How to pitch yeast correctly into beer wort

adding yeast to the beer wort

How to pitch yeast into homebrew beer


Newbie beer makers may have heard the expression “pitch your yeast” and wondered what the heck it meant.

I myself was horribly concerned that I had missed a trick when making my first brew after learning this phrase.

Had I missed out a step?

Had I ruined my beer?

Nope, of course not (but there are ways to do that).

Pitching yeast’ is just homebrewer lingo for adding yeast to the wort. It's called pitching because you throw it, kinda like a baseball pitcher...

Without yeast, your wort will not turn into beer. The yeast is an active living organism that feeds on the oxygen and sugars in the wort and as a bi-product produces carbon dioxide and the sought after alcohol.

Yeast is a sensitive cell-based life form and needs the correct conditions in which to thrive and help make really good beer.

That’s why pitching your yeast is more than simply adding it to your beer – it needs to be done at the correct time in the brew so that it can activate properly.

What temperature to pitch yeast into the beer wort?


The short version is if you pitch your yeast when your brew is too hot (say you’ve just boiled it), you will kill the yeast with the heat and fermentation will not occur. Which would be a waste of time and money.

This is why the cooling process can be so important.

That said, pitching yeast too cold means the yeast won't start its job.

Your fermenter might have a temperature gauge on the side, else you might need to get your hands on a thermometer.

Ale fermentation temperatures commonly range from 68 to 72 °F (20 to 22 °C) Lager fermentation temperatures will range from 45 to 55 °F (7 to 13 °C).

If you are using a beer kit, the ideal temperature should be written on the can or pouch - trust what the manufacturer brewer says!

I’ve noticed that some brewers can be super sensitive about yeast and the preparation and pitching of it. There are arguments about the best method but the casual homebrewer should not get caught up too much in it.

If you follow some good beer making instructions, you shouldn’t have any problems with the yeast.

A key tip to remember is that if you do ferment outside of the intended yeast range, your beer will have different qualities that you may be expecting - and by this we mean your beer will probably not taste like you intended.


The easiest way to pitch your yeast is by 'dry pitching'


If you are like me, once you have prepared the wort in your  30 litre fermenting drum and it is the ideal temp, you are ready to add your dried yeast. The easy way is to simply open up the packet that came from the beer kit, and drop it into your wort. I like to cut the packet open so that the yeast cells and efficiently exit the packet.

I also like to give it a shake to pack the yeast on one side and cut on that side.

When you do this, you are pitching your yeast 'dry'.

Maybe give it a gentle stir with a clean spoon. Close off your fermenter securely and place your beer in a good spot for a week or two to let the yeast do its job. Put some blankets around it. Maybe use a heat pad, especially during winter months.

If you want to give the yeast the best chance to do their job really well:

Re-hydrate your yeast before you pitch it


A handy method that many earnest brewers follow is to hydrate the dry yeast in water before pitching. The reasoning behind this is that it gives the yeast a good chance to get started properly.
Rehydrating yeast in a glass

The theory is that there can be a concentration of sugars in the wort which means it is difficult for the yeast to absorb water into its membranes so that they can begin to activate/metabolize and thus commence the fermentation process.

Based on that, I imagine that if you have made a high gravity wort that's full of sugar and fermentables for the yeast to eat, hydration is a good step to take.

In my experience, I’ve never had the yeast fail with a simple beer kit but if you are keen to cut the potential problem out, feel free to re-hydrate your yeast.

Do this by boiling some water and letting it cool. You can then add your yeast packet (or two!) to the water and let it begin to absorb – you shouldn’t do this too far apart from when it is time to pitch the yeast.

Cover and leave for about 15 minutes and then inspect. It should have begun to smell like you are making bread and 'bubbled' a bit (see the above picture). If so, it’s ready to be pitched.

Once you've added the yeast to the wort, there will likely be some left in the glass - I have a 'waste not want not' kind of view so I add some water to the glass, give it a swirl and add it to the yeast as well.

If there is no churning or foaming or sourdough or bread like smells, it could be your yeast has died from old age or environmental damage such as being left in the sun.

You may need to use a new packet of yeast...


How many packets of yeast should I use?


Generally speaking, brewers will use one packet of yeast however if you a trying to make a very high alcohol beer where the yeast is expected to do a lot of work, you might want to consider using two packets.

You may want to use two packets if your yeast is fairly old as the older it is, the less potency the yeast will have as the yeast cells will have slowly died off over time.

The 'denser' or thicker your wort, the more yeast you will need.

There's also a difference when making an ale or lager. Yeast becomes slow to ferment when it’s cold. Given lager ferments at a much lower temperature than ale, it's reasonable then to use more yeast with the lager to finish the job properly.

Some brewers use the rule of thumb to pitch about twice as much yeast for a lager as for an ale.

Using liquid yeast for brewing


If you intend to use a liquid yeast it should really be pitched to a starter wort before THEN pitching to the main wort in the fermenter. Here's a handy guide to making the starter from one of the true industry legends, John Palmer. 

That said, many liquid yeasts can simply be pitched as normal so check the instructions that come with your unit.

What are some good yeasts to brew with?


If you do not wish to use the yeast that comes with the beer kit you have, you could try what a gabillion brewers use, the American ale yeast, Safale -05. I've used it personally and it goes great guns and is tried and true.

The Safale - 04 is a handy English ale yeast too.

A quick summary of pitching yeast 


  • Pitching yeast is simply adding it to the beer wort.
  • Add it when your wort is the recommended temperature – check your beer kit’s recommended temperature.
  • You can pitch dry yeast straight into the wort.
  • Or you can add it to water just prior to pitching.
  • Dry yeasts have a longer storage life than liquid yeasts. 
  • Liquid yeasts must be stored by refrigeration means.
  • The older the yeast, the more of it you will need to use. 
  • Once done, sit back and read some cool trivia about Star Wars
  • You can even use baker's yeast to pitch into your beer!
Extra for experts: should you use a ph Meter?

Image credit to Justin Knabb via Creative Commons Licence

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