necessity - even more so than usual.

For the initial step, I like to do it in the bottle instead of pouring the dregs off. Transfers are the times where you run the biggest risk of contamination, so I like to make sure the culture is woken up a bit before transferring out. Sanitize the bottle and bottle opener before opening. Then sanitize the neck/lip of the bottle before pouring the beer. I like to leave about 1/2 inch of beer in the bottle, plus the dregs. this way you get any yeast that is still in suspension and not just the flocced out dregs.

I then use a sanitized funnel to add about 1/2-1 inch of 1.030ish wort. Once diluted with the remaining beer, this gives you a nice low OG of about 1.020. This is less stressful to the yeast than the typical 1.040ish starter wort we typically use. Then I cover with foil (for non-sours) or add a small stopper and airlock (for sours). I usually give the first step about 7-10 days to give the yeast plenty of time to wake up and do their thing.

From there, the general rule for stepping up a starter is a tenfold increase each step. So step two is maybe 200 mL or so of 1.035 wort, and then that can go into a normal 2-liter starter. Use your nose to tell you whether there are any problems, and taste your larger starters to ensure that you didn't pick up any contamination along the way.

For sanitation, I have had good luck simply using Star-San, but if you really wanted to take stronger precautions, then using something like 151 or Everclear, then flaming it off is the way to go.
Eric B.

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Offline flbrewer

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Re: Culturing from Commercial Beer
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2015, 01:48:47 AM »
Thanks..do you use this technique often?

Offline majorvices

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Re: Culturing from Commercial Beer
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2015, 02:39:09 AM »
If you are going to go through all that trouble, pick a strain you can not get readily available from a yeast manufacturer. Delerium Tremens comes to mind.

I've done this a few times and its certainly not difficult. But you will have more reliable and predictable results just buying a decent size pitch from the regular yeast manufactures. OTOH every homrebrewer should do this at least once, but seriously: do a harder to find strain than Chico!

Offline flbrewer

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Re: Culturing from Commercial Beer
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2015, 02:47:51 AM »
I would think it's worth it from a financial standpoint if it works as well as buying new yeast.

Offline majorvices

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Re: Culturing from Commercial Beer
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2015, 03:02:53 AM »
I would think it's worth it from a financial standpoint if it works as well as buying new yeast.

Well, IME it doesn't. think about all the time and malt extract you will use to step up to a pitchable quantity. Now consider what happens when you brew your beer and the yeast wasn't as healthy as you hopped or mutated due to the inhospitable conditions. Now, was it worth it then?

I've stepped up from bottles several times. It's a fun experiment. It's not going to save you any money and unless you really know what you are doing and have an expensive microscope I doubt you will find it makes beer as good as a $4 pack of US-05.

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Culturing from Commercial Beer
« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2015, 03:10:36 AM »

I've stepped up from bottles several times. It's a fun experiment. It's not going to save you any money and unless you really know what you are doing and have an expensive microscope I doubt you will find it makes beer as good as a $4 pack of US-05.

+1
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Offline erockrph

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Re: Culturing from Commercial Beer
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2015, 03:39:38 AM »

I've stepped up from bottles several times. It's a fun experiment. It's not going to save you any money and unless you really know what you are doing and have an expensive microscope I doubt you will find it makes beer as good as a $4 pack of US-05.

+1
+2 - I mainly do this to step up Orval or other sour dregs, or to grow up a pitch from a batch of homebrew that used a platinum strain that isn't currently available.
Eric B.

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Offline flbrewer

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Re: Culturing from Commercial Beer
« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2015, 03:40:07 AM »
Yeah forgot about cheap dry yeast.

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Re: Culturing from Commercial Beer
« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2015, 04:13:15 AM »
Siebel BRY 96 (the strain that Sierra Nevada uses) is the absolute easiest yeast on the planet to culture from a bottle of bottle-conditioned beer.  In fact, it was the first yeast strain that I cultured from a bottle of bottle conditioned beer.  If you are going to culture in the bottle, you are going to need a sanitized funnel and a sanitized #2.5 solid stopper, which will be used to cap the bottle while shaking.

Procedure (assuming that the beer has been resting upright for long enough that the yeast has settled)

Remove the bottle cap

Wipe the mouth of the bottle with a 90% alcohol saturated cotton ball (you need to use a light touch because the goal here is to clear the surface of any dust that may have gotten under the crimped portion of the crown, not drench the bottle)

Flame the mouth by quickly passing the flame from a butane lighter over the mouth of the bottle (Charlie P. referred to this step as "burning the lips")

Carefully decant the beer leaving the sediment and about 1/4" to 3/8" of beer. 

Add 50 to 60ml of 1.020 wort to the bottle using a sanitized funnel (do not attempt to rush the culture by using more wort)

Cap the bottle using a sanitized #2.5 rubber stopper

Place your thumb or the palm of your other hand over the fat end stopper and shake until the liquid is nearly all foam (you should hold the stopper in place; otherwise, Murphy will more than likely show up, and you will have wort on your ceiling)

Remove the stopper and cover the mouth of the bottle with a piece of aluminum foil that has been wiped down with alcohol.

