Splitting your batches

Splitting your batches

Johnathan Hagen is the resident Certified Cicerone® at Bitter & Esters. He originally hails from a small town outside of Milwaukee (Algonquin for “the good land”) and will be doing a series of posts on expanding your yeast repertoire. He’s a firm believer that decoctions just aren’t worth it.

I haven’t been able to brew nearly as much as I would like to these past few months (hello fatherhood!) but what I’ve lost in volume I try to make up for in experimentation. I recently started splitting my 5 gallon batches and fermenting in two 3 gallon better bottles (3 gallon glass carboys work just as well) for comparison purposes and to try yeasts that I haven’t used before. I stole this idea from our yeast class here at Bitter & Esters* where we brew the same beer with eight different yeasts to show just how much impact yeast has on the flavor of each beer.

While I’m not able to brew 8 beers at a time at home, splitting my batches has helped me hone in on what aspects of each yeast I like best and how I might use them in the future. One of the big advantages of splitting my batches in this way is that I’m also ensuring healthy cell counts. Homebrewers chronically under pitch their yeast (i.e. not adding enough yeast) and splitting your batches is a great way to ensure that you’re pitching enough yeast. If we’re using a pitching rate calculator (I like Mr. Malty’s) we can see that for a starting gravity of 1.050 we want roughly 175 billion yeast cells which translates into almost 2 (1.9) yeast packs if we’re not making a starter.

Mr. Malty Ale With this beer, I was actually over pitching a little as I was using two 11 gram-dry yeast packets for what are essentially two 2.5 gallons batches but I planned on fermenting at the low end of ale temperatures (60 degrees). If we adjust the fermentation type to Lager (to account for temperature) we can see that we’d want closer to two (1.7) packets of dry yeast. Mr. Malty Lager A quick rule of thumb to follow is that it is easy to under pitch yeast, but difficult to over pitch. If you’re concerned that you’re not pitching enough, consider a second yeast pack or making a starter. (Here are some quick instructions on a starter, but we won't be covering that in this post). I recently brewed a very simple pale ale and decided to split the batch between Nottingham and S-05. I tend to gravitate towards liquid yeast merely because there are more options to choose from, but dry yeasts are often a little bit cheaper, have higher cell counts (producing healthier fermentations) and can produce beers that are just as good as those made with liquid yeasts. For this beer, I wasn’t looking for anything particularly complicated and wanted two relatively neutral yeasts that would highlight the malt and hops but otherwise get out of the way (i.e. no esters, no phenolics).

Based on my past experience with these yeasts, Nottingham should give more English character with an emphasis on malt character with a pleasant hop bitterness, while S-05 should offer more emphasis on hop flavor and aroma with a serviceable malt backbone.

Nottingham tasting notes:

  • Aroma: Caramel, Grapefruit, Pine
  • Appearance: Golden, Slightly Hazy
  • Flavor: Cereal/Biscuit, Honey
  • Mouthfeel: Dry, Clean, Smooth, Creamy

S-05 tasting notes:

  • Aroma: Grapefruit, Pine
  • Appearance: Golden
  • Flavor: White bread
  • Mouthfeel: Dry, Clean, Astringent

Both of these yeasts fell in line with my expectations but overall I found that I preferred the Nottingham. The mouthfeel was creamier/fuller with more complex malt flavoring that was nicely balanced with the hops. The S-05 was thinner, more astringent and hop focused in a way that detracted from the overall balance of the beer. This isn’t to say that I wouldn’t use S-05 again, but I’d probably use it in an IPA that would benefit more from its focus on hop character. Next up I’ll be doing a Robust Coffee Porter that will be split between 1469 West Yorkshire and 1028 London Ale.  

Johnathan Hagen

Certified Cicerone® (aka “Tastemaster General”) 

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