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Old 12-25-2008, 04:42 AM   #1
sjlammer
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Default Urgent: Yeast Starter Problems

Ok, so decided i was going to make a yeast starter for the first time for my Imperial Chocolate Porter

I bought a 1000 ml Erlenmeyer flask from my LHBS (cause they were out of 2 Liter flasks)

I put in .75 cups of DME in with 750 ml of water and brought it to a boil. Stupid me, I decided to throw some yeast nutrients in while i was at a rolling boil.... surprise i had a wort volcano. Fast forward a hour after cleaning the stove.

I started again and I did the same thing this time and brought it to a rolling boil. Wouldn't you know it, a friend calls and wants to grab a drink (rather than go to church, I know, I know) so i shut off the stove and figure i can just bring it up to boil again.

I got home, and I cannot for the life of me get this thing to boil again. Everytime i get it close, it boils over. I have the stove as low as i can go. Any lower and it won't boil. What happens is, instead of little bubbles that start at the base and rise to the surface of the wort, no bubbles rise, and then all of a sudden a big bubble rises to the surface and causes another mini eruption.

WTF. i am getting tired of mopping the floor. What am i doing wrong?

Also, now i have a warm vial of white labs yeast sitting on my counter, can i re-refrigerate it if i can't get this to work?

Thanks for all your help, Merry Christmas (or happy holidays, what ever your preference may be)

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Old 12-25-2008, 04:59 AM   #2
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It is a btch. With pratice and lifting the flask up and down off the stove (with a leather glove) I was able to get it to boil. But it was still a big pain.
Do yourself a favor and buy a vial of foam control. That stuff will make your life much better.

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Old 12-25-2008, 03:23 PM   #3
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Yeah, Erlenmeyer flasks are like volcanoes, particularly if you try to add anything once the boil starts. Add all your ingredients, including the yeast nutrients, before the boil. The real solution is anti-foam goop that goes by the name Fermcap-S. This stuff works wonders. 2 or 3 drops into a starter and foam ups are a thing of the past. I use it in my brew kettle as well. Love this stuff. It drops out of suspension by the end of fermentation. Most homebrew shops seem to have it.

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Old 12-25-2008, 03:49 PM   #4
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I stopped making starters in Erlenmeyer flasks for this exact reason. The funnel effect at the top makes for easy boil-overs (with or without nutrients). After burning my hand pretty good, I gave up and just boil in a stock pot. The starter wort cools faster in the stock pot too. Then I just sanitize a funnel and transfer it to the Erlenmeyer flasks.

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Old 12-25-2008, 03:53 PM   #5
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All good advice above. I use a oven mitt and lift the flask off the burner if it looks like it will boil over. Then adjust the burner lower and set the flask back on the element.

And I would not try to boil 750 ml in a 1 L flask. Not enough room - better a little smaller starter (500-600 ml) without the mess.

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Old 12-26-2008, 02:16 PM   #6
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Following the methods of some HBT posters, I can my starters in advance in quart and pint mason jars. This which sterilizes them without being messy. Very convenient.

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Old 12-26-2008, 03:12 PM   #7
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Thanks guys, I just dumped the whole mess out and started again. i think some of the malt dropped out of solution when i turned the stove off for a couple hours..... I noticed some crystals on the bottom of the flask.

When i brewed a fresh batch it worked fine.

my floor is so sticky now.

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Old 12-26-2008, 04:47 PM   #8
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I think I know what happened....

Boiling needs nucleation sites, small things that the steam can form around. Generally when you're boiling from cold water, the first nucleation sites are gas bubbles from the air being driven out of the wort by the heat, after that, it's self propagating. When you stopped your boil and left, all the air was gone from solution at that point. Flash forward to your return, you're heating wort in a very smooth flask with nothing in it to provide a nucleation site, so your wort superheats above its normal boiling point, then boils over in a giant burp.

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Old 12-26-2008, 05:06 PM   #9
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IMO your asking for trouble making starters in a flask. Unless you like a lava spewing flask, I don't. I make all starters in a small pot, then cool them, then transfer to the flask. It does require that you sanitize a funnel and flask, but that beats third degree burns any day.

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Old 12-27-2008, 06:14 PM   #10
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I've been making yeast starters in a regular pot, then transferring to a sanitized growler. Is that not the ideal way to do it? It's very easy and clean.

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