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Brews & Views Bulletin Board Service * Brews and Views Archive 2009 * Archive through January 24, 2009 * Old smack-pack - any wagers? < Previous Next >

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Graham Cox
Senior Member
Username: T2driver

Post Number: 2019
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 68.32.253.156
Posted on Friday, January 02, 2009 - 04:35 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I've got a pack of 2112 California Lager that has been languishing in the back of my fridge for a year or more - the production date was October of '07. I'm going to try to resuscitate it. Any wagers on whether it will work?

I'm going to start it in a 750ml starter at ~1.025, then if that behaves properly, I'll step it up to about 3L for a 1.055 CAP/CACA. I'm betting it will work. We'll see in a few days.
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 9753
Registered: 01-2002
Posted From: 24.150.192.193
Posted on Friday, January 02, 2009 - 04:42 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I have successfully revived smack packs that were more than three years old.
 

Bob Wall
Senior Member
Username: Brewdudebob

Post Number: 2290
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 24.248.74.254
Posted on Friday, January 02, 2009 - 05:05 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I bet you two bottles of the beer you will make with the yeast against a six-pack of Bud Select.
 

Denny Conn
Senior Member
Username: Denny

Post Number: 7099
Registered: 01-2001
Posted From: 140.211.82.4
Posted on Friday, January 02, 2009 - 05:20 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Like Bill, I've had over 3 year old packs come to life in a small starter.
 

Dave Witt
Senior Member
Username: Davew

Post Number: 1225
Registered: 03-2003
Posted From: 68.57.245.38
Posted on Friday, January 02, 2009 - 09:07 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Graham, are you going to let it swell first, or just pitch it right in? Would it be better to let it swell first, being its in a sterile environment in the pack, or just pitch it to the wort and let it lag there? I know that the swelling of the pack is just an indication that the yeast is viable, but wouldn't it be better to get the yeast active before pitching?(IE, make starter after the pack swells)

BTW, I think the yeast will be fine if the pack was stored and handled properly before you got it.
 

Graham Cox
Senior Member
Username: T2driver

Post Number: 2020
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 68.32.253.156
Posted on Friday, January 02, 2009 - 11:22 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Dave, I didn't have the luxury of time with this one. I smacked it at 1015 this morning and pitched it about five hours later into the oxygenated wort. I let it sit still for a couple of hours, then put it on my stir plate at the slowest speed.
 

Graham Cox
Senior Member
Username: T2driver

Post Number: 2021
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 68.32.253.156
Posted on Friday, January 02, 2009 - 11:24 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

"I bet you two bottles of the beer you will make with the yeast against a six-pack of Bud Select."

Hmmmm... tempting, Bob, tempting. I'm potentially out two to the six you are offering...

Let me think about it. I'll get back to you.
 

Richard Nye
Senior Member
Username: Yeasty_boy

Post Number: 2163
Registered: 01-2004
Posted From: 68.111.68.20
Posted on Saturday, January 03, 2009 - 07:54 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I'll give it a 99.8% probability that it will work. I give it a 100% probability that you will wait 3 days with no activity and you assume it won't work, post a few times where others on the B&V will agree, then out of the blue on the 4th or 5th day the smackpack will begin to swell at which time you will step it up to make a fantastic homebrew.
 

Graham Cox
Senior Member
Username: T2driver

Post Number: 2029
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 68.32.253.156
Posted on Tuesday, January 06, 2009 - 06:48 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Classic. After three days there was no overt sign of fermentation, yet a pinkie-thick layer of lovely white yeast is settling out after I turned off the stir plate. The step-up is chilling as I speak. Here's to whatever entity you believe in that designed Saccharomyces.
 

