I brewed my third batch on Tuesday. It used Wyeast 2035 (lager) yeast. Other than my OG ending up a little low there were no problems with the brewing process. I pitched two packs of yeast in my 6 gallon fermenter with 5.5 gallons of wort.
After 24 hours there was absolutely no airlock activity so I sanitized my wine thief and checked the gravity. No change confirmed that there had been no yeast activity. I thought maybe the yeast had got too hot in the front seat of my truck coming back from the LHBS (I live in Texas and it's still hot here).
So I made another trip to the LHBS and bought 2 more packs of 2035 and pitched them too. The dates on the first 2 packs and the last 2 packs was the same so I figure they came in the same shipment to the LHBS. So now my 5.5 gallons of wort had 4 packs of 2035.
It has now been 36 hours since I pitched the 3rd and 4th packs and there has not been any activity at all. Nada. Zero.
The temperature of the carboy is at 70 degrees (I was going to put it in my fermentation chamber once I saw activity and lower the temp).
I used starsan to clean the carboy, just like my first two batches
So what went wrong here? Did the LHBS have a bad shipment of yeast? Is there some way I can confirm that I didn't do something wrong?
I'm thinking about pitching a pack of dry yeast just to see if I get any activity that way. Is that the best way to confirm that the first 4 packs of yeast were bad. Can I buy another pack of liquid yeast from a different source and pitch that and save my brew?
I'm assuming that the batch is bad now that it has 4 packs of inactive yeast in it.
Definitely sounds like dead yeast to me. In the future, I would advise doing a starter for all liquid yeasts. This would have alerted you to potentially dead yeast early enough to allow you to put off the brew day, or source yeast from a different supplier.
EDIT: As for suggestions for the current batch, maybe obtain some dry lager yeast, rehydrate, and pitch right away? Dry yeast would be more tolerant of the higher temperatures it may have been exposed to during shipping.
Why are trying to ferment lager yeast at 70 degrees? The temperature range for that yeast strain is 48-58 (http://www.wyeastlab.com/rw_yeaststrain_detail.cfm?ID=27). Lager yeasts don't like warm temperatures. I would cool immediately. The wort should have been cooled prior to pitching the yeast. In my experience, it's better to cool the wort down to pitching temperature (even slightly below) then pitch your yeast. Many people will cool their lagers overnight, then pitch the next morning.
Also, what was OG of this beer? Lagers require a lot more yeast than ales, usually about twice as much. I would always make a starter for a lager (usually for ales too). Consult mrmalty.com or yeastcalc.com for proper starter sizes.
Personally, I doubt this was a bad shipment of yeast and I highly doubt the short amount of time in your car killed the yeast. It's probably all related to your fermentation temperture.
Did the Wyeast packs swell? If so, they were not dead. In my experience, lager yeast can have a longer lag time, I'd just give it some more time.
Next time, I'd recommend building a starter--definitely cheaper than 4 packs of yeast! And drop your wort to the yeast's preferred temp before pitching, the first 24-48 hours are critical to yeast health.
I should have mentioned that none of the yeast packs swelled. When I asked the LHBS about the first two they said that it was normal for some yeast packs not to swell. I am looking into using starters for all my future batches.
As to why I had the temps at 65-70. It's because the instructions on the Wyeast pack says to start at around 70 degrees until you see activity. At that point I was going to drop the temp.
At this point, I would cool the wort and see if that starts fermentation. If you've not done so already, make sure the wort is aerated very well. If fermentation doesn't start after that, you may want to try dry yeast.
This is just another great reason to make a starter. The starter increases your cell count so you can buy less yeast. In addition, it lets you see if your yeast is viable before pitching.
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