Allow the culture to incubate 24 to 48 hours before stepping (discard the culture if you do not see activity within 48 hours)

Step the culture to 250ml using 1.040 wort

Incubate the culture for another 12 to 18 hours 

From this point forward, you can treat the culture as if you were making a starter with commercial yeast. If you are meticulous about sanitation, this process should produce a clean culture almost 100% of the time.

One last thing, yeast cultured from a bottle of SNPA behaves differently than Wy1056 and WLP001.  Those cultures have drifted from the source.  Cultured SNPA yeast is usually much more flocculent than either Wy1056 or WLP001.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2015, 04:48:27 AM by S. cerevisiae »

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Re: Culturing from Commercial Beer
« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2015, 04:16:31 AM »
I've stepped up from bottles several times. It's a fun experiment. It's not going to save you any money and unless you really know what you are doing and have an expensive microscope I doubt you will find it makes beer as good as a $4 pack of US-05.

I disagree with your assertion. If performed correctly, cultured SNPA yeast performs better than any of the commercial offerings.  While culturing yeast from a bottle is a relatively simple task that can be performed without the aid of microscope, most home brewers rush the process.

Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Culturing from Commercial Beer
« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2015, 04:41:13 AM »
Hey, in FL you can get Bell's, and that house ale yeast is good for some clones of their beer and it is not commercially available. Culture from the Amber, Oberon, or one of the other beers at 6% or less.

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Offline majorvices

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Re: Culturing from Commercial Beer
« Reply #12 on: February 14, 2015, 11:24:30 AM »
I've stepped up from bottles several times. It's a fun experiment. It's not going to save you any money and unless you really know what you are doing and have an expensive microscope I doubt you will find it makes beer as good as a $4 pack of US-05.

I disagree with your assertion. If performed correctly, cultured SNPA yeast performs better than any of the commercial offerings.  While culturing yeast from a bottle is a relatively simple task that can be performed without the aid of microscope, most home brewers rush the process.

You disagree with me. What else is new?  ::) I agree that the mention of expensive microscope was over the top, and I blame it on the whiskey, but if you are using older, undated bottles a microscope can come in handy. From fresh bottles, agree no microscope is necessary.

FLbrewer - definitely try it for yourself. It is a fun experiment. In the long run it was never worth it for me unless it was a yeast I could not obtain commercially, like Delerium Tremens.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2015, 11:40:11 AM by majorvices »

Offline flbrewer

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Re: Culturing from Commercial Beer
« Reply #13 on: February 14, 2015, 12:36:57 PM »

Hey, in FL you can get Bell's, and that house ale yeast is good for some clones of their beer and it is not commercially available. Culture from the Amber, Oberon, or one of the other beers at 6% or less.
Not a bad idea. Just thought to use the SN because that's the beer that it was going in.

Offline flbrewer

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Re: Culturing from Commercial Beer
« Reply #14 on: February 14, 2015, 12:37:53 PM »

Siebel BRY 96 (the strain that Sierra Nevada uses) is the absolute easiest yeast on the planet to culture from a bottle of bottle-conditioned beer.  In fact, it was the first yeast strain that I cultured from a bottle of bottle conditioned beer.  If you are going to culture in the bottle, you are going to need a sanitized funnel and a sanitized #2.5 solid stopper, which will be used to cap the bottle while shaking.

Procedure (assuming that the beer has been resting upright for long enough that the yeast has settled)

Remove the bottle cap

Wipe the mouth of the bottle with a 90% alcohol saturated cotton ball (you need to use a light touch because the goal here is to clear the surface of any dust that may have gotten under the crimped portion of the crown, not drench the bottle)

Flame the mouth by quickly passing the flame from a butane lighter over the mouth of the bottle (Charlie P. referred to this step as "burning the lips")

Carefully decant the beer leaving the sediment and about 1/4" to 3/8" of beer. 

Add 50 to 60ml of 1.020 wort to the bottle using a sanitized funnel (do not attempt to rush the culture by using more wort)

Cap the bottle using a sanitized #2.5 rubber stopper

Place your thumb or the palm of your other hand over the fat end stopper and shake until the liquid is nearly all foam (you should hold the stopper in place; otherwise, Murphy will more than likely show up, and you will have wort on your ceiling)

Remove the stopper and cover the mouth of the bottle with a piece of aluminum foil that has been wiped down with alcohol.

Allow the culture to incubate 24 to 48 hours before stepping (discard the culture if you do not see activity within 48 hours)

Step the culture to 250ml using 1.040 wort

Incubate the culture for another 12 to 18 hours 

From this point forward, you can treat the culture as if you were making a starter with commercial yeast. If you are meticulous about sanitation, this process should produce a clean culture almost 100% of the time.

One last thing, yeast cultured from a bottle of SNPA behaves differently than Wy1056 and WLP001.  Those cultures have drifted from the source.  Cultured SNPA yeast is usually much more flocculent than either Wy1056 or WLP001.
what's the point of the stopper if I just use to shake? Couldn't I use the foil?