Liquid Yeast vs. Dried Yeast: What’s Best for your Brewery?

Container of liquid yeast on a table

For craft breweries, there’s no cookie-cutter path to success. Rather, each day is about making informed, or sometimes gut-instinct, decisions on recipes, styles, ingredients, marketing and processes. One major consideration is whether to brew with dried or liquid yeast. And, in reality, it’s a decision that may vary from brew to brew. As it’s such an important consideration, we thought we’d outline some of the key differences between brewing with dry or liquid yeast and how these can impact both the quality of your output and the profitability of your business.

Cost

When weighing up the costs of brewing with liquid yeast compared with dried yeast, the calculation really hinges on whether you’ll be repitching your yeast. If you’re not going to repitch then dried yeast is a cheaper option. However, if you’re using liquid yeast, you can repitch this many times over. We generally recommend not repitching more than seven times from the first generation, but some strains can be repitched as many as 10 times without affecting the flavour profile of the beer. It’s worth noting that the type of beer you’re brewing can also affect the quality of the yeast. If you’re unsure how many times you can repitch your yeast, drop us a line and we’ll let you know based on the yeast strain and the type of beer you’re brewing.

So, if you are repitching, how does liquid yeast stack up with dried yeast from a cost perspective?

We’ve calculated that brewing a 1000-litre batch seven times using two bricks of yeast (~ $400) each time would cost around $2800. Compare this with starting out with four litres of Bluestone New England liquid yeast (cost $869), and repitching this seven times. The total cost of liquid yeast in this scenario is $869 compared to $2800 for dried yeast, so that’s a saving of $1,931. The break-even point in using liquid yeast as opposed to dried yeast is around two-to-three pitches, so once you’re onto your fourth repitch, you’ll definitely be saving money.

It’s also worth considering that typically liquid yeast will lag less and finish faster than dried yeast. This means you can brew more beer over the course of a year without the need for additional capacity. One craft brewer we supply estimates they’ve been able to increase production at their facility by as much as 30 per cent!

If you’re not currently repitching your yeast, be sure to check out our Clean Repitching System which offers a clean, easy and sterile way to harvest, store and repitch your yeast. Link here

Flavour

While excellent flavour results can be achieved using dried yeast strains, there are a number of reasons to choose liquid.

Strain Variety: Liquid yeast is available in a wider variety of strains than dry yeast. This means you can choose a yeast strain that specifically matches the beer style and flavour profile you’re looking for. There are hundreds of strains of liquid yeast available that can produce a range of flavours and aromas, which provides a wider palette to work with when crafting your beer. Bluestone currently has 34 unique strains available to pro brewers, as well as a bank of more than 100 that we can supply on request.

Yeast Health/Viability: Liquid yeast is generally ‘fresher’, meaning the yeast cells are more viable and will perform better during fermentation. While dry yeast is quite robust and can be stored for longer periods, improper storage can still decrease its viability.

Propagation: Liquid yeast can be propagated in a yeast starter, which can enhance the yeast’s health and performance during fermentation. This can lead to a more complete and consistent fermentation, which in turn can lead to better flavours.

Rehydration Process: Dry yeast needs to be rehydrated before being pitched into the wort. If this process isn’t done properly, some of the yeast cells can be damaged, which can impact the yeast’s performance during fermentation and potentially the flavour of the beer.

Pitch rate: Liquid yeast offers a more exact pitch rate. Generally speaking, liquid yeast producers aim for a specific pitch rate for each order, tailoring this rate according to strain and type. The nature of liquid yeast means it is possible to manipulate the liquid volume to regulate density and maintain consistent cell counts with every order. In contrast, the viable cell count in dry yeast is largely unpredictable – you get whatever’s in the package. This is due to the packaging process, which involves packaging a fixed amount of dry yeast regardless of differences in viability or cell density between strains. This might lead to certain products having a lower cell density, while others have a higher density.

Transport and storage

Dried yeast has a much longer shelf life than liquid yeast, which is beneficial in a number of ways. Firstly, it means it’s easier to transport and doesn’t require cold shipping, which cuts down delivery costs.

This longer shelf-life also means brewers can keep it on hand in case they need it as a fall-back option.

In summary

As each brewery’s requirements are different, there’s no hard and fast answer as to whether liquid or dried yeast is best for your brewery. In fact, it’s common for craft brewers to leverage the various benefits of each form of yeast. We hope the various differences we’ve outlined above will help you make a more informed decision as to the type of yeast you choose to use in your next batch. And, as always, reach out if you’ve got any questions about switching to liquid yeast.

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