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Old 01-21-2013, 04:43 PM   #1
SlapYoMomaBrew
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Default A few thoughts after converting to using a Yeast Starter

I wanted to post some of my thoughts and my experience using my first yeast starter this past weekend.

To start off, I have been brewing for around a year or so now. Half of this time has been all grain not that I feel either way impacts using a yeast starter or not. I had held off on using a starter for two reasons, the first being I didnt have a erlenmeyer flask and the other being I didnt have a single brew that had issue not using a starter.

This being said I have educated my self over the past year and have added things like using a Oxygen tank with stainless steel wand with .5 micron stone to ensure a top level of oxygen for my yeast. This made a huge difference and only pushed me further back from any intention to use a starter.

Since I have started creating and playing with my own recipes using all grain I have read up more on yeast and how it impacts flavors. This was the final straw for using a starter. Yes, anyone will tell you that using a starter will give a fast and better (not to mention quicker) fermentation but its not until you get into the science of the yeast and how it effects the flavor with what it produces as it converts your wert to beer. Not to mention pitching 3 times as many good cells as normally comes in a vial of yeast.

Cosmetically the difference in air lock activity is 3-4 hours from pitch with starter and 12-24 hours without. That makes me happy even though I know fermentation can be happening with out the airlock bubbling. But in all the beers I have made not a single one didn't have active bubbling. I do not brew recipes that don't allow fermentation temps between 65-75 degrees so colder fermentation temps may impacts this but it don't really matter as I check with my hydrometer and follow my recipes time table.

My end thoughts are this:

Do you need a starter, no you don't. You just need to pitch a proper amount of yeast and if your doing 5 gallon batches then a single vial has always worked for me.

Should you use a starter if you can? Yes, always! Its just a matter of good science to ensure the best tasting beer. A proper flask is cheap as is light DME and no you don't need a $100 stir plate. That is a luxury. Not to call a magnetic stir plate a gimmick because it is not. Its used in almost every lab and gives consistent results. But like many of the fancy toys in this hobby you dont need it, but it can make your life a little easier.

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Old 01-21-2013, 05:26 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SlapYoMomaBrew View Post
Should you use a starter if you can? Yes, always!

I use a starter every single time, there is no shortcut around this. It simply makes for better beer. Healthy yeast = Healthy fermentation

I think Mr Malty is a little crazy and i use my own, much rougher guidelines making all my starter wort at 1.040 OG.

Beer up to 1.055 OG gets 1 liter of starter per 5 gallons of wort

beer from 1.056 to 1.080 gets 1.5 liters per 5 gallons wort

anything 1.080 or up I will pitch roughly 16 oz yeast slurry from a fresh fermentation per 5 gallons of wort. Making starters for these larger beers becomes inneficient
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Old 01-21-2013, 07:48 PM   #3
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I assume you are only brewing ales at 65-75 degrees. These will typically come out fine without a starter. But you want your lagers to start fast because you want to get them down to fermentation temperature of 50 degrees as quickly as possible. If you don't use a starter with a liquid lager yeast, it may take 2 or 3 days to start and by then you have 3 days of too-warm temps before you can start to cool it down. I am only talking about liquid yeasts here.

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Old 01-21-2013, 08:02 PM   #4
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A stir plate to a starter is like going from no starter to a starter. According to Yeast Calc, doing a starter creates 82 billion new cells, while doing a starter with stir plate will create 175 billion which is more than double the increase with just making a simple starter. I like to pitch from a slurry and you can really see the difference using a stir plate or not. Brewer's hardware has them at a good price and I love mine.

Rules for a starter:
1.038 max OG
Sanitize!
Sanitize!
Sanitize!
Add Oxygen
Use Stir Plate
Let Settle for a slurry

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Old 01-21-2013, 09:08 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thewalkingboss
I assume you are only brewing ales at 65-75 degrees. These will typically come out fine without a starter. But you want your lagers to start fast because you want to get them down to fermentation temperature of 50 degrees as quickly as possible. If you don't use a starter with a liquid lager yeast, it may take 2 or 3 days to start and by then you have 3 days of too-warm temps before you can start to cool it down. I am only talking about liquid yeasts here.
I always start my lagers in the low 40's and let them come up to 50 and then hold it there until fermentation is complete.
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Old 01-22-2013, 02:35 AM   #6
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Quote:
My end thoughts are this:

Do you need a starter, no you don't.
I also have to disagree with this statement. While the OP says, after this, that you just need enough healthy yeast for your batch, this implies that the batches are session beers that can be fermented on a single vial/pack of liquid yeast.

For about a year I have been using starters for every beer as calculated by BeerSmith, and have had consistently better results in competition. I started doing this because last year I had a beer that went to competition that had excessive lag-time in fermentation, and I didn't use a starter. The beer went to 3 different competitions, and judges from each competition detected that the beer did not take off immediately, and considered this a defect citing "fermentation issues." So, while the OP and I may not be able to discern a difference, BJCP judges certainly can. If you are competing, my suggestion is to always use a starter to ensure plenty of healthy yeast.
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Old 01-22-2013, 02:44 AM   #7
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would pitching two vials be an improvement over pithing just one for a 5 gal batch?
i dont know how and dont want to bother with starters

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Old 01-22-2013, 01:27 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NewJersey
would pitching two vials be an improvement over pithing just one for a 5 gal batch?
i dont know how and dont want to bother with starters
It depends on the OG of the beer and if you are brewing a lager or an ale. If you can brew extract you can make a starter, it's not as complicated as you might think. Boil 2 qts of water with 1/2 cup pale DME for 15 minutes, cool to around 70*, pour wort into appropriate sized container, pitch your vial of yeast, shake the container to aerate the wort, place a loose fitting piece of aluminum foil over the top of your container and in a couple days you've got your self a larger cell count of healthy viable yeast. Now that's the quick explanation on how to make a basic starter, you can change the size or step it up for larger pitches, use a stir plate for increased propagation and so on.
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