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Old 11-10-2011, 03:44 PM   #1
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Default Yeast harvesting - a NON-slant method

I'm by no means any kind of microbiologist, but I've been harvesting + storing yeasts for a while with excellent success. So if you see any kinds of errors, feel free to point them out politely and I'll correct this write-up.

I will divide this write-up into a few posts, outlining the following steps:

Initial propagation
Preparing a yeast starter for a batch
Cold crashing and augmenting
Yeast storage
Re-generating
Canning starter wort

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Old 11-10-2011, 03:45 PM   #2
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Default Initial propagation

Before you can propagate a yeast, you need to source a yeast. For the majority of us, this involves getting a pack of Wyeast, a vial of White Labs, or may be even a pack of dry yeast. It could also mean that you want to culture a yeast from another beer that's been bottled with live yeast.

For the purpose of this write-up, I will be using Wyeast #1007, that I purchased 2 weeks ago. The package is dated Sep 2011, which I'm happy with.

The first part of the process starts with "smacking the pack". Some will say that this isn't really necessary, but I like doing it, because it gives me the chance to prove that the yeast is indeed alive before we go any further.



I smacked the inner pack by locating in a corner of the pack, and giving it a sharp blow, and I put it on the countertop to let it swell up.

I put the pack aside, and 4 hours later it was already showing some puffing, which I think is quite impressive.

This is at 12 hours. Also in the picture is a 1/2 gallon of wort that I will be using to make the initial starter.



I use a growler to do my initial propagation when I use a new yeast. So I filled up my growler to the brim with a solution of water + sanitizer. I'm going to let it sit for a while, which depends on the contact time of the sanitizing solution.



Once the growler has been sanitized, I empty about 90% of it.



I then fill it about 1/2 way up with tap water to give it a rinse. The remaining 10% of the original solution, mixed with water, give me a very light solution of sanitizing fluid that I consider to be safe. Once drained, the minor remnants of sanitizer (a few droplets of very light concentration) will not damage the yeast cells once I fill the growler with the volume of wort that I will inoculate.



I cover this with a square of aluminum foil. (I don't sanitize it, but it wouldn't hurt) until I'm ready to fill the growler.



For the starter medium, I like to use a "near beer" of about 1.030 to 1.040. I do not use hops in that wort, but some people do. I've never really found the need for it. In my example here, I'm using a 1/2 gallon of wort that I made a while back, that I pressure cooked at 15PSI for 20 minutes.

The quantity of LME/DME required for a 1/2-gallon starter wort is approximately 6oz (weight) of DME, or 8 oz (weight) of liquid malt extract. This will get me right in the 1.030 to 1.040 range. This does not need to be super precise, it could even be 1.050 and it would be fine.

Since not everyone has access to a pressure cooker, the general idea would be to boil some water, add DME or LME, boil for 10 minutes, and chill the wort down to about 70F. Since the volume of the growler is 1/2 gallon, chilling that amount isn't too hard with an ice water bath. I will revisit this section on what needs to be done to ensure that the starter wort remains sanitized (near-sterile).

Before transferring the wort to the growler, I prepare a bowl with sanitizing solution, in which I put my scissors that I will used to cut the Wyeast pack, an airlock and rubber stopper, and the unopened Wyeast pack itself [One never knows what's living on the side of the wyeast packs!]



Since my wort has been in a mason jar, I consider the contents to be sterile (provided the lid is still under vacuum). However, I do consider the edge of the mason jar (once the band and lid are removed) to not be sterile. As such, I use a small propane torch to heat up the side of the mason jar. I try to turn it around somewhat rapidly to prevent overheating and cracking the glass. I also do the same for the growler. I believe the growler glass is less heat-tolerant than the mason jars so I'm super-careful when flaming the neck (and it's also smaller so it takes less time).



Once the contents of the mason jar is inside the growler, I again put a piece of foil, until I am ready to pour the contents of the Wyeast smack pack into the growler.



