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OikoEco

When To Do Yeast Starter?

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So my buddy recently brewed a hefeweizen with WY3068 and harvested his yeast into 4 mason jars. Luckily he gave me one of his jars so I could brew my Bavarian Hefe this weekend. The thing is...this is my first attempt using harvested yeast and I really want to make sure the yeast are viable before brew day (saturday). I would like to create a starter on Wednesday or Thursday morning at the latest to see if the yeast are viable by Friday morning. That way, if they are not viable, I can make a pitstop by the LHBS on my way home from work on Friday if I need to. I won't have time to go to the LHBS on Saturday.

Would a yeast starter last for 2.5 days before pitching? I just don't see any other way around it.

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Absolutely. There are different takes on this but what I do is make the starter plenty ahead of time. When it's fermented out totally I throw it in the fridge. This drops out almost all the yeast (and some other suspended solids) so that you can decant off all the aerated "beer" that you've fermented without temp control, and pitch mainly yeast (and sediment). I'd say mix that sucker up whenever you get a chance.

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I make my starter on a stirplate the morning before brewday and pitch jt about 36 hours later just as the krausen is falling.

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No stir plate here, but I'm lucky to have a 1000 mL Erlenmeyer flask, plenty of DME, and some aluminum foil laying around. I'll probably get the starter going early Thursday morning before going to work. I'll then check its progress on friday morning and decide whether another LHBS trip is necessary.

I would love to take the starter in to work with me on Thurs to watch it go, but something tells me that would be illegal according to Illinois state law (operating a motor vehicle with an open alcohol container). Bah!

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I'm in SPs camp on this. If I'm brewing on Sunday I'll make my starter Wedensday night and put it on the stir plate. Friday morning it goes it the fridge. Decant Sunday morning and pitch.

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I usually let it go 2 days, but if activity slows down to nothing, I'll put it in the fridge and decant it on brew day. I also read that feeding your yeast fresh wort 15 mins after the boil (chilled wort), gets fermentation going fast. I did this today on a brew with an OG of 1.076, and had a Krausen within a few hours.

Also, if you're using a flask with a stir-plate, definitely buy some fermcap to prevent boil overs.

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Good stuff, guys. What exactly do you decant off when you pull it out of the fridge?

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"OikoEco" post=273830 said:

Good stuff, guys. What exactly do you decant off when you pull it out of the fridge?


The stale beer on the top. You should see three layers- 1. The beer. 2. White liquid- which is the good yeast. 3. Trub on the bottom, but there usually isn't a lot in starters anyways. Basically pour off most of the liquid on top, but leave a little of the bar part to swirl the liquid around so you can get all the yeast totally out.

There's also a lot of people that say you do not need to decant if it's a small starter. I'd say that anything over 1L in a 5 gal batch must be decanted. Also check mr.malty for pitching rates. You simply plug in the production date of the yeast, the projected OG, and the app gives the right amount of starter you need.

Also, you might hear some people to tell you to seal your container (flask, grower, jug) with an air-lock or lid, but just use a piece of sanitized foil. You need a little oxygen for yeast production, but the foil will keep the nasties out.

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"losman26" post=273852 said:

"OikoEco" post=273830 said:

Good stuff, guys. What exactly do you decant off when you pull it out of the fridge?


There's also a lot of people that say you do not need to decant if it's a small starter. I'd say that anything over 1L in a 5 gal batch must be decanted.

I'm of the school of thought that if one chooses to decant, it should be more of a function of beer style than anything. Lighter, more delicate beer styles would be more prone to off flavors from a starter as opposed to more forcefully flavored beers.

That said, I usually do my starters the night before so they usually only run 12-18 hours so "stale beer" isn't really a concern - I just pitch the whole thing. Very Minor dilution of the final product is really the only consequence.

My theory in doing this rather than doing a starter three days in advance is I'm trying to get the yeast right as they're finishing their reproduction phase, before they really start any actual activity - I want all that to happen in my real wort as opposed to my starter wort. I think either is valid (like most things in brewing) and it's really just a personal preference thing. Doing it the night before fits my "brewtine" perfectly.

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"Gymrat" post=273922 said:

Is it possible to do a starter without a stir plate?


