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Wyeast Laboratories

Customer Service Frequently Asked Questions

We strive to answer all of your yeast related questions. If you have not found your answer on our site, please submit your question using our contact us form.  We will get back to you with an answer, and may even post your question here for others to read!

Click on each question to link down to the answers.

1. The Wyeast package at my LHBS is slightly swollen. Is it still OK to use?
2. Is the yeast in the small inner packet or in the foil pouch itself?
3. Can I use an Activator package without activating it and waiting for it to swell? ?
4. Does the package need to be fully swollen before pitching?
5. Does the cell count increase when the package is activated?
6. How long should it take for a package to swell?
7. Do I need to make a starter for an Activator?
8. I popped the inner nutrient pouch and the package swelled tight but I can’t use it right away. What do I do?
9. I pitched my yeast and I’m not seeing any activity in my blow-off or airlock. What should I do?
10. Is the air-lock a good indicator of how a fermentation is proceeding?
11. I brewed a high gravity beer, can I re-pitch the yeast from this batch?
12. I brewed a high gravity beer and I am having a difficult time getting the beer to attenuate. What went wrong?
13. Do you need more yeast for high gravity fermentations?
14. My fermentation took longer than normal to complete. Is my yeast bad?
15. What should you do if there is no activity in your carboy in the first 24 hours?
16. What temperature should I pitch lagers?
17. I’m brewing a lager, do I need to cool my wort to fermentation temperature before adding the yeast?
18. What should you do if the yeast is frozen?
19. What strains are typically slow activators and slow starters in fermenters?
20. Why do we sell smack packs rather than tubes?
21. What if you want a strain that is not offered in the Wyeast’s normal line-up?
22. If there is a problem with the yeast performance, who should the customer contact?
23. If a retailer is shipping yeast, how should it be packaged?
24. What is the best way to store yeast before use?
25. What should the gravity of a starter be?
26. What are the causes of swollen packages? Can you sell them?
27. What questions should be asked to a customer that has a problem fermentation?
28. What are optimal levels of O2 in wort?
29. What is the max level of O2 you can get in a carboy using air?
30. Approximately how long do you have to shake a 5 gallon carboy to get oxygen saturation (8ppm)?
31. How long do you have to run a stone with an aquarium pump to achieve O2 saturation (8ppm) in 5 gallons of wort?
32. How do you achieve higher than 8 ppm O2 levels in your wort? .
33. What factors are associated with ester (fruity) production?

Answers


1. The Wyeast package at my LHBS is slightly swollen. Is it still OK to use?

Yes. Trace levels of fermentable carbohydrates or CO2 in yeast slurries at the time of packaging may cause a slight expansion in packages. “Off gassing” is a result of a small amount of metabolism or simply CO2 being released from the media and can occur with proper storage. This does not indicate the mishandling of the product or a decline in the health or purity of the culture. Some strains, including 1056 and 1388, are more prone to “off gassing” than others.
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2. Is the yeast in the small inner packet or in the foil pouch itself?

The yeast is in the main foil pouch. The small inner packet contains the sterile nutrient and wort that feeds the yeast before it is added to your fermenter.  First, the package and the nutrient packet are sterilized (autoclaved)  then the yeast is added and the package is sealed.          
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3. Can I use an Activator package without activating it and waiting for it to swell? ?

Yes. An Activator pack has enough yeast in it to pitch 5 gallons whether it is activated or not.  There will only be a slightly longer lag time if the package is not activated before use. In any case, the nutrient pack should be popped before using because it contains valuable nutrients.  Typically, the Activator can be activated when you start your brew and will be swollen by the time your wort is cool 
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4. Does the package need to be fully swollen before pitching?

No, The package can be pitched before activating, or at anytime during the activation process. The activation process "jump starts" the culture's metabolism, minimizing the lag phase.
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5. Does the cell count increase when the package is activated?

The cell count does not increase significantly when the package is activated..  The smack-pack is not designed to dramatically increase the cell count, it simply “activates” the yeast metabolism.    
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6. How long should it take for a package to swell?

