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Inquiry: Capturing and Isolating Local Yeast

by Charmstrong | December 14, 2014 15:37 14 Dec 15:37 | #11457 | #11457

I studied microbiology in college and have strayed from that field in my profession. I've been inspired to get back into the game by an article published in Draft Magazine in April of 2013. I have a friend that is a skilled brewer who is game for helping me with this project. I've found tips and tricks on isolating local yeast strains on brewing blogs and websites, but when I contacted my former micro professor she said that, while the project sounds fun, it is next to impossible to isolate yeast. Her experiences with isolating yeast in the lab resulted in specimens that were contaminated by bacteria or fungi 90% of the time.

Keeping in mind that my lab space will likely be my kitchen, does anyone have any experience with this? Am I embarking on a fruitless endeavor? I look forward to any advice you can give me.


Is it necessary to isolate the yeast in order to use it for brewing? During the fermentation process, more than one species of microbe could be present, but only one or a few dominate for the important period. Many traditional fermented and cultured foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt are routinely made without sterile equipment or procedures. Sourdough bread is made with cultures that resist invasion by harmful microbes for months without depending on laboratory conditions. Maybe finding a strain that can compete with other microbes is as important as eliminating all other microbes.


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Yeast is one of the simplest cellular forms of life out there and can be found airborne.

If what you are hinting at is using the airborne strains to ferment beer - sounds like a good idea.

You might want to follow through with @cfastie's suggestion to look into Sour Dough Bread.

In middle eastern cultures they leave the sour dough bread, dough outside - where it naturally absorbs yeast and over time expands.

Maybe leaving some dough outside to absorb airborne yeast could provide you with a big enough culture of yeast to start your beer fermenting?

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Thank you for the feed back! It sounds like my first step is to try catching some airborne yeast and not stress about isolating it right away. I never considered using dough as a vehicle. This is very helpful and I am very excited!

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