From basic ale strains to complex blends of wild yeast and souring bacteria, selecting the right fermentation tool is one of the most important aspects of recipe development. But deciding a more basic issue—liquid or dry—is easier for some styles than others. Following are some considerations for your next batch of homebrew.
When it comes to variety, liquid yeast can’t be beat. Commonly available in vials and pouches, liquid yeast offers homebrewers many of the same strains available to professionals. Here are some reasons to choose liquid yeast:
- Unmatched selection of strains
- Many seasonal strains available throughout the year
- Some beer styles can’t be brewed without it
Liquid yeast products do, however, have some drawbacks:
- Liquid yeast is usually more expensive than dry yeast.
- Improper handling can dramatically reduce viability.
- Low cell count often necessitates using multiple packages or a starter.
- Wort aeration or oxygenation is essential for yeast growth.
Dry yeast used to have a reputation for unreliability and impurity. But technological improvements have made today’s dry yeast products very reliable and, in many cases, an attractive alternative to liquid yeast. Here are the advantages of dry yeast:
- Dry yeast is usually more affordable than liquid strains.
- Dry yeast has a higher cell count per package than liquid yeast.
- Dry yeast has a long shelf life, even at room temperature.
- The need for wort oxygenation is reduced or eliminated.
Although dry yeast is very convenient and user-friendly, only a few strains are available. Lager strains, in particular, are few and far between. Yeast-driven styles like German Hefeweizen, Belgian Trappist ales, and Saison practically demand use of liquid yeast, but several excellent dry options are available for more malt- and hops-focused beers like American IPA and English bitter. And more strains are becoming available.
Ultimately, the choice of one over the other is a question of preference, but both liquid and dry products have their place. Homebrewers who usually go for dry yeast can discover a wider array of flavors with liquid yeast, and those who usually prefer liquid strains might keep a dry sachet or two on hand for emergencies.