Considering Yeast for Hard Seltzer

Use What You Like

OK, use what you like may not be the best advice. Better advice would be to use what the consumer of your seltzer likes. It makes a difference.

Some general guidelines, though, are that you will want to use a yeast strain that is known for a fairly neutral flavor profile. In the photo below, both strains below are known for being fairly neutral. These strains are commonly used in meads and fruit wines, where you would not want yeast character to overpower the more subtle characters of the musts.

When I’ve made hard apple cider in the past, I learned quite a bit about my wife’s preferences. Yeasts considered neutral, like US-05, produced enough esters that my wife did not enjoy those ciders. She preferred the ciders I made by fermenting them with champagne yeast.

I agree that the end product tasted more like apples when fermented with the champagne yeast. However, as a beer lover, I did enjoy the extra esters from the ale yeasts.

What’s the Goal?

In my opinion, the goal of making a hard seltzer is to make a base for other flavors to be added to. My wife’s preference for champagne yeast does seem like the logical route to me.

By producing a seltzer with minimal character, it gives you the flexibility to select your desired flavor without interference from the fermentation character. There are a few things that will help you reach that goal.


It is critical that everything you use to make your hard seltzer is properly cleaned and sanitized. Since your goal is a neutral background for your selected flavor, you do not want a wild yeast, bacteria, or flavors from your last batch of beer to corrupt your seltzer.

You’ll also want to make sure you boil the sugar and water to eliminated any risk of contamination.

Healthy Yeast

You’ll want to give your yeast the best chance for producing a neutral product. Given that most recommendations for hard seltzer recommend using a neutral-flavored sugar, you will need to add the proper amount of yeast nutrient for your batch.

Proper Fermentation

Keep your yeast from throwing off-flavors that can be produced if the yeast gets stressed.

You’ll want to make sure the fermentation temperature is stable and in the recommended range for that yeast. Too hot can produce fusel alcohols, which are not pleasant to drink, but too cold can stop the fermentation prematurely.

Even temperatures near the edges of the ideal range for your yeast can cause the yeast to produce more esters or phenols.

Making seltzer for friends and family who don’t like beer can be a great way to share your passion for brewing! Don’t be afraid to experiment and see what you and your group enjoy.

Let me know what works for you, or what doesn’t.


Make Hard Seltzer Easy

As homebrewers, we do not need to worry about the same legalities a brewery, distillery, or bar would need to consider. We can do what we want.

I Do What I Want Raising Hands GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Why Does it Matter?

Breweries must produce the alcohol they sell in-house. This means they must create a sugary liquid for yeast to ferment into the alcoholic content of their seltzer.

As a result, a brewery cannot take an alcohol solution produced elsewhere, carbonate it, add flavor, and sell it as hard seltzer.

But We Can

As homebrewers, we have a lot more legal leeway, since we are not selling what we produce. The main benefit of this situation, especially as it pertains to making hard seltzer is that if we have a kegging system (affiliate link), we do not have to produce the alcohol used to make hard seltzer.

Even a tight squeeze lets you use the kegs to their best function.

We can take any neutral-flavored spirit, dilute it to the ABV we want, and force carbonate it like any other keg we put in our kegerator. Primarily, this means we can take vodka at 40% ABV (80 proof) and dilute it down to whatever strength we want. There are also other spirits available, like Everclear 190 Proof (95% ABV), that require less volume to produce the desired strength.

Unfortunately, Everclear 190 Proof is not sold in many states in the USA. Because of its high alcohol content, the 190 proof version can be hard to find, but they do have a lower-ABV versions at 60%, 75.5%, and 189% ABV. However, the 120 Proof version is the most available. Even this will reduce the quantity of spirit needed to make your seltzer by half.

How Much do I Use?

There are formulas available that will walk you through the process of hand-calculating the volume of spirit and the volume of water you will need to produce the seltzer at the desired strength you desire.

But I found a handy calculator that greatly simplifies the calculation for you. Given that most seltzers clock in at 5% ABV, and I have a 2.5 gallon keg, I was curious what it would take to make 2.5 gallons of seltzer using Everclear 120.

