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Old 08-02-2012, 12:25 PM   #1
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Default starter not ... starting

I have a saison kit from AHS that arrived about a week ago. Came with White Labs AHS yeast blend vial that had an ice pack attached but was definitely warm. I put it in the fridge for a few days and took it out a few hours before making a starter (1 Liter water and 1 cup DME). This was my first starter by the way. Boiled for 15 min. and cooled to 80 degrees. I pitched the yeast and have seen no activity whatsoever in about 12 hours with periodic shaking. The yeast at the bottom looks kind of milky before shaking. Any thoughts? Might the yeast be dead? I don't really have a dry option since saisons require yeast that can handle high temps while fermenting. Would you say that I am liable for this possible dead yeast since I'm the one who ordered it in the summer? Or should they send me another one?

Thanks!

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Old 08-02-2012, 12:27 PM   #2
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If you have yeast in the bottom, you have activity.


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 bubbling 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 08-02-2012, 12:28 PM   #3
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Activity isn't really what you're looking for. That creamy white layer will just get bigger. When you shake it, does any "fizz" at all rise to the top?

Keep shaking as much as you can, and after 24 hours that creamy stuff at the bottom should have doubled in size (at least).

Edit: Beaten by Revvy's cut-and-paste...

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Old 08-02-2012, 01:20 PM   #4
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Also, saison yeasts are notoriously "sticky". What I mean is don't be surprised if your beer goes gangbusters at the start and then suddenly seems to stop with a little ways to go. It's not uncommon for them to hang up before the end. Raising the temp is not a problem though, and it's not a bad idea to rouse the yeast to help keep it going. or you can just wait for it to finish on it's own.

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Old 08-02-2012, 01:57 PM   #5
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Thanks all. I'll keep an eye on it and see if the yeast at the bottom increases. As of this morning it still looked pretty much like it did an hour after pitching, but I'll keep shaking. There is no noticeable "fizz" when I rouse the yeast, no krausen that I have seen either. But I will hope for the best and try to brew this weekend.

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Old 08-02-2012, 05:04 PM   #6
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OK, so I guess this looks alright then? (actually does look a little different than this morning). Yeah, I know I don't have a flask or stir plate yet, but I'm hoping at this point it doesn't really matter what I use.

img_1443.jpg  
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Old 08-02-2012, 05:07 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vadem View Post
OK, so I guess this looks alright then? (actually does look a little different than this morning). Yeah, I know I don't have a flask or stir plate yet, but I'm hoping at this point it doesn't really matter what I use.
Looks good to me. If you don't have a stir plate, just swirl it as much as you can. It'll fizz a bit each time you do, like Paul said. Once the fizzing becomes less or non existent, let it settle, cold crash and decant the spent 'beer' and let the yeast warm before pitching the slurry.
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Old 08-02-2012, 05:10 PM   #8
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Looks like every 'started' starter I've ever had! Pitch on, my friend, pitch on.

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Old 08-06-2012, 04:25 PM   #9
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Thanks for the reassuring input everyone. Brewed a couple nights ago and it started going pretty vigorously between 11pm and 6am, so I'm happy with the start. One more question though: I've only had a couple saisons before so not exactly sure what I'll get. It was just a good thing to try in the hot months of the summer. I hear about "barnyard" flavor for saisons. What does that imply? I assume it is generally a good thing. earthy? skunky?
Thanks!

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Old 08-06-2012, 04:32 PM   #10
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Barnyard might come out in a saison, or not, depending on the yeast. Usually that is attributed to a Brettanomyces strain of yeast. It's also been described as:

Horse
Horse Sweat
Saddle
Leather

It's actually not a bad thing, IMO, depending on the beer it goes into.

The one thing you should know about Saisons is that they vary a LOT form brewer to brewer. There really isn't an actual standard, although there are characteristics that are mentioned in the BJCP descriptions. I think that fruity, funky, dry and similar are usual. The beer style itself is an interesting read if you can find a good book on it.

I suggest going to the store and finding *fresh* examples. New Holland makes a "Golden Cap" saison, and there are many more out there. You will notice that the flavors are all over the map.

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