Can You Use Wild Yeast To Make Beer?
Yeast is an essential part of the brewing process, so it’s good to know which type to use when making beer. As you may know, there are different strains of yeast available commercially, but wild yeast also exists. You can find wild yeast in many places, including on plants and in your home.
You can use wild yeast to make beer, but each batch might taste different. That’s because each time you capture wild yeast, it will have a unique flavor. Sometimes, you might enjoy the taste; other times, you may not. This uncertainty of wild yeast’s flavor is why it’s not widely used for brewing.
This article will discuss using wild yeast to make beer in greater detail. Keep reading to learn more!
Using Wild Yeast to Make Beer
It’s possible to use wild yeast to make beer because it works in the same way as commercially bought yeast. As long as there is sugar available, any type of yeast –including wild yeast– will consume it and thrive. In the case of beer brewing, sugar can be found in the wort.
So, you can grow wild yeast in your wort if you leave it outside near plants, trees, or even fruits. However, the process can be time-consuming, so be prepared to wait a few days for your yeast to grow in the wort.
I will discuss how to capture wild yeast later in the article in case you’re interested in using wild yeast to make beer.
Is Wild Yeast Used Commercially?
In most cases, wild yeast isn’t used commercially because the flavors vary too greatly. If companies used wild yeast, they would never be certain how their beer would turn out; this isn’t ideal for big companies that have a responsibility to remain consistent with their products.
So, most breweries purchase yeast commercially. Most large beer companies purchase yeast from labs like White Labs in San Diego. These labs typically have many strains of yeast suitable for brewing, winemaking, and even bread making.
Challenges of Making Beer With Wild Yeast
Using wild yeast presents several challenges:
The Harvesting Environment Might Not Allow It
Wild yeast grows everywhere but thrives most in moist environments rich in carbohydrates. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that any environment with these characteristics will yield good yeast for making beer.
Pollution is arguably the most critical consideration as far as the harvesting environment goes.
If you have a garden and live in a place with little to no air pollution, you’re in the right place to capture wild yeast. But if you’re in one of those areas where industrial activity has taken a toll on the environment, you might want to rethink using wild yeast.
Remember, when you’re making beer using wild yeast, what you’re getting is a taste of the environment. Nobody wants to drink sooty beer that reminds them of the air pollution in a dense city.
The Taste Might Not Be What You Expect
Making beer using wild yeast is mostly trial and error. There’s no telling how the taste will turn out, so keep in mind that ending up with weird-tasting beer is a real possibility.
Sometimes, you may capture some species of wild yeast that aren’t so great for wort fermentation, giving your beer a funny taste. Other times, you might end up with a unique, pleasant taste. If you’re not willing to take risks with your wort, you might want to reconsider using wild yeast.
Mold Might Be an Issue
Wild yeast is, well, wild, and there’s no way of shielding your yeast culture specifically from non-beneficial microorganisms.
If you notice mold in your capturing culture, I would suggest you throw it out and start over. Continuing with that culture will only put you and other consumers at risk.
Benefits of Using Wild Yeast to Make Beer
There are three main benefits of using wild yeast to make beer:
- Unique flavors. Tastes can vary from fruity and sweet to tart or malty. Many people report wild yeast beer to taste highly tart, but it can vary. Yeast cultures can be reused up to five or six times.
- It’s cheaper than buying yeast.
- It’s more eco-friendly because you’re not buying yeast that was made in a factory or lab.
You can extract wild yeast from either your primary or secondary fermenter. All you have to do is follow the steps I’ve shown here.
How To Capture Wild Yeast
All you need to capture wild yeast is a moist area for the yeast to colonize. Creating that humid environment can be broadly broken down into two steps:
Gathering the Necessities
- A Clear Ceramic Jar. Sterilize and deep clean the jar to get rid of harmful bacteria that can ruin the starter wort. Ensure that it has an airtight lid because if oxygen gets in, the resulting beer will turn out bitter.
- A Cheesecloth. Choose a clean, lightweight cotton cheesecloth with fine holes for your brewing. This cloth will be helpful for straining and can prove indispensable in other aspects of your brewing later on.
- pH Strips. pH strips will help you check if the pH of the mash, hops, and starter wort are at the optimal range of 5.2 to 5.8. We don’t want to get beer that tastes watered down after going through all this trouble, so don’t forget to check the pH!
The Capturing Process
The capturing process involves several steps:
- Place the wort in the airtight ceramic jar.
- Cover the jar with your cloth.
- Leave the jar in an area that will yield wild yeast. It’s best to leave it in a garden near a tree or plants for the best results.
- Wait 12 hours. Once 12 hours have passed, yeast should be growing in your wort.
- Seal the jar. Next, you should seal the jar with the lid and leave it at room temperature for at least a week. You may need to leave it for 2-3 weeks if it’s not ready.
- Open the lid now and then to air out of the wort. This will help tackle mold growth, but always remember to put the lid back on. You should also look for other signs of infection.
- Test the pH once your wort looks fully fermented. It should be lower than when you began the process.
- Move to the next step of the brewing process!
You can undoubtedly use wild yeast to make beer. The best part is that the resulting flavor will be unique, and no two of your home-brewed beers will taste the same! Once you create that unique flavor, you can replicate it by reusing your wild yeast up to six times.
Just be sure to consider the potential challenges I’ve identified above, and you might never have to buy commercial yeast for your home brews.