YEAST NUTRIENT for Fermentation: Home Brewing Basics

by Karl S Updated on January 19, 2023

Fermentation is a magical process. You drop some yeast into a sugary liquid and in a few hours the airlock is firing off with bubbling activity. And sure, sometimes fermenting can be that easy, but more often your little yeasts need something extra to help them get through.

Converting all those sugars into alcohol, that’s where yeast nutrients come into play.

  • But what is the yeast nutrient?
  • What types are there and which ones should you use?

Today we’re breaking down yeast nutrients and giving you all the info you need to start using them. I’m Trent Musho and this is the Bru Sho. Let’s talk yeast nutrients.

Yeast is a vital part of fermentation.

Not only does it convert sugars into alcohol and co2, but also it can greatly impact the flavor of your beer, cider, or wine. Each strain of yeast has its own flavor profile, but also reacts differently depending on the health of that yeast colony. If you under pitch or ferment too warm, you can stress out the yeast leading to all kinds of off flavors.

I’ve talked about this before in my five off flavors video, and in most cases, the off flavoring in your beer is probably coming from stressed, overworked yeast. In order for yeast to perform at its best, it requires certain nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to grow strong and eat through all the sugars in the wort, must or juice.

Luckily, for beer brewers, most of these are readily available in the wort. There are certain styles like light beers that could use an extra punch of nutrients to fill in any gaps.

Generally, the more adjuncts you use like corn or rice, the less of those nutrients are available, but at the same time, large beers above about 1.070 could probably also benefit from an extra vitamin boost since the yeast has a lot of work to do.

For cider’s, wines, seltzers, meads, and other simple sugar fermentations, you almost always need yeast nutrients. For example, the juice used for apple cider is lacking most of these vital nutrients, and while you can still make cider without them, you may experience an incomplete or sluggish fermentation and various off flavors are possible.

So it’s my recommendation to always use yeast nutrients on these types of fermentations. It’s easy enough to just add it in and it gives you some assurance that you’ll have a great tasting drink in the end.

For the sake of simplifying things, I’ll try to minimize the tech talk and stick to the basics, but hopefully this video sparks some ideas and helps you understand nutrients a little better so you can start using them in your brew.

Now that we know why they’re needed, let’s talk about what yeast nutrients are. To keep things easy, there’s really two camps of yeast nutrients, ones you use in yeast starters and ones you use for general fermentation health. Starter nutrients do as you might expect, add nutrients to otherwise blank slate of low gravity extract or starter.

They help get those yeast off to a strong start, especially when it comes to multiplying cells. That way when it comes time for pitching, you have a large and active fermentation already underway, which will ensure less lag time when it comes to getting the main fermentation going.

The most popular option here is goferm or fermstart. Fermentation nutrients come in a few different forms, but the most common options here are Diammonium Phosphate or DAP, fermaid O, fermaid K, and what’s plainly called yeast nutrient.

To simplify, let’s divide these into groups. On one side you have DAP, which is basically just a source of nitrogen, which helps the to function better, but think of it like candy. Yeast will eat it fast and it’ll give quick burst of energy that won’t last too long.

On the other end, you have fermaid O, which is made up of dead yeast cells. To me, it kind of smells like cheese, but the cells provide an organic source of nitrogen that’ll give the yeast sustained energy. This stuff is also a bit sticky, so try not to use your hands.

Where DAP is a chemical source and is really focused on providing nitrogen fast, yeast cells have more than just nitrogen.

There are also a bunch of other key micronutrients that can help with fermentation processes. Lastly, in the middle there is fermaid K and yeast nutrient. These are a bit of both sides. Fermaid K has some D A P and yeast cells. And yeast nutrient has DAP and something called urea honestly sounds gross, but it’s just a vitalizer for the yeast.

Another thing you might see is yeast energizer, and this is actually different, albeit it does have some of the same ingredients like dap, yeast cells, etc.., but this is more reserved for stuck fermentations as a way to boost the yeast back to life and get them going again. It’s not usually used as a nutrient source at the beginning of fermentation, but it can be used in a pinch.

The choice of which to use is really up to you through trial and error, but in my experience, using a combo of nutrients that give a quick burst of energy and a sustained one lead to the best overall experience.

That’s why you often see me use DAP and fermaid O together by using something like Fermaid K alone might be even easier if you have access to it. The yeast is going through extreme growth and death phases during fermentation, and you wanna be sure they have plenty of nutrient to make it through the entire phase.

So always refer to the dosage on the package to determine the right amount for your brew. Or there’s always some handy online calculators that can be useful, especially for large gravity ferments. I’m curious to know, do you use yeast nutrients in your brews? If so, which ones are your favorite? Let me know in the comments.

Now’s the question of when to add them. You can go two ways about it. Add them right before yeast pitch or split the nutrients up and add them at staggered intervals.

Staggered additions are what is considered to be best practice and is recommended by a lot of the yeast nutrient manufacturers. This slowly introduces the nutrients so that the yeast doesn’t consume it all at once and grow too fast. This can stress out the yeast.

They’re calculators online to help you determine how and when to add them, but a basic way to do it is to split your nutrients into three and then add them one day at a time for the first three days of fermentation.

But for me, that’s just too much work. I tend to just toss it all at the beginning and let it rock. It’s easier, and I don’t have to worry about opening the fermentor, which can always be be a risk for oxidation or infection if I’m not careful. And in all the dozens and dozens of batches of wine and cider I’ve made, I haven’t experienced any negative effects from doing so, but the choice is yours to make.

The main reason I like having both dap and for a made out on hand is the ability to use them separately if needed. DAP is considered to be toxic for yeast starters, so for that I’ll just use fermaid O, but in most cases I just use both for regular fermentations.

Yeast nutrients might not always be required, but to me it’s cheap assurance so that I have a healthy and clean fermentation. All it takes is a little sprinkle of each to make all the difference, and you can get these in bulk and they’ll last you nearly forever. That way you always have them on deck anytime you wanna whip out quick cider or random inspiration for fermentation.

If you’ve never used yeast nutrients, I urge you to give ’em a try and see how they impact your brew. I think you’ll be happy with the results and so will your yeast. If there’s anything else about yeast nutrients I missed or something you want me to cover in a future video, let me know. I hope you got something out of this video, and if you did, be sure to hit the like button. Thanks for watching and happy brewing.