I'll start by saying that I've never used liquid yeast before, so it could all be my fault... Anyway, I ordered some Wyeast 1187 Ringwood to use for a Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA clone that I did on Sunday night. I'd stored the yeast in the fridge after unpacking and got it out to warm up while I got all my brew stuff out and organised.

After smacking the packet to activate it, I put it to one side and got on with things. After four hours the packet hadn't swelled. So I knocked up a starter solution and poured the contents of the packet into it and left it over night. I the morning there was no sign of activity, so I ended up making another starter with some S-04.

Is this kind of failure common...? How does everyone else handle their liquid yeast...?



  • What was the date on the package? If it was an old pack (packaged greater than 6 months ago), or wasn't stored in ideal conditions, you could have had low viability.
    – markskar
    May 4, 2010 at 20:57
  • it was from January this year. I'm in the UK and have no idea how the supplier had it transported or stored...
    – fatboab
    May 4, 2010 at 23:30
  • I am checking this thread because I am experiencing the exact same situation. Hopefully it is just a slow starter. The yeast is dated a month ago and I have never had issues with any other yeast from my local home-brew supplier. It's still summer, no AC and I waited 24 hours after smacking, then pitched into starter with 1 quart water 1 cup extra pale DME and have waited another 24 hours. Still no action. I have been stirring as I can, had to sleep last night and go to work today. Starter is hazy enough I don't think there was much action. I brew tomorrow and will see if it works.
    – user2655
    Sep 1, 2012 at 0:12

3 Answers 3


Wyeast packages need overnight at least to swell in my experience. Even the freshest packages take about 8 hours. Some part of the 4 hours was spent just getting completely up to room temp.

Next time you plan to brew with one, take it out the morning of or the night before you plan to brew. Then it can swell all day or overnight for your night/morning brew session.

The activity of your starter with the 1187 is tough to gauge without more details. Its very well possible that it took off during the night and when you looked at it the next day you missed the active part and mistook it for having failed to start. The only way to know is to have checked the gravity of the starter. Secondly, its the size of the starter. If the starter was fairly small, say <16oz, there really isn't enough sugars in there to make it look like anything happened anyway.

Next time smack that pack and be more patient, or pitch into a bigger starter, say 1.5L.

And in the future, if you need to go to dried yeast, just rehydrate it in water and pitch it. No need to make a starter with dried stuff. In fact, dried yeast suffers a bit from being put into a starter.

  • Thanks for the answer. The supplier also told me that they think they need longer than the packet says, 24 - 48 hours from just the smack.
    – fatboab
    May 4, 2010 at 23:32

I had precisely the same problem with this yeast. It had, after 48 hours, begun to activate in the main brew, and I've read in lots of places it can be a slow yeast to get going. It also apparently needs lots of oxygen to grow well, so maybe the sealed smack packs just don't favour it.


The smack-pack is, in fact, some kind of starter. By pitching your yeast in another starter you didn't make much difference comparing to if you had let it in the pack. From my point of you, it appears your yeast had been poorly conditioned, and either needed more time to activate and you were too hasty, or it was dead after all and you had to wait a bit more. Keep in mind that smack-packs need about 24 hours to be ready, while starters may need up to 48. You'll have to program these processes ahead so that the yeast is ready when you get to the pitching step. Additionally, never use dry yeast in a starter. Dry yeast is already populated enough to use in a 5-gallon batch. If you make a starter out of dry yeast, and supposedly you don't brew 10-gallon batches, you will overpitch, and that is as dangerous as underpitching (there is a related question, check it out).

  • Not true. If viability for the smack packs or the dry yeast was 100%, it "might" be enough for a 5 gallon batch of a somewhat low gravity. However, since this is almost never the case, you should always do a starter with Smack Packs or any other liquid yeast and it doesn't hurt to use an extra pack of dry yeast. Overpitching is NOT as dangerous as underpitching. Underpitching can lead to an under-attenuated batch and/or stuck fermentation. The only real harm in over-pitching is lower ester production, which can be a good thing in many cases. . .
    – markskar
    May 4, 2010 at 14:48
  • . . . Unless you mean overpitching to the point that you lose all your beer to blowoff, but that would require a HUGE amount of yeast. I have to disagree with this answer.
    – markskar
    May 4, 2010 at 14:48
  • 1
    There is also the "green apple off flavour" because of acetaldehyde. Check out this question brewadvice.com/questions/1028/… May 4, 2010 at 15:41
  • Ah yes, true, I forgot about that. Many of my early brews had that "green apple" flavor, and overpitching would explain it. However, it still isn't as bad as an underpitched batch. There is nothing more annoying that trying to brew a big beer and have it peter out at 5% with a final gravity of 1.045. The cloying sweetness of an under-attenuated beer is disgusting and unbearable. That said, one should use a pitching calculator and use the correct amount of yeast--provided that you take into account yeast viability (and even then the best you can do is estimate).
    – markskar
    May 4, 2010 at 20:54
  • Acetaldehyde is due to over pitching!?! Most of my brews have that, will have to stop the dried yeast starter then...
    – fatboab
    May 4, 2010 at 23:38

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