Yeast starter question

Discussion in 'General Brewing Discussions' started by TheZel66, Nov 27, 2012.

  1. TheZel66

    TheZel66 Member

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    If I'm going to do a 1-2 Liter yeast starter, and it's time to pitch the yeast into the wort, do I pitch the whole starter into the wort, or should I try to get some of the starter wort out before pitching?? What's the best procedure?? A 1 or two liter starter sounds like a lot of extra stuff to throw into your wort.
     
  2. Kaiser

    Kaiser Member

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    this is a commonly asked question and it depends how you prepared the starter:

    If you made the starter wort neutral (maybe even figured it into your recipe by taking some of the recipe’s DME and water, for example) and did not ferment it on a stir plate, you should pitch the whole thing at high Kraeusen. This is said to be the best way to pitch a starter.

    But most of us use a stir plate and oftentimes we don’t factor the starter into the recipe or use leftover wort from previous batches. In this case the starter beer should be decanted and the yeast should be roused and re-suspended with wort from the beer that it is used for. To get the yeast to settle you’ll have to it ferment the starter completely. Most yeasts (even ale yeast as I found out this weekend) will not stop fermenting and start flocculating when cooled in the fridge.

    Kai
     
  3. Hammer1

    Hammer1 Member

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    Stir plate or no stir plate I have always found it best to pitch the entire starter. To get all the yeast to settle you would have to cold crash the starter and that would be counter productive and decanting starter wort is just throwing out perfectly good alcohol. In my opinion starters are only needed when you don't have enough yeast to ferment your brew. 1 smack pack or 1 vial per 5gal is plenty of yeast. There are plenty of arguments for starters and most of them viable but bottom line its a step to a possable infection that can be avoided.
     
  4. LarryBrewer

    LarryBrewer Active Member

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    I personally decant as much as possible since I use DME to make the starter, but I brew all grain. This is to keep my beer as pure as possible. If you think about it, a 2L starter is about half a gallon, and in a 5 gallon batch, that would be close to 10% of the total volume. I'm also not a fan of how the starter ends up tasting - thin and oxidized in my opinion.

    I do use a stir plate. The yeast settle down quite nicely in the bottom after 24-36 hours, all on their own (I shut off the stir plate when fermentation is complete and things are settling out naturally). I tend to use highly flocculant strains though.
     
  5. Altbier bitte

    Altbier bitte New Member

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    This is why I like dry yeast. You just have to rehydrate and pitch. I've even made a 2 liter starter with a single packet of Nottingham from first runnings (you can dilute to appropriate gravity with distilled water), then split it between 2 5 gallon carboys only a few hours later. It's never failed to take off like gangbusters within 12 or 15 hours. That said, if you make a 1 liter starter with pale DME, that's only ~ 5% of your total wort - I doubt Charlie Papazian could tell the difference on a bet. I guess if your'e really concerned you can cold crash and pour off some of the DME, but you're throwing yeast cells down the sink, and under pitching could potentially wind up having a larger affect on the taste of your beer than the little bit of DME would.
     
  6. TheZel66

    TheZel66 Member

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    So Larry, you start the starter about two days before brew day and use a stir plate. I plan on using a stir plate (making my own as we write). I'm doing a Munich Helles and don't want a liter of DME to mess up my all grain 3.5 gallon lager.
     
  7. LarryBrewer

    LarryBrewer Active Member

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    Yep 24-36 hours before, longer is okay too, just put it in the fridge when it is 'done'. I wouldn't push it past 3-4 days.
     
  8. chessking

    chessking New Member

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    If you ferment your starter warm you can get off flavors that you don't want in your finished beer. All you have to do is taste the starter beer to see what I mean. Decanting the liquid off the starter yeast cake prevents this. Yes, there is alcohol in the starter beer, but my end game is to make good tasty beer, not just produce alcohol.

    Cold crashing the yeast keeps it fresh, and inactive until it is needed. The yeast will start eating its reserve energy if it is not kept dormant. Cold temperatures and lack of oxygen will achieve this. When you need it, warm temperatures, and an oxygen rich environment will fire it back up.
     
