Yeast Washing

August 4,2010 by 144 Comments

In homebrewing, you can wash your yeast in order to reuse it from batch to batch.

Washing your yeast will save you money. At $6-$10 per vial of liquid yeast, the savings add up significantly over time.

It is also a great way to reuse a yeast that performs well for you. If you like the qualities you are getting out of a certain stock of yeast, you can save it for more batches of beer.

The process is simple and can be performed on your bottling day or when you’re transferring your beer to a secondary fermenter.

Equipment Needed

  • A batch of beer from the primary or secondary fermenter (I recommend the primary; see below)
  • A large glass jar between 1/2 – 1 gallon
  • A pot capable of boiling 1 gallon of water
  • 4 pint size mason jars
  • Funnel
  • Sanitizer

Yeast Washing Steps

  1. Boil one gallon of water for 15 minutes.
  2. During the boil, sanitize the glass jars and funnel.
  3. Let the water cool for a couple minutes on the stove, and then pour into the large glass jar.
  4. Place the large jar in the refrigerator to cool.
  5. Siphon the beer off the yeast, either to bottle it or transfer to a secondary fermenter. Place the airlock back on the empty fermenter while it waits.
  6. Take the large jar of water out of the refrigerator and let it come up to room temperature.
  7. Pour the large jar of water into the fermenter, place the airlock back on, and shake it.
  8. Let the fermenter sit for 20 minutes so the trub can separate from the yeast and fall to the bottom. The yeast will be a milky white color, while the trub will be a darker brown.
  9. Pour the top layer (yeast and some beer) back into the large jar, trying to leave the bottom layer of trub behind.
  10. Cap the large jar and shake. Let it sit for 20 minutes.
  11. Similar to the pour from the fermenter, carefully pour the liquid from the large jar into the four pint size mason jars, trying to leave behind the dark matter on the bottom.
  12. Cap the mason jars and place them in the refrigerator. The yeast will settle to the bottom over the next few days.

Yeast Washing Questions

What do I do with the harvested yeast? Make beer with it! On brew day, take it out of the refrigerator and pour off the liquid on top, leaving a little bit behind. When you’re ready to pitch, swirl up the yeast and pour it into the wort. This method will work, but you’re better off making a yeast starter, especially if the yeast is stored for a while. Which leads us into our next question…

How long can I store the washed yeast? I don’t have a scientific answer for this one, but Bernie Brewer mentioned he has used yeast one year later. I’ve never gone more than 3 months. Here’s my best advice – if you wait more than a week, make a yeast starter. In fact, you should make a yeast starter for every batch.

How many generations can I harvest? I typically don’t go more than 5, but some people go more than 10. If your sanitization is solid, you should be able to get many generations out of it. Once you notice something is off though, it’s time for a fresh vial.

Do I harvest from the primary or the secondary? You can do both, but I recommend the primary. The yeast from the primary is more flocculant and not as stressed out as the yeast in the secondary, which has been exposed to alcohol for a longer period of time. It is more work to separate out the trub, but it is worth it in my opinion.

Can I pour my fresh batch of beer onto the yeast cake to ferment it? I don’t recommend it. It is the easier way to go, but if your goal is to make the best beer possible, you are better off washing it. The cake is full of dead yeast and other particles that can contribute off-flavors to your new beer.

Related Post:

About Billy Broas

He is the founder of The Homebrew Academy, a BJCP beer judge, and the homebrewing expert on the Rocky Mountain PBS television show Colorado Brews. He lives in the fine beer town of Denver, Colorado.

144 responses to “Yeast Washing”

  1. Phil says:


    Currently I am fermenting my second batch of beer ever- an Irish Red. For this batch I used WLP004 Irish Ale Yeast. Now, while I could save the yeast from this batch, it seems like I would be limiting myself as far as what Ales would even taste good with Irish Ale Yeast.

    I’ve ordered a Scottish Ale kit for my next batch and am wondering If you think I should use an Irish Ale Yeast havest for a Scottish 60 Shilling, instead of the dry Nottingham Ale Yeast I ordered.

    Secondly, I just bought the Bottle Sanitizer Injector that you recommended in an earlier video. Good recommendation- I realize now after bottling for my first time how painful it can be without the right tools.

  2. Chris Starr says:

    Nice Video Yet Again!

    I’ve washed 2 batches of yeast so far (DOH I Boiled MY JARS and I have a big bottle of starsan right at hand!) and it has worked great in my first reuse!

    My question… how long is the washed culture good. My mason jars have not “Popped” so I know my yeast is dormant… how long would you save a culture? I have 2 stowed a Thames Valley II 1882-PC which is only released once a year by Wyeast, and a French Saison 3711 which is available year round but my local shop doesn’t carry it so I’m limited to when I can order this yeast do to summer temps.

    I like both yeasts – strike… LOVE both yeasts – but only have use for 2 saisons this season…. I have plans for the 1882-pc but not until fall (3 left, used 1). Again how long would be a good storage time, I’ve read everything from 30 days to a year? any info would be appreciated on storage times.

    Thanks again! Keep up the good work! Your info helps both newbs and advanced brewers with info like this!

  3. Brett says:

    Excellent Video! I was a little surprised that it took someone so long to make a video on this subject since the yeast washing sticky over at HBT has been up a while. I am glad you made it though, as I always enjoy your videos and find them helpful.

    So you are sanitizing, not sterilizing your jars, have you ever had an issue with this? I know there was quite a debate on the forum regarding that.

    Also, what characteristics carry over when you wash yeast? My first attempt at yeast washing was about a month ago on a US-05 cake which I unfortunately had fermented high (78 degrees) and the resulting beer has some slight fusel alcohol taste to it. Should I even attempt to use this yeast on another batch? My thinking is that the fusels are byproducts of the yeast at that temp, not the yeast themselves, and if pitched on a new batch at correct temp I should be fine? Id like to try it, but I dont think I want to waste 5 gallons of beer for what was only a $3 pack of dried yeast.

  4. Billy Broas says:

    @Phil You raise a good point about yeast washing and fitting yeast strains to styles. I don’t harvest every batch of yeast for the reason you mentioned – I don’t want to be stuck using one strain for every beer style. The ones I do harvest are usually either rare and expensive, or very common so that I will use them again. For example, California Ale Yeast (WLP001) is commonly used to make American ales – pale ale, ipa, ambers, etc. So it makes sense for me to harvest that strain. In your case, I would just go with the Nottingham. In the future you could always plan it out and say “I’m going to make a few batches in a row that require Irish Ale yeast, so I’ll harvest that.”

