A while back I harvested two different wild yeasts, one from some juniper berries I picked at the Palatki indian ruins in Sedona, AZ and the other from a date purchased at the local super market, though the date originated in Mexico. Both of these sources provided me with yeast and bacteria when I initially added them to starters. I washed these starters using chlorine dioxide (which I should really write a post about). I’d never washed yeast before and I wasn’t entirely confident that I wouldn’t kill the yeast along with the bacteria, so I saved a bit of each starter aside before I washed. The washing process did work however and I got my yeast sans-bacteria, these two strains became my Palatki Strain and my Fruity Strain respectively.
Since I am lazy I just kinda left the two vials I saved some of each initial strain out (covered of course) in my office for a few months, one of them grew a strange goopy yeast colored sort of pellicle, they both got rather sour (yes I did taste them). I have been wanting to brew up some sort of lambic-like beer and I thought to myself, I will just blend these two infected starter batches together and step that up and put it into a beer. So that is what I did. I won’t know how the beer turns out for a long while yet, but I pulled the beer out of my fermenting fridge today after being in there for 3-4 weeks in preparation to rack it into a new carboy for an extended secondary. and it had the funky pellicle on top. It is definitely infected:
So there you go, if you were wondering what an infected beer looks like. This one is infected and that’s what it looks like. Other infections can look different, but this is how mine looks.
I gave it a whiff after moving it and it has a sour but very fruity aroma, I’m looking forward to this beer, I think it’ll be excellent and I’ll have my very own bug farm for future sours.
Ginger bug is the term for the wild yeast and (generally lacto) bacteria found on ginger. To get some you grate up some (non-irradiated) ginger root, combine it with some sugar and water in a jar and wait. I was reading in Sandor Katz’s The Art of Fermentation that the same thing could be done with Turmeric and Galangal root. I’d never seen turmeric in root form for sale anywhere, but I happened to notice some the other day at my local highfalutin grocery store. It was pretty expensive so I just bought a tiny piece. I brought it home, grated it up, added a few tablespoons of sugar, a bit of yeast nutrient and some warmish water. A day or so later it was bubbling away rather vigorously!
I’m assuming I have some combination of yeast and lacto bacteria here. It smells like intense turmeric so it’s hard to tell if it is getting sour at all. I’m going to let it go for a week or so while I try to decide what I should do with it. I was thinking I’d like to make a turmeric ‘beer’ like a ginger beer, but the root is pretty expensive. Maybe I’ll just try a gallon batch for starters and see how it is.
so what else is new? When I made cider last fall from my apples it began fermenting on its own, and in a panic I shoved a bunch of the Hefe strain in on top of whatever was already fermenting in there. So now I have a bunch of flocculated yeast from that batch and I was thinking I should try fermenting something with it and see what it does. Maybe I should try the cider first?
What I should probably do as a responsible yeast owner is to plate all of these cultures up and separate them from their friends. Well until I bother to get the equipment for that I remain in the realm of primitive yeast wrangler, I guess.
Filed under wild yeast.
This has got to be one of the easiest ways of harvesting wild yeast, at least of the methods I’ve tried it worked on the first try and I’ll be brewing a beer to ferment with this yeast this coming weekend.
As you may know honey is naturally preservative, ie it won’t ever spoil on its own. Honey has some natural anti-bacterial properties in it, bees are pretty awesome that way. Of course one of the main reasons that honey won’t go bad is because sugar is a preservative. Yes, sugar. Ever noticed how the bag of sugar in your pantry also never goes bad? Sugar at very high concentrations is a preservative. Think of the fruit preserves your grandma used to make perhaps.
Anyway just because honey is a preservative doesn’t mean there’s not some of our friendly yeasty pals sleeping dormant in the honey just waiting for it to become diluted enough to get to work on all that glorious sugar. The key to harvesting yeast from honey is to get raw or unpasteurized honey. I was lucky enough to buy a whole bunch from a neighbor of mine that keeps hives in their back yard. So the yeast is a uber-local, yay!
Anyway, what you do is get a sanitized container, like an ehrlenmeyer flask or heck use a clear beer bottle. Add some of the unpasteurized honey, add about 4-5 times as much water as honey, plus a bit of yeast nutrient or energizer. Swirl it all up to dissolve the honey and nutrient in the water and then stick a bung and airlock on and wait. Don’t become discouraged it may take a few days, my concoction sat around doing what looked like nothing for a couple of days before I noticed the beginnings of fermentation.
I’ve only done this once and it worked, and was not contaminated so I’m not sure if that’s typical with harvesting yeast from raw honey or if I’m just lucky. However you will likely be able to tell by sight and smell if you have an infection. if it looks like you’ve just got yeast let it ferment completely and let the yeast settle. Then draw off some of the fermented liquid (which is technically mead) with a thief or baster and give it a taste. Mine had some fruity notes which I’m not sure if they were from the honey or the yeast (the local honey had a really fruity flavor to it) and no off tastes like bandaid or solvents.
If the yeast seems good then on to the next step: ferment a beer with it! which I’ll be doing hopefully this weekend. I put together a simple recipe for a sort of belgian pale ale and I’ll be adding my small starter of wild yeast to it and see what I get.