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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Fermentation & Yeast > Bad smack-pack
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Old 04-02-2013, 02:54 AM   #1
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Default Bad smack-pack

Had a Smack-Pack German Ale 029-decent date (late Feb) and I had placed it in my frig maybe 20 minutes after purchase-had it in frig 2 weeks-anyway-smacked it about 3-4 hours before I pitched-no real pressure in the bag-just a bit of inflation from the increase in temperature. I was leery-pitched it-12-14 hours later NADA. Luckily Southern Brewing was open Easter Sunday-smacked that one in the store and pitched maybe 90 minutes later and A-OK.

Now this is maybe the 3rd time a smack-pack or vial yeast has been unviable for me. And yes I should know enough to keep a Safale 5 on hand--but should I be looking for another (and it was not from Southern) retailer? anyone else had this sort of bad luck?

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Old 04-02-2013, 11:07 AM   #2
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First, you should have brewed a starter. A smack pack by itself doesn't give you enough yeast cells. You can, and I have, made good beers but pitching just the smack pack, but you will make better beer with a starter.

Second, the pack may have been OK, but see above.

Third, reason #246 to use a starter: while the manufacturing date was OK, you don't know how the pack was treated before you got it. Did it sit in a box at warm temperatures for two weeks before you bought it? The pack may well have had a low viability rate. This could be a function of how your LHBS is handling the yeast. Even so, a starter can overcome that. I've had smack packs like that, but the beer came out OK.

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Old 04-02-2013, 12:00 PM   #3
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Also 12-14 hours is not enough time to say it was not going to ferment.I have had packs that did not swell,did not make a starter and it still fermented.

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Old 04-02-2013, 12:48 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by BrewerBear View Post
Also 12-14 hours is not enough time to say it was not going to ferment.I have had packs that did not swell,did not make a starter and it still fermented.
^^ This

I brewed a Kolsh yesterday. I took the "Activator" pack out of the fridge at 8:00 AM to warm up. I smacked it at 9:00 AM. By 1:00 PM, when the wort was ready for it, the pack hadn't noticeably swelled, but I poured it in anyway (3 gallon batch, so no starter needed). This morning, 16 hours later, it hasn't taken off yet, but I'm not worried in the least.

If it still hasn't formed a krausen by tomorrow night, I'll start to sweat. If it's still dormant by Thursday night, I'll rehydrate and pitch a US-05.
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Old 04-02-2013, 12:52 PM   #5
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Same as others, I used a WYeast Cider Smack Pack, pulled it out, smacked it good, shooked it up. A few hours later it still had not swollen. I went ahead and pitched it in my cider. It took off just fine.

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Old 04-02-2013, 01:30 PM   #6
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From Wyeast Website-FAQs

3. Does the package need to be fully swollen before pitching?

No, The package can be pitched before activating, or at anytime during the activation process. The activation process "jump starts" the culture's metabolism, minimizing the lag phase.
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4. Does the cell count increase when the package is activated?

The cell count does not increase significantly when the package is activated.. The smack-pack is not designed to dramatically increase the cell count, it simply “activates” the yeast metabolism.
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5. How long should it take for a package to swell?

If a package is within 2 months of the manufacture date, the package should show signs of swelling within 5 hours and typically much faster than that. When the yeast is stored for long periods of time, they slowly consume their energy reserves (glycogen). When the energy reserves get low, the yeast are slow to produce CO2 and therefore are slow to cause swelling in the package. Improper storage at warm temperatures also has the same effect as long storage times.
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Old 04-02-2013, 01:30 PM   #7
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I realize patience ain't my long suit-but I also didn't want to waste 6 gallons of wort. Every time I used a viable smack pack I saw results within hours-just as I did when I added the next smack pack the following morning. I am also in Florida in an ambient temp of 75-80 degrees right now so it's not like I'm in a Wisconsin chill. And I will use a starter with my washed off/re used yeast-but never had a bit of a problem getting things churning with even a dry Safale pack. Bacteria like that 75 degree temp pretty much too-and I wanted to get things off and running.

Anyway I have had it in Frig at 67 degrees and 5 gallon batch blew right out of 6.5 gal carboy and I have a big sticky mess but its pretty damned excited in that glass jar right now!

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Old 04-02-2013, 01:52 PM   #8
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Every strain of yeast and batch of beer will behave differently, just because you had something happen with one or several batches does not mean every batch will behave that way.

Here is what I can tell you: I only use Wyeast strains (readily available at the LHBS), I make a starter for every batch of beer and I have NEVER had a bad pack of yeast, even ones that are well beyond 6 months old still start fine and ferment my beer the way they should.

Learn how to make a starter and use a pitch calculator like http://www.mrmalty.com or http://www.yeastcalc.com and your beer will improve for the effort. Yes it takes a little planning and patience but greatly improved beer will be your reward!

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Old 04-02-2013, 03:12 PM   #9
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Quote:
Every strain of yeast and batch of beer will behave differently, just because you had something happen with one or several batches does not mean every batch will behave that way.

Here is what I can tell you: I only use Wyeast strains (readily available at the LHBS), I make a starter for every batch of beer and I have NEVER had a bad pack of yeast, even ones that are well beyond 6 months old still start fine and ferment my beer the way they should.
Same for me. Every ferment is different. Some take off like a rocket in a few hours, some take a lot longer to start. SOme go crazy and blow off, some just slowly chug along doing their thing.

My LHBS carries only Wyeast and I have used it for probably about 90 brews and have never had a batch not ferment. You rushed to cure a problem that you really did not know if it really existed. My guess is that it would have started given a little more time. Pitching the second pack most likely was not necessary.

duboman is right, you should have done a starter.
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Old 04-17-2013, 11:39 PM   #10
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Actually have done starters with my own harvested yeast twice now with great success. Not so much about saving the 8-9 bucks as the good feeling of doing it yourself.

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