Once I've had the wyeast pack and instruments in the sanitizing solution for the prescribed amount of time, I will grab the scissors, the wyeast pack, shake the wyeast pack to mix it up, and cut a small corner of the pack, and pour the contents of the pack into the growler, and put the foil back on the top until I assemble the airlock + stopper and put it on.

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Old 11-10-2011, 03:46 PM   #3
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Default Initial propagation (continued)

At this point I've installed the airlock/stopper, and I gently stir the growler to mix everything up.



I always open and smell the contents of the Wyeast pack to make sure everything was OK in the manufacturing process. It also gives me an idea of the smell of that yeast as it goes about its business.



I then let the yeast do its business, at around 68F or so.

12 hours later, and I have significant activity in the growler, and the airlock is bubbling every 15 seconds.

[more to come]

M_C

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Old 11-10-2011, 03:47 PM   #4
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Default Preparing a yeast starter for a batch

At this point, I have two possibilities (I'm sure that there are more, but I'm only addressing 2):

Prepare a yeast starter for an upcoming batch
OR
Put this yeast into storage.

If you want to only put yeast into storage, scroll down to yeast storage.

If you want to prepare some yeast for an upcoming batch, read on:

After the yeast in the growler has reached high krausen, which is recognizable from the airlock activity, or by having krausen on top of the starter, you can then proceed to create a "secondary" stater from the original stater we made.

Edit: As it turns out, my growler completely fermented out in the 6-7 days I left it alone at 68F. That's OK, as it created a pretty nice yeast cake inside the growler:



We will need:
An elernmeyer, or a flat-bottom container. I prefer glass as it's much harder to scratch than plastic.
Some more starter wort
A magnetic stir plate
A magnetic stir-bar.
Some more aluminum foil
A small propane torch+light
A bowl with sanitizing solution to hold the airlock/stopper while handling the growler.



The process is rather simple:

Make sure your "labware" is clean. If you have residue from a previous yeast, make sure to get that out before continuing.

Add the stir-bar to the container, and fill it up with sanitizing solution at the proper concentration, all the way to the top. Let it soak for the prescribed amount of time for the given sanitizer.



Before emptying the container, make sure to use a spare magnet to immobilize the stir bar inside the container. If you don't, the stir bar will drop to the bottom of the sink when you empty the container. After immobilizing the stir bar, do the 10% drain + 50% refill, and drain again. The I put some aluminum foil on top for now.



I flame the necks of the erlenmeyer and the starter wort.



Fill the container with the quantity of starter wort that you want. I use the Mr. Malty yeast calculator to figure out how much yeast I will need. Link: http://www.mrmalty.com/calc/calc.html . Put foil on top again.



Bring out the original starter, and stir it to rouse the yeast into suspension. Be careful if the growler is full, as it could make a volcano if you stir too much.



(I decanted some of the clear wort from the original starter (leaving the yeast cake untouched) prior to this picture. No need to put yeast "poop" in the fresh starter wort)

Again, I will flame the neck of the growler to make sure everything is sanitized. I usually will use about 1/3 of the original starter volume to inoculate the new starter. So pour about 1/3 of the original starter into the new starter's container. Put foil on top of the new stater, and put the airlock back onto the original starter, after having sanitized it. For that, I use a soup bowl filled with sanitizing solution. As I remove the airlock from the growler, I set it in the bowl, and it goes back on top of the growler when I've taken the yeast I need.

[No picture of the pouring of original yeast into new starter as I don't have 2 sets of hands]

If you're using a stored yeast (like I've been doing in this write-up as well), make sure you bring the yeast up to room temperature a few hours beforehand, and that you shake the container well before putting it in the new starter.

Unshaken:


Shaken:


Using the spare magnet, align the stir bar towards the center of the container, and gently set it on top of the stir plate (after making sure that it's turned off!).


(You can see some yeast cells at the bottom. Or... hot/cold break.)