If a package is within 2 months of the manufacture date, the package should show signs of swelling within 5 hours and typically much faster than that.  When the yeast is stored for long periods of time,  they slowly consume their energy reserves (glycogen).  When the energy reserves get low, the yeast are slow to produce CO2 and therefore are slow to cause swelling in the package.  Improper storage at warm temperatures also has the same effect as long storage times.
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7. Do I need to make a starter for an Activator?

No.  The Activator is designed to deliver professional pitch rates (6 million cells/ ml.) when directly added to 5 gallons of wort. ( <1.060 at 70 degrees).  However, if a package is slow to swell, suspected of being mishandled, or if the date is approaching the six month shelf life it is a good idea to build the culture up with a starter.  High gravity or low temperature fermentations require higher pitch rates.  This can be achieved with inoculating with additional packages or making a starter.    
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8. I popped the inner nutrient pouch and the package swelled tight but I can’t use it right away. What do I do?

If you have activated a package but can’t use it right away, simply allow the package to swell and then refrigerate the package.  The yeast will survive for extended periods if refrigerated. Before using, take the package out of the refrigerator and allow it to come up to room temperature before using.  It is best to use the yeast as soon as possible.    
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9. I pitched my yeast and I’m not seeing any activity in my blow-off or airlock. What should I do?

Relax, some fermentations will not show signs of activity for up to 36 hours.  If the fermentation is still sluggish after 36 hours take a gravity reading.  It is not unusual for blow-offs or airlocks to have leaks and therefore show no activity.  A gravity reading is the only way to get an accurate idea of what is happening in your fermenter.  If you take a gravity reading and it still shows no activity, then try to figure out what is inhibiting fermentation.  The factors that can keep the yeast from fermenting are:  temperatures too low or too high at run-in, no oxygenation at run-in, pitch rates too low, or a very unhealthy yeast culture.  The most common problem is the run-in temperature.  If the temperature was too low, warm up the wort.  If  the temperature was too high, the culture is most likely irreversibly damaged and you need to pitch more yeast immediately.  Oxygenation and agitation will also stimulate the yeast and speed the onset of fermentation.       
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10. Is the air-lock a good indicator of how a fermentation is proceeding?

No; only by taking a gravity reading can you accurately determine fermentation progress.
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11. I brewed a high gravity beer, can I re-pitch the yeast from this batch?

Do not re-pitch yeast from a high gravity beer. Yeast left from high gravity brews is usually very unhealthy or dead and will not perform well in subsequent brews.        
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12. I brewed a high gravity beer and I am having a difficult time getting the beer to attenuate. What went wrong?

There are many factors that lead to incomplete attenuation.  At the beginning, it is very important to increase your pitch rates according to the original gravity of your beer.  A good rule to follow is a million cells per milliliter per degree plato.  This means that you need 20 million cells per ml for a 20 degree plato (1.080 specific gravity) beer, or 3 Activator packages for a 5 gallon batch.  It is also important to remember that it is more difficult to get oxygen into the solution in a high gravity wort.  At the end of fermentation, high alcohol levels, lack of nutrients, poor yeast health and lack of fermentable sugars can effect attenuation. 
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13. Do you need more yeast for high gravity fermentations?

Yes, anytime you are pitching yeast into a harsh environment (high gravity, low temp) you need to add additional yeast.  A rough rule of thumb is to double pitch rates above 1.065 and triple pitch rates above 1.085. Or, more technically, a million cells per milliliter per degree plato are needed for a 20degree plato (1.080 specifice gravity) beer, or 3 Activator packages for a 5 gallon batch.  It is also important to remember that it is more difficult to get oxygen into the solution in a high gravity wort. 
            
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14. My fermentation took longer than normal to complete. Is my yeast bad?

Fermentation is dependent on many factors.  The issues to consider are:  How fresh was your yeast?  What was your pitch rate in relation to your original gravity?  Is the fermentation temperature appropriate for the yeast strain? Did you effectively oxygenate your wort?  Have you calibrated your thermometers lately to be certain that your mash, run in, and fermentation temperatures are accurate?  Are you using a yeast nutrient to make up for any nutritional deficiencies in your wort?  All of these factors plus many more will affect the length and vigor of your fermentation.  
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15. What should you do if there is no activity in your carboy in the first 24 hours?

