Thursday, April 20, 2006

Yeast 101

Here's a short story about a yeast fiasco:

I was behind on brewing, batch 12 had a week to go in the secondary fermenter, the keg for batch 11 was feeling light, so I made a run to Larry's and bought enough for two batches of Cascade (see Batch 13). My plan was to do one Sunday night followed by another on Monday or Tuesday. I'd been reading about using a yeast starter, so thought I'd give it a try.

I looked around for a suitable bottle to use, a quart jar was recommended, but I found a 28 oz vinegar bottle that was nearly empty and figured that was close enough. Early Sunday morning, I boiled a pint of water and added 1/2 cup of malt extract and sanitized the empty vinegar bottle. I cooled the wort, added the yeast, and poured it into the bottle. This particular bottle had ("had" is a keyword in this story) snap cap, that is, it was sort of a flip top with a hinge and plastic ring around the neck of the bottle to hold the cap in place.

I snapped the cap and set the bottle on top of the hot water heater. The hot water heater is ideal for starting yeast, it keeps a very constant 75 degrees F in the closet. The instructions I had said to agitate the bottle every now and then. The yeast should be ready for pitching in about 12 hours, which fit well with my plan to brew that evening.

As it happened, that particular Sunday was Easter, so we had some of the relatives over for dinner. It was about 2 pm when we sat down, and it occurred to me that I hadn't agitated the yeast bottle for a while. Rather than wait until after dinner, I thought I'd give it a shake right then, as I was afraid I'd forget about it if I waited.

So into the hot water heater closet I went, dressed in my Easter Sunday best, and gave the bottle a shake -- just one. It was like opening a champagne bottle, the cap went flying (I still haven't found it, it's probably deep behind the hot water heater), the yeast/wort solution shot out of the bottle like a geyser, hosing down the inside of the closet, getting all over the hall carpet and my Easter best. The bottle was essentially empty when it finally stopped gushing.

There goes brewing on Sunday. The moral of the story -- get a jar with a screw cap.