2019-05-13

Yeast Comparison: S-04 vs 1318

I've been using SafAle S-04 for my house ale strain for a while now, but I remember making a couple of batches with Wyeast 1318 and liking it. Should I trade the convenience and cost savings of dry yeast for liquid? Can I even tell the difference?

This is also a SMaSH with Maris Otter and Comet hops which I have never tried on its own before.

Update 2019-5-30: After several samples, and even some self-triangle tests, these beers are indistinguishable in every way except clarity (1318 is clearing a bit quicker, who knew?). When first kegged there was a slightly more pronounced aroma in the S-04 version, but that faded after a couple of days and now I can't tell these apart at all.

Update 2019-5-31: One of the clever brewers at Brülosophy just did this exact yeast comparison with a NEIPA (spoilers: they couldn't tell a difference either).

Update 2020-2-13: After some more testing and a new batch of 1318 I have indeed decided to replace S-04 as the house ale strain. Although I could not taste a difference between the two, 1318 is superior in two significant areas:
  1. It clears faster. For those of us that enjoy clear beer, this is important. Funny that it is used so often for NEIPA... 
  2. Most important, it shows no signs of degradation over generations. This is huge. With S-04 I notice a yeasty off-flavor after 3 or 4 generations. Sometimes it manifests in a stronger hop bite or bitterness, others it's just a bit off. Though this does fade as the beer clears, and becomes perfectly fine... see #1: 1318 clears faster. S-04 also seems to take a longer time to clear as it gets up in the generations. So far I have run 1318 through 10(!) generations and it is still fermenting and clearing faster than expected. 
I will always keep packets of S-04 on hand, and using liquid yeast is a bit of a hassle at times, but 1318 is the clear winner here. 

Full recipe (base SMaSH recipe. I used 3g/L at 5 min and no dry-hop for this version) is on BrewersFriend, but here's the TL;DR
  • Brewday: 2019-4-28
  • Malt: Simpson's Maris Otter
  • Yeast: S-04 or 1318
  • Hop: Comet
  • OG: 11°P, FG: 3°P (1318 was slightly lower), ABV: 4.3%
  • Kegged: 2019-5-12
Yeasts: Wyeast 1318/London III, and Safale S-04

Mash temp

Full 44L batch - this is as much as I can mash in the 15G kettle

a bit more room with the bag out

Floor Manager Steve helps out in the office...

OG right on 11°P - 77% efficiency - probably from the 3hr mash. I started it then went out to run some errands.

Away we go...

2019-5-3 (+5) Interesting activity in the 1318 batch


2019-5-12 (+14): kegging - S-04 (top) and 1318 (below)


2019-5-12 (+14): FG readings - both came out around 3°P/1.012, 1318 was ever so slightly lower (2.75°P vs 3°P) - S-04 (top)


2019-5-12 (+14): samples (S-04 left) - Since this was a 44L batch (22x2) there wasn't enough left over for Impermanence. After kegging I had just enough to fill a pint and  check gravity.

2019-5-13 (+15): carbonated samples, S-04 / 1318


2019-5-14 (+16): carbonated comparison - S-04 left, 1318 right

2019-5-19 (+21): more clarity. Looks like 1318 (right) just pulled ahead but they're really close

2019-5-22 (+24): not a huge difference from last time, but definitely a bit more clear.

2019-5-30 (+32): 1318 in the lead for clarity. Both clearing up nicely. Taste is a good balance of malt/yeast and hop. Comet has quite a bit of character, very Citra-like.

2019-6-5 (+38): S-04 left, 1318 right. Getting more difficult to get an accurate pic as the humidity in the house is causing foggy glasses... At first glance they look very similar, but on closer inspection 1318 is quite a bit more clear.