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Old 01-24-2013, 12:57 PM   #1
nolabrew85
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Can someone explain (or attach a link) 1) what exactly a starter is, 2) generally how it is done, 3) what are the benefits/how necessary as opposed to simply using a smackpack or dry yeast directly on top of cooled wort it is in your opinion, 4) and for what styles of beer, generally, it is most/more appropriate (if any)? Thanks

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Old 01-24-2013, 02:10 PM   #2
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A yeast starter is where you take a liquid yeast and add it to a small wort that is used to encourage the yeast to breed and replicate so that there will be plenty to be able to ferment your batch without stressing themselves. Basically you are getting the yeast population up to an amount that will be able to better do their job. With dry yeast usually the cell counts are high enough that you only need to pitch or rehydrate and pitch.

Check out mrmalty.com to see how large of a starter would be needed.

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Old 01-24-2013, 02:13 PM   #3
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Typically anything over 1.060 OG would absolutely need a starter, but I do one for every batch. Healthy yeast will throw less off flavors, the more they are stressed and underpitched the more off flavors you get. Lagers need even bigger starters. The easiest way to make one is 100 grams of DME per liter of starter, pitch your yeast, and give it 48-72 hours (preferably on a stir plate), put it in the fridge, decant the majority of the liquid on top, swirl it up and pitch your new yeast.

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Old 01-24-2013, 02:56 PM   #4
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So, using a smack pack with the yeast nutrients that sits out for several hours before pitching and swells is insufficient as a starter?

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Old 01-24-2013, 03:15 PM   #5
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Nola... that depends on your expected OG. As Indy says, anything over 1.060 you'll absolutely want to do one. Under that, you're ok... the smack packs are great, even if they don't inflate fully. It may take 3 ro 4 days to finish up, but it works out.

I've only had to do one - did a liter starter with a white labs test tube... holy crap did fermentation take off! The beer came out nice... but then, I think they all do.

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Old 01-24-2013, 03:48 PM   #6
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Damn. I did a 1.070 OG ale (my first one) with a trappist 3787 Wyeast smack pack without a starter. However, I do not feel too bad, because the fermentation went absolutely nuts for the first five days or so (I had to use a blow out tube for the first time and the water in the pitcher was belching loud enough to wake me up at night). It slowed down to almost a stop a couple days ago (about 16 days after pitching) and I raised the temp to about 72 and the airlock began to bubble about 3 times a minute again. Plan to keep it there for another few days when I expect that it will stop for good. Does any of that sound unusual or not good? Also, the aroma from the airlock smells great.

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Old 01-24-2013, 04:41 PM   #7
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Also, yeast age and viability can be reasons for making a starter. If the yeast are old, a starter is a great idea to get it healthy and ready to go again.

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Old 01-24-2013, 04:52 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ByramMike View Post
anything over 1.060 you'll absolutely want to do one. Under that, you're ok...
That's just wrong. Like DrunkleJon said, check mrmalty.com every time. If I go there right now (LINK for the OP) the default screen shows that for a 1.048 OG ale, with an unrealistically fresh pack of liquid yeast, you still need 1.8 packs or a 1L starter on a stir plate.

If you want to ignore the experts' advice on pitching rate, that's fine, and it's completely your decision. That's an argument that's been beaten to death on here (whether or not the proper pitch rate makes a noticeable difference), and there are many people that underpitch routinely and still get excellent beer. For me personally, since it's one variable I can easily eliminate I pitch the proper amount. And a faster start is always a good thing, since it minimizes the chance of infection.

But to directly answer the OP: unless you brew very low gravity beer, or you you brew smaller batches, or get your yeast the day it was packaged at the lab, following proper pitching rates will almost mean that you need a starter every time with liquid yeast.

As mentioned, dry yeast has a much higher active cell count to begin with, and it stays much more viable during storage. You can check the same mrmalty.com calculator for dry yeast, but remember that's assuming you're properly rehydrating. If you aren't, you might want to double what he recommends.
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