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A Great Beer Needs a Great Start:
Some Tips for Better Fermentation Starts

If you have had trouble in the past with long lag times between the time you pitch the yeast and the time you see active fermentation, you are not alone. Virtually every homebrewer has experienced this at least once. There are many things you can do to improve the odds that your fermentation will start quickly and finish clean. We have summarized the most important below:

#1: Start with enough yeast to do the job right:
Yeast will not start to eat the sugars in the wort until there is a sufficient population of yeast cells. When yeast is first introduced into the wort is it starts to reproduce. During the reproduction stage, there is no visible activity in the fermenter. If a higher number of yeast cells are pitched into the wort, the reproduction stage will be shorter and fermentation will start sooner. So how do you start will a high yeast cell count?....

*If using dehydrated yeast:  rehydrate the yeast in a small amount of sterile water before adding to the beer. To make sure the water is sterile, boil it for at least 10 minutes, and then cool it down to 70 oF (the water should be the same temperature as the fermentation temperature of the beer you are making). Use at least 10 grams of dehydrated yeast per 5 gallons. A yeast starter can be made with dry yeast.

*If using liquid yeast: Ready to pitch yeast in a tube from White Labs is ready to use, but be careful that the yeast is the same temperature as the wort, or the temperature shock will cause some of the yeast cells to die. If using Wyeast in a "smack-pack" choose the XL (125 ml) size as it is almost 3.5 times more yeast than the smaller 50 ml. size. Make sure you pop the inner pouch in advance of brew day; For each month beyond one month, pop the package an additional day in advance of brewing, up to 4 days. Thus, if your packet is two months old, pop the yeast two days before brewing; if it is six months old, pop the yeast 4 days before brewing. With yeast older than 6 months, a yeast starter is highly recommended.

#2: Feed Your Yeast:
Yeast needs sufficient oxygen and other nutrients to build cell walls during the reproductive stage. To achieve a fast start, the wort must be aerated thoroughly. Accomplish this by vigorous shaking of the wort, using an aeration device such as a Siphon Spray Wort Aerator, or aerating with oxygen and a carbonation stone. A combination of these methods is also effective. Because malt has most of the nutrients needed by yeast, the addition of nutrients is usually not necessary, but a few Tablespoons of yeast nutrient powder added to the wort does not hurt.

#3: Keep the right temperature:
Temperature is very important when growing healthy yeast. Most important is the temperature when pitching the yeast. First and foremost, try to avoid a big difference in the temperature of the wort and the temperature of the yeast or starter when adding the yeast to the fermenter. A temperature difference of more than 10oF can shock the yeast and cause too many of the yeast cells to die. Try to maintain the correct temperature range for the beer style during the entire fermentation.Your beer will finish when expected and you will see the best results.


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