A yeast nutrient substitute, although not guaranteed to do as good a job as a commercially produced yeast nutrient can be used if you find yourself in need of a nutrient during fermentation.
The following is a list of some of the yeast nutrient substitutes that brewers use:
- Expired brewers yeast, hydrated, and then boiled for 15 minutes.
- Bread yeast from the grocery store, again hydrated and boiled for 15 minutes
- Raisins are often touted by many as a good yeast nutrient
- Ripe bananas, mashed, boiled, then strained (use the remaining liquid)
- Brown sugar at 2 tablespoons per 10 liters of wort, must, etc.
- Rolled oats, boiled, strained, and the liquid used
- Fruit juices such as lemon, lime, or orange
- Grated orange, lemon, or lime peels
- One cup of black tea
- Grape nuts, boiled, strained and the liquid used.
Using either expired brewer’s yeast or bread yeast is your best option and is what we recommend as a substitute for a yeast nutrient as the majority of the makeup of commercial options are actually dead yeast cells. Although the other substitutes listed may not provide as good of results they are used regularly by brewers.
In this article, we are briefly going to explain what yeast nutrients and substitutes actually are, what they do for your fermentation, as well as explaining they should be used, and lastly, we will provide you with a yeast nutrient substitute recipe to try.
What is Yeast Nutrient
Although not intended to be a comprehensive article on yeast nutrients, in order to understand what can be used as a yeast nutrient substitute it is important to understand what a nutrient actually is and what effect it has on fermentation.
The health of your yeast is arguably the most important component of making beer, mead, cider, or wine. Without yeast, none of these drinks can be produced. Unhealthy yeast can not only result in lower than planned alcohol levels but also undesirable off-flavors.
Yeast nutrients are added to the fermentation to ensure that the yeast is healthy and provided for a strong fermentation. These nutrients provide the required vitamins, nitrogen, amino acids, and fatty acids the yeast requires.
Different companies produce these such as Wyeast and White Labs and each product will have different ingredients however in general they will all contain the following compounds:
Yeast Hulls – These are basically dead yeast cells. Yeast is known to cannibalize their dead cells and feed off the nutrients within them. They provide essential fatty acids and lipids.
Diammonium Phosphate – Another main ingredient of most commercial yeast nutrients, it is a salt that provides phosphate and nitrogen to the yeast.
Vitamins – They provide the same thing to live yeast cells as they do to human cells, i.e. good nutrition for the production and growth of cells.
Other compounds found in yeast nutrients are amino acids, zinc, and magnesium.
What is Yeast Nutrient Substitute
In essence, yeast nutrients are simply compounds that act as a fertilizer to produce healthy yeast cells and fermentation, as a result, at their core yeast nutrient substitutes are any item added to your wort or must that will help the yeast cells grow healthy and reproduce in large quantities resulting in a fast and successful fermentation.
When to Use a Yeast Nutrient Substitute
In the majority of cases when making beer a yeast nutrient substitute is not required. The grains used in the beer-making process provide more than enough nutrition for the yeast to perform their job at an optimum level.
The following are times when nutrient substitutes should be used…
High Gravity Beer – when you are making a beer that is going to have a higher than normal ABV (alcohol by volume) you may need to add some nutrients in order to ensure that the yeast is able to convert all of the sugars over to alcohol. As the alcohol levels increase the yeast can become stressed and fermentation stalled, nutrients will prevent this from happening.
Beers with High Percentages of Adjuncts – if 25% or more of the ingredients for the beer you are brewing are adjuncts i.e. ingredients other than grains then you should consider using nutrient substitutes. This is because the adjuncts will not provide the needed nutrients like grains will.
Making Yeast Starters – It is always recommended to use yeast nutrients when you are making a yeast starter in order to help the yeast get off to a good start.
Making Mead – The ingredients for mead are water, honey, and mead yeast. Honey, unlike many other sources of sugar, simply does not have enough nutrients to provide for a healthy fermentation, so a nutrient or substitute is required when brewing with honey.
Making Cider – Although not as imperative as when making mead, using a yeast nutrient substitute when making cider will provide the yeast with that extra boost of nutrition to help provide for a healthy fermentation. Although not always used by some brewers, it is typically recommended.
Winemaking – although for most wines the grapes will provide adequate levels of nutrition, it is typically recommended to add nutrients as it will ensure that wines will ferment to completion and that off flavors will be avoided. When making fruit wines or wines using fresh grapes it is always advised to add a nutrient or a substitute.
Yeast Nutrient Substitute Recipe
The following is a simple recipe for a yeast nutrient substitute that many brewers have used. It incorporates many of the substitutes we discussed into one recipe. It is recommended to use ¼ of a cup for 19 liters (5 gallon) batches. You can add more than the ¼ of a cup if needed however it is recommended to do so at intervals of 24 hours apart.
- 1 cup of oats
- 1 cup of barley
- 1 cup of whole wheat
- 1 banana chopped up, leave the peel on
- 1 tomato cut up
- 1 cup of tea
- 1 cup of crushed raisins
- 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
Bring 2 liters of water to boil on the stove, add all of the ingredients and let simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cover, and allow to cool to room temperature (approximately 1 hour). Filter the liquid through a sanitized strainer into a sanitized bowl. Keep refrigerated until needed.
There are many options when it comes to finding a yeast nutrient substitute to use. Your best option is to use brewers yeast followed closely by bread yeast; however, any of the substitutes we have listed or a combination of them including the recipe provided will help improve the health of the yeast cells and provide for a successful fermentation.
P.S. If you make your own beer be sure to check out our gift to you on the side of the blog or the bottom if on a smart device; get access to the recipes to Robb’s top 5 best-selling beers from his brewpub. Cheers!