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I've read that you can leave an ale to secondary for months and enough yeast will remain in suspension that you won't need to pitch additional yeast when bottling. But are there times when you do need to pitch more yeast before bottling to ensure you get carbonated beer? For instance...

  • What if you crash-cool your ale? Will the yeast fall out of suspension such that there won't be any left to carbonate your brew in the bottle?

  • What if you started with a high gravity beer and the yeast gave all they had? Will they be too tired to eat the priming sugar?

  • Are there any other factors that would make it a good idea to pitch more yeast before bottling?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

The only beers I ever add yeast to for bottle conditioning are those big beers that sit for more than two months in secondary.

The reasons are as you stated, tired yeast and the issue of not having enough yeast in suspension. I have crash-cooled a couple of younger ales, and not had any issues in bottle carbonation. I would be interested if anyone else had different experiences with it.

Usually, for purposes of adding yeast to the bottling bucket, I do one of three things:

  1. Keep a bit of the starter in a sanitized sealed bottle in the fridge.

  2. Keep a bit of the trub from the primary fermenter in a sealed bottle in the fridge.

  3. Or use a packet of a neutral dry yeast, like Safale S-05. I bloom it first in some sterile water then add it to the bottling bucket. I don't use this option often, it costs money, but it works if you didn't save any of the original yeast.

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How big of a beer is big enough that you feel the yeast may need to call in for backup? –  JackSmith Feb 18 '10 at 17:39
    
One thing to consider when adding the neutral dry yeast is that it's a significant variable. I did this (probably unnecessarily) on the advice of a friend and will never know if that's what contributed the banana flavor I talk about here: brewadvice.com/questions/1/why-does-my-beer-smell-like-bananas/… –  Rich Armstrong Feb 18 '10 at 17:48
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Jack: My rule of thumb is any beer that will primary/secondary more than six weeks, which is usually a beer of 6.5%ABV or above. Rich:Unwanted banana flavor is unusual with a yeast like Safale S-5, but can happen if the temperature got too high. I agree it can be a variable that's easy to eliminate. I really only offered it as an option if you didn't save yeast or it went bad. Some commercial brewers use a different strain for carbonation as well, that's why cultivating from the bottle can be such a crapshoot. –  TinCoyote Feb 19 '10 at 1:23
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