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Dry Yeast Packs vs. Yeast Starters


Jan 27, 2022
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Hi all,

I've brand new to the all-grain-brewing world after spending way too much time with extract kits.
I've been trying my best over the last few days (while I await gear delivery) reading up on absolutely everything I can to help make my first brew day a success.

One thing I'm a little confused by is the yeast pitching procedure(s).  Typically, with extract kits, dry yeast is simply just pitched onto the top of the beer straight from the packet(s).

When navigating through recipes on the BeerSmith software, I'm just a bit confused when viewing the Starter tab.

In the section that says "Dry Yeast Recommendation," for example, the recipe I'm looking at says it recommends 1 package of dry yeast if not using a starter, hydrated with 115ml. Does this just mean I can mix a package into 115ml of water and pour it into the beer after transferring into the fermenter?

It's recommending 15 packages if using liquid yeast so I'm just wondering why the difference.

Hopefully my question makes sense. I don't have a previous batch to use harvested yeast from - I'm just starting from square 1 here!


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The screen shot shows a packet of almost 12-year-old liquid yeast without a starter. Pitching that would be equivalent to pitching 10 or 15 grains of dry yeast at best. (Just an analogy) As with any calculator, in order to get a reasonable output, you need to accurately enter all of the pertinent inputs.
It was a downloaded recipe, so that date would have been imported as well.
jadoiron said:
It was a downloaded recipe, so that date would have been imported as well.

Yes.  It is always a good habit to adjust the yeast package date when opening a new recipe or re-brewing an old one if you are going to rely on the starter page to guide you in how much of a starter or number of packets you will need for the recipe.

I will add that, in my experience, the starters tend to be more 'conservative' by predicting a lower residual cell count in aged packets of yeast than it actually realized.  I learned this years ago when performing cell counts on yeast packages to train myself in counting.  This was confirmed during NHC a few years back when talking to the yeast companies.  Their improvements in protecting cells and extending their viability is not reflected in the predicted loss of cells by the starter calculations currently in use. 

This is one of the reasons several of the major yeast companies have changed from the manufacturing date to a 'best by' date on their packaging.  Typically in my experience, the number of cells is at or above the published cell count in Wyeast packages several months after the manufacturing date.  Add to that the percentage of viable cells and it indicates that the cell count is above their stated volume to pretty close to the 'best by' dates I have seen.

Let me throw a couple of wrenches into the party. Ignore the advise or directions to rehydrate yeast. It is not necessary. And the other wrench is about starters. For your average strength wort... say below 1.060... you can get away with not making one. Instead use something called the Shaken Not Stirred (or SNS) starter.

In a nutshell you make a starter as usual then you pour it into a jug or container that can be sealed and shake the sh*t out of it until there is as much foam as you can get inside. You then pitch your yeast and walk away. About 12 - 18 hour later the SNS starter is ready to pitch. 

There is research behind this but the explanation of why it works is lengthy. The basic premise is that cell count is less important than healthy yeast cells. By the time a starter has sat on a stir plate for a couple of days yeast cells have begun to die and the rest are entering their dormant stage So in effect using a stir plate results in you pitching and army of dead, sleepy, bruised yeast. The author of the research said something to the effect that with the SNS method you are pitching a smaller army but they are all strong and ready to go to war.

Here are a couple of links...