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A Turbo Yeast Primer

At the heart of whiskey making is the process of fermentation – the chemistry that happens as yeast eat the sugar you've provided them and convert it to ethyl alcohol. As they eat, yeast split glucose molecules in two, producing two ethanol molecules (alcohol), two carbon dioxide molecules, and heat. While we recommend letting your sugar-rich mash ferment for 10-14 days , there is at least one way to speed up the process if you need your spirits in a hurry: turbo yeast.

While turbo yeast sounds like a genetically engineered species of yeast, it's actually just a mix of dry wine yeast containing a selection of nutrients designed to encourage the yeast to make alcohol. A turbo yeast package would have the yeast along with the ideal mix of vitamins, minerals and nitrogen conducive to alcohol production. It would also contain compounds that adjust the pH in your mash to exactly the right level.

Turbo yeasts can bring definite advantages to your home brewing. There are some turbo yeasts that can turn your sugars into alcohol in one to three days. Others are designed to be temperature tolerant so that as your mash warms up from the heat released by the yeast, they are still able to thrive and convert sugar to alcohol.

You'll also see that some turbo yeasts will claim to produce a product that contains more alcohol (anywhere from between 14 to 20 percent). But such claims aren't entirely true. The amount of alcohol you get from a mash is directly related to the amount of sugar you put in. Turbo yeast doesn't change this basic fact. However, it can use less water to get the job done, so the resultant liquid would have a higher concentration of alcohol, that is, a higher ABV. You're not really getting "more alcohol," just a more concentrated end product.

While turbo yeasts can help you rocket through the fermentation process, and can help beginning brewers to have an easier time with their first runs, they do come with a few disadvantages. For one, they are more expensive than normal brewer's yeasts. Also, because of the extra compounds found in a turbo yeast packet, your final product might have some undesirable flavors included – especially if you push the yeast to produce the maximum ABV for which it's advertised. Then, you'll need to clean up your spirit to remove those flavors using filters, and once again you've upped your cost.

The bottom line is that if you are just starting out, experimenting with turbo yeasts to help your fermentation go quickly and ensure a high level of success is certainly worth a try. But just be sure to end your fermentation before the ABV gets too high.

Once you've gotten familiar with home distillation though, we think you'll find that nothing beats a good solid recipe , normal yeast, a bit of time, and a little love. Oh, and definitely a good copper still!

Posted by Jason Stone on

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