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Old 01-31-2010, 06:40 PM   #1
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Default Wyeast recent viability

Hey everyone. I had a question about Wyeast's yeast viability in the last few months. I've been homebrewing for 3 years now and I've been a big fan of Wyeast's smack packs. I love their selection and their products. When I started brewing with their yeast a few years ago, I hadn't heard about making a yeast starter yet I would pitch the yeast straight from the pack in late afternoon, and by midnight I would see active signs of fermentation.

In the last six months, it has all changed. I began doing starters yet my beers still didn't start as quickly as they did before. Last september, I used Wyeast 1968 for a couple of british beers. English strains are usually pretty vigorous and ferment quickly. All of them had sluggish starts sometimes going nearly 48 hours without active signs of fermentation and took weeks instead of days to finish. I tried starters, I tried without starters, it made no difference. At the time, I just thought I got a bad pack of yeast. But I recently bought a pack of German Ale 1007 to brew an Alt beer. The same thing is happening again with this pack. I looked at the date and saw that it was less than 3 weeks old so the pack was pretty fresh.

Let me just say my beers have been turning out great (actually better than ever) even with the slow starting fermentation so that's not the issue. But have there been any reports or other people with similar experiences where Wyeast smack pack yeast has been slower lately? Or am I just living in a time dilated frame of reference?

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Old 01-31-2010, 08:02 PM   #2
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Like clockwork when I use a starter with a smack pack I am at FG within 72 hours. The british yeasts are downright dangerous.

Where are you getting your yeast from? What are your fermentation temps? Maybe the yeast have been exposed to extreme temp changes before you get them.

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Old 01-31-2010, 08:12 PM   #3
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I get them at the local homebrew store as I always have. He stores them in a refrigerator which has always been like that since I started brewing. But for some reason, I've had trouble in the last 6 months. As far as temperature goes, I'm fermenting cooler than I use to. 3 years ago, I fermented at whatever temperature the house was which was quite warm during the summer. I've now acquired enough experience, knowledge and equipment to ferment consistently in the mid 60s. But I don't think that fermentation temperature is the issue here. Last weekend, I brewed a Sierra Nevada pale ale using US05. I hadn't used dry yeast since my first batch of beer in 2006 since that batch tasted like a**. But people on this website swear by it so I gave it a shot. And true to what people said, the fermentation started within 12 hours reaching it's peak at 36. And I fermented that one around 65F the same as the others. Yet my wyeast batches just won't cooperate. Maybe you're right though. Liquid yeast is sensitive to storage environments and maybe something has changed at the store.

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Old 02-01-2010, 08:03 AM   #4
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What size starters, what OG on the beers? Holding a steady temp?

I use Wyeast all the time and also usually have the beers finish up within 3 days. For regular gravity beers, say 1.040 to 1.055, I'm pitching 2L starters made from their propagation packs (the smaller ones), pitching around 64 or so and usually fermenting at 66-68.

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Old 02-01-2010, 12:28 PM   #5
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Old packs can take a while to get going, but if you had an active starter then this doesn't add up. I always have active fermentation within 12 hrs with a starter.

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Old 02-01-2010, 12:40 PM   #6
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just pitched thames valley II saturday, was active before i went to bed.

was violent the next morning.

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Old 02-01-2010, 03:22 PM   #7
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I had thick krausen this weekend in less then 12 hours after pitching a starter that has been in the fridge and only exposed to warm temperature for a few hours.

I dont think there are any problems with Wyeast.

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Old 02-01-2010, 04:29 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pivzavod View Post
I dont think there are any problems with Wyeast.
I'm just trying to figure out if the problem lies on my end on on Wyeast's end. Since you all report excellent performance, then the problem probably lies between me and the LHBS. I'm also comparing the performance of the smack packs in the last 6 months compared to 3 years ago. As I was saying, back then I usually pitched the yeast right out of the pack without a starter and would still achieve excellent performance. However, I was fermenting in the 70s at the time whereas now I'm fermenting in the 66-68 range.

The beers I've brewed with the London ESB yeast had starting gravities of 1.060 for the ESB and 1.044 for the Special Bitter. Both of those fermented at 66-68F and both got a starter. I usually do 1 quart starters with 1 cup of DME as per the Wyeast website. It took them 48 hours to start showing signs of fermentation. The Altbier I'm currently fermenting (with Wyeast 1007) had a starting gravity of 1.054 and I decided to skip the starter to see if I noticed a difference. I'm currently fermenting that one at 60F and it has started in about 36 hours.

I don't think the starters are the issue. I never used them before and got plenty active fermentation very quickly. There is one thing that has changed over time: the age of my buckets. I'm thinking that 3 years ago, my buckets were brand new and probably got a good seal. Maybe now they are older, and the seal isn't as good, it just requires more time to build pressure for the airlock to move. I try to look for a beginning krausen but it's hard to tell if there is one through an opaque bucket. Now that I think about it, there are too many variables that have changed in the last few years to compare past performance with present performance. Good seal vs bad seal. Starter vs no starter. Warmer temperatures vs cooler temperatures. I need to get a large carboy to eliminate whether the seal is the problem. Thanks for your input. I got one important piece of information from you guys. That is that wyeast still makes rockin' yeast!
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Old 02-01-2010, 04:45 PM   #9
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I think your fermentation temp is the main issue here. All strains will be much more vigorous at warm temperature. A 10 degrees difference is huge..

The yeast metabolism is slowed down and everything takes more time. This is one of the first things I noticed when I started controlling my fermentation temp.

Also, you can't really compare the wyeast smack pack to a 11gr sachet of US-05. The cell count on the dry yeast will be higher than the liquid, even if you make a starter.

Also, are you doing more oxygenation than you did in the past? I think if you oxygenate, the lag time will be longer, as the yeast will consume oxygen first.

Try making bigger starter or using a stir-place if you do not already to up your cell count as high as possible (use a pitching rate calculator)..

But either way, since you are making great beer, I would really not worry about it to much.

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Old 02-01-2010, 06:49 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smashed4 View Post
I think your fermentation temp is the main issue here. All strains will be much more vigorous at warm temperature. A 10 degrees difference is huge..

The yeast metabolism is slowed down and everything takes more time. This is one of the first things I noticed when I started controlling my fermentation temp.

Also, you can't really compare the wyeast smack pack to a 11gr sachet of US-05. The cell count on the dry yeast will be higher than the liquid, even if you make a starter.

Also, are you doing more oxygenation than you did in the past? I think if you oxygenate, the lag time will be longer, as the yeast will consume oxygen first.

Try making bigger starter or using a stir-place if you do not already to up your cell count as high as possible (use a pitching rate calculator)..

But either way, since you are making great beer, I would really not worry about it to much.
Dunno about your assumptions here. I regularly pitch at 64 or 65, then ferment anywhere from 64 to 69. And I use pure O2. And I don't see any big lag times. I generally make pretty big starters though. But I always see activity in 3 to 6 hours. Not saying he should aim for that, but I think saying the O2 or colder temps are causing this are off base. He's not fermenting that cold.

I'd say to do a 2 quart starter instead and use O2. Pitching cooler in the mid 60s isn't a problem. At least not in my experience. And Duvel pitches their yeast even colder than that and they don't have this problem.
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