How long is yeast viable

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kramberry20

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I made a hefeweizen beer last summer. I collected yeast from this batch in mid may and have had it stored in the fridge since then. If I brew with this, will there be any downfalls. How long has everyone else stored yeast for in the past?
 

Beer-lord

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I've read that some have used yeasts that was in the fridge for about a year but I'm not sure I would use it. For sure, I'd make a huge starter.
I hope others chime in on this with actual experience as I am very curious as well.
FWIW, the oldest I've used is about 3 months.
 
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kramberry20

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I was thinking it is getting close to its end but have 4 20oz bottles about 1/4 filled with yeast and I keep seeing it every time I get a tasty homebrew.
 

TheBrewinator

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I had a first generation bells yeast that was over 1 year old fail to start up. I have a starter going right now on its second step up of 9 month old bells yeast. I took a day and a half or so longer to start up but it took off and is multiplying happily for an IIPA tomorrow.

I have some 2 year old Wit yeast in my fridge, I might try to make a starter this weekend just for the heck of it to see if it takes off.
 

kh54s10

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Make a small weak starter and see if it goes. (Maybe 250 ml of 1.030 wort.) If not it is done. If it does then you can step it up to an amount for your recipe.

See yeastcalc.com for information on step starters.
 
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Revvy

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I've used stuff that was a couple years old and it was fine. If 45 million year old yeast that was preserved in amber could be grown into a starter and beer made from it, really would you worry over a few months...or years?

I've done yeast that was at least 3 years old, maybe more since it wasn't dated and it was fine. It took some babying to grow it to a useful size, but it did work.

I don't know if you know the story of Charlie Papazian's yeast (White Labs "Cry Havoc") or not. He talked about it on basic brewing. The recipes in both Papazian's books, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing and The Homebrewers Companion, were originally developed and brewed with this yeast. Papazian had "Cry Havoc" in his yeast stable since 1983.

He has used it nearly continuously since 83, sometimes pitching multiple batches on top of a cake, sometimes washing or not washing, etc. In a basic brewing podcast iirc last year he talked about how a batch of the yeast after a lot of uses picked up a wild mutation, and he noticed an off flavor in a couple batches.

Now most of us would prolly dump that yeast. Instead he washed it, slanted or jarred it (I can't recall which,)marked it, and cold stored it, and pretty much forgot about it for 10-15 years. He had plenty other slants of the yeast strain, so he left it alone.

Well evidently he came across that container of yeast, and for sh!ts and giggles made a beer with it. Evidently after all those years in storage, the wild or mutated yeast died out leaving behind a few viable cells of the "pure" culture, which he grew back into a pretty hardy strain...which iirc is the culture that White Labs actually used for their cry havoc...because of it's tenacity and survivability.

He's been using his yeast constantly for decades, in various strains.....

Yeast is hardier than you might think.

If you've made/are making a starter the age of the yeast is irrevelant- When you make a starter, and grow it, you're replicating more yeast to make up for any loss. You're making new, fresh yeast.

Bobby M did a test on year old stored yeast here; https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f13/testing-limits-yeast-viability-126707/

And my LHBS cells outdated tubes and packs of yeast dirt cheap 2-3 dollars each and I usually grab a couple tubes of belgian or other interesting yeast when I am there and shove it in my fridge. and I have never had a problem with one of those tubes.

I usually make a starter but I once pitched a year old tube of Belgian High Gravity yeast directly into a 2.5 gallon batch of a Belgian Dark Strong, and after about 4 days it took off beautifully.
The purpose of a starter is to reproduce any viable cells in a batch of yeast....that;s how we can grow a starter form the dregs in a bottle of beer incrementally...and that beer may be months old.

Even if you have a few still living cells, you can grow them....That's how we can harvest a huge starter (incrementally) from the dregs in a bottle of some commercial beers. You take those few living cells and grow them into more.
 
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kramberry20

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I will indeed at least try it. Can't stand to waste yeast, guess ill be making a Belgium in the upcoming week
 
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kramberry20

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I was wanting to know about that as well does it just go dormant or is there a chance for more mutations in the older yeast vs younger. Pretty sure I'm gonna try it and will let all know how it turns out... Anyone have any favorite Belgium recipes they would like to share. Previous batch was a lemon coriander not bad but too sweet for my taste. The wife picked this one.
 
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