Kevin Kowalczyk
Intermediate Member
Username: Itsfunbrewingbeer

Post Number: 393
Registered: 10-2007
Posted From: 12.165.82.136
Posted on Tuesday, January 06, 2009 - 08:35 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

The Flying Spaghetti Monster?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster
 

Richard Nye
Senior Member
Username: Yeasty_boy

Post Number: 2176
Registered: 01-2004
Posted From: 150.202.8.1
Posted on Tuesday, January 06, 2009 - 09:43 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Graham, one thing I would have done different was to leave it in the smack pack for 4 to 5 days to see if it swells. If you pour it in the wort you're risking some infection before the yeast starts to multiply. But, looks like everything is working out
 

Graham Cox
Senior Member
Username: T2driver

Post Number: 2033
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 68.32.253.156
Posted on Tuesday, January 06, 2009 - 09:56 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

A sensible precaution, but I just didn't have time to wait. I'm already over a week behind schedule.
 

Chumley
Senior Member
Username: Chumley

Post Number: 5742
Registered: 02-2003
Posted From: 63.118.227.254
Posted on Wednesday, January 07, 2009 - 05:23 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

If you would just be a man and suck it up and re-used yeast cakes, you wouldn't have to worry about being behind schedule.
 

Graham Cox
Senior Member
Username: T2driver

Post Number: 2036
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 68.32.253.156
Posted on Wednesday, January 07, 2009 - 09:30 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Chumley, my friend, your comment reminds me of a couple of old aviation sayings.

"Being a superior pilot doesn't just require possessing superior flying skills. It requires superior judgment to keep you out of those situations that would require you to exercise your superior flying skills."

... and then:

Q: What are the last two words a pilot says?
A: "Watch this!"

I don't do reckless. When I get a microscope, I'll think about it.
 

Chumley
Senior Member
Username: Chumley

Post Number: 5743
Registered: 02-2003
Posted From: 63.118.227.254
Posted on Wednesday, January 07, 2009 - 11:01 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Being a BJCP judge has given you an unhealthy paranoia of petite mutants.

()
 

Graham Cox
Senior Member
Username: T2driver

Post Number: 2037
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 68.32.253.156
Posted on Wednesday, January 07, 2009 - 11:08 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I just don't trust my sanitation practices. I brew in my kitchen and ferment in a dank, moldy basement. I dump almost all of my trub into the fermenter along with the wort. There's all kinds of reasons for me to be paranoid, not the least of which are a number of bad experiences along the way.

I'm doing much better with my routine sanitation and have eliminated (knock on wood) random contamination from my last 15-20 batches, largely due to my decision to always pasteurize my hoses before use, I think. I don't want to push my luck, though.

You're right, though, I am unhealthily paranoid and obsessive. But I brew some pretty good beer.
 

Steve Jones
Advanced Member
Username: Stevej

Post Number: 594
Registered: 08-2001
Posted From: 76.7.186.84
Posted on Thursday, January 08, 2009 - 01:46 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Graham, there is no doubt whatsoever that you brew some pretty good beer. But it sounds like it is a real challenge to brew good beer in your environment, with nasty bugs lurking around every corner just waiting to zero in on your beer.

My brewery, formerly a 1 car drive under garage in an 80 yr old 3 story uninsulated masonry home, is basically a basement room with a drafty 6' wide door to the outside. There are spider webs hanging in the corners, crickets jumping around now and then, etc. And in the summer I get some mold growing on the lower part of the concrete block wall below ground level. But in spite of that I find that I have gotten away with some pretty casual sanitization practices over the past 14 years. I've only tossed 3 batches of beer (out of over 140) due to contamination, and those was directly attributable to adding maple syrup to secondary straight out of the bottle.

I've repitched on yeast cakes several times ... going 3 or 4 generations a couple of times. The latest one is an American Red IPA on the 3rd use of 1056, following an APA and an American Brown Ale.

And I have brewed a decent beer now and then, too.