    Hope that helps, and glad you liked the bottle injector video. You’ll love that thing.

    @Chris Thanks! About how long you can store the yeast, I really don’t have a scientific answer, but anecdotally I’ve heard of people storing it for over a year. Then again, didn’t scientist recently revive yeast from the dinosaur era? In theory, you only need 1 cell of yeast to grow it into billions. I think if you just make a starter than you will be fine.

    @Brett Hey really happy you like the video and thanks for the complement. Yea I was surprised that it wasn’t done before too, especially with how many questions there were on that thread of things that just had to be *seen*.

    I am sanitizing with Star-San, but keep in mind that even boiling does not sterilize, it only sanitizes. You need an autoclave to sterilize.

    If you’re concerned about the yeast I would get a fresh one. Actually I didn’t say it in the video but I would only do this for liquid yeast since dry yeast is so cheap and liquid yeast is more style specific.

    Good question about the fusel alcohol. I’m not entirely sure but I think you are right that it is a by product and would guess that it wouldn’t carry over batch to batch. What can carry over is hop flavor. The hop resins bind to the outside of the yeast cells. That is why you usually don’t want to wash yeast from a double IPA and then use it in a lighter beer. The hops can also stunt yeast growth. That’s why they are considered a preservative – they stop bacteria from replicating, but do the same thing to yeast to a degree.

    I’ll post a link to this on HBT later today. I think those guys would like it.

  5. Jeff Alworth says:

    This is super handy. Every time I dump my yeast I think, “now that there is a shame” as the richly scented nectar goes into the compost (where, no doubt, is works wonders). No more!

    (Except that I use lots of different strains….)

  6. Billy Broas says:

    @Jeff I know what you mean! I always feel guilty dumping the yeast knowing a bunch of those critters are still alive and thirsty. So this way I save some money and do the morally correct thing ; ) Really glad it helped you.

  7. Brett says:

    Billy – You are right about the sterilization and autoclave! This is going to save me time now that im not trying to boil a pot full of water an mason jars, starsan it is! With washed yeast, how long do you give the starter? Normal with a new smack pack i make my starter the night before brewday and pitch about 18 hours later.

  8. Billy Broas says:

    @Brett I haven’t noticed any difference using washed yeast in a start and using a vial or smack pack. So I’d say just stick with 18 hours. That’s about when I pitch it too. Yea Star-San is better than burning hot water and glass lol.

  9. Serge G. says:

    Thanks for the video. Last time I tried to keep the yeast at the bottom of my carboy I just tried to get as much of the cake stuff as I could but this method is a lot more clean, efficient and actually works.
    I have some German yeast that made a light brew taste great once, so I will try out this tip on the next batch.

  10. Jimmie the Mum says:

    Thanks for the lesson. Post this on the StogieChat site..

  11. Billy Broas says:

    @Serge Hey Serge you’re welcome for the video and I hope it works well for you. It really is easy and clean.

    @Jimmie Good call I’ll get it up there today.

  12. jturie says:


    Great video. One question about using the washed yeast for a starter. Will just one mason jar be enough for a starter, or do you have to use several jars per starter?

  13. Billy Broas says:

    @jturie Yes, one jar will be enough. The only time I’ve used more than one was on a couple occasions when I didn’t have the time to do a starter, and then I pitched 2 jars. But yes, 1 is good for a starter.

  14. Scott says:

    Billy, thanks for the great video! I have a Wyeast French Saison 3711 that I am going to wash this week. I have never done it before and I have a newbie question. I am using a couple of 1/2 gallon mason jars and was wondering if I should just screw the lid on after I’m done (or during intermediate stages if done more than once), or use some foil as a temporary lid? In other words, will there be a possibility of an exploding jar even if there is considerable headspace left in the jar? I’m pretty sure my primary is mostly done fermenting but all that shaking about has me wondering if the yeast might “take off” again!

  15. David F says:

    Since I can’t see the layers in my primary bucket, I use my auto siphon to pump the “wash” out.

  16. Billy Broas says:

    @Scott Sorry for the late reply, I didn’t see your comment come in. You’ve probably already tried the washing so I’d love to hear how it went. To answer your question anyways – there’s very little to no risk of an exploding jar. The only way the yeast would take off again is if you put in unfermented wort with plenty of sugars for them to eat. Since you’re using boiler water with no O2, they’ll go right to sleep. Even if some leftover beer gets in the jars A) It should be done fermenting anyways and B) Even if not, I doubt there’s enough leftover sugar in there to explode the jar. So yup, put the lids on. Again, let me know how it went (or goes)!

    @David Ah that’s a good idea. I imaging that gives you pretty good control too. Sometimes pouring can be tricky to get perfect and leave all the nasties behind. Thanks for the tip.

  17. Scott says:

    Thanks Billy. The yeast-washing is going great. Got a great big layer just waiting to dump in a starter. Also, no cracked/exploded mason jar!

  18. Billy Broas says:

    @Scott Hell yea! Great job buddy.

  19. Ted O'Neill says:

    Great video for getting a good walk through feel versus just reading only, thanks. I plan to harvest my White Labs Kosch yeast from a batch of creame ale. I had it sitting in the primary for 3 weeks, I assume the yeast should be harvestable. It does add up buying new yeast for every 5 gallon batch.

  20. Billy Broas says:

    @Ted Thanks for visiting the site. I’ve always rather watched videos to see how things are done and I figured I wasn’t alone, so that’s one of themes of the blog. Plus I don’t like writing all the time ; )

    Your Kolsch yeast should be fine. One discussion you might want to check out is in the comments of my recent post, “Stepping up a Yeast Starter.” We’re talking about estimating how much yeast is in a washed jar, and I’ll probably do a post on it soon. Cheers!

  21. Adam says:

    Could you take your washed yeast jar and pitch it directly into your beer instead of making a starter? Like I am planning on making my past batch of beer two-3 times trying to refine the recipe.

    But since I have the washed yeast already, all I would need is the nutrient and DME to make the starter instead of buying a vial for the starter. Is that right?

