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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > General Techniques > Starter: To Decant or not to Decant...
View Poll Results: Do you decant the wort from your starters?
Yes, I decant the wort. 18 42.86%
No, I pitch the whole volume. 24 57.14%
Voters: 42. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 12-22-2008, 05:11 AM   #1
Pelikan
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Default Starter: To Decant or not to Decant...

Has anyone noticed off-flavors from pitching the entire 1-liter volume from a starter? I know there's a potential for the wort to be oxidized, but it seems to me that decanting off the top will remove the higher attenuating/less flocculant yeast -- whether chilled or unchilled. Plus, I haven't actually heard someone say "Man, that starter ruined my beer!"

So, how do you handle your starters?

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Old 12-22-2008, 05:40 AM   #2
blancothebronco
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I always pitch the entire starter. The only time I have noticed substantial off flavors was the one time I used no starter at all.

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Old 12-22-2008, 01:57 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pelikan View Post
Has anyone noticed off-flavors from pitching the entire 1-liter volume from a starter? I know there's a potential for the wort to be oxidized, but it seems to me that decanting off the top will remove the higher attenuating/less flocculant yeast -- whether chilled or unchilled. Plus, I haven't actually heard someone say "Man, that starter ruined my beer!"

So, how do you handle your starters?
I don't think it really matters. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't... it partly depends on my timing for that batch (if I have time to crash-cool/decant before brew day). I've never had a problem with oxidized starter wort and I often do stepped-up 2 liter starters for lagers.

The main thing I "worry" about with pitching starter wort is maintaining the flavor of the beer. In other words, I wouldn't pitch a full gallon starter in a 5 gallon batch. It would dilute the intended flavor/bitterness too much. One plus for pitching a full starter is that you get a lot more yeast. Unless you really crash cool it for like a week and force all the yeast to drop out, there are still a lot in suspension. I've noticed a big difference in lag times between pitching a half-assed crash-cooled decanted starter vs. just pitching the whole starter.

So, ideally, yes it's better to decant if you can properly crash-cool, but primarily to avoid diluting the beer down... and how important this is depends on starter size.
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Old 12-22-2008, 02:00 PM   #4
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I voted no, but I actually needed a third category (sometimes). I generally make ales, and for those I pitch the whole starter usually. But for my infrequent lager, I always make up a lot of yeast and definitely decant it.

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Old 12-22-2008, 02:05 PM   #5
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I usually make starters that are roughly 1qt in size, and pitch the whole thing. But I've wondered if it would be wise to remove the wort. I have been known to pour off some of the wort before pitching, but usually I just pitch in the whole thing.

Brian

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Old 12-22-2008, 02:08 PM   #6
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If I have the time, and the starter is "done" with enough time beforehand to decant, I might (especially if it's a light, delicate beer), but most of the time, I don't. Last night I pitched about a 3 quart Thames Valley starter into barleywine wort...just because I stepped up the starter on Friday and it wasn't done in time. As to what Menschmaschine said, which is a good point, what you should be doing is anticipating, while you're crafting the recipe, whether or not you'll be decanting. That way, if you're not decanting, you can include the amount of extract from the starter in your recipe calculations.

The other consideration is the acclimation process. Decanting involves chilling the starter down in the fridge, then warming it back up, then pitching it. It seems to me that you're bound to lose a significant amount of cells this way...with an active starter, they're already actively fermenting (hopefully close to the same temp as your wort) so there's not as much of an acclimation issue.

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Old 12-22-2008, 02:35 PM   #7
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Quote:
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If I have the time, and the starter is "done" with enough time beforehand to decant, I might (especially if it's a light, delicate beer), but most of the time, I don't.
That's my process, too. If I've allotted enough time and feel strongly about it I'll decant. Normally I'm cutting it a bit closer as my weekend calendar reveals itself so I just toss the whole shebang (except the stirbar, if I'm paying attention).

Last night I started a Thames Valley slant in 5cc of wort to begin stepping up for a session on Saturday.
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