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Old 01-07-2012, 10:57 AM   #1
TheBroonery
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Default Starter not starting

I made a starter Thursday night with the intent on brewing some Maibock this afternoon. I used 1/2 cup of dark DME with 1 pint H2O for the starter with WLP 833 German Bock Yeast. The yeast vial does not expire until march 2012. It's been on the stir plate for about 36 hours now, and nothing. No krausen, no sediment.

Is it just the lag time associated with lager yeasts?

Does it make any difference that I used dark DME for the starter?

I wanted to wait until the starter was at high krausen to pitch it, but it doesn't appear to be doing anything (yet)...



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Old 01-07-2012, 12:03 PM   #2
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take a gravity... that will be the only way of knowing if it did its thing



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Old 01-07-2012, 12:08 PM   #3
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Not exactly easy to put the hydrometer into the erlenmeyer flask. I've only got about 400ml of starter in the flask now and I don't like returning gravity samples to the source... Thanks for the input though.

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Old 01-07-2012, 12:22 PM   #4
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36 hours and only 400ml likely finished while you were sleeping. And with a stir plate you won't get a krausen. You need to get used to the change in color. But 400ml with a whole wlp vial probably won't change much in cell count hence color either.

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Old 01-07-2012, 12:35 PM   #5
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Activity in a starter really only means one thing and one thing only.

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 if you are using tinfoil, you aren't getting bibbling anyway,) 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....

I usually run my stirplate for the first 24 hours, then shut it down, if you are spinning your starter it is really hard to get a krausen to form anyway, since it's all spinning, and there's often a head of foam on it from the movement.


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





This is a chilled sample so it's flocculated, but even with an unchilled sample you should see a band of yeast at the bottom. Here's an unchilled version



Same thing, a band.

As it is I've only ever seen two or three krausens actually on my starter (one blew off a bunch of krausen and knocked the tinfoil off the flask,) and the evidence of one on the flask at the "waterline" once. But I've never not had a starter take off.

Look for the yeast at the bottom, don't worry what it looks like on top.

If you have yeast on the bottom....that's all you really need.

If it looks anything like that, your are ready to either feed it again, or use it.

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Old 01-07-2012, 12:41 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheBroonery View Post
Not exactly easy to put the hydrometer into the erlenmeyer flask. I've only got about 400ml of starter in the flask now and I don't like returning gravity samples to the source... Thanks for the input though.
Totally understandable, but unfortunately, the position you're in is that the visual clues are removed by using a stir plate (which, as brewchez mentioned will prevent krausen and sediment) and its not a big enough starter to be able to spare the volume for a hydrometer reading. You could take a small sample and taste, see if its still sweet or if it tastes like un-hoppy beer. You could take the thing off the starter and stick it in the fridge, the yeast will floc out, but that would happen whether the took off or not, so not sure how much you'll be able to tell from that.

The good news is that your starter is almost certainly done. Especially given the small starter size/high pitch rate, the yeast chewed through the available nutrients and sugars in no time.

In reference to what brewchez said about starter size... with pitching an full vial into an unstirred starter of 1 pint, you would go from 100 billion cells to 110 billion cells, so not much growth. the stir plate will help, and that number will increase some, but if you want your starter to grow significant amounts of yeast, it needs to be bigger than a pint. If all you wanted was to wake the yeast up, you have accomplished that.
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Old 01-07-2012, 12:42 PM   #7
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ok then i have a question, do you pitch the hole thing or drain off the "beer" and just the yeast?

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Old 01-07-2012, 12:44 PM   #8
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Totally understandable, but unfortunately, the position you're in is that the visual clues are removed by using a stir plate (which, as brewchez mentioned will prevent krausen and sediment) and its not a big enough starter to be able to spare the volume for a hydrometer reading. You could take a small sample and taste, see if its still sweet or if it tastes like un-hoppy beer. You could take the thing off the starter and stick it in the fridge, the yeast will floc out, but that would happen whether the took off or not, so not sure how much you'll be able to tell from that.
All he needs to do, and what I recommend everyone do, is turn the plate off after 24 hours and let the yeast settle.

It's not going to flocculate if it's riding the tilt o whirl, nor will a krausen easily form on the sides either.

But just stopping the spinner and checking after an hour or two to see if the yeast has fallen, or even is there's a lot of suspended yeast particles is enough.
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Old 01-07-2012, 12:45 PM   #9
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ok then i have a question, do you pitch the hole thing or drain off the "beer" and just the yeast?
You can go either way, it depends on whether you think the volume of starter is enough to affect the final flavor of your beer. If you make a 3 L starter for a light flavored beer, probably want to decant. If you have a 1 L starter for a stout, you probably won't know the difference one way or the other.

My normal process is to make a starter a couple days in advance. The day before brew day, it goes in the fridge. Morning of brew day, decant liquid off, make a very small (500 mL) starter just to wake the yeast back up and get them active, and pitch that.
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Old 01-07-2012, 12:46 PM   #10
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ok then i have a question, do you pitch the hole thing or drain off the "beer" and just the yeast?
It's really up to you, some decant, or some just swirl it all in. It like so many things is really a matter of choice, more than anything else.

One factor to consider is whether or not the "starter beer," the liguid on top smells sour or not. Often, especially in the summer it may sour in only a few hours. Some folks add a hop pellet as a preservative/preventative measure. The couple of ounces of sour beer wont really affect the taste of your finished product (unless maybe you were brewing an extremely light tasting beer.) It's really up to you.

Another factor is whether or not the yeast is a low flocculating yeast and there may be a lot still in suspension. The "beer" will be cloudy rather than clear-ish. If it's a witbier or hefe yeast for example it might be better just to swirl and pour it all in, you'll get the max number of yeast cells that way.

My starter flask is huge and often I will build up a starter over a few days and end up with 1 1/2 to 2 quarts of "beer" in it. If the yeast has pretty much flocculated I will, if I have time cold crash it, but even if I don't I will carefully pour off all but about 2 cups of the liquid, then swirl the remainder to re-suspend the yeast and dump it in my fermenter.


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