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Old 01-23-2013, 06:30 PM   #1
wherestheyeast
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Default Yeast starter fail.

I received a 2000ml erlenmeyer flask & stir plate for Christmas and decided to give it a go and make a starter on a two-month old package of Wyeast 3763. Mr. Malty said I only need a 1L starter. I filled the flask to the 1000ml mark with tap water and set it on my gas stove.

As the water was heating I measured out 100 grams of DME and realized I didn't have a funnel. So I used my kids homework as a makeshift funnel and began pouring the dme into the flask. As I was pouring I realized I had no way of stirring the dme to dissolve it. I pulled the "funnel" out to find a bunch of dme had started to clump at the end of it. Now I'm trying to grab something to put the clumped dme in, when the 'funnel' opens up and spills about 20 grams of dme onto my counter, stove, floor & my dog. At this point the starter boils over while I helplessly watch as I knew not to grab the flask barehanded (my only smart move of the night!).

Once I got things under control, I decided to dump the flask, clean & sanitize it again (it was a sticky mess), and start over. This time I made the starter wort in a pot, stirring to dissolve the dme & making sure no boil-over. I found my funnel and poured the wort back to the flask where I then cooled it in an ice bath. Pitched the yeast when the flask felt cool (how to take wort temp in a flask?).

By 11:30p I finally got the flask on the stir plate and turned it on to find it horrible noisy. I spend the next 15 minutes trying to devise a way to quiet it down (towels, boxes, etc.)

So, what are your experiences with using flasks for starters? Do you boil the wort with them? How do you dissolve the dme? How do you prevent the boil-over? Is your stir plate/stir bar combo really loud? Is a one-inch stir bar sufficient for a 2000ml flask?

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Old 01-23-2013, 06:38 PM   #2
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I mix up my water and DME in a batter bowl while it is still cold. Then I funnel it into the flask. The water doesn't have to be hot for the DME to dissolve. You need to have fermcap on hand to keep the flask from boiling over. I have a set of ove gloves also that I wear while boiling so I can grab it off the burner quickly if needed.

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Old 01-23-2013, 06:49 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MachineShopBrewing View Post
I mix up my water and DME in a batter bowl while it is still cold. Then I funnel it into the flask. The water doesn't have to be hot for the DME to dissolve. You need to have fermcap on hand to keep the flask from boiling over. I have a set of ove gloves also that I wear while boiling so I can grab it off the burner quickly if needed.
This is what I do.

http://www.brewgeeks.com/quick-and-easy-starter.html

You can do this so you don't deal with the stove and can just pour it in the flask along with the yeast , once it's cool. Mason Jars are cheap and this works especially well when stepping up a starter. In one of the pics I show that the jars are half full but now I just fill it to the top and the foam control prevents it from boiling over.
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Old 01-23-2013, 08:04 PM   #4
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Boil it in a pot first, pour into your flask and bring it down to room temp before pitching. I've experienced the boil over too many times when boiling in the flask.

Also, I never use a stir plate. Let it sit out at room temp and place a sanitized piece of aluminum foil over the top and give it a nice swirl every once in a while when I walk through the kitchen. No need to make it more difficult than one has to.

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Old 01-23-2013, 11:54 PM   #5
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Quote:
Boil it in a pot first, pour into your flask and bring it down to room temp before pitching. I've experienced the boil over too many times when boiling in the flask.
Why would you buy the flask and then not boil in it? The whole point of the flask is to be able to boil and chill in it. No transfer, no risk of infection. A couple of drops of fermcap and you will not boil over. I do it all the time, and so do thousands of other brewers.

Quote:
Also, I never use a stir plate. Let it sit out at room temp and place a sanitized piece of aluminum foil over the top and give it a nice swirl every once in a while when I walk through the kitchen. No need to make it more difficult than one has to.
That is fine for you, but you get a lot more cell growth with a stir plate. Cell growth is the whole point of making a starter. The OP already has a stir plate that he wants to use. I guess he could just go to the liquor store and buy his beer. Why make it more difficult than one has to?
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Old 01-24-2013, 04:00 PM   #6
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Why would you buy the flask and then not boil in it? The whole point of the flask is to be able to boil and chill in it. No transfer, no risk of infection. A couple of drops of fermcap and you will not boil over.
That is what I was thinking -- I guess I conveniently forgot about fermcap; and I didn't realize you could dissolve dme in cold water.

Also, I have the stirplate/flask in my office wrapped in a towel with the door closed & I don't even notice it. However, my wife worked from home yesterday and didn't appreciate the noise. She'll get over it!

Next time I will:
* Dissolve the dme in cold water then transfer to the flask
* Use fermcap
* Get some high temp gloves for handling the hot flask

I'm still unsure how to check the temp of the starter wort in the flask. Any suggestions?
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Old 01-24-2013, 04:28 PM   #7
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Boiling your starter wort in wide, deep saucepot offers more than a few advantages...

1) Boilovers are not even the slightest bit of a worry and you don't need fermcap.
2) You can stir the wort with a spoon to incorporate the DME.
3) You can cover the saucepot with a tight fitting lid during the last minute of boil to ensure sanitation.
4) A saucepot w/a handle is easier to, well, "handle". You don't have to worry about burning yourself or breaking it.
5) You can cool down a metal saucepot easier/faster in the sink with ice without worrying if it will topple over.
6) Checking the temp. after cooling is easier.

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Old 01-24-2013, 04:36 PM   #8
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+1 to fermcap. i use many stirplates (at work and home), some flasks are noisy as the bottom isn't exactly flat and the bar clunks around. try moving it around a tiny bit on the plate so the center of the bar is offset a little bit from the middle of the flask, and try different speeds. sometimes that works, and you don't need it spinning very fast for a starter. you can also put a thin piece of cardboard or even tupperware between the flask and stirplate and see if the magnet still spins, it should. that can help absorb the noise. if nothing works, try a test run with a different vessel.

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Old 01-24-2013, 04:44 PM   #9
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When shopping for a stir plate I went to a lab supply store. They let me try the stir plate with a 2000 mL flask and the bar that came with the flask. It wouldn't pull a vortex on a full flask so they pulled out a try of bars on different shapes and sizes. I found 2 that would pull a nice vortex on an almost full flask. I went with the one that was quieter even though the other one seemed to do a better job. Point is bar shape and size make a big difference.

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Old 01-24-2013, 05:06 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MachineShopBrewing View Post
Why would you buy the flask and then not boil in it?
I generally don't boil in my flasks, I still think there are plenty of advantages over a growler, milk jug, etc.. It's accurately graduated, it's transparent (so I can see what's going on), it's easy to decant, it works great with a stir bar, etc. I pour the hot wort into the flask as soon as it's off the stove, and I think it's much easier to chill once it's in the flask since I can easily run it under cold water, swirl it, pop it in the freezer, etc.

I also think my smaller (1L) flask is perfect for rehydrating dry yeast. I can boil in it, cool it quickly, then it's easy to swirl/pitch.
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