WTF Jamil?

I guess you would call me a regular listener to both Brew Strong and Can You Brew It, two Brewing Network shows featuring Jamil Zainasheff.  I listen for a number of reasons.  Recipe ideas.  Brewing ideas.  Whenever you listen to people who have made a lot of homebrew you will hear a lot of things, some good, some perhaps not so good, but part of the fun of brewing is trying to figure it all out.

I was brewing this weekend and listening to a Brew Strong and a question was posed about how many yeast cells are in a gram of dry yeast. I had been considering this question recently, as I was making beers for the BBR experiment.  If you look at manufacturer’s data sheets you will typically see a number in the range of 5 to 7 billion cells per dry gram.  If you wander over to Jamil’s MrMalty web page, you will see where he acknowledges this but also claims he has measured 20 billion cells per gram.

In responding to the question on Brew Strong, Jamil stated that he never said the 20 billion cells he measured were live cells! Well, WTF, does he think dead cells do a brewer any good?  He then went on to pose a lame excuse, that the yeast manufacturers tell the homebrewer just to sprinkle the dry yeast directly onto the wort, and that will kill half the cells and that is why they claim only 6 billion cells per gram.  The  only problem is that Lallemand, makers of Windsor and Nottingham yeast, direct the brewer to rehydrate the yeast in war water, and to expect greater than 5 billion cells per gram.

I realize the yeast manufacturers are going to play it safe.  What does greater than 5 billion cells mean?  10 billion? 15 billion?  Well we don’t know, and given ho the yeast might be handled or when it might be used is out of their control.  But there is no excuse for Zainasheff’s lame approach and answer to the question.

Later in the show there was another question about sparging and efficiency.  The brewer asked if he should change his lautering technique because he was getting high efficiency on lower gravity beers.  In a later post I plan to show how you will always get a higher efficiency when lautering a mash for a low gravity beer, at least if you are doing batch sparging.  Even the co-host John Palmer seemed clueless, and I usually expect more form him.  He claimed he always gets 85% efficiency in his brewery, a claim I find very hard to believe. Even the host of the show was trying to point them in the right direction, but Jamil and John seemed indifferent.

So, don’t mindlessly take the advice of another brewer, no matter how many awards he has won or books he has written.  Don’t accept what  any old idiot blog tells you.  Evaluate the information critically.  Be a skeptical brewer!

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