Kveik is a genetically unique family of yeast strains from Norwegian farmhouse brewers, which has taken the brewing community by storm in the last few years thanks to some of the work by researchers like Lars Marius Garshol to document living farmhouse brewing traditions.
Kveik yeasts offer many compelling benefits to brewers, including:
- Temperature control is less necessary
- Kveik strains make many unique flavour profiles
- Very fast fermentation
- Lower risk of off-flavours like diacetyl and acetaldehyde
However, we know that there are still some kveik skeptics out there as well as kveik-converts that are looking for the best practices when working with kveik. Without further ado, here are our top five tips for success with kveik:
1. Make a highly fermentable wort
Most kveik strains do not ferment maltotriose very efficiently. Maltotriose is a three-glucose chain that makes up ~20% of the carbohydrates in wort. This means that many kveik fermented beers will often finish up in the 1.012-1.020 (3-5ºP) range depending on your original gravity. To ensure a lower finishing gravity, take a page from the farmhouse brewers: use a long mash, ideally at a lower temperature, to make a very maltose-rich wort. Note that you likely don't need to mash for hours. 60-90 minutes at ~65ºC (149ºF) will work great. Kveik absolutely crushes through maltose and this is how some of the farmhouse brewers achieve a 24-36 hour fermentation time!
2. Add nutrients
Kveik's ancestral environment is high-nutrient: all-malt, high gravity worts made with extended mashes. This means that kveik is used to being pampered with a buffet of FAN, vitamins, and micronutrients. In order to help kveik when you're using it in modern worts, we suggest adding yeast nutrients. A good rule of thumb is to use double the amount you use for a typical beer.
3. Make sure it gets lots of oxygen
Oxygen is a key nutrient for yeast. Yeast growth and the early stages of fermentation benefit greatly from added oxygen. Traditionally, kveik top ferments in open fermentors where there is plenty of gas exchange. Putting it into closed fermentors (kegs, conical tanks) creates a different environment that the kveik may not be used to. Our advice is to add plenty of oxygen up front to any kveik ferment.
4. Experiment with temperature and pitching rate
You can get wildly different flavours at different temperatures and pitching rates with kveik. Depending on these choices, one kveik strain can almost behave like 8 different "regular" yeasts! In general, hotter temperatures create more flavour expression especially with the fruity esters. Hotter temperatures also result in more glycerol production, which may add more perceived body to your beer. Cooler temperatures result in more neutral flavour profiles, something that brewers are using to produce super-clean pseudo-lagers or chico yeast killers with KRISPY and KRUSHER
5. Maintain stable fermentation temperature
Kveik can ferment at an astonishingly wide range of temperatures. We have seen many of our strains perform as low as 10ºC (50ºF) and as hot as 42ºC (108ºF). This means that kveik is incredibly flexible with temperature, which is part of why it has become so popular for homebrewing. However, we have seen that when kveik goes through extreme temperature swings (low to high or high to low), results have been less than desirable. Some off flavours can happen with temperature swings, and if a kveik ferment drops in temperature too fast, the yeast can stall out.
Find out more
We talk about kveik a lot! Here are some existing resources from Escarpment Labs if you are curious:
- A Fireside Kveik Chat with Lars Marius Garshol (YouTube)
- Traditional Norwegian Kornøl (Recipe)
- Skarey American Pilsner (Recipe)
- The Search for KRISPY (Blog)
- Crispy Brewing with Kveik (Blog)
- Yeast Blend Stability - Kveik vs Saison (Blog)
- Impact of Pitch Rate on Kveik (Blog)
- Our 2018 scientific paper on kveik (Frontiers in Microbiology)
There is more ground to cover with kveik. Look to our blog in the future for more on:
- Using kveik in cider
- Using kveik in hard seltzer and mead
- Pressure fermenting with kveik
- More scientific knowledge on kveik
How do I get some kveik?
Escarpment Labs kveik products are available to pro brewers (US, Canada, Europe) on our pro web store - click here to become a customer.
Our kveik homebrew pitches are available to Canadian homebrew shops as well as Canadian homebrewers directly through this website (5 pitch minimum).
Kveik homebrew pitches are available to US homebrewers through Sonata Beer Labs.
If there is anything else you want to know about kveik, don't hesitate to ask!