Is dry yeast as good as liquid yeast?
Historically, the quality of dry yeast was not even close to liquid yeast. That is not the case now. Dry yeast makes great beer. Cell counts are higher and, frankly, we've seen better attenuation from Safale US-05 than from White Labs 001 on several batches we've brewed.
That said, there are pro's and con's to both.
You can't really do a starter with Dry as they use up most of the nutrient reserves of the yeast. They also have much fewer strain types due to a large number of strains not being able to survive the production process.
The two biggest benefits to Dry vs. Liquid are Dry yeast has a shelf life often a year or more and doesn't have the issues that liquid yeast has with warm storage or shipping conditions.
The large number of strains is the big benefit of liquid yeast. Any strain can be collected and cultured for use by homebrewers. However, since it's a live culture, it's much more perishable and expensive. Depending on the cell counts, most yeasts have a practical shelf life of 3 months and unusable if exposed to temps over 90 F. Also, higher gravity beers (over 1.060) or lagers will require more cells that the standard 100 billion cell count packets provide--requiring more packages or starters. also fewer cells per pack than dry yeast, so when making a beer with a gravity above 1.060 (or when making any lager) the yeast should ideally be “grown” by making a yeast starter before brewing day. Using multiple packs of liquid yeast can also accomplish this same goal.
So, the bottom-line is:
The yeast available to homebrewers has come a long way in a short amount of time, and while there may have initially been some truth to the thought that liquid yeast produced a superior beer, that simply is no longer the case. So the answer is genuinely “Whichever you want”, and there is no need to pick a side one way or the other. Looking to use the Chico strain? No reason not to use US-05 for the average batch! Looking for something a little more specific? You’ll probably lean towards a liquid yeast that fits the profile. Both types of yeast have their advantages and disadvantages, and weighing those while choosing a yeast will help you select the best yeast for your brew.
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