  22. Billy Broas says:

    Hey Adam, you can pitch the washed yeast into your beer without making a starter, I’ve certainly done it, but you may not get optimum results. It comes down to the question “is there enough yeast in the jar to ferment your beer?” There’s no blanket answer for that, but you can estimate it. There’s a discussion of it down in the comments of my Stepping up a Yeast Starter post that should help.

    Here’s what I would do. Make a starter from your washed yeast if you can. You’ll only need the nutrient (which I normally don’t even use) and DME. If you can’t make a starter and you have more than 1 jar of washed yeast, pitch 2 jars to make sure you have enough cells. That’s what I do when I’m in a time crunch and can’t make a starter.

    Good question, and thanks for coming over from HBT.

  23. KennyC says:

    I noticed, and have experienced, the manhandling of the carboy when carefully pouring out the top layer. It might be easier to get the top layer off if you let everything settle out while the carboy is on it’s side. A gentle tilt pours the top layer off easily instead of churning up the layers when tilting from the bottom. Just a thought. Great video.

  24. Billy Broas says:

    @KennyC Thanks for the tip Kenny. That’s a good idea for minimizing the amount of trub you get on the first pour. I’m going to give it a shot on my next wash. Cheers.

  25. Hermes says:

    I think the most important question is: How did you get the pickle smell out of that pickle jar lid? I’ve used bleach, starsan, white vinegar, dish soap, etc. and I can still smell it. I just put it in the dishwasher, but haven’t checked it yet. What did you do?

  26. Billy Broas says:

    @Hermes Time my friend, time. I went nuts also trying to get that damn smell out. After repeating cleanings and about 4 months it finally disappeared, and luckily there were no pickle-beers in the meantime ; – )

  27. Aidan says:

    Great instructional video – it guided me through my first attempt at yeast harvesting. I’ve added a link to it from Resources section of my website (

    I harvested US-05 which even though it is dried yeast, it costs about $6 here in NZ so still worthwhile as that could account for 20% of ingredients cost for a batch. I harvested from a plastic primary fermenting barrel so I just mixed the cake up with some cooled boiled water and poured it into a sanitised 3L juice container and let it settle overnight in the fridge, then poured off the top beer layer and poured the yeasty liquid into 2 1L Mason jars leaving the trub behind.

    I see you mention that sometimes you pitch 2 jars instead of making a starter. That seems like a much more convenient approach than making a starter and I’m seriously considering doing that for my next batch – just to keep process simple as possible. My jars are about double the size of yours (1L), so one should suffice. After you decant the beer off the top do you add some more water into the jar to help get the yeast out?

    • Billy Broas says:

      Thanks Aidan, and I really appreciate the link. To answer your question, I don’t add any water into the jar to help get the yeast out. Instead, I leave a little bit of beer in there and swirl it around to break out the yeast cake. The beer is sterile so there’s no worries there, but it’s such a little amount that you’re not going to notice the flavor impact. Nice work with the washing. It’s definitely easier than it first seems. Cheers!

  28. Kevin says:

    Thanks for the video. You dropped a knowledge bomb!

  29. Michael S says:

    Great post Billy. This will certainly be valuable to the Brewing tool kit. I wanted to get your opinion on the following:

    What is your opinion on using one of the small “washed” containers of yeast for bottle conditioning? I currently have a high gravity Belgian which is about ready to bottle condition, with that said I also have a few jars of the wyeast abby II which I washed from the primary. Due to the fact I am around 11% ABV right now I will need to pitch fresh yeast in order to properly bottle condition, and it may make sense to use a small jar of washed yeast to accomplish this feat. Do you have any experience with this application?

    I feel like bringing one of the jars up to room temp then just tossing it into the cooled priming sugar in the bottling bucket, but then perhaps a small starter may be beneficial to get the yeast lively.



  30. Billy Broas says:

    Hey Michael, great question. While I haven’t personally used washed yeast for bottle conditioning, I don’t see a reason why it wouldn’t work. You don’t want to add too much yeast at bottling time though because it can lead to autolysis flavors (as the yeast die) if your beer sits for a while. You only need 10 to 20 times less yeast for conditioning than you used for fermenting (from the book Yeast). The bottom of the bottle should have a dusting, not a thick layer. So I’d definitely go for it but use 10-20% of the slurry. Cool topic, thanks.

  31. Matt says:

    Thanks for the great video Billy. I have washed twice now. The first time came out great with separation just like you showed, but my second batch has settled out (4 days in fridge) and I still have a bit of a dark bottom layer below the settled out yeast. Should I try to re-agitate everything again and do another transfer? What are the dangers with a thin dark layer still on the bottom? Thanks for your help.

    • Billy Broas says:

      Hey Matt, if it’s a small layer of trub then I wouldn’t worry much. If it’s a lot then I would rewash it. Of course “a lot” is pretty subjective so it really depends on how anal you are about this stuff lol. If you consider that many people rack their beer onto an unwashed yeast cake then your situation doesn’t seem too bad.

  32. surfmonk says:

    Any suggestions on pulling off the yeast from a conical fermenter?
    I’m guessing I can dump the boiled and cooled water into the fermenter and shake it up. After letting it sit maybe I can open the bottom valve to pull off the hop and trub layer and watch for the white yeast layer. Then put that yeast layer into the gallon jar with the remaining water.
    What do you think?

  33. chris says:

    Do you think storing harvested yeast in a new (not scratched) plastic container is acceptable?

    • Billy Broas says:

      Yea although it depends on the type of plastic. I know Jamil uses one of those polythene water bottles which are super durable. I’d either use one of those or drop $5 on the gallon pickle jar that I use.

  34. Aaron says:

    I actually have two questions. First I was wondering if its okay to use a turkey baster to take krausen off the top of a brew as I have done and placed into jars with sanitized jars and distilled water. Second on this same batch of beer I pitched 2 types of yeast (Wyeast 1272 and half vial WLP 500) Kinda trying to do like a belgian iipa. I pitched the WLP 500 3 days into primary after I harvested off top. Can I harvest this mix of yeasts and use it again effectively or will it be primarily Wyeast 1272 dominant in flavor or unpredictable? Also I saved the other half vial of wlp 500 to make a double starter with and preserve. Is it okay that I just put it in jar with distilled water or do you think I’ve ruined it?

