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Old 07-04-2009, 05:19 PM   #1
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Default Testing the limits of yeast viability

I'm a lazy brewer and while I muster enough energy up to collect mason jars or 12oz bottles full of slurry from my primaries, I hardly ever wash the yeast. I usually don't get around to brewing something that can use that yeast in the next month or so and I'm likely scared to pitch it. It got me thinking though, really how long is too long and how can you tell on the fly if you've still got viable yeast in there.

Yesterday I brewed 11 gallons of Belgian Wit and had prepared a 1.5 liter starter from a fresh Wyeast 3944 activator pack. I was pretty confident that would have been enough to split between the two carboys but I also have about a pint of WLP-400 slurry from last August in the fridge. Yes, that's 11 months old.

I decanted off all the beer and smelled and tasted it. It wasn't delicious but it wasn't foul either. It smelled like witbier. I transfered it to a growler, added 500ml of wort and oxygenated the hell out of it. It bubbled in about an hour.

Into one carboy, I pitched the fresh yeast in 1.5L starter, in the other I pitched the awoken and fed year old slurry. They both started fermenting in about 6 hours and are blowing off like nuts. Let's see what happens.

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Old 07-04-2009, 06:34 PM   #2
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This has me curious as well. I have yet to save any yeast and use it although I did pour out some of the last cake into a bottle and put it in the fridge.

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Old 07-05-2009, 06:00 AM   #3
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I'm very interested in how this turns out.

I have a couple strains (Pacman from a bottle of Rogue something or other, and a WLP029 starter that I ended up not using) that have been hanging out in my refrigerator for several months.

I think I'll let them hang around a while longer and see how your current batches turn out.

Thanks for posting. Looking forward to the results.

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Old 07-05-2009, 12:46 PM   #4
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I'm sure there's a lot of biology involved in what makes a healthy yeast cell but I was working off of what I'd call the puke test. I've sniffed a few slurries that obviously went south and it literally makes you want to puke. I figured, if the beer layer smelled and tasted okay, at the worst, it just wouldn't ferment all the way.

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Old 07-18-2009, 12:41 PM   #5
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I have some preliminary results.

After 15 days of fermenting, the year old WLP400 slurry pitched batch is down to 1.010 and is showing no more activity. The flavor is clean and I'll be racking it to keg tonight. The batch with the new 3944 in a 1.5 liter starter is still at 1.024 and still chugging along.

Unwashed slurry can only be used within a couple weeks? Busted.

Obviously the slurry collection method and handling is important and I really do recommend the sniff and taste test. Boil the mason jar and lid and keep the slurry in the fridge.

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Old 07-18-2009, 12:49 PM   #6
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I had come upon something that said if the yeast band in the mason jar looks gray, and no longer "creamy off white" then the yeast cells have kicked the dust.

You didn't happen to note how the yeast band looked did you?

I have a lot of year old harvested yeast in my fridge, I never get around to use.

Good thread!!!

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Old 07-18-2009, 01:08 PM   #7
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I've regularly resurrected jars over a year old. Just treat 'em like a bottle harvest and gradually build up the starter.

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Old 07-18-2009, 01:18 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jkarp View Post
I've regularly resurrected jars over a year old. Just treat 'em like a bottle harvest and gradually build up the starter.
Yeah I figured as much...I guess Bobby's puke test is probably the standard test for these puppies.
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Old 07-18-2009, 01:25 PM   #9
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I use one gallon glass jars (maraschino cherry jars from work) to save whole cakes or I will siphon the cake into flip top bottles and store in the keg fridge. It works fine for me. No problems yet.

I had one grey looking jar (harvested and washed that batch), but it smelled fine and it worked fine.

If it smells like yeast and bubbles like yeast....

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Old 07-18-2009, 01:34 PM   #10
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I gotta say, the words "Bobby M" and "Lazy Brewer" are NOT two sets of words I would have ever equated with one another. If Bobby is a lazy brewer than I must be a;



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