Yeast is your friend. It will more than repay the care you extend towards it. Provide it with a comfortable environment and suitable nutrition and it will work its tail off for you, reproducing itself and releasing enzymes to convert all your sugars to alcohol. It will not rest until the job is done. Trust it- it's a true professional. But we're getting ahead of ourselves here. What kind of yeast do we use and where do we get it?
1. Dried wine yeast. Available in sachets or small drums from any wine-making supplier or mail order, even from Amazon. There are many varieties but a basic 'All Purpose' wine yeast will answer well enough. Don't worry about it being dried. In its dried state it is dormant but it takes only minutes to re-hydrate and get to work when added to the juice.
2. Dried brewer's yeast. Brewer's yeast is a far more sensitive organism than wine yeast and has to be treated with considerable care. You can make palatable if slightly strange beer with wine yeast but the reverse is not the case. In the ex-pat plonk world brewer's yeast is probably too specialised and finicky for most amateurs.
3. Dried baking yeast. In some countries, especially in the Islamic world, wine and beer yeasts are not available but bread yeast can always be found. It will work up to a point but the results are often disappointing. It's alcohol tolerance is low and it has a sharp flavour of its own that is not ideal. Also it doesn't clear well and tends to yield cloudy drinks. It's better than nothing, but best avoided if possible.
4. Natural yeast. All yeast is natural, but here we're talking about cultivating the yeast that forms the 'bloom' on fresh grapes. This is less convenient than dried yeast and care must be taken to avoid spoilage, but the results can be very good.
5. Recovered yeast. This refers to the process of 'harvesting' yeast from the sediment of a finished brew to start a new batch. It works well and even saves a few pennies as you never have to buy more new yeast.
This post only covered the five main sources of yeast used for ex-pat plonk. I'll deal with the techniques in future posts. You see? It's worth coming back for more!
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