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Getting Started: Yeast Preparation

Popping the liquid yeast "smack pack"


Most dry yeast will start the beer fermenting quickly without much preparation. It is important to use fresh yeast, or yeast that is less than 1 year from the production date that has been stored under refrigeration. To improve the chances of a good fermentation with dry yeast, the yeast can be rehydrated 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 temeprature of the beer you are making). A yeast starter can be made with dry yeast (see below).


The most common form of liquid yeast available to home brewers is Wyeast, which comes in a foil packet (often referred to as a "smack-pack"). The packet contains instructions for popping the inner pouch to start the yeast growth. This is usually done the day before brewing, unless the Wyeast packet is more than a month old. 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.

The Wyeast smack-packs come in two sizes, 50 ml and 175 ml. The smaller 50 ml pack will require 12 to 36 hours after pitching for visable fermentation to begin. For faster fermentation, a starter is recommended with these packages (click here to find out how to make a yeast starter).

The larger, 175 ml pack is becoming very popular as visable fermentation can start in as little as 6 hours, although it usually takes from 12 to 24 hours.

Using Pitchable Liquid Yeast

A relatively new option for homebrewing is also the easiest liquid yeast to use. On brew day, before starting your batch of beer, simply remove the liquid yeast vial or tube from the refrigerator so that it slowly warms to room temperature. Once your beer is ready for the yeast, simply shake the tube or vial to mix well, remove the cap, and pour it in. The beer will show visible signs of fermentation in 6 to 24 hours, depending on the freshness of the yeast, the fermentation temperature, and other factors.


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