    • Billy Broas says:

      Hi Aaron, for your first question, I’m a little confused about your goal. It sounds like you are using the krausening technique, although that’s typically used to carbonate beer. Are you reusing the yeast you scrape off the top? Making a yeast bank?

      For the second question, If you reuse that yeast it’s going to be very unpredicatable. You really don’t know the percentages of each yeast you are going to harvest. It could work, but the brew is not going to be very repeatable. If you want to get true repeatability the best thing to do it start with fresh vials like you did the first time. You’re also fine storing the yeast in distilled water assuming everything was sanitized.

  35. Aaron says:

    Sorry about the confusion but I had a few of my own brew yesterday which rang in at about 9.3% abv and I may have conveyed the question in a confusing way. I was asking about harvesting from primary to bank for future use, that’s a whole other question about krausening… While we’re on the topic what’s the difference between top harvesting versus yeast washing from primary or secondary as far as viability goes. Just to let you know my yeast attenuated (Wyeast 1272 and Wlp 500) from o.g. 1.089 to 1.013 giving me an abv of 10.1%. This one is gonna be delicious from what i can taste so far from my thief sample. Also I did for the sake of scientific study harvest from the mixed yeast slurry from the bottom of the primary. I will pitch to my next ipa just to see what it produces. I did also take samples individually and will see how they pan out with starters of other future brews. This is only my third brew that I have done, but I have quickly tried to move to the next level. I have background in culinary skill and did all grain from my second brew. My next step is doing deconstructed ipa’s and belgian strong’s as foods paired with my own recipe’s for culinary favor. My first brew was a partial mash which should’ve been all grain, but whatever… The evolution is evident from brew 1 to 3 (not to toot my own horn) but I just am trying to learn as much as i can to make a great advancement in the field to move back to my homeplace (Hawaii) and open my own brewery with help from entrepreneurship relatives to finally self fulfill my own dreams. Thanks, Aaron Aki

    • Billy Broas says:

      Hey Aaron, I see what you mean now. You’re top cropping to save the yeast for future use. It’s a common Belgian practice in their open fermentation vessels and admittingly something I’ve never tried (but will soon). From what I hear it works great with ales because the healthiest yeast rises to the top. If you can time it right, I would take the yeast you harvest and pitch it directly into fresh wort. Otherwise you could store it in a sanitary jar. I haven’t heard of a turkey baster but suppose it would work. I know people commonly use spoons with bucket fermentors and a blowoff tube type setup with carboys.

      Sounds like you’ve made great brewing progress so far – doing all-grain on your 2nd batch. A culinary background does help with a lot of the brewing aspects. If I may recommend an area when you’ll see big improvements it’s in fermentation – temp control, pitching rates, timing, etc. Shameless plug but The Homebrew Academy goes into those in detail.

      Good luck and let me know if you have any more questions or if I didn’t answer something.

  36. Sheppy says:

    Hey … very nice explanation. I wish I would have had this video as a reference when I was first trying to figure out how to do this.

    I do the same process quite often and from time to time I get questions on facebook or forums about how I do it. I think I’m just going to start referring them to this post.

  37. James says:

    Thanks for the info on yeast washing. Very interesting and informative.

    I have a Saison fermenting in which I pitched Wyeast 3724 (Belgian Saison) which has stalled out and I am thinking of pitching in a Wyeast 3711 (French Saison), which I was saving for another batch, to finish things up. I don’t have the patience to wait 8 weeks for the Belgian to finish its job.

    I’m wondering if you think I can wash that yeast or do you think I’ll have problems with that? I figure since they’re both Saison yeasts, they might actually work pretty well together…


    • Billy Broas says:

      Hi James, you can definitely wash a mixed batch of yeast, you’ll just have to make a note when you go to reuse it that it’s actually a blend and not a single strain. Whether it works or not really depends on how this batch turns out. If you like the yeast character you get, then go ahead and reuse it. If not, then don’t bother. I only reuse strains I really like.

      Good to hear the video helped you out.

  38. Allen H. says:

    Hi Billy,

    Do you have any idea how far in advance you could boil the jars and water without causing any problems. I would like to boil my jars and water and leave in the fridge the same day I brew, but I wouldn’t wash the yeast for a week or two. Do you see any problems with that?

    Thanks for all the great info.

    • Billy Broas says:

      Hey Allen, I’m not really sure how long you could leave the jars in the fridge before bacteria creeps in, but I would imagine a week or two is fine. I would do it.

      • Allen H. says:

        I will be testing it out. I boiled and filled my jars today, and will probably wash the yeast in 2 weeks. I’ll report back if it looks like I get any infections or other issues.

  39. Mike D says:

    Thanks for the great video. I’ve done 5 brews now with washed yeast and so far so good. It’s really not that difficult or time-consuming. My question is about the lids on the canning jars. Do you reuse them and, if so, how many times?

    • Billy Broas says:

      Thanks Mike, glad you liked it. I do reuse the lids, though I bought a large pack of jars so I’m not using the same ones over and over again. I’d guess they’ve been reused 5 times? No problems yet, and I do boil them once in a while just in case. It’s not a bad idea to use fresh ones once in a while though. Thanks for the comment.

  40. Burns says:

    Great video! So much easier than anticipated. Thank you

  41. Mike says:

    First of all great vid! I will be trying this soon. Am I right in assuming that the amount of yeast in each pint glass is approximately the same as a smack pack or liquid vial? And given that, should I use the liquid yeast option on Mrmalty’s pitch rate calculator?

  42. Jeff says:

    Great Video Billy, I have washed about 5 different strains so far, so building up a yeast bank is pretty handy. The savings is great and i am now never hesitant to pitch more than one vial in a big beer since it is basically free yeast.

    I follow your instructions to a tee, but i actually added one additional step to the end.

    Once I have my yeast all settled in mason jars, i decant the liquid off and fill up sanitized “baby soda bottles” with the yeast. I found the baby soda bottles (basically identical vials to what white labs yeast come in) on some science web site. They came in a pack of 6 and even had a rack to put them in (kind of nice since i can keep each rack a certain strain). I know it is another step and another potential source of contamination (no problems yet), but they store very easy and prefer it to having a ton of mason jars in my fridge or keezer. Just thought i would pass along my additional step.


    • Billy Broas says:

      Hey Jeff, glad the video helped. Thanks for telling me about the baby soda bottles. Gotta admit I had no idea what they were but some funny things came to mind. I looked them up though and they look perfect for storing yeast. Makes me want to set up a full yeast lab! I’m going to share the link on twitter. Cheers!

