Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Turbo Yeast Sugar "Rum"

Washing Up

Looking for new small projects to keep me busy between batches of beer, I decided to test out the remainder of my turbo yeast on a wash.  Wash is the word used by some home distillers (illegal in most countries) to describe the fermented sugar water before distilling.  These moonshiners mix in large volumes of sugar and yeast nutrient with water and ferment it as far as the yeast will take it before dying of alcohol poisoning.  Alcohol is, after all a yeast waste product.  Once the wash is made, home distillers get to the illegal part of their process, heating up the liquid to the boiling point of alcohol (lower than that of water) and collecting and condensing the alcohol steam.

I decided to try the wash-making part of this process with my turbo yeast.  I have tried various other sugar water washes in my brewing history, including my first brew, which fermented four cups of sugar in one gallon of water with bread yeast.  At the end of fermentation, I added two Kool-Aid drink mix packets, bottled it up, and called it wine.  Later, I used some turbo yeast to ferment some old molasses and brown sugar into a lower-alcohol rum-like drink.  It tasted great when mixed with my homemade cola, but didn't much resemble rum when sampled neat.

Turbo Yeast Rum Ingredients
Turbo Yeast Rum Ingredients

For this wash, I was mostly testing how far the turbo yeast will take down a sugar water mix.  For this simple recipe, I have the yeast nutrient, some unrefined sugar, and the yeast ready.  I wanted this batch to be small, so I calculated that 200 grams of sugar would hit the correct gravity at a total volume of 750 mL.

Sugar and Water
Sugar and Water

I hit my gravity number at close to 750 mL, but I ran into a problem with temperature.  The hot water I used to dissolve the sugar wasn't being cooled as much as I'd hoped with my cold top off tap water.  When I got to my required volume, we were reading over 100 degrees F.  This isn't really killing temperature for yeast, but it's getting close to the top of their comfortable range.  I cooled it down to 96 degrees F in an ice bath, moderating it a little bit.

My gravity reading was where I wanted it to be, 1.120.  Huge compared to the 1.040-ish starting gravity for beer, but this wasn't going to be any beer now, was it?

Reading Gravity
Reading Gravity

I hydrated (but didn't make a starter) of the turbo yeast, pitched, and hoped.

Ready to Ferment?
Ready to Ferment?

Ingredients and Method

Brew No. 043
28 Feb 2014

200g Unrefined sugar
Pinch of yeast nutrient
Turbo Yeast

Dissolved the sugar and nutrient in hot water.  Topped off to 750 mL, cooled to 96 degrees F.  Pitched yeast.

I knew that high-gravity mixes usually require a starter*, but the turbo yeast instructions didn't mention needing to make one, and I was over-pitching* a bit to help compensate.  It didn't work.  Three days later, still no fermentation.  I had to make some... alterations.

*Starter- A means of kickstarting dried yeast by mixing it in a light water/sugar solution for several hours to a day.  This allows the yeast to begin fermenting and growing vigorously in a small environment before being thrown into the larger environment.

*Over-pitching- Adding more yeast than a solution should require for fermentation.

Next Steps

I feared my turbo yeast was too old and unable to get this thing started.  Worried about contamination, I decided not to risk trying the turbo again with this batch.  I went to a tried and true cider yeast I've used for several batches with no problems.  I made a starter this time, getting the cider yeast up and kicking for several hours.  I moved the whole mix from a 750 mL bottle to a full liter bottle to accommodate the new yeast starter.  I lost some gravity by adding the starter (now 1.100), but the cider yeast should be able to get it started.

The cider yeast kicked in!  The day after I mixed in my cider yeast starter, it was bubbling and working steadily.  I'm not sure how long it will take or how low it will go.  I'll treat this as a test of the attenuation (fermentation) potential of this brand of cider yeast.

Whatever comes out should taste fine mixed with cola and consumed while holding the nose, right?


  1. "...should taste fine mixed with cola..." maybe, but how about causing blindness? Oh Jory, it's great to read that you're still up to the same shenanigans as always!

    1. Shenanigans is a great Irish word! I will let you know how it tastes when I try it... and if I can still see the keyboard.


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