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Consequences of Over-pitching?

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BrewLocal365

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As part of a larger order last February or March, I bought a Norther Brewer AG Ordinary Bitter kit. It's now 8 or 9 months later and that kit is still sitting around. In 3-4 weeks I will be a new first time father, so I figured I'd better get on this before my inevitable hiatus from brewing for a bit.

I thought the yeast (Wyeast 1945 NB NeoBrittania), with it's manufacture date of late January, was going to be unreliable. I had planned on doing a starter but things have been hectic and I ran out of time and brew day was upon me. I ended up buying a Wyeast 1098 British Ale smack pack at the local brew store.

The morning of brew day I smacked both yeast packages first thing. Imagine my surprise prior to pitching when I saw that the old 1945 had swelled the bag more than the new 1098! I know that not necessary an indicator of much (other than the fact that the yeast is not entirely dead), so I just pitched both. I figured there was no way that the old yeast was all that viable so I tossed it in as a "why not"?

Within 14 hours fermentation was going insane. I am very glad I used a blow-off tube instead of an airlock, because it's filled with krausen. It's now about 36 hours later and it's still bubbling like crazy.

So my question is: are there consequences to over-pitching?

I've never heard of any. Starters are a good thing, and although more is not better past a certain point, I don't think it gets to the point of making things WORSE, right? Once the yeast consume the fermentable sugars they'll all go dormant and fall out… the consequence being that they will get to that point more quickly.

But are there impacts on the flavors, higher levels of diacetyls, etc.? I already know that I am not going to match the flavor profile of the beer because I mixed yeasts… I'm not overly worried about that. It's a question of "will the beer be objectively worse" for the over-pitching?
 

duboman

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The reality is you most likely did not over pitch and if you want verification plug the numbers into http://www.yeastcalc.com

To directly answer your question, yes, overpitching can produce off flavors as there is the possibility of the yeast not working to it's full potential and performing under stress but on a homebrew level this is not a major problem unless one is pitching a batch of low to average gravity on a full yeast cake of a previous batch.

Congratulations on your soon to arrive child! Being a Dad is awesome!
 

BigFloyd

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Do not worry at all that you might have over pitched with 2 smack packs, no starter and one of the packs being 8-9 months old. You didn't even get close.

About the only practical way to over pitch seriously enough to maybe cause yourself problems is to toss a batch of normal gravity ale wort atop an entire fresh yeast cake without removing a portion of it.

What temp did you pitch at and what is your current temp? The reason I ask is that the activity you're describing is typical of a ferment started too warmly.
 

jro238

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Yeah, it is seriously hard to overpitch to the point of having an issue while homebrewing. The only things I can imagine you would see is a lower ester profile/cleaner fermentation. This being said, I do doubt that you even overpitched at all with 2 smack packs.
 
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BrewLocal365

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Thanks all. I didn't think I would be over-pitching even if both smack packs had been fresh, which is why I saw no issue with tossing them both in. But seeing my fermentor in hyperdrive so quickly made me realize I had no idea to what degree it was possible to over-pitch and if so what the consequences would be. Thanks for clearing it up!
 

Bobby_M

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If lack of esters is an "off flavor" than yes it's possible but I think you'll be fine. Two fresh smack packs would be a little overboard, but in this case it was probably a perfect pitch. The fast start was also due to the higher temp. I prefer to overchill, pitch, and let the fermentation temp ramp up to the intended zone. Most people are so used to what underpitching looks like that a proper pitch is surprising.
 

BigFloyd

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The fast start was also due to the higher temp. I prefer to overchill, pitch, and let the fermentation temp ramp up to the intended zone. Most people are so used to what underpitching looks like that a proper pitch is surprising.
This^^^^^^^^. I'd want to pitch this at 60*F and let it come up to 63-64*F for the first few days of fermentation then let it slowly come up to 68-70* to finish and clean up.

Even two super-fresh smack packs wouldn't be much of an over-pitch (if at all) in a mid-gravity ale. Certainly not enough to cause any problems.
 

nutty_gnome

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I think for some yeast you can absolutely overpitch. I did a saison with a starter that was great. I followed it up with the same recipe pitched on most of the dregs of the first batch and it wasn't right.... it wasn't contaminated tasting... it just wasn't right and I'd not tasted the off flavor before. I attribute it to overpitching the saison yeast.
 
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BrewLocal365

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I deliberately chose to pitch on the top half of the yeast's comfy range because I don't have fermentation temperature control and it's been chilly. I have no way of bringing the temperature up slowly, only down (room temp ~ 65F).

But, in addition to the baby, we just entered into agreement on a house, which means once we lay new slab in the basement I can finally build myself a fermentation chamber. Our current basement doesn't have the room. For my birthday my wife got me an IOU on the parts for it :)
 

sweetcell

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yeast creates its flavors during the growth phase. over-pitching = no need for growth = less yeast flavors. depending on the beer this can be a more or less serious issue. for a clean ale like a pale ale, IPA, etc where yeast flavors aren't very prominent, it won't matter much. for a style where yeast flavors play a central role - like the above-mentioned saison - over-pitching results in a boring (if not bad) beer
 
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