How to make a yeast starter

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How to make a yeast starter

Postby majorvices » Wed Jul 11, 2007 11:42 am

I am going to post this topic in hopes that it will be made a sticky and give a basic outline on how to make a yeast starter. If I miss anything or if there is is some additional information I am not apprized too don't hesitate to post or PM me and I'll make changes.

Please note that this is not a post to debate whether or not yeast starters are necessary.
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How to make a yeast starter:

A starter is basically just a small batch of beer in which you either "proof/activate" a vial/smack pack of yeast or, in cases of larger starters - grow yeast.

If you are making an average OG beer (1.045-1.060) with a tube/smack pack it is probably a good idea to proof this yeast and give it a running start. If the yeast is fresh you can simply pitch the yeast into a pre-made starter wort the morning of brewday and then pitch this starter active into your cooled, aerated wort. This method will not really grow yeast but it will assure you that your yeast if healthy and give the yeast a "running start". This should also help you have more control over your lag time. If there is no activity over 8 hours or so then you know your yeast was not healthy and a dry yeast pitch may be in order.

If the beer is of a higher gravity (over 1.060) or if your vial/smack pack is old it is important to make your starter 4-7 days before brew day to allow the yeast to grow and settle out of the beer into a slurry. Once the starter is finished fermenting and has fallen to the bottom you should put the starter in the refrigerator until brewday. The cold temps will help the yeast fall to the bottom. Then, on brew day, once your wort is cooled and aerated you can simply take the starter out of the fridge and decant the spent beer and pitch only the slurry. You do not have to let the slurry warm up as there is evidence that pitching cold is actually beneficial.

The starter wort should not be stronger than 1.040 OG (1.030-1.040 is optimal). For a 1L batch of starter you would need approx 3-4oz of DME (12-15oz for a gallon of starter medium approximately). Bring the DME and measured water to a gentle boil (be careful, starter worts love to boil over and make a mess on your stove - be especially careful if using Pyrex Lab Flasks or the like as these create miniature volcanoes of hot wort that can be dangerous - use low heat in this instance and monitor carefully) A pinch of nutrient (such as the Wyeast nutrient) is very beneficial in helping to preserve the integrity of the yeast cell wall.

Once the wort is boiled you should carefully pour it in your starter vessle (if you are using a lab flask you can skip this step as this is your starter vessel) and cover the opening with a piece of aluminum foil (this is sanitary by lab standards) and cool to about 70 degrees before pitching (the lab flask can be immersed in an ice bath to cool quickly).

Once cooled aerate the wort well either by shaking, pumping filtered air or using a shot of pure O2. Pitch yeast.

It's a good idea to pick the starter up and swirl it to re-suspend the yeast and to provide some aeration during the growth/activation period.

The size of your starter should be larger if you need to grow more yeast. For instance, you may need a gallon starter for a barley wine or a 2L starter for an IPA. Lagers and "hybrid ales" such as kolsch will need larger pitches of yeast as compared to ales. In the case of lagers you will need approx 2x the amount of yeast.

Use the Yeast Pitching Calculator to determine the approximate size starter you will need.

A couple of links of interest
http://www.maltosefalcons.com/tech/MB_R ... turing.php
http://www.mrmalty.com/pitching.php
Prost! - Keith
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Postby CthulhuDragon » Wed Jul 11, 2007 2:51 pm

Good post.

It's worth mentioning that making a starter using metric units is considerably easier. With metric you can use a simple 10 to 1 ratio. For every 10 ml of water us 1 gram of DME. So for a 1 liter starter (1000 ml) use 100 grams of DME. For 2 liters use 200g, for 3 liters 300g, etc. Simple.
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Postby majorvices » Wed Jul 11, 2007 3:12 pm

CthulhuDragon wrote:Good post.

It's worth mentioning that making a starter using metric units is considerably easier. With metric you can use a simple 10 to 1 ratio. For every 10 ml of water us 1 gram of DME. So for a 1 liter starter (1000 ml) use 100 grams of DME. For 2 liters use 200g, for 3 liters 300g, etc. Simple.


I have a few suggestions from a couple other brewers and I will try to incorporate that into the edit - Thanks! 8)
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Re: How to make a yeast starter

Postby HiGravity » Wed Jul 11, 2007 4:50 pm

majorvices wrote:The starter wort should not be stronger than 1.040 OG (1.030-1.040 is optimal). For a 1L batch of starter you would need approx 3-4oz of DME (12-15oz for a gallon of starter medium approximately).

