Liquid VS Dry Yeast: Pros and ConsYeast – the magic ingredient that turns the mix of water, malt, and hops into our favourite beverage. Without yeast there would be no beer, and any homebrewer knows how important it is to keep the yeast happy if you want to end up with something enjoyable. After all, yeast is a living organism that requires a certain set of conditions to work properly, and even professional brewers jokingly confess that the essence of their job is to create such conditions, acting more as a steward for the little guys.
When it comes to working with yeast, however, the most common question a novice brewer has is which type of yeast to choose: liquid or dry? These two forms of yeast have distinct features and often require different approaches in order to ferment the beer properly, and it would be wrong to say that one is superior to the other – they just have distinct properties that will appeal to different groups of brewers. So let’s take a brief overview of dry and liquid yeast, see what their cons and pros are, and how these will impact the beer making process.
This is the more natural form of yeast, as the liquid is the perfect medium for keeping the little fungal microorganisms alive and happy. Of course, the liquid requires a certain set of conditions for keeping the yeast in a viable and usable form, and that’s where the main pros and cons of liquid yeast stem from.
- Immense diversity of available strains for virtually any style out there
- Better control over yeast cell count and viability
- More sensitive to storage conditions (best kept in the fridge before use)
- Often requires a starter to be made the day before the brewday
- Shorter shelf-life (most yeast labs indicate 6 months of usable viability since the date of production)
- Rigorous aeration of the wort is required for maintaining cell viability
Some yeast strains have the ability to retain their viability even after most of the liquid has been removed from their cells. And that’s exactly how dry yeast is produced – through a process of dehydration that renders the liquid yeast cells into a dry powder. This process is quite sophisticated, as the main goal is to keep the yeast dormant and retain their ability to work properly once they are dehydrated. That’s why the main features of this form of yeast are as follows:
- Great storage potential (shelf life up to 2 years, in the fridge, with many examples of longer storage periods and successful rehydration)
- No starter is required
- Rigorous wort aeration is usually optional
- Easier to handle and ship
- Very limited selection of strains available compared to the liquid form (not all strains survive the process of dehydration)
As you can see there’s a very clear trade-off when comparing liquid and dry yeast. On the one hand there’s the huge diversity of available strains, but it comes at a price of higher sensitivity to storage conditions and shorter shelf life. On the other, there’s the excellent shelf life and ease of use, but it all comes at the expense of strain choice.
Deciding which yeast form to go with is certainly up for the brewer to decide. If you brew fairly often, have the storage capacity in your fridge for yeast vials, and live in an area where liquid yeast is available for quick shipping, you may opt for the liquid option. And if you want to make sure that the yeast makes it alive during a long shipping to your place, and need a reliable fermentation results right out of the box, dry yeast is definitely the right pick for you. Yet it’s always a great idea to try out the both options in order to decide which of them suits you best.