Note to Chumley ... ENTER THE WEIZENBOCK!!!
 

brett matthews
Intermediate Member
Username: Brettj

Post Number: 329
Registered: 06-2004
Posted From: 124.150.79.9
Posted on Thursday, January 08, 2009 - 07:07 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Graham, I get a bit paranoid with sanitation too. The guys at my LHBS think I'm nuts but I very rarely lose a beer to contamination, the last one was through dry hopping. I noticed what could have been bird crap or mud, I dunno, on a cone of home grown Goldings just as it made it's way into the beer. Crap certainly makes beer taste like crap.
So yep, I get a little paranoid. Sheesh, imagine if I smoked
 

Vance Barnes
Senior Member
Username: Vancebarnes

Post Number: 3546
Registered: 03-2003
Posted From: 74.7.7.66
Posted on Thursday, January 08, 2009 - 10:06 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Graham, when you get moved into your new brewery, er house, you need to man up and try a yeast cake.

Or make that 1/4 of a yeast cake so you get some growth.
 

Randy McCord
Advanced Member
Username: Mccord

Post Number: 684
Registered: 02-2003
Posted From: 96.230.91.201
Posted on Saturday, January 10, 2009 - 12:12 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Good luck, I've got a pack of wy2278 and a pack of wy2206 both marked Feb. 07 that have been in the fridge the whole time. Took a break from brewing sometime early Feb. 07. Long story short, I smacked them a week ago and both packs are as flat as the day I smacked them.

Luckily my 2 and 3 year old dry ale yeast is working like a charm and I'm brewing again, just not lagers with the wyeast "yet".
 

Richard Nye
Senior Member
Username: Yeasty_boy

Post Number: 2183
Registered: 01-2004
Posted From: 68.111.68.20
Posted on Saturday, January 10, 2009 - 03:09 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Be patient Randy, I'll bet they will swell some in a few days.
 

Graham Cox
Senior Member
Username: T2driver

Post Number: 2040
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 68.32.253.156
Posted on Saturday, January 10, 2009 - 03:59 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I think you would be doing more harm than good by leaving the yeast at room temperature for several days waiting for the pack to swell. The pack swelling up is not a necessary step in the renewal and propagation of dormant yeast, and it isn't likely to swell in any meaningful way after two years anyhow.

I'd break the nutrient packs and immediately pitch them into 1.020 500ml starters, for starters. There's no point in waiting for them to swell.
 

Cory K.
Member
Username: Galaxy51

Post Number: 231
Registered: 04-2006
Posted From: 168.103.41.180
Posted on Saturday, January 10, 2009 - 05:03 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Graham, Why would waiting several days for the pak to swell cause more harm than good?
Both the yeast and the nutrients are protected from contamination while contained in the pak. If the yeast is in good shape it will expand fairly rapidly. If many of the cells are of poor health or dead the pak will take longer to swell but after swelling the live cells will be in much better condition and will be better able to out number the competition in the stepped up starter. If the pak will not swell at room temp in a week or so it means that there are very little or no viable yeast cells. If a pak of dead yeast is poured through the unsanitized atmosphere into a sanitized but not sterile wort a starter of wild yeast will be the result.
 

Graham Cox
Senior Member
Username: T2driver

Post Number: 2041
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 68.32.253.156
Posted on Saturday, January 10, 2009 - 05:43 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

"Graham, Why would waiting several days for the pak to swell cause more harm than good?"

Because you're leaving them in a warm environment instead of a refrigerated environment. There's a reason we keep yeast in the refrigerator.

The small amount of nutrient in the pack is not sufficient to generate much in the way of growth, and is in reality just a means of feeding the yeast in order to restore vitality, cell permeability, etc., prior to pitching the yeast into a starter or a batch. It only takes a few hours for this to occur.

"If many of the cells are of poor health or dead the pak will take longer to swell but after swelling the live cells will be in much better condition and will be better able to out number the competition in the stepped up starter."

This seems to infer that the action of swelling is somehow beneficial or even necessary. It's not. Waiting for fermentation to occur, and subsequent CO2 production to swell the pack, only provides you with a visual means of determining the level of vitality - it doesn't actually do anything for the yeast. In Randy's case above, you already know that that the yeast is old and probably not in very good shape. Leaving it out in a warm environment for several days isn't going to help that, beyond the initial feeding. The act of swelling itself is irrelevant to the actual health of the yeast.

