Chop & Brew – Episode 04: Washing Yeast with Don O.


We’ve had a lot of requests for a how-to on washing yeast. Your wish is our command. In this episode, Chip and his buddy Don Osborn walk through the steps of washing yeast for the purpose of reusing it for brewing more beer at home. This easy process should yield healthy, clean yeast that’s ready to rip into your next batch of wort. It’s a great way to save a few bucks and, more importantly, keep a unique yeast strain around for a few generations. [Original postdate: March 30, 2013]

Related Links:

Don Osborn website including his awesome Homebrew Log

Don Osborn’s epic YouTube page

C&B Lagniappe: Portico Tasting Notes (mentioned in outro)

Portica Tasting Notes



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  3. Nice update to Don O’s original. I followed the steps you demonstrated and am looking forward to using my washed Wyeast 3711 a few more times over the next couple of months. Thank you.

  4. ng

    So happy there is a new C&B episode, and even happier it is about YEAST WASHING!!! I have read the guides on forums a number of times but have never felt confident doing it. I recently scored some Heady Topper from my homeland and am looking to harvest the yeast then wash it until i can wash it no more.

    Thanks for the video! It’s great to see more episodes from Chip and even better when they feature Don O. Any chance of a future series that reunites Dawson, Keeler, Chip and adds the sage wisdom of Don O.?

  5. So, you talked about yeast settling out. Is this the same for Sacch, Brett and Lacto? Will bugs get washed out and upset the balance of bacteria & yeast in a blend?

    • It’s a bit over my head, but I’ve asked the Brain Trust to weigh in. Stand by, Brooke. Thanks for the good question.

    • Here is Don Osborn‘s take. Still waiting for responses from some other techie brewers:
      “One thing that is interesting is the original Sanctification clone that Keith Ciani (copied now) made is said to be a little bit sour. The original Russian River Sanctification is definitely a bit sour. But, the beer that I made from Keith’s WASHED collection of his beer was NOT sour at all. Then I made it a 2nd time with washed yeast from my first one, and I fermented it warmer to see if that would help. It did not. It still was not sour (but still yummy). So. Maybe certain bugs do settle out faster than the yeast? Some kind of nerdy sciencey person would know.”

      • Told you I’d find more.

        Michael Dawson (Wyeast/The Beer Engine) weighs in:
        “The balance will change. You can’t really be sure what gets washed out and what stays unless you plate it out and scope it. Brett will flocculate, possibly at different rates given the particular strain and how it’s cropped (if you’re reusing a cake, you’re selecting for the most flocculent cells). Acid bacteria won’t flocculate like yeast cells because they’re not yeast cells. Given enough time and gravity there’ll be some amount of cell aggregation and settling. Most likely what you end up with is a grab bag in terms of population, and not in the same proportions as the original pitch – maybe that’s OK. I have definitely noticed flavor drift in the last several batches where I’ve reused a sour culture vs. the culture’s originating batch. It was my first time using this yeast, but like Don’s, my brew with Keith’s washed Sanctification prop (thanks again, guys!) was pleasantly mild Brett-ish but not at all sour after 5 months – I just added Lacto to it yesterday. In my experience, unwashed cakes tend to get sour very quickly with diminishing returns in Brett character. FWIW, at least some of the commercial sour brewers I’ve encountered this year who inoculate with mixed cultures prefer to either dose with a charge taken from an actively souring beer (selecting for suspended cells, not messing with the trub and precipitated material), or else start with a fresh pitch each time.”

        Chris Paynes:
        “As far as I know the only way to insure a consistent balance of Saccharomyces and Bugs/Bacteria that you desire is to measure the amount of each you pitch into your beer. Yeast, Wild Yeast, Bugs and Bacteria all have a different growth rate and nutritional requirements. So if you try to pitch washed yeast from a sour beer you are not getting the same Yeast to Bugs/Bacteria ratio that you had in your original beer. Your bugs may have grown 10 fold and your yeast may have only grown 3 fold or something.”

        Vaughn Stewart’s (Northern Brewer/Vaugnn’s Brew Log) take:
        “There’s definitely a possibility for strain drift with rinsed yeast cakes. If you’re not acidifying or introducing chlorine dioxide to the slurry/dregs/pitch, there’ll be a lot of cells moved over, good bad and otherwise. Brett tends to become less brett-y with higher cell counts, which would be happening with a recycled cake. If you’re relying on lacto for souring, it’ll always be a bit more fickle – I’ve had fresh pitches of lacto that just never get going. Pedio is a more reliable and aggressive sourer, but MD’s right, they’re both bacteria and not yeast. Brett acts like yeast, for the most part.”