  9. Hammer1

    Hammer1 Member

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    Like I said there are a lot of valid arguments for starters, over my years of homebrewing I have found no advantage to making them. And I have made plenty. If you feel the need to over pitch just spend the extra five bucks for a second smack pack or vial. If you add up the cost of stir plates, flasks, stir bars, DME and your time. You could of just purchased a bunch of yeast.
     
  10. The Brew Mentor

    The Brew Mentor Well-Known Member

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    I was with Hammer1 for a long time in my earlier brewing days.
    I was also in the camp that it didn't matter if you pitched dry.
    I liked my beer and so did my friends.
    When I started to enter competitions and have my beers judged, the feedback I got made me reconsider many parts of my brewing process.
    I started looking at the little things. Yeast pitch rate, pitching temperature, cell count pitched, temperature control for fermentation's, aeration,etc.
    I started to notice differences and although my beers have got better and even won awards, I'm still always looking to improve.
    I have had the opportunity to meet and discuss some yeast issues with Chris White, Jamil Zainasheff and Keith Lemke. All have expressed to me the importance of proper fermentation's as the number 1 most important part of brewing.
    So, for what it's worth, I think starters and cell count are extremely important.

    Brian
     
  11. Kaiser

    Kaiser Member

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    I think even the liquid yeast you buy is not in a good enough condition to be used for primary fermentation straight from the package.

    But then again, I'm on the other end of the extreme when it comes to yeast handling. Although its lots of work I do enjoy having my own yeast bank and it allows me to buy ingredients only one or twice a year. But that also means I have to start preparing yeast a week in advance for brewing.

    Kai
     
  12. Brewmaster Tom

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    I'm with Kaiser on this one.

    Although smack packs claim to contain 100 billion cells, unless you are picking it up straight from the factory you do not have 100 billion viable cells. You lose approximately 0.7% viability per day from date of manufacture. A 1.040OG ale needs approximately 150 billion cells. Thus, your choice would be either 2 smack packs or build a starter.

    I build a starter for every beer I make. If its a low OG beer I only have to do one stage to get the cells I need but if it's a big beer or a lager then I usually do 2 or 3 steps to get the cell count where it needs to be. I have noticed a huge uptick in quality of my beer not to mention I have hardly any lag time anymore (2-3 hours at most).

    But YMMV and everyone has to do what they feels is right for them.

    CHEERS!!
     
  13. LarryBrewer

    LarryBrewer Active Member

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  14. Kaiser

    Kaiser Member

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    And even if they are alive, those cells are starved and will need more time to take up nutrients than fresh yeast before they can get going.

    If I were to buy vials for yeast and plan to make a vial last for a few batches, I would actually use only 1/4 of the vial at a time to grow a batch of yeast. If you use sterile practices when handling the vial you should be able to keep that culture contaminant free. But I don't think you can make it last longer than 6 months, though.

    Kai
     
  15. TheZel66

    TheZel66 Member

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    This brings me to another question about yeast and starters. I just purchased some Yeast Labs vials from a nearby homebrew store that was selling them at half price because they had just reached the Best Before date on the vial. He said the best by date was four months after the yeast are put in the vials. I'm planning on brewing over the christmas break, using a vial I purchased. The yeast will have been in the vial 5 months when I start making the starter. Your calculator says the viability on the yeast is 0%. Are they really useless by this time? Or can I build up my viable population with a starter..
     
  16. LarryBrewer

    LarryBrewer Active Member

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    It is a risk. In theory the yeast can be roused, but you are bringing it back from the brink of death. Several years ago I tried reviving a 6-7 month old vial of white labs and the starter never took off after 2 days so I dumped it...
     
  17. Kaiser

    Kaiser Member

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    I'd say try it. You could get the yeast started early enough that you still have time to acquire a back-up in case it was all dead.

    Kai
     
  18. The Brew Mentor

    The Brew Mentor Well-Known Member

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    And I'd also start with a lower OG starter ~ 1.020
     

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