Some fermentations will not take off for 36 hours due to many variables.  Once past 36 hours, take a gravity reading, make sure that the temperature is warm, and agitate the carboy.  Agitate every so often for 12 hours, then take a gravity reading to see if fermentation has begun.
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16. What temperature should I pitch lagers?

More yeast (double- two packages or make a 2L starter) is required for cold fermentations.  To compensate for this, pitch one package into 60-68°F wort, allow fermentation to begin, and cool to desired fermentation temperature.
            
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17. I’m brewing a lager, do I need to cool my wort to fermentation temperature before adding the yeast?

There are different views on this topic. The individual brewer ultimately has to weigh the pros and cons.  If a brewer is to pitch the lager yeast at fermentation temperature (55°F and below) then the pitch rate needs to be increased and a slower start to fermentation should be expected.  The other option is to pitch the yeast into wort (60 to 70°F) and maintain temperature for 24 hours or until signs of active fermentation are evident and then cool to desired fermentation temperature.       
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18. What should you do if the yeast is frozen?

Thaw out in fridge.  Activate and assess the time that it takes to swell.  If there is no activation within 24 hrs, do not use.  If there is activation, make a starter to revive culture.
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19. What strains are typically slow activators and slow starters in fermenters?

Belgian Ale #1214, European Ale #1338 and Belgian Strong Ale #1388  are typically slow starters.  

 
    
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20. Why do we sell smack packs rather than tubes?

We feel that our Activator is the best product on the market.  In addition to the oxygen and UV barrier, our packages include the activator system.  This allows the brewer to initiate the culture’s metabolism prior to pitching, reducing lag times.  This also works as a built in viability test.
    
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21. What if you want a strain that is not offered in the Wyeast’s normal line-up?

Unfortunately, Wyeast cannot make small quantities of any strain for homebrewers.  However, if there is a certain strain that you would like to see offered, contact Wyeast.  These strains can then be made available through our VSS* Program.  We base our VSS* strain selections off of your requests.
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22. If there is a problem with the yeast performance, who should the customer contact?

Please contact your local retail supplier of Wyeast Laboratories products and allow them to help you identify and solve the problem.
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23. If a retailer is shipping yeast, how should it be packaged?

All yeast shipments should be packed with enough ice to keep the yeast cool until it reaches it's destination. Remember this is a living organism that will be damaged by extended or repeated periods of warm temperatures.
        
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24. What is the best way to store yeast before use?

In a refrigerator as cold as possible without freezing.  34°F is ideal.   Most refrigerators run around 40°F.
        
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25. What should the gravity of a starter be?

The gravity for a starter should be 1.040.
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26. What are the causes of swollen packages? Can you sell them?

Swollen packages are almost always the cause of a small amount of sugar or CO2 being left in solution at the time of packaging.  Upon shipment, CO2 can be released from solution or  the yeast can consume the sugar and create a small amount of CO2.  Cell autolysis, or cell death can also be a cause of swelling packaged.  However, this is only in rare cases where the yeast is exposed to high temperature for an extended amount of time.  If a package is swollen and  has not been mishandled, it can be sold with confidence.              
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27. What questions should be asked to a customer that has a problem fermentation?

What strain, date, size of package, and manufacturing code?  What is the gravity and temperature?  What was the OG and pitching temp?  How many hours since pitching?  Did you make a starter?  Method of aeration?
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28. What are optimal levels of O2 in wort?

10-15ppm

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29. What is the max level of O2 you can get in a carboy using air?

8 ppm.     
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30. Approximately how long do you have to shake a 5 gallon carboy to get oxygen saturation (8ppm)?

45 seconds of vigorous shaking.
    
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31. How long do you have to run a stone with an aquarium pump to achieve O2 saturation (8ppm) in 5 gallons of wort?

5  minutes.
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32. How do you achieve higher than 8 ppm O2 levels in your wort? .

By injecting pure oxygen into your wort through a stone (1 min for 12 ppm). Or, by flowing pure oxygen into the carboy's head space and shaking for 20 seconds, twice.
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33. What factors are associated with ester (fruity) production?

Decreased pitch rate of yeast, increased fermentation temperature, and increased original gravity. 
        
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