A Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine reader recently asked us the following question:
I have some packets of dry yeast. Is it better to sprinkle them on top of the wort or hydrate them with water first?
It is always better to hydrate your dry yeast properly before pitching it into your wort. Dry yeast cells are in a susceptible state in that they cannot properly regulate compounds passing through their cell walls until they have been hydrated. For higher- gravity worts, in particular, hydrating the yeast before pitching is important. To hydrate your yeast, I recommend mixing the packet contents with about 25 ml of warm (104°F/40°C) water per gram of yeast. I also like to mix in about 1.25 grams of Go-Ferm yeast nutrient per gram of dry yeast. The Go-Ferm provides nutrients that aid in hydrating the yeast for an active fermentation.
You don’t want to shock the yeast by changing the temperature too rapidly. Once you have the warm mixture of yeast, Go-Ferm, and water, you need to slowly bring the temperature of it down to that of your wort. To do this, add small amounts of wort to your hydrated yeast and wait a few minutes between additions. Your goal in this process is to move the yeast temperature less than 10°F (5°C) at a time, and you can pitch your yeast when the mixture is within about 10°F (5°C) of the wort temperature. If you follow the process outlined above, you will not only provide the yeast cells with proper nutrition for a healthy fermentation but also minimize the chance of shocking the dry yeast cells.
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