      • Jeff says:

        No problem,
        I have found them quite useful, just wasn’t sure about pasting links on your site so I didn’t.

        I did have to buy a smaller funnel (than my standard brew funnel) to get the yeast in the vials, but the rack that came in the package of baby bottles makes it super easy to line up the empty vials and fill.

        @Sheppy I actually do save my white labs vial, refill with the washed yeast, that way i can identify what strain of yeast i have in that baby bottle rack.

  43. Sheppy says:

    Oh, I like the baby soda bottle idea too (and I had to look them up as well, Billy). Actually, I suppose you could save your white-lab vials too (although it would take awhile to collect enough … especially if you don’t buy very many because you re-use yeast).

  44. Just what I needed, I found this linked from another site. I’ve recently cultured some yeast reclaimed from a bottle of Chimay and have been searching for a clear instruction on separating the yeast from the trub. I used a couple of litres of boiled wort for the original amount of yeast (less than half a teaspoon (UK) and I’d guess I have around 3 tablespoons of yeast already. I plan to wash what I’ve got so far and then set it off again in a fresh batch of wort to ensure I’ve plenty to pitch when I come to use it in one of my next all grain brews.

    • Billy Broas says:

      That sounds like a solid plan. Even with a small amount you’ll be able to get a few pitches after your next batch. The math works out well with this technique.

  45. Freddy says:

    Hi Billy. First thanks for the video. I’m planning an IPA this Saturday and definitly will try your method.
    One question, after we have that nice layer of yeast you think I could mix the yeast with some glycerine and freeze it?
    Thanks in advance. Freddy.

    • Billy Broas says:

      Hey Freddy, I honestly don’t know much about the glycerine method. Have heard of it but haven’t tried it. I’d be happy to learn from your experience though!

  46. John Cosmas says:

    Just wanted to say thanks for a very informative video. Finally helped clear up my questions with yeast washing. Well done.

  47. Hllywd says:

    The last time I canned starter wort I canned a few quarts of tap water with this in mind (pressure cooker 15 mins @ 15lbs/250°F). Since I’m saving time by canning the starter wort my thought was that the canned, sterilized water could save me time washing a yeast I wanted to reuse. Do you see any problems with this?

    • Billy Broas says:

      With using the sterilized water to wash the yeast? I think that would work great. In fact I’m pretty sure Jamil said he does the same thing.

  48. Terry says:

    Hi Billy..Thanks for your help… So I use corny kegs for fermenting and secondary. When I (close) pressure transfer from the bottom dip tube to secondary keg I usually drain the 1st qt in a jug and then it runs clear until the end and then I drain that also which is very thick, into the jug. My question is are the particles that settle to the bottom quickly are milky white and look like the yeast.. nice layer just like a WL starter on my stir plate. So is this my yeast cake? When i gravity test there is also that white slurry when it settles in the tube. Just want to be sure I am saving the good stuff. In the jug there are 3 layers, beer on top, murky middle and white layer on bottom.

  49. Billy Broas says:

    The milky white layer is the yeast. If you look closely at the other layers you should see some chunks and particles in there – that’s the other stuff. To be sure you could always do a test by throwing some into a starter and seeing if it ferments.

  50. sam odellick says:

    When you wash the yeast into the 4 smaller mason jars, chill them and have them ready to go, do you use all 4 pint jars of yeast or just one. I never really could find a clear answer on how much yeast to use anywhere.
    Thanks alot,
    the video was great by the way and the process worked so well.

    • Billy Broas says:

      Hey Sam, glad you enjoyed the video.

      I’m assuming you’re asking how many jars you use for your next batch of beer. You use one jar and I highly recommend making a starter from it. In a pinch I’ve used two jars instead of making a starter, just to make sure I had enough yeast. Also check out the first comment and my response in this post:

  51. Jamar Sklar says:

    I have been examinating out many of your articles and i must say nice stuff. I will make sure to bookmark your website.

  52. Jeremy Scott says:

    Hi Billy,

    I’ve repitched on yeast cakes numerous times with great results but I’d like to try this method soon. I was wondering if you ever add anything to the mason jars so the yeast has food while it sits dormant. I spoke with a guy at White Labs and he said the yeast still need to eat even if they’re dormant so I was wondering what your experience is. Also, he advised me to keep each jar cracked to allow CO2 to escape. Do you crack them or keep them sealed? Lastly, have you ever had a jar of yeast go bad & how could you tell?

    • Billy Broas says:

      Hey Jeremy, I’ve never added any nutrient but it’s probably a good idea. I keep the jars sealed and haven’t had any explosions, probably because they’re in a deep sleep. Haven’t had a jar go bad but there are some that I’ve left in the fridge for a really long time that I’ve decided not to use. Don’t know what would have happened with them. I also make starters with them, so that helps.

  53. Robyn Moody says:

    Are some yeasts better to harvest than others? I have a Thames Valley yeast that I’m trying to harvest, but it wasn’t separating … I could see the mixed up veins of light and dark in the jar. After 24 hours, it’s now gone into 3 layers of consisting of beer on top, a darker layer in the middle, and a lighter layer (which I assume is the healthy yeast) at the bottom. What’s the healthy yeast doing down there??

  54. Jeff Sieck says:

    Hey! Thanks so much for your site– great stuff here (I found you looking at keezers, my next project).

    While I can totally get behind the significant savings in washing yeast, my question is about pitching rates. How do you know how much yeast is in each of those jars? Obviously the amount of yeast pitched has a large bearing on the final flavor of the beer. Is there a rule of thumb for determining how much yeast you’ve got, or do you just not worry about it?


  55. John Koopmans says:

    I enjoyed your video – great instruction! My question is similar to the previous one by Jeff Sleck. Pitching rates become very important when making a lager, so it would be very useful if you happened to know about how about how many yeast cells (in billions) are commonly collected by this method (i.e. from five gallons at +/- 1.048 SG)?


  56. Billy Broas says:

    Hey guys, you can estimate how many cells you have using this guide from Mr. Malty along with their tool: and the tool It’s a rough guess but it’s the best you can do short of using a microscope.

