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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Fermentation & Yeast > Wyeast Activator Pack
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Old 06-29-2011, 02:53 AM   #1
jazzyeric
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Default Wyeast Activator Pack

I just wanted to post and mention my experiences with Wyeast Activators. In using the Search i found a lot of "it could take a day", "it could take 5 days", etc.

I have made several batches using the Activators. Every time they take less than 30 minutes to show signs of inflation. Typically less than 2 hours to become fully swollen. The last batch, a Williams Brewing Imperial IPA, the yeast took approx. 10 minutes to show signs of activity. So i just wanted to tell all the rookies, like me, who are looking for info, just smack it before your brewing and in my experience it will be good to go when you are ready to pitch. Perhaps i've gotten lucky and gotten reputable product..... heh

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Old 06-29-2011, 03:50 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by jazzyeric View Post
I just wanted to post and mention my experiences with Wyeast Activators. In using the Search i found a lot of "it could take a day", "it could take 5 days", etc.

I have made several batches using the Activators. Every time they take less than 30 minutes to show signs of inflation. Typically less than 2 hours to become fully swollen. The last batch, a Williams Brewing Imperial IPA, the yeast took approx. 10 minutes to show signs of activity. So i just wanted to tell all the rookies, like me, who are looking for info, just smack it before your brewing and in my experience it will be good to go when you are ready to pitch. Perhaps i've gotten lucky and gotten reputable product..... heh
The smack packs I buy have never failed to inflate. I often smack them at the LHBS and they are rockin by the time I get home. I've also used a smack pack that was five years old and the yeast was still viable. It did take a couple of days to inflate the pack and I did use it to make a starter, but the yeast performed normally and the beer was very good. IOW, don't toss those expired yeast pacs without giving them a chance. The warmer it is the faster the smack packs will inflate. Put one up to your ear just after you break the pouch and you can hear it fizzing from the git go.
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Old 06-29-2011, 04:02 AM   #3
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This is generally true but when you do get one that does not inflate you will regret saying this. It is not a matter of if you ever get a dead pack of yeast but when you get dead one.

I know what you are saying because I think smack packs are very rare but I would also never give a newbie this advice.

I would give a newbie this advice:

Smack packs are wonderful in almost every case. If you have it, smack it the night before brewing to be sure. If for some reason you spontaneously brew or buy ingredients just before brewing then smack it is soon as possible.

BUT... this is the best advice any newbie can take regarding yeast... keep at least a couple satchets of dry yeast just in case the other yeast is DOA. Even if it does not fit the style of beer a simple yeast like US-05 or Nottingham is appropriate to pitch in any beer as an emergency or back-up.

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Old 06-29-2011, 04:44 AM   #4
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This is generally true but when you do get one that does not inflate you will regret saying this. It is not a matter of if you ever get a dead pack of yeast but when you get dead one.

I know what you are saying because I think smack packs are very rare but I would also never give a newbie this advice.

I would give a newbie this advice:

Smack packs are wonderful in almost every case. If you have it, smack it the night before brewing to be sure. If for some reason you spontaneously brew or buy ingredients just before brewing then smack it is soon as possible.

BUT... this is the best advice any newbie can take regarding yeast... keep at least a couple satchets of dry yeast just in case the other yeast is DOA. Even if it does not fit the style of beer a simple yeast like US-05 or Nottingham is appropriate to pitch in any beer as an emergency or back-up.

You do realize that when you smack the pack, all you are really doing is mixing a very small amount of sugar (wort) and yeast nutrients with the yeast in the much larger outer pouch. You could do nearly as well simply pitching the yeast without breaking the wort pouch. It does little more than proof the yeast and let you know it is alive and well.

I don't think anyone was suggesting to wait until the last minute to smack the pack, but it really won't make much difference one way or the other. Without smacking the pack, it would be the same as using a vial of liquid yeast. I don't think there is anything particularly magical about the smack pack nutrient pouch. If the yeast in the smack pack is DOA, smacking it the night before won't help much as you will wake up to yeast that are no less dead than they were last night. As I mentioned previously, when you smack the pack you can immediately hear the yeast fizzing and getting to work.

BTW, I've never encountered a bad smack pack or bad vial of yeast and I've been through my share of them. Never had dry yeast fail either. I think that unless the yeast gets frozen or somehow overheated in transit or something, it should be viable. I don't hear complaints about yeast viability problems from any of my brewing buddies either. Nobody I know has been having any problems with DOA yeast.

I doubt you will find anyone who would argue against having some dry yeast on hand for emergencies. It's cheap insurance for sure.
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Old 06-29-2011, 05:31 AM   #5
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Catt22,

I think you were just arguing the same points I was. As you mentioned the smack packs are only there to "proof" the yeast. That is what I said in my first few sentences just didn't use that word.

I have used Wyeast smack packs a total of 4 times and in those 4 times I had one that was completely dead. I even tried making a starter just to prove that it wasn't a failed internal pouch. The yeast was also only 6 months old. I would guess that it was temperatures in the back of a delivery truck or something. I place no blame on Wyeast at all.

