Book Review: Yeast by White & Zainasheff

yeast_bookOk, so you have to be a bit of a geek to read a book called Yeast, let’s get that out of the way right off the bat. It’s a geeky book for beer geeks. In that sense, this book delivers. Yeast covers cell biology, metabolism, and flocculation – and that’s just in the second chapter.

There’s a whole chapter dedicated to choosing the right yeast for your brewery, home or commercial, with an excellent guide for commercial brewers to determine how many yeast strains they can keep active in their brewery based on frequency of brew days. There’s a chart of the most commonly brewed styles, with an elegant fallback for fewer yeast strains, and an optimization for which yeast to add if you’re going to be adding one more.

Chapter 4 breaks down the whole process of fermentation as it relates to brewing, and gives you specifics on all the relevant factors that will effect the flavor and quality of your beer, aroma, flavor, attenuation, etc.

Chapter 5 was the most interesting to me, as it covered pitching rates. Now if you’re a homebrewer, you probably have experienced they varying rules about pitching rates, plus your own experience of not following those rules with acceptable results. This chapter breaks down pitching rates into the specifics I’ve been looking for – exactly what happens if I don’t follow the rules? What if I overpitch or underpitch, and which is better?  It also has some excellent explanation and charts about growing up a starter, providing great analysis of investment vs. return. Lastly, this chapter covers yeast harvesting and re-pitching guides, as well as yeast washing. Again, information very widely available, but it’s nice to see it presented in such a well organized manner, and following a scientific process.

The last chapter was where the geek in me started to get a little overwhelmed, and it’s a big chapter, all about setting up your own yeast lab. Now White and Zainasheff do a good job here providing scale – meaning that they provide many levels of labs, from high-end commercial to a homebrew scale. This chapter spans information about guesstimating cell count from the color of solution in water (nice for a homebrewer), all the way to cell staining for viability and mutation. This chapter is jam-packed with information about equipment purchases and setting up a sterile lab room, but always brings it back to the bare-bones methods for accomplishing a similar task.

This book is a fantastic reference book, and while it took me a while to read through it the first time, I know I’ll be going back again and again for reference.


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