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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Fermentation & Yeast > A few questions about using a stir plate for starters
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Old 11-14-2012, 11:48 PM   #1
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Default A few questions about using a stir plate for starters

I just finished a homemade computer fan stir plate in a cigar box and I had a few questions about making starters with it.

1st question: How far in advance should I make the starter, is it still 24 hours before pitching?

2nd question: How big of a starter do I need for 10 gallons? I have a couple jars of washed California ale yeast I plan on using for the starter. I do not yet have a flask so I will be making the starters in growlers. My 4L carlo rossi bottle does not work because even if I start slow the stir bar ends up being thrown to the side because of the concave. My 1/2 gallon growler does work though so I was wondering if 1/2 gallon stirred starter would be good enough for 10 gallons because of the higher yeast count from being stirred?

3rd question: If the 1/2 gallon starter is not enough for 10 gallons could I start one a couple days before and then take it off after 24 hours and put an air lock on it until it is ready to pitch the next day? This way I could make one, then when it is done pull it off and make another so I have a total of 1 gallon of starter for 10 gallons of wort.

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Old 11-15-2012, 12:03 AM   #2
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You should check out Mr Malty. On the Yeast Tools page there is a starter calculator that will tell you how big your starter needs to be based on batch size, OG, and starter type.

1) I like to make my starters the weekend before I brew. I let it spin for 2 days to fully ferment, pour it into a 2 liter bottle, and put it in the fridge. On brew day, I pull it out of the fridge to let it warm a little. Then I decant most of the liquid and pitch. If you are making the starter to pitch immediately, you should pitch at high krausen which should be somewhere near 24 hours. Just throw the thing in your fermenter and let em work.

2) Gravity effects starter size but you should need about 1 liter for a 5 gallon batch and 2 liters for a 10 gallon batch. Make sure there is enough room for a very active fermentation. Your starter will ferment aggressively and can make a mess. I don't make starters bigger than 1L in a 2L flask. If I need more than 1L I'll make 2 starters. This may be overkill but I'd rather make a 2nd starter than clean up a mess and deal with whoever doesn't like that I made a mess.

3) If I need more than 1L I'll make half of the starter and put it in a 2L pop bottle and keep it in the fridge. Then when the 2nd half is finished I decant the liquid from the first starter and add the second one right to the first. There is no reason you couldn't put the 1st half in the fridge and pitch that when the 2nd half is at high krausen.

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Old 11-15-2012, 06:22 AM   #3
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Ok two more questions.

1. You mentioned 2L soda bottles but I don't drink much soda so I don't have any handy, can I just put a sanitized cap on the growler and stick that in the fridge? Or since I do have the correct sized stopper would an airlock be better?

2. I opened up one of my jars of washed California ale yeast today and there was mold around the rim of the jar, it didn't look like it was actually in the jar and just around where the screw top was but I didn't want to risk it so I dumped that one. I then opened up the other jar I had and there was no mold so I pitched that one instead. However, that was my last jar, so my question is when I start the next one tomorrow can I just pour off some of the slurry from today's batch to get the next batch going tomorrow?

Thanks for all your help...I'm really looking forward to getting this whole thing figured out and hoping it helps me to get healthier fermentations.

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Old 11-15-2012, 01:29 PM   #4
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i would put the growler right in the fridge, fewer transfers reduces the chance of contamination, but don't close it tightly as it can still be slowly producing or releasing co2. i usually double up the tin foil and then rubber band it tightly before fridge time

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Old 11-15-2012, 05:27 PM   #5
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So its been about 12 hours and my stirred starter still has not formed any krausen. Is this normal or is my yeast probably bad? The yeast was washed about 6 months ago but I've heard of people using washed yeast up to a year later so I thought it would be ok. Since I was hoping to brew tomorrow should I go pick up a fresh vial from the LHBS? If so should I just pitch it into the starter I already have going or should I make a new starter?

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Old 11-15-2012, 07:06 PM   #6
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Stirred starters often don't form much krausen at all- the foam gets beaten back into the liquid before it has a chance to stick around. You're almost certainly fine. I like to make my starters 48-72hrs in advance so I can toss them in the fridge overnight to cold crash and decant the spent beer off the yeast cake. Before you brew you should be able to stop it stirring and let it sit for a few minutes and see a small yeast cake start to form on the bottom. It won't be as big as if you had cold crashed the yeast out, but it should be noticeable as an indication things worked.

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Old 11-15-2012, 07:33 PM   #7
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1 Any sanitized constainer would be fine. I use two liters because they fit in the fridge nicer than a flask. My starters vary in how much foam rises. Sometimes it looks like nothing. Sometimes there's more than nothing. Once it came out of the top of my flask and made a mess all over the counter.

2 Not really sure what you're trying to say.

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Old 11-15-2012, 07:45 PM   #8
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Ok, I stopped the stir plate for about an hour and there was about a 1/2 inch yeast cake so maybe it is fine.

Since I need to do 2 starters for 10 gallons I was wondering if I could use some of the yeast from the starter I have on the stir plate right now for the next one I will start later today by pouring a little bit of the current starter into the next starter?

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Old 11-15-2012, 08:19 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by austinb
Ok, I stopped the stir plate for about an hour and there was about a 1/2 inch yeast cake so maybe it is fine. I was wondering if I could pour some of this starter off into the next starter I will make later today?
If you are talking about the liquid or beer then no, the sugars have already been fermented out, hence the nice large yeast came at the bottom.
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Old 11-15-2012, 08:41 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by duboman View Post
If you are talking about the liquid or beer then no, the sugars have already been fermented out, hence the nice large yeast came at the bottom.
What I meant was I would make a new starter with more DME like I normally would and then pour just a little bit (maybe 1/4 cup or so) of the first starter into the new one. I would pour it when the first starter was still well mixed before the yeast had settled out.
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