I will agree that pitching a stressed pack into a large starter would not be wise, because as you mentioned the yeast would likely not be able to quickly overwhelm other spoilage organisms that inevitably will be present. That's why I suggest putting it into a low-gravity, small-volume starter to concentrate those viable yeast that are present.

I guess my point is this: In my opinion, you reach a point of diminishing returns after a couple of days at room temperature. Is it going to cause a brewing disaster? Probably not. I can gauge yeast viability better by viewing its performance in a small starter than I can by viewing an opaque foil package, in which significant yeast replication is not going to occur under any circumstances.

You can also oxygenate a starter - you can't oxygenate a smack-pack.
 

Cory K.
Member
Username: Galaxy51

Post Number: 232
Registered: 04-2006
Posted From: 168.103.41.180
Posted on Saturday, January 10, 2009 - 07:14 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Graham, One of the reasons that Wyest uses the smack pak that contains both a very health population of yeast and a nutrient pak is that, if we are in doubt as to the viability of the pak, we can "proof" the yeast in the uncontaminated environment provided by the sealed pak.
Being that Randy's yeast is almost 2 years old it would, in my opinion, be wise to take advantage of the proofing ability built into the smack paks.
If Randy was starting with a fresh pak of yeast I would agree with you that smacking a fresh pak, having it expand fairly soon and THEN storing for a week at room temp before using it would not be the most efficient use of the smak pak.
In my opinion it is reasonable to assume that the viable cells in Randy's pak, if there are any and there may very well be, are at best very few in number and in no position to compete with any contamination. If he had opened the smakpak without smaking and waiting for visual results and poured it into 500ml of sanitized wort he might very well have a starter that would be significantly comtaminated.
I have several times sucessfully used Wyeast's ale yeasts that were as much as 3 years old. Personally, I would never trust a starter infused with this old yeast unless it could first pass the proof test.
 

Richard Nye
Senior Member
Username: Yeasty_boy

Post Number: 2185
Registered: 01-2004
Posted From: 68.111.68.20
Posted on Saturday, January 10, 2009 - 07:37 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Is storing yeast for a few days at room temperature bad for it? I thought it was essential to get it out of its hibernation funk. I don't think it stresses the yeast at all.
 

Denny Conn
Senior Member
Username: Denny

Post Number: 7114
Registered: 01-2001
Posted From: 140.211.82.4
Posted on Saturday, January 10, 2009 - 08:18 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I have to disagree with Graham on this one. Keeping the yeast at room temp while you;re trying to propagate it should be fine. The reason we refrigerate it prior to that is to keep the yeast dormant as much as possible.
 

Graham Cox
Senior Member
Username: T2driver

Post Number: 2042
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 68.32.253.156
Posted on Saturday, January 10, 2009 - 08:30 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

"Personally, I would never trust a starter infused with this old yeast unless it could first pass the proof test."

That's your perrogative. Tell me, though, what would you do if the pack didn't swell at all? How long would you wait until you declared it dead? How about if it only swelled a little bit? What if there were viable yeast in there but they weren't vital enough to produce enough CO2 to balloon the pack up? Would you just toss them without giving them a chance?

All you're potentially losing by pitching it into a little starter is 500ml of wort. The yeast's performance in your starter IS the proof you seek. If it fails, you found out a week earlier than you would have by sitting around waiting for the pack to blow up.

Amazingly, White Labs seems to produce a viable product without the hallowed environs of a smack-pack. I've heard some people even make good beer with it. Should I be pouring the contents of a WL tube into a baggie and waiting to see if the baggie puffs up before I use it? I must have been doing this wrong all along.

"Is storing yeast for a few days at room temperature bad for it? I thought it was essential to get it out of its hibernation funk. I don't think it stresses the yeast at all."


Define "few".

Obviously, it has to be brought to room temperature to come out of hibernation. Three or four days in a starter with the yeast in an active state isn't going to hurt anything. Leaving stressed yeast in a severely weakened state out for a week or more just to make yourself feel good - because that's all you're doing - is counterproductive. I say again, there is a reason that we store yeast in the refrigerator.

