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Can You Add More Yeast to Beer?


Homebrewing may be an adventure you have recently embarked on, so you know there are many different factors involved in brewing it properly. The amount of yeast has a big effect on the final product. We set out to learn what happens if you add more yeast during the fermentation process and how it affects the taste.

Can you add more yeast to beer? Yes you can. Yeast affects the alcohol content of beer. It works together with the sugar to produce alcohol. The more yeast in the beer, the lower the alcohol content in your beer.  Conversely, less yeast increases the alcohol. You must add yeast at the proper time, and never add yeast during active fermentation.

Now that you know a little more about what role yeast plays in the brewing of beer, let’s find out  some more cool things about why yeast content in beer matters and about what happens when there isn’t the right amount of yeast in beer. First though, let’s start with seeing what yeast actually is.

What is Yeast?

It would be helpful to know what yeast actually is before getting into the nitty gritty of it. Put simply, yeast is a living organism that is part of the fungus family. For the purposes of this article, there are two types of brewing yeasts, commonly known in the brewing community as top cropping and bottom cropping. 

Top cropping yeast is sometimes call “ale yeast” and is associated with producing ale style beers. Bottom cropping yeast is generally used to make lager style beers, though they are capable of producing ale style beers as well.

Beer brewers can get yeast in two types of consistencies, active yeast, sometimes referred to as “wet” yeast and dry yeast. The main difference is their shelf lives, as active yeast is only good for about two weeks while dry yeast can be stored unopened for as long as two yeas.

What Happens When You Add Too Much Yeast to Beer?

Now that we know a little bit about the basics of yeast, let’s deal with the matter at hand: Can you add more yeast to beer?

Too much yeast can alter the taste of the beer and mean that less yeast growth is occurring, possibly resulting in a taste that you didn’t originally intend for the beer. Experts call this over-pitching the yeast. The yeast goes through several cycles as it eats through the sugars. If there is too much yeast, it eats through the sugars faster without cycling properly. This can result in a less flavorful product.

It is important to watch the progress of your yeast. If your starter product works well, fermentation should continue to progress. If you add more yeast later, it does not work the same way as it does when you make a starter.

When your beer reaches a stage of active fermentation, you do not need to change anything. The process is working properly. If the process stalls, you must consider every possible problem before adding more yeast. Sometimes you simply need to start over with a yeast starter.

What is Yeast Starter?

Many brewers use yeast starter to jump start yeast growth and make sure their yeast is healthy. A starter can help you determine the quality of your yeast before it becomes a part of the brewing process. If your starter turns out bad, you can simply make a new batch, sidestepping a potential landmine down the road.

A yeast starter is typically made when dealing with wet yeast. It is basically a mini batch of beer, essentially a test run, which will make more yeast and activate the yeast to get it ready for fermentation. A starter is helpful because you can make sure the yeast is good before pitching it

Tip: While not recommended, if you are using dry yeast, you’ll need to add the appropriate amount of yeast to water to jump start it. Add the yeast to boiling water and cover with plastic wrap for about 15 minutes.

Tip: Bacteria can grow quickly in your starter container. Glass canning jars are the best container to use for a yeast starter since you can boil them. Boil your canning jars to sterilize them before you begin making the yeast starter. If you notice a foul smell while making the starter, throw it away and clean the container more thoroughly.

What is the Proper Yeast Ratio in Beer?

When you are ready to make a yeast starter or begin brewing the beer, you must find out how much yeast goes into the recipe. There are many charts online that can help you determine how much yeast to use, depending on how much beer you want to make.

An average amount of dry yeast is 2 packets per 5 gallons of beer. There are about 100 billion yeast cells in each packet. You generally need about 200 billion. You also need to make sure you have live cells, however, and this can usually be achieved by creating a yeast starter as described above.

If your yeast is old or stored improperly, it may not respond as well. You may need to use more or purchase a fresh batch. If there is no reaction while making a starter, sanitize your container and start over with fresh yeast.

What Happens if I Don’t Use Enough Yeast?

A smaller amount of yeast makes the fermentation take longer yet produces a higher alcohol content. The fermentation process can even stop completely if there is too little yeast. You may think you’ve added enough yeast, but some poor quality yeasts don’t have the necessary cells to keep the process going.

Always keep in mind that when brewing beer, the primary goal is to achieve a good taste, not necessarily to reach a high alcohol level. This basically means to make sure you have enough yeast to ensure a high quality brew, while keeping the alcohol content at a tolerable level. We aren’t trying to make Pappy’s old moonshine here!

How Long Does Yeast Last?

When the brewing process goes wrong, bad yeast is often the culprit. Follow these simple instructions to know whether your yeast is ready for use.

Dry yeast typically keeps for around two years if kept in a cool and dry place like a pantry or even a refrigerator. Make sure to store open jars of dry yeast in the refrigerator to keep them fresh. If dry yeast that has been opened has changed its color or you notice wet clumps, get rid of it immediately.

When dealing with fresh yeast (wet yeast), you have about 3 weeks of shelf life before it goes bad. You should definitely try to use it at its freshest to ensure a quality product. Fresh yeast should be stored in the refrigerator if it is going to be used within a week.

It is important to use quality ingredients in everything you make, and that is especially true with the yeast you are using to brew your beer. Making sure you check the dates on everything you buy and storing it properly will go a long way in ensuring your brewing process goes off without a hitch!

Well guys and gals, I definitely learned a lot about the role of yeast in beer brewing while writing this article and I hope you folks did as well.

Making sure the yeast is behaving properly is an extremely crucial part of the brewing process and I hope that the information above helped you figure out if you can add more yeast to your beer.

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Matt Pingel

My name is Matt Pingel and I run WhatShouldIDrinkTonight.com. I enjoy writing, drinking, and relaxing, so this site makes perfect sense to me. My favorite drink of choice right now vodka and soda water, because my wife told me I needed to lose some weight when I wanted a medium sized blizzard from Dairy Queen. She's got some nerve...

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