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Old 03-05-2010, 04:21 AM   #1
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Default making a starter out of a bottle of beer?

I'm planning to make a Hoegaarden clone (yes me too!) and I read that some people makes a yeast starters out of (commercial) beer bottles. How? Does it work? Do you pour the bottle inside your starter and wait? I'm planning to make a 2 gallon AG batch of beer.

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Old 03-05-2010, 12:56 PM   #2
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While I'm no expert, I've done this several times successfully with various beers. Some folks will tell you that the yeast isn't the same for various reasons but I'm not one of them. I'm just going to provide a quick method, i.e. what works most of the time (without a stirplate).

1) a. Clean the bottle of beer you're going to be taking the yeast from well. You can use isopropyl alcohol to wipe it down or use some other method. While you're at it, clean the opener and a 6" X 6" piece of Al foil. Set the foil aside.

1) b. Make up a low gravity starter mixture, 1.030 or so will work, by boiling up a little DME and some water. It doesn't have to be a lot but you will want somewhere around a pint or so. Allow this to cool (or cool it yourself) and put it into a sterile container, like a boiled quart jar (and while you're boiling the quart jar, go ahead and boil the lid and ring). Set all this to the side.

2) Open the beer and gently pour your beer into a glass but don't touch the lip of the glass with the bottle. When you get most of the beer out, stop pouring. The goal is to NOT pour out the yeast into the glass.

3) Go around the lip of the bottle a few times with a flame (Bic lighter or the like) to sterilize it.

4) Here is where a few people will disagree but... Carefully pour about a quarter of the starter solution you made in 1) b. into the bottle. Swirl this around to break up the yeast sediment at the bottom of the bottle. I find this allows more yeast to be gathered than simply swirling the yeast and what's left of the beer...

4) Alternate method... Swirl the beer to break up the sediment.
4) Alternate method... Pour in about a quarter pint of pre-boiled water into the bottle and swirl this around... Make sure to calculate this into your gravity calcs so you don't get too low.

5) Pour the mixture from 4) (whichever method you do) into your clean quart jar from 1) b. Put the lid back on and swirl it around well to mix it up.

6) Remove the lid and put the tin foil on top of the jar. Squeeze the foil around the neck. Now, put the ring over the foil to hold it. Alternatively, you can use a rubber band or nothing.

7) Now, every few hours or a few times a day (as often as you think about it or can), swirl the mixture. In a day or so, you should notice a little foam or perhaps some bubbles. This will mean it is working and the yeast is viable. You can then step up the starter to larger containers to the level you need to pitch... Give this at LEAST 3 days to work. If you don't have anything after 1 week, chances are you didn't get enough (or any) live yeast.

NOTES:

Imported beers are harder to get anything from than domestics, generally.
Some beers are pasteurized and have very little chance of actually producing a viable starter.
Cleanliness is very important.
It may help to put several beers into the starter solution at once (i.e. open several beers in one evening and put them all into the solution).
Some breweries use a seperate strain to bottle condition. Some breweries claim to...
There are more ways than this one to get a viable starter.


Again, this is my experience. And again, there are several reasons this may not work or may not be what you should be doing but I won't go into those...

Hope this helps!

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Old 03-05-2010, 02:57 PM   #3
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I've only done it once and I did essentially what Barc outlined except I just made that first 'step' in the original bottle. I figured it might be marginally more sanitary. After that first step I stepped it up in a 2L flask on a stirplate.

Oh yea, one thing I didn't see mentioned was to aerate the cooled wort very well. Since I was immediately putting the wort into a bottle that was cold I cooled my wort all the way down to ~50* F so it would aerate even better (cooler wort holds more O2). Then I just let it naturally warm up to room temp.

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Old 03-05-2010, 11:22 PM   #4
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well its very true that many breweries do NOT use the same yeast strain for carbonation as for fermentation.

I cannot say if Hoegaarden is one of them though. I'm suspecting this one will work due to the style in quesiton.

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Old 03-05-2010, 11:26 PM   #5
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Hoegaarden does use the same yeast, and I make a great hoegaarden clone using it.

And the instances of breweries using a different strain is actually a LOT LOWER than people think. I know people always feel the need to bring that up, but really there is a lot more usable yeast in bottles out there.

This is a pretty good starter list.

http://www.nada.kth.se/~alun/Beer/Bottle-Yeasts/

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Old 03-06-2010, 04:52 AM   #6
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So helpful! Thanks!

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Old 03-06-2010, 05:50 AM   #7
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Yep that strain will bottle culture just fine. WLP400 is a derived from that strain so it is very similar if you can get it.

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Old 03-06-2010, 05:59 PM   #8
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Will this also work to harvest from a bottle of homebrew? or, is it better to just wash & store?

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Old 03-06-2010, 07:57 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djt17 View Post
Will this also work to harvest from a bottle of homebrew? or, is it better to just wash & store?
Well I guess you could, but if your homebrew was from a bottle harvested yeast to begin with, that is at least 2 generations from the original strain. Growing into another large starter batch. I would rather wash and re-use the stuff from the fermenter after I racked, there's more cells there than going from a scant few ml's of already strained yeast.
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Old 03-06-2010, 07:59 PM   #10
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I grew up a huge amount of hoegaarden yeast from 2 sixers of beer. What I did to harvest it was, over the period of a week drink 2 sixers of it. I left about 1/2" of beer behind with the yeast. After I finished a bottle I flamed and sanitized the lip of the bottle and recapped it with a fresh sanitized cap. Then I stuck it in the fridge until I had my 12, then I made a started, and reversed the process, I sprayed the cap area with sanitizer, uncapped it then flamed the bottle and dumped the dregs in my flask. I think I ended up with 4 washed mason jars full after that.

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