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Old 05-22-2010, 05:55 PM   #1
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Default Mediocre starter: to pitch or not to pitch?

On Wednesday night I brewed up a starter for a Pliny the Elder clone that I'm planning on brewing this weekend (OG = 1.074). Based on Jamil's calculator and the date of the yeast pack (Wyeast 1056, dated 4/20), I brewed a 3L starter and went with the "intermittent shaking" method. This is only the second starter that I've ever made, but it seems much poorer than the first one I made with Wyeast 3711 (also 3L).

To begin, the yeast pack hardly expanded at all even after being at 75F for 3 hours. Twenty-fours later, the wort was bubbling like crazy so I assumed I was in good shape. Yesterday morning, 36 hours later, I put the starter in the fridge to let the yeast flocculate. Right now I see a 1/2" yeast cake on the bottom of the container. This is much less than my first starter, which had a good 1" of yeast. I suspect that not everything has flocculated since I am seeing a lot of particles bobbing up and down. It looks like there might be some krausen on top as well.

Should I be concerned about this starter? I plan on decanting it because it is so large. I'm worried that I'll be throwing a lot of yeast out if I do. Since this is a Pliny clone, I don't want to screw anything up. Thanks!

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Old 05-22-2010, 06:52 PM   #2
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Sounds like you didn't have the healthiest smack pack. I would decant and dump another 3L of fresh wort on the yeast today and brew the Pliny tomorrow. Pitch the whole starter. I think that would pretty much guarantee you a good cell count.

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Old 05-22-2010, 08:20 PM   #3
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Sounds like you didn't have the healthiest smack pack. I would decant and dump another 3L of fresh wort on the yeast today and brew the Pliny tomorrow. Pitch the whole starter. I think that would pretty much guarantee you a good cell count.
Okay, thanks. I only had enough spare
DME to make another 1.5L of starter wort, so I did the best I could. I was scared to decant too much of the old liquid off lest I throw away all the yeast, so I left about 1L and added the fresh 1.5L to it.

It looks like a lot of starter to pitch in, but hopefully the 17 oz. of hops will mask any off flavors that might cause.
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Old 05-22-2010, 08:56 PM   #4
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Yeah, you'll have to pitch the whole thing because you will have active yeast in suspension. It's a big starter but Pliny is a very big beer. I doubt you'll be able to tell any difference. Health fermentation will probably be more important for good flavor. That and 17 oz. of hops!!!

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Old 05-22-2010, 09:05 PM   #5
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Attention, Attention

It doesn't matter if your smack pack expands or not, and it's not a sign of the health of your yeast.

From the horse's mouth.

Quote:
From the Wyeast FAQ website:

3. Does the package need to be fully swollen before pitching?

No, The package can be pitched before activating, or at anytime during the activation process. The activation process "jump starts" the culture's metabolism, minimizing the lag phase.
Just like in the fermenter, starter fermentation isn't always dynamic...It doesn't matter one blip in your fermenter or your starter flask if the airlock bubbles or not (if you are using an airlock and not tinfoil,) or if you see a krauzen. In fact starter fermentation are some of the fastest or slowest but most importantly, the most boring fermentations out there. Usually it's done withing a few hours of yeast pitch...usually overnight when we are sleeping, and the starter looks like nothing ever happened...except for the little band at the bottom. Or it can take awhile...but either way there's often no "activity" whatsoever....


All that really matters is that creamy band o yeast at the bottom.


It is still better to make a starter even if it's only for a few hours than not to make on at all. I have been forced to make a starter the morning of a brew session, and pitching it only 6 or 8 hours later, at least it gets your lil buddies all excited in the presence of all that starter wort.
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Old 05-22-2010, 11:33 PM   #6
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Attention, Attention

It doesn't matter if your smack pack expands or not, and it's not a sign of the health of your yeast.
Thanks, Revvy. I didn't mean to imply in my post that the lack of expansion was the main culprit. I've had other smack packs give similar, anemic results and the beer turned out fine. But I've just "started" making starters, so my main concern was the minimal amount of yeast trub that I saw, at least compared to the first starter I ever made, under the same conditions. A 3L starter should generate a lot of yeast, right? Even after 36 hours in the fridge the "creamy band o yeast" was barely noticeable. I think I exaggerated in my original post about it being 1/2" thick. On closer inspection is was really more like 1/8" - 1/4" thick. Do you think this would have been okay? I'm trying to RDWHAHB but my lack of experience is making that hard, especially when I'm going to brew Pliny Thanks!
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Old 05-23-2010, 04:15 AM   #7
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Thanks, Revvy. I didn't mean to imply in my post that the lack of expansion was the main culprit. I've had other smack packs give similar, anemic results and the beer turned out fine. But I've just "started" making starters, so my main concern was the minimal amount of yeast trub that I saw, at least compared to the first starter I ever made, under the same conditions. A 3L starter should generate a lot of yeast, right? Even after 36 hours in the fridge the "creamy band o yeast" was barely noticeable. I think I exaggerated in my original post about it being 1/2" thick. On closer inspection is was really more like 1/8" - 1/4" thick. Do you think this would have been okay? I'm trying to RDWHAHB but my lack of experience is making that hard, especially when I'm going to brew Pliny Thanks!
Different yeasts, and even different room conditions, or quality of the dme (age, etc) are going to cause different amounts of trub. Some yeasts are less flocculant than others, some yeast may still be in suspension. Each fermentation, whether in a flask or a bucket, shouldn't really be used in comparison to another. If the sludge at the bottom looks the slightest bit more thanthe amount in the tube or pack, then you got re-production.

Yeasts are not like they were in 1978, rarely do they not do their job. You just gotta rdwhahb and learn to trust them.
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