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January 24, 2014
Last updated

Bourbon, Whiskey, Vodka and Moonshine - How Much Yeast?

Chief Operating Officer at Clawhammer

We get a lot of questions about yeast. Everyone seems to want to know how much yeast is needed for making 5 or 10 gallons of mash. For those that have read The Best Yeasts for Distilling, it's obvious we are very fond of bread yeast. We have found over the years that bread yeast can easily produce as much alcohol as other yeasts if used correctly.

The question we hear a lot is "How much yeast do I need for the ____ recipe?" The answer is "It Depends." Every type of yeast is slightly different. In general, yeast can be categorized into three different groups: champagne & beer yeast, distillers yeast, and bread yeast. Use the following guidelines for measuring the quantity of yeast that is added to a mash.

Before we get started, a reminder: Distilling alcohol is illegal without a federal fuel alcohol or distilled spirit plant permit as well as relevant state permits. Our distillation equipment is designed for legal uses only and the information in this article is for educational purposes only. Please read our complete legal summary for more information on the legalities of distillation.

Champagne or Beer Yeast

Whiskey mash with Bread Yeast When using a champagne or beer yeast it will have directions on the packet. Every champagnebeer yeast we have ever used is packaged to ferment 5 gallons of beer. When using champagne/beer yeast use 1 packet for every 5 gallons of mash.

Distillers Yeast

When using distillers yeast follow the directions on the packet.  If there are no directions we suggest 1 tablespoon of yeast per 5 gallons of mash.

Bread Yeast

When using bread yeast we have had great results with Fleischmann's bread yeast over the years. Bread yeast can be bought in packet form or in 1-2 pound bulk packages. It is normally cheaper to buy in bulk but it is more convenient to store the yeast in packets. We prefer packets and can justify the slight cost increase for the convenience/storage factor. Just follow the steps we have outlined below in order have great results using bread yeast.

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    Create a simple yeast starter for 5 gallons of mash

    1. Add 1/2 cup of 110 degree water to a sanitized jar.
    2. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar to the water and mix thoroughly.
    3. Add 2 packets of yeast (14 grams or 1 tablespoon if using bulk yeast).
    4. Swirl the glass to mix in the yeast with the sugar water.
    5. Let the glass sit for 20 minutes and it will double in size.
    6. Once the starter has doubled in size add it to the mash and aerate. 


    To learn more about yeast and fermentation check out our article on "Fermentation and Yeast".

    Remember, it is illegal to distill alcohol at home for consumption. Do not do this.



    Emmet Leahy is the Chief Operating Officer and lead product developer at Clawhammer Supply, a small scale distillation and brewing equipment company. He loves the process of developing new equipment for making beer at home just as much as he does using it to brew his own beer. He's also passionate about teaching people how to use distillation equipment to produce distilled water, essential oils, and with the proper permits, fuel alcohol and distilled spirits.

    • I am an old shiner, I have been doing this since I was 8, when my pap paid me a dollar a day to clean the mash barrels and haul the wood for his fire. I started my own still when I was 14, with paps help of course. He always used the natural yeast from the grain when he malted it, except when the weather got colder then he would use grams bread yeast to help it out. We didn’t have a lot of money so that’s what we had to use. His whiskey was famous in the hills of WV and he never had a problem getting rid of it. I retired his still 30 years ago but still run an 85 gallon still with a 5 gallon thump. My son started shining when he was in his 20s after college, he said to keep the tradition alive, but he started getting information off the internets to improve the quality. After much trying and tasting, he is now running his still with bread yeast. The taste is cleaner and fresher and the proof is as good as ever. Does bread yeast work? Yep you can bet your socks on it, works every time.
      I am very happy that there are so many of yall learning to make your own whiskey. Just remember the cleaner the ingredients the better the taste. Happy shining

      Posted by OLd COpper on November 24, 2015
    • I started o about a mounth ago i started with ec 1118 and have about 5 grams for every 5 gls i wasnt getting alc. That i should so added red star one to two oz. Per gl i am useing air locks and they are finaly really moving so i have use alittle extra yeast what should i do please help

      Posted by need to know what i should do on July 12, 2015
    • Mountain Mike:
      No….they/I/We are not kidding. Bread yeast is the best, simplest, cheapest answer there is. Bread yeast is more or less a blank slate in a technical level, it hasn’t “learned” or “inherited” any of the traits of its predecessors.
      These “inherited” traits are what the massive breweries/ distilleries rely upon to maintain a constant production quality and/or flavor in the final product. As a matter of fact, the Guinness brewery has used the same strain of yeast for hundreds upon hundreds of years, and are a VERY highly guarded secret. They literally keep their yeast in a temperature controlled vault.
      You can reproduce the flavor of your own product by keeping the “tails” of one batch to add to the next. The yeast will “learn” and become a clone of the last batch. After a few progressive turns like this (approximately 7 or so), your final product will be as reliable as a professional distillery.

