If you’re working with champagne yeast for the first time, you are likely wondering about the champagne yeast fermentation temperature. After all, is it more a Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast, which ferments at a warmer temperature, or a Saccharomyces pastorianus, which ferments much cooler? To understand champagne yeast, we must learn a bit about champagne itself and move forward from there.
What Is Champagne?
Okay, so most people know that champagne is sparkling wine from the region of Champagne, France. Only sparkling wine from that region can be legally called champagne. Otherwise, it is just sparkling wine.
Interestingly enough, champagne as we know it today, sweet, a bit acidic, and bubbly, was discovered, like most wines, by accident.
For hundreds of years the region of Champagne produced a much beloved still wine, also called champagne, which was drunk in royalty.
Then, one particularly cold winter in the 1600 saw the fermentation process halted. The wine essentially got too cold to continue. Then, as temperatures warmed up, fermentation continued, and bottles of wine exploded!
What happened was that during this “secondary fermentation,” the yeast in the bottles became active again and started producing more alcohol and carbon dioxide, resulting in a bubbly wine patrons were unused to.
At first, this situation was a disaster. Dom Perignon himself, one of the monks in charge of this “disaster” spend months trying to figure out how to get rid of these pesky bubbles.
Finally, the winery decided to accept the results of nature and began selling bubbly champagne as a novelty.
And the rest is history.
In fact, 30 years previous, a scientist actually discovered sparkling wine in England in much the same way and published an academic paper on the topic of the production of sparkling wine.
Today, sparkling wine and champagne are used to celebrate or just to enjoy a bit of fizzy wine around the world.
What Is Champagne Yeast?
So, you ask, if champagne is sparkling wine from Champagne, what is champagne yeast?
The answer is the same.
Champagne yeast is the yeast that is native to the Champagne region.
Much of what makes Champagne itself so popular are the grapes and the yeast, both of which are local. Fresh black grapes are used in the wine, and wild, local yeasts have long been responsible for the production of champagne.
Champagne yeast is neither S. cerevisiae nor S. pastorianus, but rather a third and more elusive strain of yeast called Saccharomyces Bayanus.
It is a top fermenting yeast with three primary substrains:
Premier Cuvee is the most popular of the three and is most often used for barrel fermented champagne. It produces low foam and gives wine a yeasty aroma, making it ideal for secondary fermentation. It will produce an ABV of up to 18% and offers low flocculation.
The next most popular champagne yeast is Pasteur Champagne, which ferments much more quickly than its counterparts and can produce an ABV between 13% and 17%. You can expect medium flocculation and strong fermentation.
Finally, Epernay is a champagne yeast known to tolerate much lower temperatures, likely the one that caused all that trouble back in the 1600s. It is a slow fermenting yeast with medium flocculation, and it is great for bottle fermenting.
Also read: Champagne Yeast Alcohol Tolerance
Uses for Champagne Yeast Outside of Champagne
Today, many brewers of beer and even kombucha have taken to using champagne yeast for a variety of reasons. First of all, most brewer’s yeasts can only tolerate up to 10% ABV, and champagne yeast offers the opportunity to go much higher. You can also produce a drier, more acidic beer with champagne yeast and get that classic yeasty flavor and aroma.
Particularly if you want to put your beer through a secondary fermentation and get higher carbonation, champagne yeast is a great option.
Champagne Yeast Fermentation Temperature
The truth is that champagne yeast has a wide range of fermentation temperatures, which makes sense if you think about it. After all, the monks in Champagne had been producing champagne in much warmer temperatures for hundreds of years until that one cold season introduced them to sparkling wine.
Thus, the substrain of champagne yeast is what will determine the fermentation temperature.
Premier Cuvee can ferment from as low as 45 degrees Fahrenheit and all the way up to 95 degrees F.
Pasteur Champagne can ferment from 59 to 86 degrees, so a much smaller range.
And Epernay will ferment from 50 degrees up to 70 degrees.
So, you can see why Premier Cuvee is the most popular among the substrains as it has much more room for variation.
Summing It All Up
In the end, which substrain of champagne yeast you use will depend on what you are hoping to get out of your wine or beer. Champagne yeast is yeast that comes from the region of Champagne and is typically beloved for its ability to produce higher alcohol percentages and carbonation levels. And the fermentation temperature depends on the strain you choose, but most can tolerate much lower temperatures than other top fermenting yeasts.
It is up to the brewer or winemaker to experiment, explore, and see what works for you and your loyal customers.
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