Most definitely. I don't have one but I just give the jar a good shake every time I pass it.
Here's some info from mrmalty.com:
Q: Don't I need a stir plate to make a starter?

No, you can make a starter without a stir plate. However, a stir plate produces a higher number of cells from the same size starter, and more importantly, it results in better overall cell health.

Logsdon says, "The stir plate causes several things to happen. One is that it drives off the CO2 (which suppresses yeast activity) and allows for an exchange of air into the starter (increasing oxygen levels) and eliminates dead spots in the starter liquid, ensuring that the yeast have easy access to the sugars."

The stirring action keeps the starter oxygenated throughout the entire process, resulting in higher sterol levels and better membrane permeability. However, there are two things to be aware of when using a stir plate. The first is that some stir plates can generate enough heat to push the starter into a temperature range that is detrimental to the yeast. One small stir plate I tested added 5°F (3°C) over the ambient temperature. Using a high quality stir plate or a thin piece of Styrofoam between the flask and the stir plate can help minimize the transfer of heat to the starter. The second thing to be aware of is that the stir plate's action of drawing air into the liquid causes the temperature of the starter to fluctuate quickly with changes in the temperature of the surrounding air. Large temperature fluctuations in the room will result in large fluctuations in the starter temperature and large swings in starter temperature cause less than stellar results.

If you don't have a stir plate, shake the starter as often as you can. It won't be exactly the same as a stir plate, but with regular attention the results can be quite good. In my tests, vigorously shaking a starter every hour resulted in approximately double the number of cells versus a non-shaken starter and a stir plate resulted in a 40% gain over a shaken starter.

Information on making your own inexpensive stir plate can be found on the internet and most advanced homebrew shops sell reasonably priced units.

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You don't need to 'seal' the top of the flask with tin foil, simply place it over the top and let about an inch or so loosely fold over to keep it in place. The nasties, like wild yeast or bacteria, can't crawl up and the idea is let the Co2 escape and fresh air to get into the flask freely.

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"Gymrat" post=273922 said:

Is it possible to do a starter without a stir plate?


Yes, I do it all the time with harvested yeast, and have one going right now on a fresh batch of French Saison yeast that came in a package yesterday. It is now fermenting nicely with good krausen. I just give it a good swirl a couple of times a day.

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"Screwy Brewer" post=273934 said:

When the krausen gets too high I do take some precautions.

I have never been able to do a starter even near that volume in my flask (I have the same one) without using a significant volume of the thing to overflow.

My reasonable max volume in that is about 1.5L, and even that can be pushing it. The one time I did a full 2L starter, it ended up all over the place and I only was left is 1.5L of starter anyway! :laugh:

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Hmmnn. Not sure why, but I've never lost more that a couple hundred mils, maybe because my starters are done between 66-70F and are made from a cup of light DME mixed in 2000 ml of filtered water, with some old dry yeast boiled for 15 minutes?

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I can't see any real difference between your process and mine. I use mass measurements on my DME (100g per 1L) but that's the same since 100g of DME is a half cup. I also use Yeast Nutrient instead of old yeast for my 15 minute boil, but maybe that's it...

It also could be that you're less concerned with losing a "could hundred mLs" of starter - to me that's a lot :)

From the looks of your picture it almost seems like you take that as a given, fill over the 2000ml line and then just count on starter loss to take you down to the 2L mark? That might be a strategy for me to consider in the future...I'm also wondering if that Fermcap stuff wouldn't solve this problem...

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As an aside (and partial hijack), if anyone is looking for a reasonably priced, simple stir plate with a lifetime guarantee, check this out.
Sure, you could make one for less but if I did it, it wouldn't look as good. Free shipping to boot!

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I've used Fermcap twice now. Not only did it work great in preventing boil over in the flask. It kept the krausen from forming so well on the stir plate I thought my yeast was no good.

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"Inkleg" post=273746 said:

I'm in SPs camp on this. If I'm brewing on Sunday I'll make my starter Wedensday night and put it on the stir plate. Friday morning it goes it the fridge. Decant Sunday morning and pitch.

So if I'm brewing on Saturday, would it be acceptable for me to create the starter tonight (Wed.), let it go until Friday morning, and put it in the fridge for 24 hours if krausen has reached its peak? I'd then take it out on Saturday morning, decant, and pitch.

