I know what you're saying...I don't have a 2000 ml Erlenmeyer flask or a stir plate and I think I really should start making starters. Me too! So what is a low-budget brewer to do? Come up with a cheaper way.
So, just a brief background. I am brand new to home brewing and have completed only 3 batches. I've read about everything I can get my hands on and listened to Jamil and other webcasts on brewing. Needless to say I'm really enjoying it and also like getting into the more technical stuff. I'm getting ready to brew a Midwest Octane IPA this weekend and since my Whitelabs was getting a little old and the Octane is my highest gravity beer to date (1.065), I thought I should make a starter.
So, I gave it a whack. This is my thanks to HBT for answering all the questions I've had over the past few months about home brewing. So, what follows is my low-budget approach to building a starter along with some pictures along the way to help those along who might be too afraid to try it.
- Liquid yeast (WLP007 in my case)
- A container ~1 liter bigger than your starter, a 3-liter water bottle in my case
- Some dry malt extract, 10% of whatever water you're adding
So, I used ~200 grams of DME. I didn't have a scale, so I used about 1/2 of a 500-gram package which worked out to about 1 1/2 cups dry. I brought the 2-liters of water to a boil, removed it from the heat and added the DME. I resumed the boil and continued for 15-minutes.
Next, sanitize the lid for your pan and get some ice water going to crash cool your wort as fast as possible. The buzzer goes off, grab the wort, put on the sanitized lid and throw it in the sink with the ice water. All this time, I have the water bottle in a solution of Starsan. Every 5-min or so, I put the lid on, shake it like crazy and then dunk the whole thing back down into the solution. I also threw a piece of aluminum foil (cut to size), my funnel and my vial of yeast into the bucket.
After about 20 minutes, the temp of the wort was below 70F. Retrieve the water bottle from the Starsan, empty it out and set it on the counter. Insert sanitized funnel. Pour the wort into the water bottle. Shake up the yeast and open carefully. Pour into the wort. Retrieve the lid for the water bottle from the Starsan, put it on the bottle and start shaking. I shook for about 1-min, took the lid off and squeezed the bottle a few times to exchange some air and then repeated.
When I was satisfied the wort was aerated adequately, I removed the lid and loosely put the piece of aluminum foil over the top. I waited about 2-hours and just before bed, shook it up again. I keep the cap for the water bottle in the Starsan solution while I'm not using it. I carefully remove the aluminum foil and secure the cap and shake again.
I repeated that step before work this morning and noticed that the yeast were starting to work because as soon as I started shaking, CO2 was coming out of solution and the bottle was swelling quickly! Crack the lid to relieve the pressure and shake some more. I did the same thing when I got home from work today. Total time for starter so far: 24 hours.
You can see in the last picture that the yeast is doing well and starting to settle out a little bit. The wort has that cloudy look to it, you know, like really young beer looks--definitely different than last night when you have clear wort.
So, brew day is Saturday (tomorrow). I think I'll pitch the whole 2-liters into the carboy as it shouldn't hurt anything and will give me a little extra volume. So far so good. I'll update the thread after the beer is going. Maybe I'll post a picture of what it looks like every day because I was gravely concerned over my first batch and I know that other beginners are too. You're just never sure what "normal" is supposed to look like.
I hope you enjoyed this. Feel free to critique my method or madness or if you've got any hints and tips for how you've done cheap starters!