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Old 09-15-2012, 12:18 AM   #21
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An active starter on a stir plate will also show little tiny bubbles swirling around. I usually have to hold a flashlight at a parallel angle to see.
This is what I experience.

What I would do now is to make alternative plans - hit the LHBS for more yeast but also let the starter go for a while longer. If there are a few yeast cells still alive they will propagate.

I do starters from just 5 ml of frozen yeast.
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Old 09-15-2012, 01:37 PM   #22
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Thanks for all the advice and hand-holding, guys.

I bought another vial of WLP001, same expiry date but different lot #. (Yes, September 24th does seem a bit short to me.) I brought it (almost) right home, keeping it cool next to a chilly bomber of Green Flash IPA that I purchased at the liquor store right next door to my LHBS.

Cooked up some new starter wort, measured the OG TWICE with two different hydrometers (came to 1.055 for both readings, a wee heavy for a starter wort but what the heck...). Back in the sanitized Ehrlenmeyer and on the stir plate.

-- This new starter has no bubbling (OK, maybe I'm learning something about stir plates here)
-- But did have a dramatic color change at the two hour mark. (Whew, finally something to ease my worried mind!)
-- I won't bother checking gravity until 24 hours (6 pm Saturday) but if this ain't working, the problem lies with the brewer... not the yeast.

I decanted the original starter into a sanitized glass bowl, covered it with Saran Wrap and left it on the counter overnight. This morning, it has some krausening and now has a color change. I guess not all the yeasties were killed off after all!

I placed the original starter in the fridge. After 4 hours of chilling, I can see a thin yeast cake.

QUESTION: Do I add the old starter to the brewing wort ALONG WITH my new yeast culture... or am I adding stressed yeast that will affect my fermentation and flavor profile?

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Old 09-15-2012, 01:42 PM   #23
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Quote:
-- This new starter has no bubbling (OK, maybe I'm learning something about stir plates here)
-- But did have a dramatic color change at the two hour mark. (Whew, finally something to ease my worried mind!)
-- I won't bother checking gravity until 24 hours (6 pm Saturday) but if this ain't working, the problem lies with the brewer... not the yeast.
On a stir plate I usually get no bubbling or very minimal bubbling. The color change is what is the most prominent thing that lets me know that it is working. If you are getting that color change you are good.
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Old 09-15-2012, 01:56 PM   #24
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If it was me, I would finish off the original starter, crash it, decant it, and put it back into the sanitized vial then store it in the fridge for your next batch. Remember to pull it a day earlier than normal and kick a new starter from it. So far I have had great luck with storing them for months as long as I make a good starter prior to use. My last 3 brews have been with yeast that was split off from the original starter then stored.

I am not sure how many generations will be good, but as long as my starter looks good, and the yeast cake in the fermenter drops into a nice tight cake, beers taste good.... I'll push it until I see something off. Current popular wisdom on here says about 5 generations so I am watching closely now. I have a few packets of dry 05 in case things don't look right I won't have to abort a brew day.

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Old 09-15-2012, 11:17 PM   #25
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On a stir plate I usually get no bubbling or very minimal bubbling.
So where does the CO2 go with your stir plate? The yeast are eating sugar and excreting gas. You may not see it without light but it is happily bubbling out that CO2.
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Old 09-15-2012, 11:56 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by mttaylor1066 View Post
Thanks for all the advice and hand-holding, guys.

I bought another vial of WLP001, same expiry date but different lot #. (Yes, September 24th does seem a bit short to me.)
FYI that's almost 'expired' yeast and likely to have low viability. It's one of my nitpicks with White labs that they put a "best by" date rather than a manufacturing date on their vials.

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Originally Posted by mttaylor1066 View Post
Cooked up some new starter wort, measured the OG TWICE with two different hydrometers (came to 1.055 for both readings, a wee heavy for a starter wort but what the heck...). Back in the sanitized Ehrlenmeyer and on the stir plate.

-- This new starter has no bubbling (OK, maybe I'm learning something about stir plates here)
-- But did have a dramatic color change at the two hour mark. (Whew, finally something to ease my worried mind!)
-- I won't bother checking gravity until 24 hours (6 pm Saturday) but if this ain't working, the problem lies with the brewer... not the yeast.
1.055 is rather high for a starter IMHO. I personally like them at 1.030 or sometimes even lower. I often do the first step at 1.020 when doing a starter from washed yeast that's been in the fridge a while. Completely unscientific, but I believe that lower sugars at least initially focuses the yeast more on reproducing than trying to convert sugar to alcohol. I did just pickup the yeast book by Jamil & Chris White so hopefully it will either confirm that theory or set me straight.

I've found WLP001 takes much longer to show a krausen when on my stir plate than Wyeast 1056. No idea why, but I always wait at least 24hrs before I start to worry, then I immediately look for co2 bubbles which absent of krausen or a gravity check are a good indicator.


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QUESTION: Do I add the old starter to the brewing wort ALONG WITH my new yeast culture... or am I adding stressed yeast that will affect my fermentation and flavor profile?
I'd keep the original starter & the new starter separate, but that's just my $0.02 and YMMV. You could always wait till the new starter is pitched and then step up the original slurry to a larger starter, finish & wash for future batches.

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On a stir plate I usually get no bubbling or very minimal bubbling. The color change is what is the most prominent thing that lets me know that it is working. If you are getting that color change you are good.

I've had instances where no color change happened until almost 48hrs on the stir plate, but I could usually see co2 bubbles before then. If it's a fast flocculating yeast you could also simply turn off the stir plate for 15 minutes and look for the start of a yeast cake.
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Old 09-16-2012, 03:47 AM   #27
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It's one of my nitpicks with White labs that they put a "best by" date rather than a manufacturing date on their vials.
White labs manufacture date is 4 months prior to "best by" date. So if the date is September 15th it was bottled on May 15th.
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Old 09-16-2012, 03:48 AM   #28
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White labs manufacture date is 4 months prior to "best by" date.
That's good to know. I was guessing three.
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Old 09-16-2012, 01:42 PM   #29
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Why not split your batch and ferment one with each of your starters. At least you might discover a flavor change due to over-stressed yeast.

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Old 09-17-2012, 11:44 AM   #30
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Just to close the loop on this whole story, I did pitch that 2nd starter and 22 hours later my fermenter is bubbling away. I keep a "control glass" of wort+yeast on the counter, just to observe what might be happening in the fermenter. After 22 hours, there's a great krausen in the glass with some trub and solids settling on the bottom. The color in the glass has changed from SRM 11 to SRM 7.

Exactly what I would expect from pitching a healthy culture.

So, I learned:

-- Starters don't need to look like fermenting beers.
-- Color changes are a good indicator of starter progress
-- WLP001 is a different yeast than 1056 and seems to behave differently in my Ehrlenmeyer flask

Thanks everyone, for the advice! Hopefully this beer (an American pale ale) will turn out. I'm entering it into a local competition, so I'm going to get some independent evaluations.

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