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Old 05-27-2010, 06:07 AM   #1
billvon
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Default Starter size doesn't matter

Listened to a talk by a researcher from White Labs last night at the San Diego QUAFF meeting. She talked about pitching yeast for high gravity ales (above about 1.090.) For one experiment, she did four starter sizes, from small to large, each one twice as large as the last. (I don't remember the smallest one but it was small.) This went into a ~1.090 wort. To my surprise, there was no significant difference in final gravity for any of the experiments.

Her conclusion was that aeration and yeast nutrition were far more important than starter size, and her research seemed to support this.

I'll try to email her to get more details on her experiment, but to me it was an unexpected conclusion. Cool that people are doing these experiments though.

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Old 05-27-2010, 11:29 AM   #2
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Did she comment on the 1) the length of time it took each to get to the FG and 2) were there any distinct off-flavors from the smaller-starters that could have been due to stressed yeast?

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Old 05-27-2010, 01:07 PM   #3
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Quote:
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Did she comment on the 1) the length of time it took each to get to the FG and 2) were there any distinct off-flavors from the smaller-starters that could have been due to stressed yeast?
This is the important question(s).
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Old 05-27-2010, 01:19 PM   #4
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Quote:
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This is the important question(s).
+1 just because the yeast can ferment to that low doesn't mean they didn't throw a ton of extra crap into the mix?
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Old 05-27-2010, 01:25 PM   #5
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+2 A single yeast cell would eventually ferment the beer out. The whole point is that reproduction causes side effects. Some is good, too much causes off flavors. Not that FG would change.

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Old 05-27-2010, 01:34 PM   #6
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If the OP is relating accurately the test, the results and the conclusion (that aeration and yeast nutrition were far more important than starter size), then this deserves some consideration. If indeed this was a "researcher from White Labs", one would think that she would be aware of and concerned about issues like the "crap" produced by reproduction, yet she was most interested in attenuation. I know, I know... the importance of starters of abundant, healthy yeast is cherished dogma, sometimes seemingly unassailable by reason or evidence, but this isnt' the first time I've heard of industry professionals suggesting that "healthy" is much, much more important than "abundant". I'd like to see the credentials and details.

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Old 05-27-2010, 01:43 PM   #7
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Was the speaker Neva Parker?

"Neva Parker has been with the White Labs family since 2002. She earned her bachelor's degree in microbiology from Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. She became interested in beer while studying abroad in London when she attended the annual Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) festival. Neva manages laboratory operations and has been responsible for researching and developing new products and services, as well as speaking at several workshops and conferences, and publishing fermentation research. She is a member of the American Society of Brewing Chemists, Master Brewers Associate of the Americas, and AHA homebrew club of the year for a seven-year streak, the Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity (QUAFF). In her spare time, Neva enjoys spending time with her beer enthusiast husband, Glen, and her beautiful daughter, Ada (born in January of 2009). Her hobbies include cooking, eating, making up baby songs, brewing, organizing, and happy hour."

If she says that healthy is more important than cell count, I think it'd be safe to believe her. Considering that she is the laboratory head at white labs, it seems they believe her too.

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Old 05-27-2010, 01:47 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pilgarlic View Post
If the OP is relating accurately the test, the results and the conclusion (that aeration and yeast nutrition were far more important than starter size), then this deserves some consideration.
This is exactly what I would have expected from the test, though, so no further consideration needed. The issue with pitching rates has never been getting to FG, homebrewers severely underpitched for many, many years and reached FG. The issue is how it affects the flavor of the final beer. We all know that yeast health is paramount.
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Old 05-27-2010, 01:50 PM   #9
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Like others above, I want to know if there were any significant flavor differences. Then my interest might be piqued.

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Old 05-27-2010, 01:53 PM   #10
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It would sure seem to me that the researcher would have considered "how it affects the final beer" in concluding "that aeration and yeast nutrition were far more important than starter size". I'm hoping to hear more specifics from the OP. Maybe, because I'm newer to the hobby, I'm just more interested in questions than conclusions at this point (actually, I confess that I almost always find questions more interesting). In any event, I'm monitoring for further info.

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