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Old 11-10-2011, 03:48 PM   #5
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Default Preparing a yeast starter for a batch (continued)

Slowly turn up the speed of the stir plate, until you can see a slight funnel/vortex at the top of the starter wort.



This is a video of the speed I use:


I want to point out that it's important to practice the method above with plain tap water BEFORE you do it with starter wort+yeast, as that solution won't make it easy to see inside it. So try out a good few times with plain water before you do so.

At this point, the only thing there is to do is wait for yeast to do its thing. If your original starter was strong and at high krausen, the new starter should be ready to pitch with 12 to 24 hours. I have to admit that it's a bit difficult to know if the new starter is going, as yeast activity can be difficult to see. If you see "floaters", then it's pretty obvious. But often times, the mixture will be somewhat opaque and hard to figure out.

This video shows two active yeast, #1968 (left) which has a very obvious 'chunks' and 3068 which is a lot less obvious:


If the stir bar gets thrown off, it was either turning too fast, or the container's bottom is not flat enough.
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Old 11-10-2011, 03:49 PM   #6
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Default Cold-crashing and augmenting

The general idea behind cold-crashing is to concentrate the amount of solid yeast cells, while getting rid of as much of the liquid as possible. Why would we want to do that? Well, quite simply, it's to reduce the amount of liquid as to not dilute our soon-to-be-brewed batch of beer. Putting 1-liter of starter in 19-liter batch of beer "thins" our new beer by about 5%. It's not critical, but not perfect either.

The timeline I use for cold-crashing and augmenting, based on a very active yeast:

16-24 hours before pitch time: cold crash
12-20 hours before pitch time: decant, and add fresh wort, return to stir-plate. This should give the yeast time to augment while eating up the new wort.

Here's what my active yeast looked like just as I put it in the fridge to cold-crash:



I locked the stir bar in the side of the erlenmeyers as I put them in the fridge, so that I don't have to do that when I am ready to decant.

After leaving it in the fridge for 2 hours (2 to 4 hours is generally sufficient - depends on the yeast strain), I can see a definite concentration of yeast at the bottom of the erlenmeyers. The 1099 did a better job at cold crashing than the 1007 - at 2 hours anyways.



I ended up cold crashing both yeasts for around 4 hours. Once a yeast cake was established, I flamed the neck (once a gain - I think I just like working with a propane torch), and I decanted as much of the liquid as possible, while trying to not disturb the yeast cake.

I ended up with the following:



Since I was going to brew 11 gallons of beer with each yeast, I decided to augment the amount of yeast cells available, by adding fresh wort to each erlenmeyer. I was around 200ml of yeast (mostly solid, some liquid), and I added 1 liter of wort to each erlen, giving me a total volume of 1.2 liter. Half of each erlenmeyer will go into 5.5 gallons of fresh wort, so 600ml of yeast solution for each 21-liter fermenter of fresh wort.

M_C

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Old 11-10-2011, 03:49 PM   #7
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Default Yeast storage

My growler of Wyeast 1007 has finished fermenting. I verified this by swirling the growler daily to check if any CO2 was still escaping. After approximately 2 weeks in the growler, no more gas is escaping. This is critical for my storage as the vials I use for storage do not handle much pressure and would pop their lid if there was pressure.



I use the following vials for storage:



They are not particularly hard to come by, however I did have to buy a gross (!) of them and I have probably more than I'll ever use

So I soak the vials in a sanitizing solution for the prescribed amount of time, as usual.



I do the the same "drain 90% of solution, keep 10%, fill with water" job to do a final rinse. While I've got them filled + capped with the 10%+water, I keep them in the bowl of solution until I'm ready to fill them.



I give the growler a good swirl to bring the yeast into suspension, while still having the airlock+stopper on top of the growler:



I empty the vials into the bowl, and line up the soldiers for a fill. I also do the usual "burn the neck of the growler with a propane torch" job.



After they are filled, I carefully close the lids on the vials, while avoiding putting my fingers on the rim of the yeast vial.



