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Old 01-14-2014, 12:58 AM   #1
Conman13
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Default Never used a starter for ales

I've read in a lot of various places that yeast starters are a must. Some people even take the tone that you're pretty much a crazy noob unless you are making yeast starters. Well, I've never used one and never once had a problem with fermentation not kicking off promptly within 12-24 hours.

I'm an all grain brewer with about 5 yrs experience. I've done beers with OG as high as 1.090 and as low as 1.040. Never once have I used a starter. My beers ferment great and taste fine.

Whats the deal here? Why are people so adamant about using starters? All of the typical reasons I've heard have turned out to be non existent problems for me. Usually people say it reduces yeast off flavors, ensures faster fermentation start, and means the yeast are stronger(???) when they are pitched.

Do yeast starters yield some major benefit when you go from 5-10 gallon bataches, more than pitching 2 vials would? Are there certain styles and yeast strains that benefit more? (Maybe I just haven't used those particular ones?) I'm curious if I've just never done something that really called for using a starter.

FWIW, I have always used White Labs liquid yeast vials.

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Old 01-14-2014, 01:16 AM   #2
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The first time you make a diacetyl bomb, it will change your opinion of starters.

Only doing ales, that helps you. Lagers tend to be cleaner flavored. Ales tend to be more strongly flavored. Some ales it is acceptable to have esters, phenols, and/or diacetyl. Most lagers styles they are not appropriate.

I'm not quite getting the correct pitch rate yet. I just started building a stir plate.

I've also started brewing two beers back to back and splitting a yeast starter between them. That way I'm spending $6 on two beers instead of on one.

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Old 01-14-2014, 10:03 AM   #3
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There's a discussion going on in this thread about yeast and starters and the results of no starters. http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f163/mrmalty-i-dont-really-like-him-453010/#post5819816

If you have the time, follow the links posted in reply #26.

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Old 01-14-2014, 10:13 AM   #4
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You have done a nice job of demonstrating that a starter isn't required. However, it may change your beer, and it could be for the better.

Wyeaat has a nice summary of the effects of under pitching here:
http://www.wyeastlab.com/hb_pitchrates.cfm

I have also do quite a bit of quantitative experimentation for my book.

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Old 01-14-2014, 10:29 AM   #5
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I do starters for a variety of reasons. However, before I decided to do so, I had about a dozen brews under my belt, none of which were done with a starter, and none of which suffered any ill effects. My take on it is that doing a starter is another way to increase the odds that my beer will come out fine, so that if I miss something else, my chances are still high enough to keep me happy.

Reasons for making a starter:
1) It's kinda fun to get my starter going mid-week and watch it crank along. Brew day is coming!
2) I decided to make a stir plate out of scrap. I have an itch to tinker with things, so this project helped scratch that itch. Now that I have it, it would be a shame not to use it.
3) I use liquid yeast. By using starters, I can make each vial of store-bought yeast last for about four or five batches. Thus, my cost per batch is lower and I don't have to run out to the LHBS to get another vial of yeast.
4) I think it legitimately helps with making my fermentation cleaner, quicker and completer.

I think that if you're getting the results you want with the process you're using, then you're using the right process. I like my process, you like yours - we're both right! What's cool to me about this forum is that we all share our successes and not-so-successes, which enables us all to learn and grow as brewers. I know I have learned a heck of a lot from reading these forums - whether super advanced people talking about the equivalent of nuclear fusion, or from first timers talking about uber-simple stuff. It all helps me.

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Old 01-14-2014, 01:43 PM   #6
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When I first started brewing I did not make starters either. I thought my beers tasted pretty good. Eventually I got a stir plate and started making the proper sized starters and guess what? The quality of my beers improved. It just takes your brews up a notch.

Sure you can make beer without a starter, but for me the quest is to make the best beer possible. MAking starters and carefully controlling the fermentation temps definitely are the two best things you can do for your beers.

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