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Old 03-09-2010, 01:32 AM   #1
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Default My Starter Looks Like a Snow Globe

I've made about 25 starters in my short brewing career using my homemade stirplate, and they've never looked like this. I am trying to revive an old Wyeast pack from this last summer that was part of a bad batch. I got the smack pack to swell after four or five days (maybe half swollen at best) and pitched it with a quart of wort Sunday afternoon. This morning the wort had changed color as it normally does but no foam in the vortex. Then I come home to the snow globe tonight. I was planning on adding another quart of wort but now I'm worried something isn't right. It's the ESB yeast, which I've not used before.

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Old 03-09-2010, 03:20 AM   #2
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Can we have a picture so we can see exactly?

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Old 03-09-2010, 03:44 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by joety View Post
I've made about 25 starters in my short brewing career using my homemade stirplate, and they've never looked like this. I am trying to revive an old Wyeast pack from this last summer that was part of a bad batch. I got the smack pack to swell after four or five days (maybe half swollen at best) and pitched it with a quart of wort Sunday afternoon. This morning the wort had changed color as it normally does but no foam in the vortex. Then I come home to the snow globe tonight. I was planning on adding another quart of wort but now I'm worried something isn't right. It's the ESB yeast, which I've not used before.
When you say this yeast was part of a bad batch, what exactly do you mean? It sounds like it is probably fine, but I am curious as to what you mean by a "bad batch".

I assume that this is the Wyeast 1968 yeast (Fuller's strain). This is an extremely flocculant yeast strain. I have made starters with this strain in the past, and have always observed a similar phenomenon. When the yeast has fermented out the starter wort, it will flocculate very strongly. On the stirplate, the starter wort appears to darken as the yeast flocs out. A number of english yeasts behave like this, but perhaps not to the same extent as the Wyeast 1968 / White Labs WLP002. I really like the Fuller's strain because it drops clear VERY quickly.
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Old 03-09-2010, 01:40 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by ISUBrew79 View Post
When you say this yeast was part of a bad batch, what exactly do you mean? It sounds like it is probably fine, but I am curious as to what you mean by a "bad batch".

I assume that this is the Wyeast 1968 yeast (Fuller's strain). This is an extremely flocculant yeast strain. I have made starters with this strain in the past, and have always observed a similar phenomenon. When the yeast has fermented out the starter wort, it will flocculate very strongly. On the stirplate, the starter wort appears to darken as the yeast flocs out. A number of english yeasts behave like this, but perhaps not to the same extent as the Wyeast 1968 / White Labs WLP002. I really like the Fuller's strain because it drops clear VERY quickly.
Sorry, chiming in from work and didn't take a picture last night. I was frankly unsure if the camera could catch the effect given the amount of movement involved it may be just a blur but I'll give it a shot tonight when I get home. I'm keeping it spinning until I decide whether to throw another quart of wort at it. I pressure can my own starter wort, so the cost is next to nothing, but it is a day long affair to get 21 jars canned.

Yes, it is 1968. I believe you are describing exactly what happened so it sounds like I'm fine. The wort turned "creamy" about 10-15 hours after pitching, which is normal when the yeast takes off. It has since darkened back up combined with the spinning snow flakes (roughly 24 hours after pitching), which is no doubt yeast that would flocullate to the bottom if it weren't forced to spin round and round. Mystery solved, I'm going to pitch the second quart tonight to make sure I have enough virulent yeast for brewing this weekend. Now a bit of the background.

In early July, I purchased three smack packs of Wyeast from a LHBS all dated June 30th. I tried using the first two in July/August and both failed to swell. I put them in the stirplate anyway and it never kicked. I still pitched the stirplate and gave it until the next morning when I gave up and pitched a package of dry yeast. I assume being 0-2 and with this pack having the same born on date, although all three were different strains, it was probably dead as well.
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Old 03-09-2010, 01:55 PM   #5
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Some of those English strains are very clumpy. They work fast and floc very well. What your seeing is probably normal yeast clumps being kicked around by the stirplate.

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Old 03-09-2010, 01:56 PM   #6
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Sounds similar to the starter I had last fall:

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f12/wlp026-ugly-125504/#post1399816

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Old 03-09-2010, 02:10 PM   #7
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I often get that happening with 1968 or WLP 002. The snow flakes are yeast, so it looks as though your starter is working.
I very seldom get any foam on the top of my starters, but the gravity goes down and the yeast cell count goes up; so I don't bother about it.

-a.

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