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Pitch Rates

Proper Pitch Rates:

The term pitch rate refers to the amount of yeast that is added to cooled wort.  Pitch rate is generally referred to in cells per milliliter. Consistent and reproducible fermentations are not possible without consistent and accurate pitch rates. Successful re-pitching depends upon an adequate pitch rate for a healthy fermentation. Under-pitching on the first brew will not only produce an aroma and flavor profile that is less than desirable, but will also lead to less consistency and fewer generations of use from that culture.

Methods of Pitching

 

Direct Pitching Wyeast Cultures:

Direct pitching refers to adding an appropriate quantity of yeast directly to the final volume of wort. to put into a volume of wort without propagation.

Propagation Pitching:

Propagation refers to performing small fermentation steps in an effort to expand the culture prior to inoculation of final volume of wort.  For information on how to propagate yeast, please visit the Propagation section of this website.

Harvesting and Re-Pitching Cultures:

Harvesting and re-pitching yeast is a common practice in most breweries.  Brewers should be able to re-use yeast for at least 7 generations and often as many as 10 generations if good harvesting and storage practices are followed.  Harvesting and re-pitching yeast is a great way to spread the cost of the culture over many brews.  Visit the "Yeast Harvesting and Re-pitching" section of this site for more information.

Pitch Rate Determination:

The quantity of yeast required for fermentation varies with the style of beer, yeast strain used, gravity of wort, and temperature of fermentation.  High gravity and cold fermentations require higher pitch rates.  Visit the "High Gravity Brewing" and "Lager Brewing" sections of this site for more information.

The following chart outlines recommended pitch rates based on specific wort and fermentation conditions.  Pitch rates are valid for both direct pitching Wyeast products and for pitching with a propagation of Wyeast products.  Harvesting and re-pitching yeast will require alternative pitch rates.  The final column displays the required direct pitching volume of wyeast culture per barrel of beer to achieve the pitch rate.

 

 STYLE

 GRAVITY

 PITCHING
TEMPERATURE
(°F)

 FERMENTATION
TEMPERATURE
(°F)

 RECOMMENDED
PITCH RATE
(Million Cells/ml.)

REQUIRED
VOLUME FOR
DIRECT PITCHING
(L. yeast/Bbl wort)

Ale

 <1.060 (15P°)

 >65

 >65

 6.00

 0.5

Ale

 <1.061-1.076 (15-19P°)

 >65

 >65

 12.00

 1

Ale

 >1.076 (19P°)

 >65

 >65

 >18.00

 1.5

Lager*

 <1.060 (15P°)

 >65

 <60

 6.00

 .5

Lager*

 <1.061-1.076 (15-19P°)

 >65

 <60

 12.00

 1

Lager*

 >1.076 (19P°)

 >65

 <60

 >18.00

 1.5

Lager

 <1.060 (15P°)

 <60

 <60

 12.00

 1

Lager

 <1.061-1.076 (15-19P°)

 <60

 <60

 18.00

 1.5

Lager

 >1.076 (19P°)

 <60

 <60

 >24.00

 2

 

* Technique of pitching a lager warm, allowing fermentation to begin, and cooling to the desired fermentation temperature.

Effect of Pitch Rate on Beer Flavor

Pitch rates, in addition to strain, temperature, and gravity, make a dramatic difference in the final flavor and aroma profile of any beer.  The pitch rate will have a direct effect on the amount of cell growth during a fermentation.  Cell growth decreases as pitch rates increase. Ester production is directly related to yeast growth as are most other flavor and aroma compounds.

A low pitch rate can lead to:
  • Excess levels of diacetyl
  • Increase in higher/fusel alcohol formation
  • Increase in ester formation
  • Increase in volatile sulfur compounds
  • High terminal gravities
  • Stuck fermentations
  • Increased risk of infection
High pitch rates can lead to:
  • Very low ester production
  • Very fast fermentations
  • Thin or lacking body/mouthfeel
  • Autolysis (Yeasty flavors due to lysing of cells)

With some beer styles, where a complex ester profile is desirable (German Wheat) it can be beneficial to under pitch.  Over pitching can often lead to a very clean beer lacking an ester profile (banana).  This is a common problem with subsequent generations of Wyeast's Weihenstephan Weizen #3068.  Conversely, beers that require a clean profile should be pitched an an increased rate.



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