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Wales, United Kingdom
In autumn 2010, my husband Ian and I both quit our jobs, sold our house and left the flatlands of the east for the mountains of Wales. Our goal is to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place we actually like living. Whilst Ian will continue to earn some money as a freelancer, my part of the project is to reduce how much we spend by growing and making as much of what we need as possible. The purpose of this blog is to keep friends updated with how the grand project is progressing, but all are welcome here. If you're not a friend already, well perhaps you might become one.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Wine yeast experiment

On the 'ish forum, we were discussing different kinds of yeast that can be used in brewing. Last year I used lager yeast (from a beer kit) throughout the year, keeping a bit from the bottom of the bucket after each brew and using it to start the next one. This year, not having a beer kit to hand, I looked at sachets of brewing yeast, decided that a pound for a little sachet of yeast was a bit excessive, and bought bread yeast instead, which is much cheaper. I think at least one person in that forum conversation was a bit horrified by my inappropriate yeast!

So far, I've had excellent heather ale and elderflower champagne from that yeast, but I none of the wine is ready yet, so I don't know how that will turn out. Since wine yeast is bred to tolerate higher alcohol concentrations, the bread yeast is likely to give up the ghost at about 12% abv, possibly before all the sugar's fermented. This is fine, as I'm not aiming for strong wine, but there is some concern that as it struggles in the toxic, alcoholic environment, it might produce off flavours.

In the interests of science, and taking advantage of the abundance of blackberries, I decided to make a second batch of blackberry wine, this time investing in a sachet of wine yeast. For my record, here are the details:-

  • Two 2 gallon batches, each made with 8 lb blackberries and 2 kg sugar.
  • The first batch uses bread yeast, previously used for mugwort ale and washed in sugar and water in between. The second batch uses half a 5g sachet of Young's red wine yeast.
  • For the first batch, berries were picked on Sun 17th and Mon 18th Aug (4 lb each day); fermentation of 1 gallon started on Sun.
  • For the second batch, berries were all picked on Tue 19th Aug and fermentation started that day.
  • The first batch went into demijohns on Sat 23rd Aug and the second batch on Mon 25th Aug (late in both cases)
I now have four demijohns of blackberry wine bubbling away.

Blackberry wine, or at least potential blackberry wine

By chance, I used two different types of airlock for the two batches, so I can use that to identify them. The ones on the left, with the old, one piece airlocks, are the first batch, with bread yeast. The ones on the right, with the new, two piece airlocks, have wine yeast. I'd only just filled the second batch, so you wouldn't expect it to be frothy yet, but in the buckets, it did seem that the bread yeast was a lot more lively. I suppose it's bred to produce bubbles, so maybe that's not terribly surprising.

These will stay in the (relatively) warm kitchen for a few days before I take them down to the cooler store room. I might even take the first batch down first, to keep everything as similar as possible. Then we'll just have to wait and see what happens. I will conduct blind taste tests, and I'll let you know the results in a few months.


  1. Philip Cumpstone25 August 2014 at 17:59

    Lovely stuff, Rachael!
    There does seem to be quite a variety of identified yeasts available from my local brew supply shop. I've side stepped this too, by using bread yeast. My nettle and fennel 'tea' brew is using the actual bakers yeast from Tesco. Not from the shelf. From the actual bakery. If you pop in and ask, they will always be happy to cut a generous chunk of their live stuff and pack it for you. Present it at the till and you don't get charged for it! Bargain!

    1. You can't get more bargainous than that! No Tesco here, but there's a lovely local grocer's (with bakery, cafe, and other bits and pieces) - The Treehouse - that sells bakers yeast for about tuppence ha'penny.

    2. Is that the Treehouse in Aberystwyth? My sister was manager there a couple of years ago :)
      When we first started making wine we only ever used bread yeast and it nearly always came out well, at least very alcoholic! Then a year or so ago I started to use wine yeast and I never had a single batch that worked... So now I'm back to trying out the bread yeast, like you, with blackberries :D
      Good luck!

    3. Hi Sara, yes that's the place :-)
      It's interesting to hear that you've had more success with bread yeast than wine yeast. I'm certainly not expecting great things from the more expensive stuff, but it will be interesting to see how they compare. If the batch with wine yeast is terrible, I shall certainly never buy it again!
      Enjoy your blackberry wine :-)


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