      Posted by 100% Irishguy on May 30, 2015
    • help
      I am new to making whiskey and am having a problem, I have tried three different yeasts the last one I tried was Fleischmann’s as you suggest, all have worked for 36 hours and them died off leaving little or no alcohol content in the mash. Any help will be appreciated.

      Posted by Jim on December 08, 2014
    • Hunter, sounds to me that is just the krausen from the yeast. Nothing wrong all top fermenting yeast will do that. If a secondary “skin” or anything floating after initial krausen I would be worried then.. The gunk on your carvery should wash fine with a mild soap which can be found for brewing in homebrew shops.. Happy brewing!

      Posted by Dudz on August 31, 2014
    • Bread Yeast works great but I have never had an ABV of more than 10%. I always end up with about a solid gallon of 80 to 90 proof moonshine on a 5 to 6 gallon mash.

      Posted by Barper on August 07, 2014
    • I gave the bread yeast a try by mixing with water and sugar for the first time. After a few hours the yeast formed like a cake on top of the mash and finally went away and now there’s stuff caked on the side of my Carboy. My airlock was bubbling like crazy for 2 days and it is now day 4 and barley bubbling. What could be wrong?

      Posted by Hunter on July 01, 2014
    • Trying to find out how much bread yeast for 5 gal. honeyshine

      Posted by Joe on June 05, 2014
    • What temp range should the bread yeast ferment at?

      Posted by Rod on March 24, 2014
    • Bread yeast is great its cheap my buddy uses exspensive turbo yeast I use bread yeast .my hoch is better content is higher.

      Posted by nate the great on March 11, 2014
    • Great just great

      Posted by jerry fisher on February 24, 2014
    • This is to mountain mike I have used all the turbo yeast on the market along with the majority of the wisky yeasts and beer yeast I still end up coming back to my first love (bread yeast) I cannot get the flavor out of any of the others like I do the brad yeast not to mention my abv is always extremely close to all the turbos and other yeast I have tried in the past I’ll use no other than bread yeast I even have several sachets of turbo and whisky yeast just setting around I’ll go get more bread yeast before using the turbod

      Posted by rwsams on February 21, 2014
    • mid mo mac, so how much mash did you make and how many runs did it take to get the twenty gallons in your

      Posted by dwight on February 14, 2014
    • In reply to Mountain Mike: I bought the 10 gallon kit from Kyle in March ‘13. I didn’t know anything about shining and wanted to start because my grandpa has been making whiskey for forty years. He used a traditional pot still without a thumper and a worm. He’s DEAD SET in his ways and was telling me what I should and shouldn’t be doing throughout the entire process of ‘my’ first run.

      I pretty much followed the information on this site religiously and after everyone had tried my shine… He ended up rigging his still to copy my still.

      BTW, I used Fleischmann’s and my mash worked perfectly! I’ve got 20 gallons of 94 proof shine aging in two oak barrels and it’s coming along very well! Not to mention, when you use bread yeast it literally smelled like heaven for two weeks when the mash was working.

      Posted by Mid-MO Mac on February 12, 2014
    • Mountain Mike, I also use the bread yeast and get GREAT results every time… Give it a try (as outlined above) and you will not regret it. IT WORKS GREAT!!!

      Posted by Scott R. on February 08, 2014
    • Saving money to buy one of your 5 gallon still kits. Thought very highly of your site until you added the part about BREAD YEAST being used to make alcohol. Everyone in the entire drinking and distilling world knows not to use bread yeast. Please answer if this was just a joke written to confuse old people like me or did bread yeast really work?
      You have the greatest information on distilling I have found.

      Thanks, Mountain Mike

      Posted by Mountain Mike on February 07, 2014
    • I want to know if you would suggest using your 1 gal still kit to make a thumper for your 10 gal still kit

      Posted by Jason on January 29, 2014

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