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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Fermentation & Yeast > Washed WLP051, starter looks iffy - advice?
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Old 12-10-2012, 05:30 PM   #1
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Default Washed WLP051, starter looks iffy - advice?

I bottled a 5 gal extract batch of West Coast IPA yesterday and thought I'd recover the yeast for a new batch I plan to brew this week. The first batch was fermented 2 weeks at 68F, dry hopped for 1 week, then cold crashed for a week, all in the primary fermenter.

The yeast/trub cake in the fermenter was pretty firm and really didn't look that bad given the dry-hop, and maybe I could have just saved it as it was and pitched it within the next couple of days. But ... I figured I'd try washing it.

I boiled about a quart of water, let it cool, added it to the trub cake in the fermenter and swirled it. I then poured of most of it into a 48oz bottle and let it settle a bit. I expected to see a fairly well-defined bottom layer, a milky middle layer, and a thin top layer. After 20 min, there was not much layering at all. After an hour or more, there was faint separation but the bottom layer seemed to take up about 80% of the volume. Another half hour later, not much had changed so I poured off the top stuff into two pint jars, filling them about 3/4 full.

I let those stand for a bit, expecting to see a bit more settling and separation. Since a fair amount of the bottom layer from the first jar made it into these two, I expected to see 3 layers again instead of the ideal two, and I did. This time, however, the bottom layer was a bit more defined. So, I poured of the top two layers back into the larger jar, added a pint of sterile wort, and shook it vigorously. That was around 4pm. At around 8pm and again around midnight I swirled the contents back into suspension (they had separated into 3 layers).

This morning, it looked like this - 4 layers and some foamy clusters on the surface. Any thoughts?

p1010452-resized.jpg   p1010453-resized.jpg   p1010454-resized.jpg   p1010456-resized.jpg  
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Old 12-10-2012, 09:17 PM   #2
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Looks like yeast to me. I'd swirl it up, wait about twenty minutes, then pour off a couple of ounces into a sanitized jar and store. Easy-peasy.

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Old 12-10-2012, 11:28 PM   #3
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Yeah, when I reread my original post, I guess I was not very clear. What's pictured is what I intended to use as a starter, so I don't really need to store it (assuming I'm able to do a mid-week brew). My question is: which layer(s) contain the yeast I want to pitch? The middle two? The bottom one?

I'm asking because normally when I use a starter, I dump off most of the liquid then swirl up the yeast that has settled on the bottom and pitch that. In this case, I'm not sure whether the bottom layer is yeast or residual trub left over from my crappy job of washing. The middle layers look like the stuff I see people saving when they wash their yeast.

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Old 12-11-2012, 01:50 AM   #4
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All of the layers have the same viability of yeast, just different densities. I mix the whole thing up when I pitch.
Washed slurry is about 1 trillion cells per ml of dense cake.

Here are my results from cell counts on the layers:
http://woodlandbrew.blogspot.com/201...g-exposed.html

The last photo looks curious. It looks like there is some fermentation activity. Is that your starter?

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Old 12-11-2012, 03:06 AM   #5
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Interesting post - I guess you happen to have a hemocytometer or a cell counter at your disposal? The bacterial density in the top layer was surprising, though maybe it shouldn't be.

Yes, the last photo is my starter. My only reason for not wanting to pitch the entire starter is the sterile wort I used to prepare it. I think I made it 15 years ago, during my first homebrewing career! It seems to be fine - no strange smells or anything - but I'm not sure I want a full pint of it in my new batch.

Thanks for the responses, WoodlandBrew and jerrodm.

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Old 12-11-2012, 10:42 AM   #6
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Thanks,
Yes, the cell counts were done with a hemocytometer and a microscope. If you are curious, my procedure is here:
http://woodlandbrew.blogspot.com/201...viability.html

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Old 12-11-2012, 02:01 PM   #7
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Right, so if you're pitching directly to a batch of wort, the easiest thing to do would be to swirl the whole container up and dump it in--that will give you a good go at it. If you don't want the starter liquid in your beer, put it in the fridge over night, then carefully pour off the top layer of clearish liquid, leaving a couple ounces in the jar in order to swirl up the yeast on the bottom. If you do this, make sure you take the jar out of the fridge several hours before pitching so the yeast can wake up a little. This is generally what I do if I have a starter of more than a liter or so; otherwise it's fine to just dump the whole thing in. Enjoy!

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For they garner the succulent berries of the hop and mass and sift and bruise and brew them and they mix therewith sour juices and bring the must to the sacred fire and cease not night or day from their toil, those cunning brothers, lords of the vat. -James Joyce

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Primary: Belgian Partigyle Tripel/Saison, 1/1
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Bottles: Northern Brown Ale, 1/10; English IPA, 12/31; Cider, 12/9; White House Honey Ale AG, 12/9;
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