||10-10-2012 07:45 PM
Alrighty, first thing I would suggest is start reading. Palmer's How to Brew is available free online if you look for it...its an older version so the information is a little dated, but plenty to get you going. Then do a search here and find some threads to lead you to some other good books.
Next, get rid of the notion of a secondary, save for a few specific areas they are pretty much pointless in home brewing. Let the beer ferment and finish in the primary and then go to bottle. If everything goes right you should hit you finished gravity in under 7 days. After that I leave it on the yeast for a minimum of 10 days but usually longer to clean up fermentation byproducts...once you remove it from the yeast this cannot be done and is the cause of many people's off flavors, along with moving the beer too much and running into oxygen related issues.
Now, optimal yeast for your situation, I would go with your basic Wyeast 1056, White Labs Cal Ale 001, Safale US-05 (all the same). Why this strain? It is robust and has a clean flavor profile so its impact to the final product will be minimal.
As far as a yeast starter, look up Mr. Malty and read up on JZ's yeast starter, that is a good primer. It does a couple of things, makes sure the yeast is viable, multiplies cell count, and gets their health up so you get the best possible fermentation.
Krausen is the foamy head on top of the beer during fermentation. High krausen is simply referring to when that reaches its peak and means the yeast are actively tearing into the sugars which is exactly the state you want them in if they are to hit the beer running (which they need to be if you are going to get a stuck ferment going). Obviously, you can't know when the krausen is at its absolute peak, so I would just wait until you have a good 1" head and call it good.
Here is what I would do if all I had to work with is basic home stuff...start by warming up the beer if you can. Steal your wife's heating pad and put it to good use. Go to your LHBS and pickup some yeast nutrient, light dry malt extract, and a pack or two of US-05 (in this instance you want to over pitch). Go home and make a 500-750 ml starter solution of 1.035 (roughly 10 grams of DME for every 100 ml of water) with some yeast nutrient added. Cool it to room temp, pour into a sanitized (don't use bleach us something like starsan) ball canning jar, and add the yeast (make sure to rehydrate). Loosely fit the lid on so that it can breath and then regularly agitate it until the krausen looking solid and then swirl it up and pitch it into the porter and cross your fingers that it will get going to finish it off.