  6. Big Hop

    I get why you washed the yeast in this situation, being an heirloom non commerical mix, but in general the method shown in the video has a lot of potential problems for contamination. I think it’s far easier to start with a known culture out of the vial and use that to build up into a large starter keeping aseptic technique as much as possible. If you take the vial, split it in two. Keep half in the fridge untouched. Use the other half to make stepped starters going as high as 4L starters starting from 500 ml, then you can split the starters into individual containers.

    Any time you harvest from a fermenter, you are going to get gobs of shit in the slurry. When you work from the pure culture and dont repitch the risks are much lower.

    • Alex

      If you split the vial in two, you can make a starter for each and get two good cultures to pitch from when you’re ready to brew either of said brews.

      If you split it into two halves, make a starter of one and then divide into. let’s say, two or three containers, do you have to wash it first? The sediment you would collect you would want to remove before storing, yeah? Or could you just drop it right into the container and store?

  7. Gkhodge

    Technically this was yeast rinsing, right? Yeast washing is usually associated with an acid based bath or chlorine dioxide wash. Still good stuff and you can always just get lacto as a separate add or go with a quick sour mash technique and use rinsed yeast with Brett in there to get the right sour and funk, or so it would seem to me….

    Keep up the good stuff Chip!

  8. My only concern about following a yeast rinsing method like this is that I always want to know as accurately as possible how many cells I’m pitching into a batch of fresh wort. I don’t have a hemocytometer or even a microscope, so I can’t count them. I know some people estimate the cell count by measuring the volume of slurry, but I’m wary of guessing at how dense the slurry is because visual estimates are really subjective
    When following a rinsing method like this one, how do you ensure that the starter you build up from the harvested cells will not be too small or too big? Overpitching isn’t so bad, but I’d hate to ruin a batch by underpitching by a lot.

    Right now, I just build up cells from a fresh, purchased culture, and I use either the book Yeast’s or the website mrmalty’s approximations.

  9. Great to get a new episode! Enjoyed it thoroughly and will attempt to wash the lager yeast from one of my currently fermenting brews, my Apple Pie, Rye, Honey Lager! Thanks Chip & Don O! Peace!

  10. Dustin

    CHIP!! as i am waring my brewing TV shirt and plowing my way across your new episodes i can’t help to wonder when i might be able to order a chop & brew shirt, after you last BNarmy interview i can hear your theme song. i find myself yelling in the car on my way to work. i am very happy to see you out on your own, without the direction of “NB”, to create what you really want to show us. I too am a 311 fan from the high school days, where was the sound track on that episode?

    Thanks for the yeast washing notes, something i have done a few times but not enough. 🙁 sometimes i hear them scream and laugh at me as i pour their little souls out in the dirt, but the next night i find myself missing them, wondering why i just tossed them away like dirty …. but i just want to say that don’s little trick of keeping the carboy on it’s side will go to good use! a n d MORE bacon!!
    THanks, ParadiseBrew, Chico, cA

    • Thanks for the love, ParadiseBrew! I would like to think some merch is not far off, but I gotta clear some room in the house to store it all first!
      Re: 311 soundtrack. Didn’t want to risk copyright infringement so I went with my college-era band, Odile, which everyone accused of sounding like 311 anyway. Keep up the good brewing!

  11. Thanks for starting something new Chip. Good stuff.

    Something I started to do a few years ago was to steal some yeast from a starter before I pitch it in a batch of beer, and make a new starter with it.

    I buy a new vial of yeast and make a starter, just like always. But before I pitch it into a batch of beer I boil up a new starter and steal some yeast from the original starter. This way I’m always using clean yeast and don’t have to wash/rinse it. All you have to do is remember to have a sterile container ready before you pitch your yeast into your wort. Pour some in, seal it up and once your brew day is cleaned up make a small starter and pitch the yeast in. Step it up a few times and store it in sterile water. It’ll keep for many months and you never have to wash it.

    • Brad

      If this yeast was so unique, why didn’t you use more pint jars to salvage more? You started with one gallon and then only filled 4 pint jars when it appears that you could have at least six.

      • I don’t really need that much of it. If fact (and somewhat unfortunately), I still have brewed with the jars we did make and that was nearly a year ago. This was more to make a point of how to wash/save yeast if you wanted do – unique strain or not.

  12. Adam

    Thanks, guys. This is helpful. Is there any benefit in washing and rep itching a yeast strain like 1056 or should I just wash rarer strains? Thanks again.

    • It’s all relative. Really for regular strains just helps save money and maybe get them to act different with x-amount of generations. Rarer strains or limited releases obviously make sense since they are not readily available all the time.

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