The calculation is based on liters, so I put in 9.5 liters as the target volume after dilution, 60% as the actual before dilution, and 5% as the target after dilution.

This handy tool spits out the handy instructions that I need to combine 0.79 liters of spirit at 60% ABV with 8.71 liters of water to produce 9.5 liters of seltzer.

The Simple Version

There you go. Fill that small keg, force carbonate, and you’re all set. You have delicious, unflavored hard seltzer.

Oh, wait, you wanted flavor? Well, you could treat it like my keg of carbonated water and keep an array of Italian soda syrups, fruit juices, and mixers on hand so you can mix up whatever tickles your fancy.

The nice thing about this is that it allows you tailor your beverage to your tastes at the moment you want a drink. Not sweet enough? Just add more of your flavoring.

The Committed Version

If you have a flavor you know you want, there is another option. And if you have 5 gallon kegs rather than 2.5s, there is a simple option just a few clicks away. You just re-run the dilution calculation above so you have a target volume of 19 liters (5 gallons).

This gives you a needed volume of 1.58 liters of spirits at 60% ABV, combined with 17.42 liters of water to produce 19 liters of beverage.

The link above takes you to list of fruit wine base concentrates. They come in 1 gallon jugs and are intended to be diluted to make 5 gallons of wine. One gallon equals 3.79 liters, so you could make 5 gallons of the flavor you desire by combining:

  1. 1.58 liters of spirits at 60%
  2. 3.79 liters (1 gallon) fruit wine base
  3. 13.63 liters of water

And you’re off to seltzer town! This ratio would produce a fairly sweet sweet seltzer, with a similar flavor profile to fruit juice. You may need to play around to find the right combination of what you enjoy.


Everybody’s Making Seltzer!

When White Claw hard seltzer was introduced in 2016, lots of beer nerds scoffed at it in the same way we scoffed at hard sodas. Sure, lots of people liked them, but they were just something for people who didn’t like the flavor of good things, like beer.

Hard sodas and flavored beverages are still around, but have faded quite a bit from when “Not Your Father’s Root Beer” was released and seemed like it was completely unstoppable. Early in the hard seltzer craze, I and a lot of my friends thought hard seltzer would be similar: a big rush initially and a long, slow death because they weren’t very good.

But I was missing a big point: I was the one who didn’t think they were very good. What I thought didn’t really matter, I wasn’t the target market for hard seltzer. I like a wide variety of beer styles, and I was happy with my selection.

Meeting a Need

Hard seltzer got poo-pooed as a passing fad, but there was a large market for a moderate-strength (5% ABV) beverage that was easy to drink. Lots of older drinkers like to say seltzers are just for young drinkers who can’t appreciate “real adult beverages”. . . whatever that means.

Creekside hard seltzer fresh off the canning line. Sorry for the blurriness, I was trying to keep up with the machine.

But in my experience, there isn’t a single age range that likes seltzer, it seems to be an option for drinkers of any age. I’ve seen rough and tumble-looking men in their 50’s and up drinking seltzer right next to the stereotypical female college student. So, it’s appealing to more than just young drinkers.

It’s a Craft Movement

The market for hard seltzer is so strong right now that most craft breweries are looking for ways to produce hard seltzer, hoping for a product that will offer a quick infusion of cash to the business.

Brewers Publications even released the book How to Make Hard Seltzer: Refreshing Recipes for Sparkling Libations (affiliate link) aimed at craft breweries looking to enter the hard seltzer market. It covers recipes and recommendations as well as some of the legalities involved with making hard seltzer in the United States.

Sawtooth Brewery, where I currently work, in Hailey, Idaho just released their Creekside line of hard seltzers. And I have to admit that when I tried them, I started to see why people enjoy the hard seltzers.

If you’re a beer snob connoisseur, like me, don’t just turn your nose up at hard seltzer. It can be a nice change of pace and a new flavor experience, give it a try.