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In the past, I've used Wyeast smack packs, where the instructions tell you to make sure that the pack is viable before opening so that you can get refunded for a dud.

I'm a baker, and I use dry yeast all the time in my dough. When I bake, I always proof (that is, let the dry yeast incubate in tepid water for a few minutes, to ensure viability). Many people say this is no longer necessary, so maybe it's a bit of a rain dance, but I figure that it's better safe than sorry.

Yesterday, I brewed with a pack of dry Muntons Ale yeast, and right after adding the initial LME to my boil, I took the yeast out to proof in a glass of tepid water (where it sat until the cooled wort went into my primary). My question is: for those that use dry yeast, do you ever proof before pitching? Is this a good idea or a bad idea?

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possible duplicate of Should you rehydrate dry yeast? –  Nathan Koop Nov 18 '10 at 18:55
    
You don't need to proof, per se, cause the likelihood the yeast is viable is quite high. You might want to rehydrate, however, to ease the yeast back into life, and prevent stressing them by being introduced into a high-sugar environment. –  jsled Nov 18 '10 at 19:40
    
If you decide to rehydrate your dry yeast, you want to make sure everything is sanitary. I usually use a small pot to boil water and then I keep the lid closed until it has cooled down to pitching temp. Then I rehydrate the yeast with the cooled water in a sealed container. –  LoganGoesPlaces Nov 18 '10 at 21:34

5 Answers 5

up vote 2 down vote accepted

It's always a good idea to rehydrate dry yeast before pitching, and if your OG is above ~1.080, a starter is recommended.

Many yeast manufacturers don't require rehydrating their yeast, but it's generally regarded as a marketing ploy to show how simple using dry yeast can be.

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I like danafr4's answer better than mine... –  Brandon Nov 23 '10 at 6:09
    
A starter should never be used with dry yeast. It can be detrimental to yeast health. If the OG is too high for a single pack, use 2. –  Denny Conn Feb 27 '13 at 15:47

I can't see how it would hurt. I've started making a starter even from the Wyeast smack packs, it's simple to do and I would rather ruin a batch of yeast than a batch of beer.

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Note that you're supposed to make a starter for Wyeast smack packs. The "Propogators" explicitly so, but even the "Activators" have a relatively low cell count for most beers, and especially strong beers. –  jsled Nov 18 '10 at 19:38

With quality dry yeast on a normal gravity beer, I just pitch it in directly. I have not had any problems with poor/slow fermentation or off flavors. Please note the word quality - if the yeast is old or somehow questionable play it safe. Various Danstar and Fermentis yeasts have always rewarded me with fast and vigorous fermentation after pitching directly. I swear, dry yeast must be on steroids or something.

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My LHBS, which prides itself on fresh, high-quality ingredients, insists that I pitch dry yeast directly into the wort. For older/sus yeast, that may not be the case. –  Nick Nov 21 '10 at 0:44

there is a bit of confusion here. I see several divergent answers to this question

The confusion seems to be between hydrating, proofing & creating a starter. These are different and are for different purposes.

!st, hydrating: getting the dry yeast wet in order for it to be mixed evenly throughout the wort. Fermentis suggests dissolving their yeast in sterile wort or water and mixing it into a paste. The resulting paste will spread more evenly through the wort. This is not an issue for a liquid yeast user.

2nd, proofing: I think this is really a technique for bread making. Proofing involves mixing the dry yeast with a small ammount of sugar, waiting 15 minutes or so to ensure yeast activity (foaming) and then proceeding to mix the yeast in to the dough ingredients. There are two reasons that this may not be advisable: one is that bread yeast is almost always much more active that beer yeast and the proof with bread yeast will show activity very quickly, while a beer yeast proof may not. Second, I've seem to remember some cautions about using anything other than wort to get the yeast going since other sugars lack necessary nutrients for healthy yeast growth.

3rd, making a starter: this is a technique for sourdough & brewing. In brewing, the yeast is mixed with a somewhat dilute wort (I think Greg Noonan's New Lager Brewing suggests 1.03 - 1.04) several days ahead. (User48 has a great answer explaining the process in the question that's linked above). The advantage of a starter is to increase the yeast cell count so that it is sufficient to ferment the wort quickly.

Hope that helps!

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Keep it as simple as possible. If you use dry yeast, simply sprinkle it over wort and seal. This has worked every time for me over a period of 15 years plus.

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You may be getting acceptable results, but it's not optimal for yeast health. Read p146-148 of White and Zainasheff's "Yeast: The practical Guide to Beer Fermentation". –  Galapagos Jim Feb 27 '13 at 2:21

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