    • John Koopmans says:

      Thanks, Billy. Based on my quick calculations, if you started with two packages of liquid yeast, the five gallons of 1.048 S.G. beer would contain close to 800 billion cells after fermentation. When collecting the yeast, some is left behind. Thus I assume that about 600 billion cells would be collected. Each of the 4 jars would then contain about 150 billion cells, or the equivalent of about a pack and a half of liquid yeast.

      • Billy Broas says:

        I usually assume one jar equals one vial (unless the jar is getting old) and then make a starter from that. Has worked great so far. Also take a look at the link that Brett just posted below.

      • Mike Bostwick says:

        Nice site Billy … good journeyman-type explanations (e.g. not too technical, but useful) and clean presentation.

        Want to comment on pitch rates. Typically, the White Lab and Wyeast homebrew packages provide about 100 billion cells. The rule of thumb for a five gallon batch of beer is 4 billion cells per O.G. point (i.e. 1.050 O.G. = 50 x 4 billion = 200 billion cells = two yeast packages).

        At $7 – $10 per package, we quickly realize the value of yeast harvesting and creating starters.

        If we make a starter with our yeast package, the rule of thumb to follow is 100 billion cells per liter. So, buy your package and pitch it into a 2 liter (2 quart, roughly the same) container of DME mixed to 1.040, and at 24-36 hours, it will roughly double and give you your 200-million cells.

        Last comment – I follow a washing regimen pretty much the same as Billy described, and typically find myself using two of the pint jars of settled (and decanted) yeast for my batch starter (2-liter). Of course, this is very unscientific and is more the result of trial and error in trying to find a good rule of thumb. Actual yeast count and viability will depend on many factors, including environment and age and the only real way to measure this is with microscope and various potions to indicate yeast viability. Not impossible to do, just taking things further than most homebrewers want to go.

        Anyways – sorry for the ramble, hope somebody finds this info helpful.

        • Mike Bostwick says:

          Oh – and I’ll add that my sources for my heuristics pass down through several channels, mostly pointing to George Fix. He does also suggest doubling these pitch rates for lagers.

  57. Brett S says:

    Mr malty is great, but it doesn’t give you an estimate of the cells you will have after stepping up a starter for a second time, or fermenting a batch of beer. I recommend this tool for that: which I think does a fairly decent job and has some solid science behind it.

    • Billy Broas says:

      Thanks for sharing Brett I hadn’t seen that before. Great tool.

    • John Koopmans says:

      Wow Brett! This calculator is great and includes some pieces missing in MrMalty’s calculator. I came up with 866 billion cells for a 5-liter batch of lager at 1.048 SG, which is a little more than what I came up using MrMalty’s calculator (a little under 800 billion). With MrMalty’s calculator I had to use a large number for the number of gallons in the batch and play around with the numbers and slider at the bottom until I got a starter of 5.25 gallons and the equivalent of 2 vials. That gave me just under 800 billion cells. This calculator that you found is also great for keeping the values as you calculate a step starter.

      So assuming that one collects about 700 billion cells from the 866 in the bottom of the fermentor, each of the four mason jars would contain the equivalent of about 1-3/4 Wyeast slap packs.

      • John Koopmans says:

        My mistake – I was reading the new cells created box rather than the total cells box at finish.

        So, the total yeast cells for a 5.25-liter batch of lager at 1.048 SG with the recommended pitching rate is an impressive 1,188 billion cells after fermentation! Thus if one collects about 900 billion cells from the 1,186 billion cells in the bottom of the fermentor, each of the four mason jars would contain the equivalent of about 2-1/4 Wyeast slap packs (1 pack cointains 1 billion cells).

  58. Paul says:

    After experiencing the pains of washing flocculant yeasts, I am now going to begin making more starter than necessary with the pure yeast I purchase instead of waiting to wash after fermentation. This way I will have my starter plus extra pure yeast to culture for future beers. I haven’t looked into it much, but I cannot see a downside of harvesting tons of yeast from the pure culture and storing, rather than washing off the cake. Any thoughts on this?

    • Billy Broas says:

      I think that’s a good idea. You also have a better idea of how much yeast you’re storing since it’s pure. I’ve done something similar when making extra yeast to restart a stuck fermentation.

  59. Derek says:

    How long can I wait to wash the yeast? I racked to secondary today and was hoping to wash tomorrow. Will that be ok? I have the airlock in and a small layer of beer is sitting on top of the yeast cake.

  60. Greg says:

    Hi Billy I watched your videos on yeast washing and making a starter going to give it a try on my next batch I use a plastic bucket for fermentation sure its the same process i just wont be able to see the separation.also I have been reading in the forums about the argument of doing a second fermentation and some brewers say it is only necessary when they want to get the beer off an adjunct like fruit or some type of oak chips. I was going to try this on my next batch was wondering what you thought just letting the beer stay in the primary for about four weeks would there be any yeast left to watch.
    Thanks Greg BTW your videos are well produced just enough info not to confuse me

    • Billy Broas says:

      I’m a big proponent of a longer primary and no secondary and I’ve washed the yeast from the primary without issue. Give this a read (just the opening post lol):

      Glad the videos help! I try not to confuse.

      • John Koopmans says:

        Hello Billy. Thanks for the link regarding the support of doing only a primary ferment. This is very encouraging. However, I have 2 questions:

        1) Does this also apply to lagers? As you know, a lager could remain in the primary for two or more months, while the argument for using only a primary is that it only remains on the yeast for a month (typical for ales).

        2) If you were harvesting the yeast from the primary for re-use, would the yeast not be affected if it remained in the presence of the alcohol for a month (ales) or longer (lagers)?


  61. Writerelated says:

    You did a great job on this video. Your explanation of the process was clear and to the point. You also did a good job of answering questions that people would have after watching this video. I plan on harvesting some yeast too, but I want to harvest the yeast from commercial beers. I notice in your video that there are thick layers of yeast in both your 1 gallon pickle jars and 1 pint mason jars.

    The beer that I want to harvest from has ultra thin layer of yeast and it is also sitting in alcohol so it is stressed. I wonder what my chances are of successfully harvesting yeast from a bottle, pitching a starter, and getting some good beer out of it.

  62. Scott says:

    Billy, thanks for the great video. I usually don’t use a secondary fermenter and crash cool the beer at 34F before I rack it to a keg. I tried this method tonight and did not get the clear separation that you showed in your video.l but rather a layer of what I think is trub, hops, etc. and a second layer of what appears to be water and beer. Do you think that since I crash cooled the beer that the yeast was clumped up and did not separate out?

