The Activator has an average of 100 billion cells of pure yeast ready to pitch, plus nutrients. By smacking the nutrient pouch in the Activator, yeast metabolism begins, providing proof of viability and jump-starting fermentation. But, the Activator with the largest cell count on the market, is pitchable without even smacking the pouch. Keep in mind that although the packet says 'Allow package to incubate for 3 or more hours', just like the regular smack packs, this time will vary depending on the age of the package, yeast strain and temperature. All packets are best used and pitchable within six month of manufacture. They are still good up to a year from manufacture, but require a days incubation for each month over six.
Lagers always take longer than ales to both swell and begin fermentation. The Abbey #1214 and Saison/Duval #1388 are very slow to both swell and to start. Rather than the mid 70's like most ales, these strains work best in the upper 70's. 1388 will slow and appear to be stalled at about 1.030, but it will eventually finish. Belgian Ardennes #3522 and Trappist High Gravity #3787 are very aggressive strains. American Ale #1056 is a fast starter. The European Ale #1338 packets always appear to have begun to swell when they arrive, but that is just the nature of the strain. Don't be concerned.
Keep your yeast happy. Introduce lots of oxygen when pitching. If you're not using the Activator for beer, increase the cell count by making a starter. The silver wine yeast smack packs are pitchable, but a starter never hurts. Maintain the appropriate temperature for the strain. Listen to our yeast.
Listen to Yeast On-line
A team of scientists has found a way to listen in on the strange sounds produced by a single cell. It is believed that the sounds may be of tiny 'Molecular motors' hard at work. This may explain what Fred Eckhardt has been demonstrating at homebrew competitions for years. The recordings, reported in the journal Science, were made with yeast cells by using a small probe thousands of times thinner than a hair. NPR's David Kestenbaum reports. You can listen too at: http://www.npr.org/features/feature.php?wfId=3859762