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After pitching noticed yeast was one month past 'best date' (thanks local homebrew shop).No perceptible activity at +36 hours. No krausen, airlock isn’t bubbling wort looks the same as when i poured it in. What are my best options at this point?

  1. wait and see?
  2. make a starter from viable yeast and hope my wort doesn't get infected while it sits at 65? 2a. does the yeast have to match what its already in there? I'm not terribly concerned about hitting a particular style.
  3. toss the batch and start over once i have a proper starter?

Thanks.

additional info: yeast kept at 70 degrees or less for 3 hours after leaving brew shop. wort was 75 when pitched. areated by shaking for 5 mins. 2.5 gallons in a 6.5 fermenter = lots of sloshing around.

UPDATE: checked the gravity, and it is definitely fermenting. i'm still very inexperienced, but i have proven to myself that the only way to definitively check fermentation is through the hydrometer.

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Just out of curiosity, where did you get the yeast and what kind was it? I ask because the Wyeast 2278 (Czech Pils) that I bought on Friday from the Brew Hut in Denver was also bad... –  Brandon Mar 28 '11 at 16:37
1  
"Bad" in what way? –  Denny Conn Mar 28 '11 at 17:10
    
@brandonI'm norcal. it was whitelabs. –  uncreative Mar 28 '11 at 17:18
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Just read an article that mentions double checking your seals when you observe inactivity, as well as liquid in your fermlock. You say fermenter, is it a carboy or bucket? Your care with temperature and aeration certainly seems to indicate that if there is no activity, it was dead when you bought it. –  Mlusby Mar 28 '11 at 21:00

4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

One month past best before isn't all that bad. The first thing to do is take a gravity reading so you can be absolutely sure what's going on. If it's still the same gravity as when you pitched, I'd go with #1 for another day. 36 hours isn't an excessively long lag. But by 18-24 hours after that, I'd get some dry yeast in there ASAP if you haven't seen any action. If you make a starter with liquid yeast, it will take longer to get going. Or you could use 2-3 packs instead of a starter. What style of beer, what yeast did you use, and what was the recipe? Oh, yeah, and from now on, always make a starter!

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My suggestion would be to get some known good yeast in there quickly, preferably of the same type as you pitched, but at this point, it sounds like whatever yeast is in there is dead and will just settle out anyway.

Though FAR from an expert on yeast, I'm not aware of any yeast that would give you no bubbles at all in the air lock at 36 hours. My concern comes because I had one batch begin bubbling after 12 hours with no yeast at all, and I had followed my normal sanitizing routine (not saying it was perfect, just saying I wasn't aware of any obvious reasons for infection, but I got it all the same.)

If the store has fresh yeast of the same type (or any type), I'd get it in there, especially if this isn't a high gravity beer (~10%). If it is high, I might go the starter route, but waiting is more time for competition, and it sounds like your current yeast is far from a fighter, possibly dead on arrival. Also, if you didn't aerate it, make sure to shake it for a good five minutes after adding the new yeast.

Was the yeast exposed to high temperatures for any length of time, or anything after you left the store that might have affected it? Also, what temperature was your wort when you pitched, and how did you aerate?

Lastly, if at all possible, do not throw away anything. Even if it gets infected, I'd hold out and see it through. I had to pitch the one that started bubbling without yeast because my wife threatened to leave me it smelled so bad, and I still wish I had been able to see it through, just to see what the result would have been. Wild yeast and/or bacteria might make a sour something, might even be drinkable.

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With Ales I expect to see signs of yeast life within 12 hours (in a 5-6 gallon batch). Pitching more yeast is an easy fix if no activity has begun at all. Nottingham dried yeast, for example, will have your beer going in no time. Nottingham has saved a few beers for me over the years and I always have it as a backup for the odd beer that doesn't seem to be taking off properly. It doesn't matter if the strains are the same, as long as the fresh cells get the healthy yeast population up. I have actually found that the most interesting results when this happens are when I can detect the character of both yeasts in the finished product. There are many examples of yeast blends that create great tasting beer. 36 hours is a very long time for an average ale, so I would get something in there asap. You might as well try to save it, but there is no time for starters anymore, go dried.

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I used yeast accelerator in a similar situation, in addition to what Denny wrote.

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