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Old 07-26-2010, 02:08 AM   #1
Patirck
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Default What the hell is a starter? Have I just been lucky

I am some what new to home brewing - started about 4 months ago and have made 5 batches - 3 AG. It's been very tasty so far. I have made some higher gravity beers - in fact most are high gravity - the lowest is 1.050.

I have only used the wyeast smack packs and the WL vials. I have smacked the pack and watch it expand over 3 - 12 hours. I have taken out the WL vials from the fridge and let it warm up for 3 or 4 hours. I then have added the contents of the smack pack / vial to the cooled wort.

I have never made a starter. I went to a brewing lesson at the LHBS and was shown at that point - don't even worry about the doing the smack pack thing - just let it warm to room temperature and add it to wort.

I'm not say that making a starter is a waste of time, but my beer has turned out pretty good - certainly very drinkable and some of it very high avb (10.25% for my aventinus clone).

Am I missing something here? Have I just gotten lucky?

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Old 07-26-2010, 02:26 AM   #2
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Certain yeast strains can handle it w/o a starter, german weizen yeasts and most ale yeasts included. You're also less likely to notice off flavors in robust, flavorful beer styles like those you've been brewing. When you decide to brew a delicate lager or high-gravity Belgian without a starter you'll see why you'd want to do one.

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Old 07-26-2010, 02:26 AM   #3
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The problem with not "smacking" the pack is that you can't be 100% sure that you're pitching viable yeast. This also wakes the yeast up and gets them ready to go to work.

I'm glad that you've been fortunate enough to make good high-gravity beers without using a starter, but I'd bet that if you began making starters that your beer would be even better. Under-pitching is not typically a good thing...

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Old 07-26-2010, 02:55 AM   #4
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Hi Patirck. Take a look at www.mrmalty.com for a fuller explanation about yeast, yeast pitching and starters. Lots of good information.

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Old 07-26-2010, 03:22 AM   #5
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you can make beer - sometimes even really good beer - without a starter. But they will never ever be all that they could have been if you'd made a starter. It's more than just an extra bit of insurance to make sure that the beer doesn't come out a little off, your yeast literally make your beer, so treat them right.

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Old 07-26-2010, 03:47 AM   #6
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My seconds strongest beer so far is still in the fermenter (secondary). It is a Karmeleit klone (Belgian Tripel) that was made with WL500 straight out of the vial. Hope it comes out. I'll know in a month or so.

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Old 07-26-2010, 05:02 AM   #7
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I make a starter for 2 reasons.
1. To ensure the yeast is good before I brew my batch and pitch.
2. So I can cultivate the yeast and freeze vials in a frozen bank for reuse.

I have also found that with a starter I see signs of fermentation within a few hours. If I pitch straight to the wort it can take a couple of days to see activity.

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Old 07-26-2010, 07:12 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by whatsleftofyou View Post
The problem with not "smacking" the pack is that you can't be 100% sure that you're pitching viable yeast. This also wakes the yeast up and gets them ready to go to work.

I'm glad that you've been fortunate enough to make good high-gravity beers without using a starter, but I'd bet that if you began making starters that your beer would be even better. Under-pitching is not typically a good thing...
Though sometimes it is; making a big starter is going to reduce esters (among other things), which is great in a clean pale ale or lager but might be counterproductive in a hefeweizen.
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Old 07-26-2010, 07:51 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Patirck View Post
I'm not say that making a starter is a waste of time, but my beer has turned out pretty good - certainly very drinkable and some of it very high avb (10.25% for my aventinus clone).
Most of us are going for more than "drinkable". To make the best beer you can, you need to pay attention to other factors, including yeast pitching rate.
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Old 07-26-2010, 07:53 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Patirck View Post
but my beer has turned out pretty good - certainly very drinkable
If this is all you're shooting for then yes, you're fine. But it can always be better and wouldn't you love to describe your beer as better the "drinkable"
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