Is decanting really as simple as pouring off the liquid (i.e. beer) on top? Do the yeasties really stay put? Do you also pitch the trub at the bottom of the flask or should you try to separate?

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"Beer-lord" post=274025 said:

As an aside (and partial hijack), if anyone is looking for a reasonably priced, simple stir plate with a lifetime guarantee, check this out.
Sure, you could make one for less but if I did it, it wouldn't look as good. Free shipping to boot!

Thanks for the link! I've been debating getting one, and I think I may order one of these.

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"OikoEco" post=274030 said:

"Inkleg" post=273746 said:


So if I'm brewing on Saturday, would it be acceptable for me to create the starter tonight (Wed.), let it go until Friday morning, and put it in the fridge for 24 hours if krausen has reached its peak? I'd then take it out on Saturday morning, decant, and pitch.

Most of what I've read says that if you do it right, for most beers, the starter is ready to go in 18-24 hours.

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I'm not sure how much will drop out in 24 hours vs the 48 that works for my schedule. You should be fine.
But for the most part the yeasties will stay put. It worries you when you first do it, it did me. Now I really don't give it a second thought.
Leave a little of the liquid on the yeast cake so you can slosh it around and get every last yeastie out of there and pitch.


Everything I read said 24-48 hours. So I split it to 36 on the stir plate and has worked well for me.

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To say the yeast is always laying under the trub can be misleading, depending on the strain of yeast, cell size and length of time allowed for stratifying. Below is ECY-12 and WLP-007 yeast and it's clear to see the yeast is in different layers.

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Cool. I'm a gonna try it tonight. Hopefully I'll get to take a pretty picture like Screwy's when it's all done.

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To anyone who is knew with starters I would suggest starting with a beer under 1.050 and not starting out with a very high gravity beer. I've never had a problem other than it never seems to start fermenting as fast as I would like. Which means, it's me that is the problem.

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Got my first starter going! I have another jar of harvested yeast and I want to add it to this batch. Should I do a separate starter or can I create a double starter by refridgerating/decanting this starter and adding more yeast/dme?

2012-07-11_18-33-49_37.jpg

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How big of a batch of beer are you brewing. I did a starter with harvested yeast for a 2.5 gallon batch and it almost blew the lid of the LBK.

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"OikoEco" post=274067 said:

Got my first starter going! I have another jar of harvested yeast and I want to add it to this batch. Should I do a separate starter or can I create a double starter by refridgerating/decanting this starter and adding more yeast/dme?


I would use a one liter starter for a 2.5 gallon batch of ale and a two liter starter for a 2.5 gallon batch of lager. You want to target around 100 billion cells for a 2.5 gallon batch of ale and double that for a 2.5 gallon batch of lager.

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It's a 5 gallon Hefe. I didn't get to add the second jar of harvested yeast as I intended because I miscalculated the amount of water+DME. I guess I'll just wait and see how active this 1L starter gets.

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"OikoEco" post=274086 said:

It's a 5 gallon Hefe. I didn't get to add the second jar of harvested yeast as I intended because I miscalculated the amount of water+DME. I guess I'll just wait and see how active this 1L starter gets.

How many cells do you estimate were in the mason jar you did add to the starter? I guesstimate my cell counts based on the 100 billion cells shipped with White Labs and East Coast Yeast bottles. If the volume of cells in my mason jar is close to what ships in the commercial bottles, then I guess I have added 100 billions cells to my starter.

On a stirplate, using 1.040 wort in a two liter starter, I would expect the cell count to more than double which benefits me in two ways. First I get double the yeast count and second the yeast in the starter are now alive and kicking ready to start chewing through the wort in my fermentor. I want all my fermentations to have very little lag time and to be furious enough to complete the primary fermentation within 1-3 days.

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"Screwy Brewer" post=274088 said:

"OikoEco" post=274086 said:

It's a 5 gallon Hefe. I didn't get to add the second jar of harvested yeast as I intended because I miscalculated the amount of water+DME. I guess I'll just wait and see how active this 1L starter gets.

How many cells do you estimate were in the mason jar you did add to the starter? I guesstimate my cell counts based on the 100 billion cells shipped with White Labs and East Coast Yeast bottles. If the volume of cells in my mason jar is close to what ships in the commercial bottles, then I guess I have added 100 billions cells to my starter.

