With over 1500 types of yeast, it can get super confusing on which yeast to use for making vodka. There is no correct answer, any yeast which produces ethanol can be used to make vodka. However, some are better suited than others since vodka is defined as a predominantly neutral spirit. Different yeast varieties make different side products from the same sugar/grain source, like different concentrations of fruity ester flavours.
Different yeast strains also have vastly different tolerances to alcohol. When making vodka, some yeast strains can ferment very high sugar concentrations, some yielding over 20% alcohol. This means you can quickly make a large amount of alcohol (though doing so will change the flavour!). Yeast which hasn’t been specifically bred for alcohol production like bakers yeast will stop fermenting at a much lower alcohol content.
Here are a few of our top recommendations:
1. Distilamax LS
This yeast from Lallemand is a great all round vodka yeast. The strain is a type of saccharomyces cerevisiae bayanus which was isolated from a champagne yeast and then continually improved for spirits use. It can handle a wide temperature range, from low temperatures up to 35 degrees C. Alcohol tolerance up to 18%. The yeast has a short lag phase, which means other bacteria don’t have as much of a chance to colonise the brew before the yeast starts fermenting. Low nitrogen and oxygen requirement. Produces some subtle cogeners, though still quite neutral.
2. Distilamax HT
A strain of saccharomyces cerevisiae which was purposely bred for high fermentation temperatures, such as fermentations without temperature control (such as those found in home brewer conditions). It can ferment at up to 37 degrees C and alcohol concentrations over 16%. Delivers a great tasting, neutral spirit. Fermenting hotter will speed up the process. Coupled with high sugar concentration, this strain is perfect for high yields in a short time period.
3. Safspirit C-70
A great vodka option from Fermentis- the brewing branch of French yeast manufacturer Lesaffre. Vodka can be made from many different substrates, such as sugar, grain, molasses, fruit etc. This stain can be used well on all substrates, including agave and is a very popular option for professional distillers. Ferments at low temperatures, though much more slowly. Best temperature for using this strain is 25-33 degrees C.
4. Safspirit HG-1
Similar to Distilamax HT, this is the high gravity, high temperature yeast strain from Fermentis. Able to reach 18% alcohol and produces a very neutral spirit profile. A solid option for very high gravity fermentations. Great for high yield and high throughput.
5. WLP078 Neutral Grain Yeast
A great yeast for making neutral spirit from White Labs, a US yeast supplier. A clean, fast fermentation that can tolerate up to 15% alcohol. 25C to 30C fermentation temperature.
What about turbo yeast?
Turbo yeast isn’t actually a type of yeast, it is simply a strain of yeast which comes prepackaged with yeast nutrients and other additives. Professional distillers never use this type of prepackaged yeast, because they want to know exactly the yeast strain and amount, exactly the nutrient concentration etc, not a mystery box. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with using prepackaged turbo yeast, you just don’t really know what you are using and there are different brands. If you are serious about producing high quality spirits, stick to what the professionals use and purchase Fermentis/Lesaffre or Lallemand yeast strains.