StirStarter Equipment ReviewSaturday, January 2nd, 2010
An essential tool in the home brewer’s kit is a stir plate. Using a stir plate with a yeast starter boosts yeast cell counts dramatically*. This leads to healthier fermentation, and thus better beer! I recall using a stir plate in chemistry lab. In that case it was a hot plate and stir plate combined. When I looked these up online, I found they were quite expensive (excess of $100). Thankfully the StirStarter exists and fills this need for brewers perfectly at a much more affordable price. http://www.stirstarters.com/.
The stir starter comes complete with everything you need. It measures 4”x6” which is fine for up to a 1 gallon vessel. Any Erlenmeyer flask for yeast starters would fit comfortably on StirStarter.
It includes a rubber mat for the top so the flask grips the surface nicely.
Stir bar, catch magnet, instructions, and power supply (not pictured) are also included.
Using the StirStarter is simple. A yeast starter is prepared as normal. A sanitized magnetic stir bar is dropped into the flask containing the yeast starter. The stir bar is then centered in the bottom of the flask with a catch magnet (kept on hand). The flask is then set down on top of the stir plate. Gently the spin speed is increased to a steady rate. A whirlpool effect is not needed. If the dial is set too high the magnet can get spun off center. The spinning stir bar continuously mixes the contents of the flask. This increases the surface area potential of the yeast, leading to more yeast activity.
Some other notes about Dan at StirStarter. He ships fast, my package got here within three days. There is also a lifetime guarantee on the product. That is hard to beat.
In case you are thinking about building one yourself, here is the inside of the unit:
There are a few things going on in there involving electronics that have to be correct. One is the power level for the fan, the other is the wiring for the speed switch. The StirStarter website provides instructions on how to build your own. After just a couple seconds of reading, I realized building my own would be trouble. It would take me several trips to the electronics store and the better part of a weekend to build my own. At the low price of the StirStarter, there is not much savings potential over buying a StirStarter worry fee built by a pro.
This site will feature an upcoming article about yeast washing, which explains saving and recycling yeast over and over again.
* According to MB Raines’ article about yeast starters, stirred yeast starters can get as much as ten times the amount of active yeast compared to a standard shaken yeast starter. According to the brewersfriend.com article on stir plates, it may be closer to a 100% increase.
StirStarter was kind enough to hook me up with a StirStarter for writing this post.