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Dry yeast (not vs) liquid yeast

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I've used liquid yeast, mostly from harvested yeast and starters, much more the last 12 months thanks to Screwy and others who convinced me it's worth the little bit of time  and love it.

However, my last 3 beers, I've used dry yeast, mostly because I had them for awhile and wanted to use them before they expired.  2,  I rehydrated and 1 I simply spinkled on top after aerating all.  The dry yeast seems to start much faster than the liquid. Usually in 4-6 hours where the liquid with starters have taken 8-12 hours.  Neither is worth complaining about and I'm doing well with both but I'm curious what others have found in their brewing.

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I've used both quite a bit but have settled into dry as my go-to choice mainly bc I'm lazy and it's less work not having to fuss over a starter. Aside from that I know everyone says liquid makes better beer with more nuanced subtle enhancements but I just haven't noticed much of any inference to justify the extra work and greater cost of liquid. 

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I use a lot of liquid yeast, many different strains... and have used dry yeast as well.



My experience has been less conclusive with regard to either form having a consistantly longer or shorter lag time.



For me, it seems to be more about the strain of yeast (some have been rockets, others have taken as much as 72 hours to get busy), the age of the sample (older = less cells so generally slower), the size of the pitch (less cells = slower) and temperature (cooler = slower).



In some cases, it seems the yeast go dormant (from a fermentation perspective) while they reproduce and improve their numbers and then suddenly 'bloom' into full blown fermentation activity! This is especially true when I know the cell count is low or the yeast is older and generally when I don't make a starter.

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The liquid yeast is a bit more 'random'.  Although I've had liquid yeast start off very quickly, in general, I would say the dry yeast starts vigorous fermentation faster.

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I use mostly dry yeast.  I don't trust ranched yeast after 4-6 months, seems like that is how often I brew of late.

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I'm making a pair of 2 liter starters now as I type this post. They've been spinning since Monday morning and are just about ready for cold crashing tomorrow night.

My approach to using liquid yest is to buy a vial, bottle or smack pack at the beginning of the year and keep rewashing and making starters to pitch in different recipes. At latest count I have generation 3 in the refrigerator and using the last of generation 2 for this Saturday's brewday.

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Vince, what is the longest you've stored ranched/washed yeast and still be viable?  Only yeast I have left in some winsor (me thinks, forgot to write it down) that I have left from the RCE stout I did this spring.

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Some of the dry yeasts are excellent. I ALWAYS have a supply of US-05 on hand because it is so consistent and reliably good. As far as I'm concerned, the best reason to use liquid yeast is for its variety. You simply can't make some styles properly without the right yeast strain, even though a few of the dry strains allow you to fake it pretty well. I've been lazy lately and haven't used liquid in my last few beers, but my brewing schedule has been sparse lately too. I've gotta get an Octoberfest going soon though for the competition season, and I consider liquid yeast a must for that.

I've never noted the difference between the two as far as lag time, but I think that lag time has more to do with yeast health, quantity, and aeration more than whether it is in dry or liquid form.

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What I find interesting is that, according to Chris White's book, Yeast- the Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation, the yeast cell count of dry yeast is reduced to roughly 50% of its original count when pitched dry into your wort. So a simple rehydration ensures you to have about twice as much yeast as you would when not rehydrating. I found this kind of startling because I remember an article in either byo or zymurgy that claimed the actual flavor results are pretty identical when rehydrating or pitching dry. How can pitching half as much yeast not affect the flavor? So I called Chris White up and asked him about this (cool dude for actually calling me back). He gave me kind of a wishy washy answer, but ultimately said you will more consistently produce a beer with less off flavored phenols and so on if you rehydrate your yeast, and likewise possibly have an increased RISK of having some off flavored phenols in your beer when pitching dry.

On a side note, I think the bottom line is whether you have the correct amount of viable yeast cells for your batch of beer. The amount of dry yeast needed for a simple 1.040 SG,  2.13 gallon batch of beer is only about 3 grams of yeast, and the packet that comes with most Mr.Beer refills is 5 grams. If you don't rehydrate, then you end up theoretically with roughly 2.5 grams of viable yeast. This is well within the acceptable range. Even with our larger recipes, ranging between 1.065 or 1.090, the amount of yeast needed is between 5 and 7 grams. These recipes come with 11.5 gram yeast packets. Once again, once reduced to half its original population, it is still in the proper range (~5.75 g).

So there's my 2 cents.

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JohnDubya said:Vince, what is the longest you've stored ranched/washed yeast and still be viable?  Only yeast I have left in some winsor (me thinks, forgot to write it down) that I have left from the RCE stout I did this spring.

The longest I've stored yeast is about a year, I got up to generation 5 last year playing around with ECY-12 Beer yeast. This January year I bought a bottle of ECY-10 Ale yeast and have gotten up to generation 3 so far.

Now storing yeast is another story. I washed and stored some WLP-820 yeast last year and it's still sitting in my yeast refrigerator. For that scenario I calculate a 10% per month die off rate for the yeast cells. Eventually the cost and time of making step starters and starters to increase the viable cell count, is more than just buying a fresh vial and starting over.

To get the most bang for your buck stick with a single strain of yeast and keep washing and storing new generations as needed. This lets you always have fresh yeast and experiment with how different style and recipes turn out using the same strain of yeast.

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John, I have a Stone Levitation clone going now that I used WLP007 yeast that was washed last December. I made a 1500mL starter that took a little longer to get going, but once it did it took off. The beer was going within 12 hours of pitching the starter.

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I have done a couple of larger batches (6.5 gal and 7.5), using 2 different yeasts with whatever was leftover.   In my first try-  I did 6.5 gal SMaSH with Citra using Wyeast 1056 in the gal carboy, and the S-4 yeast in a one gallon jug.  The Wyeast was way better, and I had some skunky flavors from the S-4 yeast.  Granted, it was pretty old yeast (but not expired), so I didn't care all that much.

Next, I did a batch of a BIAB Zombie Dust clone, using the 1968 yeast, and for the hell of it, I tried using Nottinham yeast.  The Nottinham yeast was fairly fresh.  I did not rehydrate it, but it picked up skunky notes.  I do not know why.  Each beer I drank, seemed to vary from glass to glass.  I'd drink one, and think it was awful.  The next, it would be good, and the day after it would suck again. However, using the 1968 yeast, it was simply awesome. 

The bottom line for me, is that I'm pretty much done with dry yeast.  I have not gotten the consistency from brew to brew that I get from liquid yeast.  Rehydrating yeast on brew day is a big PITA, and I'd much rather do starters in advance.   My new favorite liquid yeast is the San Diego Super Yeast, but it is hard to find on the east Coast.  I really want to try this yeast that screwy gets in NJ.  I might actually make the 90 minute trek one day to do it.

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