On a stirplate using 1.040 wort I would expect the cell count to more than double which benefits me in two ways. First I get double the yeast count and second the yeast in the starter are now alive and kicking ready to start chewing through the wort in my fermentor. I want all my fermentations to have very little lag time and to be furious enough to complete the primary fermentation within 1-3 days.

I'm really not sure. It was a pint-sized mason jar that had about 4 inches of solution (+ suspended yeast) and about a 10 mm layer of yeast on the bottom. Right now, I have no way of estimating yeast cell counts. I've never used packaged liquid yeast so I have nothing to compare it to. I just recieved this mason jar from a friend (for free), so I though "why not"...

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Here's three of my pint mason jars that I guesstimate each to contain 100-150 billion cells, based on the volume of the commercial yeast packages.

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Yeah, so maybe I had about 100 billion cells. Do you think a starter based on that alone would be sufficient to do a 5-gal Hefe? I'm in unchartered territory here. Can you tell? :huh:

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"OikoEco" post=274097 said:

Yeah, so maybe I had about 100 billion cells. Do you think a starter based on that alone would be sufficient to do a 5-gal Hefe? I'm in unchartered territory here. Can you tell? :huh:

It would be spot on for an ale when using a two liter starter, in a one liter starter you should end up with about 150 billion cells when using a stirplate.

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Update: Just checked on the starter after 2 hours and there is very little krausen in there. I gave it a little shake/stir and will check on it in the morning.

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12 hours later and there's still no activity. Gonna run by the LHBS to pick up some wy3068 and start over.

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How long can harvested yeast last in the refrigerator? It occurs to me that I may have waited too long to use it. It was about 2 months old.

UPDATE: Nevermind. I just came across this . The yeast should have still been young enough. Not quite sure how I messed this up but I'm going to start over with fresh yeast.

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Ok so I'm going to try this again tonight with some fresh WY3068 yeast I just bought at the LHBS.

Since fermentation did not occur in the starter I prepared last night, can I just re-boil that wort and pitch this new yeast into that? I'm thinking that any leftover dead yeasties from last night's attempt would provide more nutrient. Are there any concerns with re-boiling day old wort? It's right at 1.040....or it was 24 hours ago.

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So now I don't know what's going on. For the first 12 hours there was no activity. I go to work, come home, and see that krausen has developed and has overflowed the flask. There is residue on the underside of the foil. So now I'm thinking that the yeast may have been active afterall. I'm going to let it go until morning, put it in the fridge and let it settle, and then see how much yeast developed when I get home from work tomorrow evening. If it still looks low, I'll create a starter with some fresh WY3068.

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Isn't our hobby exciting, fun and confusing all at the same time.
Keep us updated.

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This morning I made a two liter starter from a cup of extra light DME and a mason jar of washed WLP-001 yeast, I figure it contained around 120 billion cells judging from the volume of yeas in the jar. It's been spinning for about 30 minutes and tomorrow I plan brewing an all grain batch of my 420 Speacial Wheat and pitching the starter just after full krausen between 2-5 PM. That's when I use a starter.

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"KZ" post=274032 said:

"Beer-lord" post=274025 said:

As an aside (and partial hijack), if anyone is looking for a reasonably priced, simple stir plate with a lifetime guarantee, check this out.
Sure, you could make one for less but if I did it, it wouldn't look as good. Free shipping to boot!

Thanks for the link! I've been debating getting one, and I think I may order one of these.


Just a quick follow up...I did buy the stir plate from the above link and it arrived today. I haven't used it yet, but looks good and came well packed. Anyone looking for a wel priced stir plate should check it out.

Cheers!

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Yesterday I brewed a batch of my 420 Special Wheat and pitched a 36 hour old starter of WLP-001 into the fermentor. About eight hours later when I checked in again there was already a steady stream of Co2 bubbling out of the air lock.


I made the standard starter using a cup of extra light DME boiled in two liters of filtered water for ten minutes with a half packet of some old dry yeast tossed in for good measure. Being the self proclaimed high krausen pitcher that I am I made the starter 8:00 AM Friday morning and pitched it around 4:00 PM Saturday afternoon while the yeast were wide awake and ready to take some fresh wort full on.

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