    • Mark Johnson says:

      I did this just today, and I also didn’t get 4 clear levels, but instead, just supernatant and yeast+trub. But after I decanted the stuff off the top, it was clear that the bottom part had heavier, greener stuff towards the bottom, and yellower, lighter on top. So I poured off as much of the yellow as I could into another jar, which went in the fridge, and will go in my lager when I pitch tomorrow morning. I then added more water to the original wash and swirled again. I’m hoping to get a second layer of yeast off of it, to store in an empty White Labs tube to use for a starter later.

      As for making and then storing starters from fresh yeast packs, it sounds like a good idea. Just keep in mind that there’s a gradual decline in viability over time, so if you put 800 billion cells in the fridge, they won’t all be viable in six months.

  63. Gidi Ben Dor says:

    can you make that from a dray yeast?

  64. Albert says:

    On brew day when you’re making your starter how much of the liquid do you pour off the top?

  65. CD says:

    Your video is what got me into yeast washing, as I have started to wash my more common yeasts such as the American Ale ones. I have a few better bottles with the racking adapter where you can transfer above the trub line. What do you think of transferring the washed yeast using the better bottle spigot above the trub line? Also, is it ok to use bottled water or distilled water to wash yeast?

    • Billy Broas says:

      I suppose it could work. It you had a bunch of trub below the yeast you could drain until you hit the yeast. On the other hand if the layer of yeast winds up below the spigot you’d be out of luck. It really depends on where that spigot is. As for the bottled/distilled water, it’s perfectly fine to use but personally I would still boil it to minimize the risk of infection.

      • CD says:

        Well, the beauty of the better bottle spigot is that you’re able to adjust the stem connected on the spigot to go above the trub line. I haven’t tried it this way yet, but I think that it would make yeast washing a breeze.

      • Matt says:

        No, you never add distilled water to yeast. Salts, minerals, and anything else in tap or bottled water are absolutely necessary for keeping the yeast cells osmotically balanced. Washing with distilled water would create a hypotonic environment, and basically cause most of your cells to burst.

        • Billy Broas says:

          Hmm I’m not so sure Matt. I’ve heard of yeast being stored in distilled water without ill effects. The book ‘Yeast’ even says, “Sterile distilled water storage puts yeast in a resting state, and some reports suggest yeast can be stored in this manner for years without refrigeration….The key is to use sterile distilled water and wash the yeast slurry several times in the distilled water to remove any traces of beer.”

          • Matt says:

            Actually, now that I think about it more, you may be right. There would be ions and minerals in the slurry, so the osmotic imbalance probably wouldn’t be as bad.

            I believe I was actually thinking of rehydrating dry yeast, and that’s the one where distilled water is definitely bad for yeast. Sorry about that.

          • Billy Broas says:

            Ah yea, that makes mores sense. No problem. It’s good to think about these things rather than blindly accepting them.

  66. Jon says:

    Great post!

  67. Drink IPA says:

    Hey Billy,
    Thanks for the tutorial on yeast washing I’m going try this for the first time when i bottle this weekend. My question is about the generations. Do you start counting the generation on the first pitch you did? so then after the first “wash” that would be generation 2? or do you start at generation 1 after the first wash? Does this make sense?

    • Billy Broas says:

      I see what you’re saying. I call the first pitch generation 1 but I could also see other people calling the first wash generation 1. Not sure what the “correct” one is.

      Good luck on the wash!

  68. Hmmm, my salvaged yeast seems to have total separation in fridge after only an hour or two. Do you really think you need a WEEK for that?

    • John Koopmans says:

      I have used Billy’s process successfully for some time now, and I can assure you that even though it looks separated, there is still a lot of yeast in suspension. It usually takes at least about three weeks to totally clear, even though it may look generally clear. However, even if there is yeast in suspension, there will likely be enough yeast in the container after a day or so for a good fermentation.

  69. Why don’t you just clean the jars normally (dishwasher, or by hand) and StarSan them? Seems to work fine for me; afterall, we don’t boil our carboys to sanitize them. I also cap sanitized jars (spraying Starsan on caps or foil) so germs don’t get in while they are sitting in fridge or outside.

    I enjoy your website Billy. I’m really confused to read your post about Sir Palmer renouncing prior preachings about 2ndary fermenters. Can’t understand why he wouldn’t remove or footnote the info. in his online earlier edition to avoid perpetuating the older thinking.

    If that philosophy becomes widely adopted after results are replicated, I’d think it could eventually hugely reduce the homebrew suppliers’ sale of 6 gal. carboys & buckets.


    • Oops, I meant it would reduce sales of 5 gal. 2ndary ferment carboys.

    • Billy Broas says:

      It would be nice if Palmer updated his website, but I imagine his reason for not doing it is because it might cannibalize sales of his book. If he starts updating his website then it could be a slippery slope and people would no longer have a reason to buy the newer version.

      • John Koopmans says:

        I have his book, and I think even that could use some updating. I guess Zymurgy is like that – every year there is new techniques and information. Just look at the recent developments in cold pitching!

  70. Mark Young says:

    RE: Yeast Washing & Starters:

    I asked White Labs about waiting a couple weeks for settling of yeast in frig before decanting, & their tech replied:

    “…there’s no need to wait 2 weeks… the small amount of yeast remaining in suspension can be sacrificed, since those cells are going to be very late flocculators (or non-flocculating mutated cells) and you probably don’t want them in your main batch anyway.”

    He said yeast starters take 18-24 hours to complete, and then another 6-8 hours to flocculate and settle out, so a second stage could be starter after 36 hours or so, & recommended starters use 10:1 ratio of water to DME – E.g., 1L water w/ 100g of DME (=1/2 c. DME)

    I’ve heard a max of 5 or 10 RE-USE / yeast washes, but I’m wondering, if you only harvest used yeast cake ONCE and just continue growing that culture & pitching part of your replenished/fed starter (like herman/sourdough), then how long before the strain might be considered compromised / unfit?

    I was really blown away by Palmer’s huge change in philosophy of not using 2ndary for hardly anything anymore. More on that later w/ further dialog.
    Cheers (in moderation) everybody,

  71. meadiocrity says:

    Thanks for the very helpful post!