After the lids are closed tightly, I give the vials a quick swim in the sanitizing solution, to remove any extra yeast on the outside of the container:



I wrap a full loop of tape to hold the lids down (in case there is any CO2 that gets created), I label the vials with the yeast strain, the date, and the generation:



After a few hours in the fridge, the yeast will have settled at the bottom:

http://i44.tinypic.com/2nbd2bq.jpg
(Picture externally linked due to max 10 pics per post)

Finally, I rinse out the growler thoroughly, and I fill it with sanitizing solution and let sit for a while.

http://i40.tinypic.com/axi9g4.jpg
(Picture externally linked due to max 10 pics per post)

M_C

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Old 11-10-2011, 03:50 PM   #8
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Default Re-generating

Regenerating

Once I've used all of the original vials that I stored, OR at around 6-12 months (some factors may influence this), it becomes time to create a new generation before I run out of the current generation.

The yeast I am using is Wyeast 1028, second generation, that I had stored on 4/10/11, so roughly 10 months ago.



I start by sanitizing a growler...



... and sanitizing a stopper+airlock...



...and also sanitizing the yeast vial.



I do my aforementioned 10% drain, fill, and drain of the growler.



And I cover them up with foil for now.



I'm using canned (jarred) starter, and I briefly flame the neck of the mason jar to kill any bacteria on the lip of the jar.



I then fill the growler with the wort solution and put fresh tin foil on the necks.



I then carefully pour the contents of the yeast vial into the growler, and attach the airlock.



Remember to mark your growler carefully. On the image above, I marked "1028 2->3" meaning generation 2 becoming generation 3.

[Astute readers will see that I also plan on brewing a hefeweizen this wk-end ]

MC

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Old 11-10-2011, 03:50 PM   #9
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Default Canning starter wort

[Thanks to Carl Foster for introducing me to wort canning!]

This is the procedure that I do to make stater wort and to can it in Mason jars.

The basic idea is pretty simple: Make wort, transfer it to mason jars, put in the pressure cooker, process at 15 PSI for 20 minutes, cool down.

First thing I need to know is how many jars of which volume I can fit in my pressure cooker. Mine holds 4x 1/2-gallon jars, and 1x 1-quart. So that's 2.25 gallons of wort.



I start with 2.25 gallons of water. I know I will get evaporation, but that's OK as I need a bit of headroom on the mason jars to prevent overflowing while processing.



Heat the water to a boil, turn off the heat, and add malt extract (either liquid or dry) and stir until dissolved.

The goal is a 1.030 to 1.040 wort.

Dry malt extract has approximately 1.045 per lb per gallon, so we need about 0.75 lbs of DME per gallon for a 1.035 wort
Liquid malt extract has approximately 1.036 per lb per gallon, so we need about 1 lbs of LME per gallon for a 1.036 wort

I have 2.25 gallons, so I used 2.25 lbs of liquid malt extract.



Bring to a boil, and hold for 10 minutes.



I then put the jars (pre-cleaned in the dishwasher) to be filled in the sink - easier to clean.



Fill'er up! I leave about 1 inch of head space for expansion.



I put the lids and bands on top, and tighten them (be careful, it's hot!). Then I put them in the processor, in which I put in 3 quarts of water and a tablespoon of vinegar (the vinegar prevents glass etching from the minerals in the water). The amount of water will vary from one pressure cooker to the next, so check your owner's manual.



Safely attach the lid of the cooker, and crank up the heat until you reach 15 PSI on the dial.



Then I back off the heat down to 2 (on my stove - will vary on others) and maintain 15 PSI for 20 minutes.

After the 20 minutes are over, turn the heat off, wait for the pressure to equalize, then remove the jars and let them cool down.

After cooled to room temperature, the starter wort is ready to use.

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Old 11-10-2011, 08:27 PM   #10
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Default

If you're going to all the trouble, I think you might as well pc the starter wort/containers and skip the bleach.

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