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Yeast harvest gone wrong

Hey all. I was bragging about imperial pub yeast recently and liked it so much I decided to harvest and repitch in a similar batch Of Irish red all grain. That’s when the bragging ends.

The airlock gave off a sickly pumpkin smell that carried through to the end beer. Horrendous end result. My review of palmers book and other resources says that the yeast was likely stressed. I think it was either the harvest process or an over extended starter.

My starter ran for 3 days. Top notch sanitation as always. When I pitched it, it was so active it looked like an extra fizzy glass of soda. I did not put it in the fridge to settle out. I’m hoping that’s where I went awry. If it was the harvesting process then I’m simply not going to do that again and risk lousy beer and instead buy the yeast fresh and use it once.

Im quite disappointed since I was cranking out really good stuff and then ran into this issue. Anyway I appreciate any words of wisdom.

Well, let’s pick at one item at a time… What was the measurements for your starter?
I’ve done my yeast ranching quite like your describing…
Sneezles61

That might be part of it. I don’t really know what the measurement was. I tipped the carboy, let the trub settle out and decanted off to four sterilized pint sized mason jars and Further decanted down to two. Put them in the fridge for two weeks. I decanted them down and added to a standard 5 gallon starter with dme as the sugar source. Not sure if that answers the measurement question. The beauty of a packet of yeast is that you have a cell count. Don’t know how to measure that with a harvest. Maybe I underpitched and didn’t realize it?

Btw I did a 1 liter volume starter with 4 ounces of dme

The 1 liter and 4 oz sound good… I try for 1.030 as my starter…
Did you have a hoppy beer cap on top of your stored yeast? About 1" has been good for me… That helps keep your yeast from getting contaminated…
Sneezles61

I don’t bother cold crashing starters anymore. I start one 24 to 48 hours before brew day and then directly pitch. Most of the time I just pitch harvested yeast without make a starter. The 4oz mason jars I use to store my yeast slurry is hundreds of times more yeast than a smack pack so I why bother.

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I’ve noticed some long lag times on occasion if I don’t do a starter with slurry, especially if it’s one that’s been sitting for a while. They eventually take off but not like making a starter or pitching onto a fresh cake in a fermenter. Have you noticed anything like that?

As far as yeast count… When you get fresh liquid yeast… There’s about 2 tablespoons… So if you compare what you have to that… So, if you put in even half the jar… You’ve put in plenty.
Sneezles61

Over active starter followed by “extra fizzy” activity in the fermenter is practically screaming out infection. Some people detect a pumpkin flavor from acetydehyde which suggests it could age out.

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Any Harvested yeast that is more than 3 months old I will make a starter for. I get nervous when activity takes more than 24 hours to show up.

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I’m quite sure it was infected. My struggle is to figure out how it happened. I’ve done lots of starters without issue but only this one from harvested yeast so I can only figure I did something wrong during that process.

I think I’m going to stick with one and done for the time being.

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Somewhere in your process something wasn’t cleaned/sanitized. I, as well as many others here, harvest and repitch yeast as our MO with few to no issues.

You mentioned above pouring the yeast to pint mason jars, then decanting, then decanting again I believe? Not sure what all that was about but it’s definitely not necessary. If your second/third decant took all the beer off the top of the yeast that is likely where your issue lies. It must have a beer layer on top to protect it from the environment above.

Keep it simple. Leave a little beer, 1/4-1/2 inch on the cake, swirl it up and pour to well sanitized jars, cover and refrigerate. I put the caps on, tighten then loosen 1/4 turn to allow depressurization in case the yeast kicks out a little CO2 after the transfer.

The beer will separate from the yeast and make a nice protective cover between the yeast and the air above. When you’re ready to use it just swirl it up and use sanitary practices to transfer to the new fermenter or starter container.

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I harvest and reuse for 90% of my batches. I’ve only had one dumped batch out of 150ish batches. I blamed that one on the coconut I used.
I’m sanitize every step of the way when I harvest including plunging my mason jar with all of my sanitized equipment during brew day. That’s where it sits as it comes up to temperature.

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There is nothing like a 5 gallon bucket full of star san… Stuff can sit in whilst brewing…
Sneezles61

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Thanks Danny. Simple is definitely good. I actually did a wash with about half a gallon of distilled water which is why I reduced it down so many times since I had so much liquid. I didn’t sanitize the distilled water which might have been the issue…

I gather that you just took all the trub and leftover half inch of beer and went straight to sanitized jars and didn’t bother with a rinse. No issues with all of the extra trub?

OH ooh… Perhaps the problem… Distilled water… Since distilled doesn’t have any minerals in it… It’ll penetrate the cell walls of the yeast… Killing them… So you were left with wild yeast… Stuff I read in the yeast book…
Sneezles61

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Definitely do not rinse the yeast. IMO It’s really not needed and only adds a chance of stress and/or infection. The yeast has already worked hard to make the perfect environment for themselves. What makes you think you can do any better?

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Yea, I agree completely on yeast rinsing. There was a really good article about why it’s counter-productive a few years ago. Can’t seem to find it ATM but if you search this forum you may find it.

I have no opinion on that theory of distilled water hurting yeast. Don’t recall ever hearing that one before.

Thanks sneezles. I may have to lay off the barrage of YouTube videos on the subject

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It’s as simple as saving your yeast. It’s really one of the easiest things in the hobby. Don’t give up, keep trying.

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