From the HBD Archive
From: Kenneth R. van Wyk <>
Subject: A caveat on slow (dead?) yeasties
Date: 1990-05-07 19:58:01 GMT

Just thought I'd share an experience with y'all... I was brewing a
lager over the weekend (a half-mash recipe derived from Papazian's
Propensity Pilsner (extract) recipe - I'd be glad to post the recipe
if anyone is interested), using M.eV. German Lager liquid yeast. (A
co-brewing buddy was making an ale at the same time, using M.eV. high
temp British ale yeast.) Well, I started the yeast cultures two days
prior - I always start the yeast a couple days early and then pitch
into ~1 quart of wort in a magnum sized (1.5 liter) champagne bottle
(with a bubbler), and then pitch the starter into my 5 gallon batches.
My experience with M.eV. has thus far been great. Never had any bad
batches, and the pouches always puffed up within 24 hrs. I've also
used Wyeast cultures with equal results.

Well, shortly after starting the pouches, my buddy's ale pouch was
puffying up, but my lager wasn't doing anything. Ha, relax, don't
worry, have a homebrew, I said (and *did* :-). I pitched the pouches
into two magnums and got them going (about 24 hrs. prior to brewing).
Here too, the ale yeast was cruising, but the lager wasn't - at about
70F to incubate.

Brewing time comes along, I did my mash, etc. and we pitched the
yeasties into the two batches. 24 hours later, we have serious
rock-n-roll in the ale, and not a thing in the lager. I'm beginning
to get concerned, because I'd never seen one of my batches take more
than ~12-24 hours to get up to full tilt. Relax, ... Next morning,
same thing.

At this point, I decided to drop back 5 and punt. I grafted some of
the ale wort into my "pilsner". I figured that I'd rather have a
*live* ale than a dead lager any day... This morning, < 12 hours
later, the "pilsner" is cruising.

Conclusion: I believe that the lager pouch was dead upon arrival. The
store that I get my supplies from keeps the liquid yeast refrigerated,
so I don't believe that it was their fault. Perhaps something in
shipping caused the deaths of these poor defenseless micro-organisms.
:-( Perhaps I'm being overly paranoid, perhaps I shouldn't have
worried, perhaps the lager yeast was just slow to start, perhaps I
should have given the lager yeast more time in the pouch before
pitching, etc. I've used the exact same yeast before with very good
success, IMHO.

Even when using liquid yeast, don't just assume that things are well
and happy. *Always* make sure that the pouch is good and puffy before
pitching it into either a small starter culture (highly recommended,
by the way) or a full batch. Perhaps this is obvious to all but this
novice brewer, perhaps not.


Ken van Wyk

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