    I am brewing mead, and I wonder if the process should be any different for mead yeast. Also, since there is no hops and less trub than beer, is it necessary to wash as thoroughly?

    Not sure if you know anything about mead, but any insight would be appreciated.

  72. josh says:

    for a 10 gallon batch at 1.064 would you use 2 jars and do a starter? what size starter would you do, 1L or 2L? After washing with your instructions (great video by the way), I ended up with about 1/4 inch of a yeast cake in each pint jar. the yeast i washed was the wlp 001 california ale yeast. thanks for any info.

  73. Mark Young says:

    Another great 7th batch or so of delicious beer from same re-used Wyeast Weihenstephan in my Hefeweizen & Dunkelweizens!. As stated, I only washed it the first time, & since then, I’ve just added wort to double or triple yeast I originally washed/harvested from the original batch. Each time I need a batch, I boil imprecise amounts of sugar or DME boiled into a cup or two of water, cool & add this wort to my saved yeast from the frig.

    I swish around the mason jar every time I pass thru the kitchen for a couple days; sometimes I chill & decant the spent wort and start over again to increase the population. Then I just pitch HALF of what I’ve produced, saving the other half for the next batch. I was leery this time, as I thought it maybe smelled a little different, but it tastes just as good as the first batch – no noticeable difference.

    I meant to follow up on the big change in John Palmer’s new nix on 2ndary fermenters. Palmer attended college at Michigan Tech Univ., a couple hours from me. He told me he only does a 2 week primary fermentation now on almost all ales & lagers. He uses a secondary fermenter only for fruit beers,or when he actually is doing significant fermentation in the 2nd vessel after racking. He attributes the change of philosophy/recommendation to the risk of contamination during racking and he says modern yeast no longer have much risk of “autolyzing” when left in primary (digesting or eating themselves I think that means).

    • Billy Broas says:

      Great info Mark! Thanks for sharing. I’m going to use your feedback from Palmer as part of my standard “pitch” now for not using a 2ndary ; )

  74. Yonghwan Shin says:

    Thank you for your tip for washing the yeast.

    1. Could you let me know how long can I store these yeast
    if I keep in in refrigerator?
    2. Is there any possibility to explode yeast in the jar?
    Yeast in the jar may generate the gas,
    then the jar will be explode even if store in the refrigerator.

    I would like your kind reply.
    Thank you.

  75. CYR says:

    Great video and blog. Thank you for the info here …. I’m actually kind of excited to harvest and wash the yeast from my next batch of beer!

  76. Shawn says:

    Question regrading repitching for bottle conditioning. After primary conditioning, I collected all of the yeast and partial trub (i filter the hops before fermentation), stored the yeast cake in sanitary jars and put them in the fridge. I still have minimal trub collected on the bottom. My question is, since I cold crashed the beer, I was planning on adding a little of the yeast back when I bottle to help the bottle condition. I would like to wash the yeast before I do this, so would it hurt the yeast if I let it get back up to room temp, wash the yeast and remove extra trub, then restore the yeast in the fridge until I bottle? Thanks

    • Jason Wetnight says:

      Any update on this question? I’m not interested in bottle conditioning, but during my 1st time washing yeast i realized that i did not remove very much trub at all so now i have 6 jars of yeast/trub/wort (cold-crashed in my fridge). I’d like to clean them before my big TenFidy clone this weekend, but I’m concerned. Should i warm them all back up, re-wash? Or can I wash them cold? (or will washing them cold not work since the yeast drop out when cold?)

      • Billy Broas says:

        Hey guys, if you’re worried about it I’d play it safe and start with a fresh pitch. No use risking an entire batch. Every time you re-wash you’re putting the yeast at risk for contamination. If you do wash, yes, you’ll need to warm the containers up and probably give them a shake to get the separation.

  77. Ryan says:

    Billy, you mention that boiled water is used in order to drive out oxygen. Are you not adding oxygen back into the water by pouring it between the jars, or is that not a big deal?

  78. Jordan says:

    Question, your final amount of healthy yeast was separated between four jars. Once they rest, is it okay to try and decant most of the liquid in those four jars and try to get all of your healthy yeast in one jar, or do you leave it in four of them as each has the right amount of pitchable yeast?

    • John Koopmans says:

      Each jar is about right for making an ale . I generally only make lagers, so, instead of separating into four jars, I separate it into two one-quart jars. Then, every 6 weeks, I make a starter of each and put it back into the fridge to keep the yeast at a healthy concentration. That way I can save the yeast for several months and still have enough strength for a lager starter (I brew 10 gallons at a time so I only make a new batch of lager every 3 months or so).

  79. Michael says:

    Do you really need to put the yeast into the smaller jars? Couldn’t you just put the pickle jar in the fridge and the decant the liquid when you’re ready to make a starter? If some people just throw wort on to the yest cake it seems like just using all the washed yeast would be best instead of just a couple of jars.

  80. sol says:

    thanks your articles are very informative and clear

  81. craig says:

    So for each of those mason jars you had of washed yeast, would one jar be used to pitch into a 5 gallon batch or would you need more or less? (typically)

  82. bruce says:

    I enjoyed that, thanks – also enjoyed the train going by your house….

  83. John Koopmans says:

    Hello again, Billy. I was wondering if you have had any experience washing lager yeast? I have tried to use your method on lager yeast, but lager yeast settles differently than ale yeast. While the ale yeast remains in suspension near the top of the separation after 20 minutes, lager yeast settles to the bottom quite rapidly, even as quickly as a few minutes. After 20 minutes, the creamy yeast layer is at the bottom, while the trub is above that, and the beer layer above that. Thus, would I discard the top two layers and save only the bottom? Thanks.

  84. Kurt says:

    How come everyone pours from the carboy? Why not just use your siphon again and suck the yeast layer off the trub? Seems like you would have a lot more control. I have never attempted yeast washing but I would like to soon. Thanks for the great write up and video!

  85. Tom says:

    Nice video. Need to start re-using my yeast. My last batch of beer I used IrishMoss. Seems like the extra trash would make it difficult to wash, is this TRUE?

  86. BeerMe says:

    I wondered why one wouldn’t use a siphon to collect the desired healthy yeast layer after washing? It would seem that technique would likely gather more of the good stuff, less of the bad. I understand that it may not be critical, but it would seem easier than the pour method to separate. Thoughts?

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