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Okay, so I understand the intent of the cold pack when shipping liquid yeast during very warm climates, but I assume that the useful cooling offered is very minimal compared to the temperature variations that might occur during transport from HBS to my house (which in my case would be a 2-3 day trip). The cost of some of the packs is minimal while others represent over half the cost of the yeast. I had always considered the cost "cheap" insurance, but the more I think about it, the more I wonder how beneficial they really are compared to their cost.

Any thoughts about this topic?

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I think a cold pack would be useful for yeast health. I would think that if someone is getting yeast shipped from a far distance it might be wort getting into learning how to effectively re-use and save yeast. –  brewchez Sep 17 '11 at 20:09
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4 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

If you are shipping only 2-3 days, I really think that the yeast loss would be minimal if shipped without the cold pack. Remember that yeast exist at ambient temperature in nature, after all :-) Any loss would be minimized by doing a starter before pitching.

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This depends what you mean by ambient temperature. If ambient temperature is 40C then your yeast might not be too happy stuck in it for long periods. –  Poshpaws Sep 18 '11 at 10:13
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2-3 days is not a long period, even at 104F (40C). Notice that I recommended using a starter just in case. This should take care of any loss in transport. –  drj Sep 18 '11 at 20:51
    
Fair point drj. –  Poshpaws Sep 19 '11 at 13:57
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If you will be shipping the yeast in the back of your car, you don't need a cold pack. Just keep the yeast in the cabin of the car and keep things comfortable for you, and the yeast will be happy. However, I worked one summer in a UPS Warehouse outside of DC. The trailers I worked in typically were 20-30 degrees hotter than ambient temperature (and the "wonderful" DC humidity). When I ship yeast from NB between April 15-October 15, I ALWAYS buy one of the cooling packs. It also helps if your yeast gets loaded onto the wrong truck and spends an extra day or two shipping to you.

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I can offer this as anecdotal evidence. I did recently order 2 kits from Northern Brewer with 2 smack packs of yeast. I ordered 2 cold packs. I used their standard shipping, and it took about 5 or 6 days to arrive in Texas, where we were in the middle of weeks of 100+ degree weather. The packs were no longer cold by the time our shipment arrived.

I made a starter from one smack pack immediately, and it worked out fine. The other, which I'd refrigerated immediately, I smacked about a week later, and it never puffed up. I suspect the prolonged exposure to the heat was the problem, but I cannot say that I know for sure. Since then, we've decided to order dry yeast only during the summer months.

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I assume that you are talking about liquid yeast?

I regularly order liquid yeast that goes from the UK -> Spain and I have never used a cold pack. So far, I have had no problems with this yeast.

Another option is to use dry yeast which I imagine is more robust to temperature changes since it is dehydrated.

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