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Need help - Fermentation question on Dawson's Red

I brewed this extract batch yesterday afternoon and did everything according to the kit recipe. The only thing that seemed slightly off is that the Wyeast (British Ale) smackpack did not swell as fully as it has always done in the past. It did swell but only about half the size it usually does. This is about the 15th extract kit I’ve brewed, always use a smack pack, and they have always swelled fully.

I just went down to my basement to check it and nothing is happening - it looks exactly the same as when I checked it last night before going to bed (clear surface, no head). With every other kit I’ve brewed, there is always some active fermentation/bubbling that is, at least, starting at this point.

My questions:

  • Has anyone else had this experience with this kit and/or yeast?

  • Should I re-pitch the yeast if fermentation doesn’t start within a few hours? If so, with the same Wyeast smack pack and amount (I live a few miles from the NB store)

  • Any other ideas/suggestions?

It looked liked a great batch that I’m making for house guests in a bout a month and don’t want to screw this one up.

Thanks!

You might have bum yeast. I’ve screwed up batches a few times before because of this. The yeast pack needs to fully swell or you might get screwed.

What to do? Wait another 24 hours. If it starts by then, which it might, then you’ll be fine. But if it doesn’t, then add more yeast. Any kind of ale yeast will be fine. I always keep a few packs of dry yeast on hand such as US-05 which can be used for most beers, just in case something like this happens. Anyway, if I were a guessing man… I would guess that you will need more yeast. So figure out what yeast you will add if/when it isn’t fermenting tomorrow.

Good luck.

Thanks Dave, and this is my hunch as well. Something just didn’t seem quite right with the yeast pack yesterday and then it seemed to be confirmed this morning. I agree that it’s good to give it another day.

Will pitching new yeast tomorrow do anything at all to alter the beer/flavor, etc. (from what would have been the beer/flavor, etc. if the original yeast had worked)??

Thanks again.

Just because the pack wasn’t fully swelled doesn’t mean it’s bad yeast and the fact that it was partially swelled means there’s active yeast, if it hadn’t swelled at all there might be reason for concern. If you didn’t make a starter it’s gonna take a while to get rolling.

I did 10 gallons a few weeks back and pitched US-05 in both, I didn’t see any active fermentation until nearly 30 hours in but it took off like crazy after that. Dave’s advice to have some yeast on hand just in case is spot on, however in my nearly 10 years of brewing and hundreds of batches I’ve never had to repitch yeast due to a batch not taking off, I’ve had some lag times up to 48 hours but they always go. Be patient grasshopper.

Relax until the 72nd hour. Then get slightly concerned. By the 80th hour it will have taken off.

Like mentioned, the pack swelled. So some yeast are alive. Give them time to get going.

What is the manufacture date on the pack?

I worry after the first 36 hours. 72 hours would be little too long IMHO. 48 might be alright, but I pitch more yeast at 36 when necessary, as I’ve occasionally had problems otherwise.

Thanks again to everyone who has weighed in on this. I am working to find a balance between patience and being prepared, so here is my plan:

  • I called NB (I live a couple of miles from them) and they will replace the Wyeast smack pack at no charge.

  • I will wait till the batch is about 36 to 40 hours into fermentation and will re-pitch if there is no active fermentation at that time.

  • I’ve been reassured that re-pitching will not harm the beer (if I am in fact being premature)

(and in response to Nighthawk’s question about manufacture date on the Wyeast package, it is July 2013, so that tells me it should be pretty fresh yeast. And thanks for bringing this to my attention - I never paid attention to this detail before and it will be helpful to check this date when I purchase Wyeast in the future)

Thanks again and I will re-post an update at some point.

I pitched another smack pack of Wyeast yeast last night - 36 hours into the brew. Checked it this morning, no action, but came home from work tonight and active fermentation has begun! It’s beginning to form a nice krausen and the bubbling is slow, but it’s happening.

I really believe that I had a bum yeast packet and it needed to be re-pitched.

Thanks again for all of the suggestions/advice and I will post an update after it’s kegged and I make the first pour.

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