It's worth mentioning that when referring to the starter volume (1 qt, 1 litre, 1 gallon) this is the volume after boiling. If you want to make a 1 qt starter, you will need to start with 1.1 - 1.2 quarts (or more) of water to end up with 1 qt. An easy way to determine the amount is boil some water for 5-10 minutes and see how much you have left. Otherwise you'll find that your 1.040 starter has become a 1.050 - 1.060 starter due to the boil off.

majorvices wrote:Once the wort is boiled you should carefully pour it in your starter vessle (if you are using a lab flask you can skip this step as this is your starter vessel)

I'm not crazy about pouring boiling liquid into a plain glass jug. I let mine cool to 70 in the pot (with the lid on), then pour.

majorvices wrote: and cover the opening with a piece of aluminum foil (this is sanitary by lab standards) and cool to about 70 degrees before pitching (the lab flask can be immersed in an ice bath to cool quickly).

Once cooled aerate the wort well either by shaking, pumping filtered air or using a shot of pure O2. Pitch yeast.

For a starter, aluminum foil is ideal as it allows additional air to come in contact with the starter. Yeast need O2 to grow healthy, so don't use an airlock.
majorvices wrote:It's a good idea to pick the starter up and swirl it to re-suspend the yeast and to provide some aeration during the growth/activation period.

A stir plate comes in handy here as it will allow the starter to be swirled continuously.
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Re: How to make a yeast starter

Postby majorvices » Wed Jul 11, 2007 5:32 pm

HiGravity wrote:
majorvices wrote:Once the wort is boiled you should carefully pour it in your starter vessle (if you are using a lab flask you can skip this step as this is your starter vessel)

I'm not crazy about pouring boiling liquid into a plain glass jug. I let mine cool to 70 in the pot (with the lid on), then pour...


I agree this can be kind-of risky. I use lab flasks now so it is not an issue but when I used glass jugs I always pre-heated them first and I never had one break using that method.
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Postby Monster Mash » Wed Jul 11, 2007 5:50 pm

How about 3.2oz DME in a 1qt canning jar. Pressure cook 15 minutes @15psi, cool and store.

When you want to make a starter, pour wort into a flask, aerate and pitch.
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Postby bo_gator » Wed Jul 11, 2007 8:09 pm

Monster Mash wrote:How about 3.2oz DME in a 1qt canning jar. Pressure cook 15 minutes @15psi, cool and store.

When you want to make a starter, pour wort into a flask, aerate and pitch.
Now that looks like a good idea. 8)
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Postby MullerBrau » Thu Jul 12, 2007 2:17 pm

This is also nice to post in the brewery.

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Postby Denny » Thu Jul 12, 2007 2:23 pm

Shouldn't there be a lid on that pot of cooling wort????
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Postby MullerBrau » Thu Jul 12, 2007 2:25 pm

Yes, most definitely, but this starter was made at Wyeast labs in a sterile environment. :wink:
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Postby Monster Mash » Thu Jul 12, 2007 2:33 pm

I prefer to weigh my DME since a half cup of compact DME can weigh a lot more then if it is loose.
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Postby Denny » Thu Jul 12, 2007 2:48 pm

MullerBrau wrote:Yes, most definitely, but this starter was made at Wyeast labs in a sterile environment. :wink:


Ahhhh...how could I miss THAT??? :lol:
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Postby BOBICK » Mon Jul 16, 2007 6:09 pm

How does a topic become a sticky. I do feel I am bothering some of the 'veterans', when asking a question that I know I've read before, but can't seem to find through the search tool. If it is vote than mine is 'Yes' to a starter sticky.
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Postby bo_gator » Mon Jul 16, 2007 6:29 pm

You may want to add something about using an aquarium pump aeration stone set-up for those people that don't have a stir plate (like me). I make my starter like everyone else, but I put my NB air pump in it and let it run for a day or two. I believe this comes pretty close to what a stir plate does. 8)


Edited because Majorvices told me to. :wink:

Here is the basic set needed to use Continuous areation for starter making.
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Soon after the pump is turned on
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The starter is only 600 ml because my LHBS sells the small smack-packs, so this small starter is used to grow the yeast up to the ~ large smack-pack numbers.
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Wort at saturation point, ready to pitch in yeast
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As the starter begins to grow I will post other pictures, and will post pictures of stepping it up to 3 liters.

The yeast used in these pictures is Wyeast's Bohemian lager #2124.

Here it is stepped up to a 1 gallon jug. It started off as 3/4 a gallon, but almost a 1/4 blew out over night, so I replaced it with fresh wort.
Image

When using the constant areation method it is a good idea to use a bucket to catch the foam over.
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Here it is in the fridge letting the yeast settle out. Lager yeast takes forever. It will be ready to pitch soon. 8)

Image
Last edited by bo_gator on Sat Jul 28, 2007 8:18 am, edited 6 times in total.
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Postby Monster Mash » Mon Jul 16, 2007 10:25 pm

bo_gator wrote:Majorvices;

You may want to add something about using an aquarian pimp...


You have something against Libra pimps?
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