Yeast Viability

I have been brewing for years and I did not realize until just recently that liquid yeast packs (or vials) become increasingly ineffective as they grow older.

I was reading some articles the other day and one of them mentioned that if you buy a yeast pack that was produced on that very day you can only expect about 97% of the yeast cells in the pack to be viable. If the yeast is a month old it is only about 75% viable. If you are brewing a strong beer with old yeast (or even a somewhat strong beer) you are probably going to need either a second packet of yeast or you will need to make a yeast starter to build up a sufficient count of yeast cells to tackle the strong sugars in a high-gravity wort.

When I stopped at the home brewing supply store last night to pick up yeast for my next batch I paid attention to the production date on the yeast. I was a little bit annoyed that the newest packet in the style that i needed was a month and a half old. There were some packets that were almost 3 months old. It was a strain that was somewhat less common that other brewing yeasts, but still…

I have experienced under-attenuated batches of beer in the past, and this might be why.

In any case, there is a pretty handy calculator at that helps you determine how many packets of yeast you need under different conditions.

Have you ever experienced any problems with brewing yeast?




Save on Home Brewing Kits At the End of the Season

The other day I stopped in to the local home brewing store to pick up a beer kit. My wife made it clear that we would be brewing a porter, and since she hasn’t had any beer in the last nine months while pregnant I thought it wise to listen.

It is getting late in the season to brew a porter – this one won’t be done until the end of March so it could be spring time by then but it probably will not be very warm outside yet so a porter will be fine. When you get into the extreme heat and humidity of summer the dark, heavy beers like porters and stouts become a little less appetizing and lighter, fruitier beers sound better.
Next to the check out counter there was a shelf of beer kits that were on clearance. There was a pumpkin ale, which I have never found appetizing, so that was passed on. There was also a winter warmer that was twenty percent off. Yes! It is essentially a Scottish ale that is very alcoholic. I do not have any problem drinking Scottish ales in the warmer weather, so that worked out well. I will not be able to brew it until mid-march and we will not get to drink it until about memorial day given the fermentation vessels being tied up with a strong ipa and a strong porter, but that is ok. I think a winter warmer will be a great way to celebrate the start of the summer season!
Honestly, stouts and porters and Scottish ales are my favorite styles anyway so I would much prefer to have a stockpile of those over lighter beers.
Have you ever gotten a great deal on a beer kit at the end of a season?

The Basic Equipment Needed to Home Brew Beer

If you are interested in starting up a home beer brewing hobby then you will need to invest in some basic equipment. This equipment can be found at almost any home brewing supply store or online.

Basic Home Brewing Equipment

The basics of beer brewing equipment, specifically extract brewing, include a large kettle for boiling the beer, a large spoon, a method for cooling the beer, and a fermentation vessel with an air lock. This video will give you and overview of the necessary equipment:

The Brew Kettle

The brewing kettle can be as small as three gallons, but it works best if the kettle is five or six gallons. This allows space to boil plenty of water for the brew, allowing for some to boil off and providing a buffer in case the wort starts to boil over. The difficulty with larger brewing kettles is that they take up a lot of space on a stove top and they will take longer to bring to a boil if full.
 brew kettle3

Brewing Spoon

The spoon should be metal or plastic and at least a couple of feet long. Wood does not work as well because it will absorb some of the wort. You want a sturdy spoon that will be easy to clean so as not to contaminate the beer.

Cooling the Wort

The beer can be cooled many different ways. The most common way to cool the wort for beginning home brewers is to use an ice bath. The brew kettle is set in a tub or sink full of cold water to let it cool down. It is ideal to use a more efficient method of cooling the wort for a few reasons, but the ice bath will suffice for most beginner brewers.

The Fermentation Vessel

The fermentation vessel is usually a plastic bucket called an Ale Pail, but glass and plastic carboys are also popular because they allow the brewer to assess the condition of the fermenting beer visually during the fermentation. The Ale Pail is less expensive and will be easier to carry around – carboys require that you buy a strap system or handle in order to easily carry them around.

Air Locks

Finally, the air lock is a simple device that can be purchased at most home brewing stores. They will slide right in to a built-in hold in the cover of an ale pail, but a rubber stopper will be needed to use an air lock with a carboy.

Home Brewing Supply Stores

For a listing of home brewing supply stores near you check out There you can find home brewing supply stores in each state and also learn more about home brewing equipment.