Smacking the pack the night before damn sure does have an advantage because you can choose to go to your LHBS for some new yeast before brew day or be prepared to pitch dry yeast. Otherwise you could chose to not smack until 30 minutes before (or not smack at all) and not get any fermentation.

I was just giving what I feel is the best possible plan of action before brew day. Smack the day before to proof, if good go ahead and pitch the next day and if not you have a back up plan. Not smacking is destined to put you in a bad spot at some point. Even if it is just rushing to find yeast.

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Old 06-29-2011, 06:09 AM   #6
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Smacking the pack the night before damn sure does have an advantage because you can choose to go to your LHBS for some new yeast before brew day or be prepared to pitch dry yeast. Otherwise you could chose to not smack until 30 minutes before (or not smack at all) and not get any fermentation.

I was just giving what I feel is the best possible plan of action before brew day. Smack the day before to proof, if good go ahead and pitch the next day and if not you have a back up plan. Not smacking is destined to put you in a bad spot at some point. Even if it is just rushing to find yeast.
1. So, by this reckoning, one would be at a disadvantage using the liquid yeast viles straight up and they should be avoided? Pitch a vial of dead yeast and you may not even realize it for a couple of days or more. That could be a bummer.

2. IMO, the best possible plan of action before brew day would be to make a starter with any liquid yeast. Yeast is a critical component in brewing. I would think that the brewer, novice or otherwise, would have enough sense to give it some thought and plan ahead a bit. Dry yeast in a pinch, of course, or for spur of the moment brewing.

3. I smack the packs when making starters, but I don't wait for the pack to swell. I can tell by the fizz that it's champing at the bit and ready to rock. My point is that you can tell immediately if the yeast is viable if you listen for the fizz when you break the pouch. It doesn't matter if it's the night before, the next morning or five minutes before pitching the yeast. So, IMO it damn sure makes little to no difference when you smack the pack. Activity will be evident immediately; you can hear it!
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Old 06-29-2011, 06:32 AM   #7
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2. IMO, the best possible plan of action before brew day would be to make a starter with any liquid yeast. Yeast is a critical component in brewing. I would think that the brewer, novice or otherwise, would have enough sense to give it some thought and plan ahead a bit. Dry yeast in a pinch, of course, or for spur of the moment brewing.

3. I smack the packs when making starters, but I don't wait for the pack to swell. I can tell by the fizz that it's champing at the bit and ready to rock. My point is that you can tell immediately if the yeast is viable if you listen for the fizz when you break the pouch. It doesn't matter if it's the night before, the next morning or five minutes before pitching the yeast. So, IMO it damn sure makes little to no difference when you smack the pack. Activity will be evident immediately; you can hear it!
+1 on making a starter, I make a starter for every batch no matter what.
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Old 06-29-2011, 02:12 PM   #8
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Does it hurt to smack it a day before? Will it pop if it sites for 24 hours?

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Old 06-29-2011, 02:56 PM   #9
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Does it hurt to smack it a day before? Will it pop if it sites for 24 hours?
No.

My fully swollen propagators often wait 24hrs (even longer in fridge) before i have time to make wort for starter.
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Old 06-29-2011, 03:06 PM   #10
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One thing you ALL need to realize, is that is doesn't matter one whit if the pack inflates or not, or whether you need to even smack it or not.

And most importantly a pack that doesn't inflate DOESN'T NECESSARILY MEAN THE YEAST IS DEAD.

Quote:
From the Wyeast FAQ website:

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.
Smacking though fun, is never really necessary.

The biggest thing with ANY liquid yeast is to MAKE A STARTER.

It's really a good idea to make starters when using ANY liguid yeast for all beers above 1.020 OG...

The biggest reason I suggest folks make a starter is if you make one you'll have peace of mind. It's especially important if you have questionable situation happenning with your yeast, like not being sure the yeast arrived healthy.

And you won't be starting an "is my yeast dead" thread in a couple of days.

Making a starter first insures that your yeast is still alive and viable before you dump it in your beer. You will be less likely to start one of those "is my yeast dead?" threads that are on here every day.

You will also ensure that you have enough yeast usually the tubes and smack packs are a lot less yeast that you really should use for healthy fermentation.

Making a starter also usually means your beer will take off sooner, because the first thing that the little buggers do in the presence of wort (whether in a flask or in a fermenter) is have an orgy to reproduce enough cells to do the job...So it won't take such a long time in the fermenter since they started doing it in the flask.

Additionally it is better for the yeast to consume and reproduce incrementally rather than just dumping them into the fermenter...The yeast will be less stressed out than if you just dump them in.

Stressed out yeast can lead to a lot of off flavors...maybe even (though rare) the dreaded autolysis....Or the curse of 1.030....getting a stuck fermentation because the yeast have bit the dust.

So making a starter proves your yeast is still healthy, allows you to grow enough yeast to do the job, cuts down on lag time, and ensures that you will not get off flavors or stuck ferementations from stressed out yeast.

But whether you get an inflated pack is really irrelevant.

And jazzyeric, just because you've never had a non inflated doesn't mean that others have had the same experience as you.
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