Don't misunderstand - I like Wyeast, and I use their products all the time. I've got two starters, one each of 2308 and 2000 going right now. I like the concept of the smack-pack very much. However, it is simply a visual indicator, not a silver bullet.

I treated the 15-month-old yeast in question at the top of this thread in exactly the fashion I've advocated and had blowoff from both carboys within six hours of pitching at 60F. It works. If your way makes you happy, though, then by all means stick with it.
 

Graham Cox
Senior Member
Username: T2driver

Post Number: 2043
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 68.32.253.156
Posted on Saturday, January 10, 2009 - 08:32 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

"I have to disagree with Graham on this one. Keeping the yeast at room temp while you;re trying to propagate it should be fine."

Well, obviously - you can't grow yeast in the refrigerator. My point is, Denny, that you aren't propagating the yeast inside the smack-pack - you're merely getting it ready for propagation.
 

Denny Conn
Senior Member
Username: Denny

Post Number: 7115
Registered: 01-2001
Posted From: 140.211.82.4
Posted on Saturday, January 10, 2009 - 08:47 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Yeah, I should have used a more precise term, but it seems to me that it's essentially the same process. And you make a good point about the length of time it's at room temp. I was _assuming_ something in the 2-3 day range.
 

Graham Cox
Senior Member
Username: T2driver

Post Number: 2044
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 68.32.253.156
Posted on Saturday, January 10, 2009 - 10:38 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

"I was _assuming_ something in the 2-3 day range."

Right, and that's obviously no problem. Leaving it out indefinitely is a problem.

At some point you go from beneficial to neutral to detrimental. Without hard data, we're speculating where each of these points in time occur. I tend to think shorter, others may think longer. That's OK. As we all know, I tend to be a bit overly fussy about things.
 

Randy McCord
Advanced Member
Username: Mccord

Post Number: 685
Registered: 02-2003
Posted From: 96.230.91.201
Posted on Sunday, January 11, 2009 - 10:35 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

The 2206 is bulging nicely now and the 2278 is just starting to bulge. Looks like I'll be making starters tomorrow so I can brew a couple of lagers this coming weekend after all.
I was about ready to give up on it and throw it in the trash. Glad I didn't!
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 9820
Registered: 01-2002
Posted From: 24.150.192.193
Posted on Monday, January 12, 2009 - 01:03 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Old smack packs are a bargain. Sometimes you can buy them for a dollar. Just be sure to taste a sample of the starter liquid. It should taste raw and yeasty but in general like the desired strain. If a lager yeast tastes phenolic, for example, don't use it (and don't ask me how I know. )
 

Richard Nye
Senior Member
Username: Yeasty_boy

Post Number: 2186
Registered: 01-2004
Posted From: 136.237.60.105
Posted on Monday, January 12, 2009 - 04:52 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Randy, go back and look at my response to your original post. Right on the mark (patting myself on the back)!

I used to get expired smackpacks from my old LHBS and I never had one fail, though it might have taken 7 or so days to swell.

Now I store about 25 strains of yeast in test tubes in my fridge and I've gone 3 years without feeding the yeast. I did have a few die on my after that long, so now I feed them every couple of years. You can abuse yeast.
 

Graham Cox
Senior Member
Username: T2driver

Post Number: 2049
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 68.32.253.156
Posted on Monday, January 12, 2009 - 06:25 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

"You can abuse yeast."

You can abuse your spouse and your children, too. And little animals. But you shouldn't.

If you want to make the best beer you can, treat the yeast with the respect they deserve. It is, after all, a symbiotic relationship.
 

Richard Nye
Senior Member
Username: Yeasty_boy

Post Number: 2188
Registered: 01-2004
Posted From: 12.20.37.81
Posted on Wednesday, January 14, 2009 - 03:30 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

A little abuse just adds character....applies to kids, spouses and yeast.