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Old 02-05-2011, 04:17 PM   #1
CJPaul
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Default Mead Yeast starters w/ liquid yeast

Can I please get a heads up on making a yeast starter using honey and liquid yeast? Do you make it the same way you would with a beer yeast starter? I have been boiling water with a nutrient/energizer mix, and adding honey after the boil to get a S.G. of about 1.040. Aerate and pitch, shaking as often as possible for 36-48 hrs, then pitching the whole starter to the must.

Is this right, or am I missing some of the finer points?
Thanks

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Old 02-05-2011, 08:05 PM   #2
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Here's what I did on my current batch o'melomel, worked for me. I found this recipe through The Google:

Ingredients:
3 cups warm water
1 cup honey
Yeast

1. Heat honey and water till slightly hot (hot enough to dissolve honey, but hot boiling, skim as needed)
2. Cool mixture in a water bath to room temp
3. Pour 2-4 oz warm water into a sanitized glass
4. Pour in the yeast in the glass, and let stand for 15 minutes
5. Stir well and add 2-4 oz must to the yeast
6. Let stand for 15-30 minutes
7. When room temp, pour the honey/water must into flask
8. Aerate the must.
9. Add the glass of yeast starter to the flask
10. Top off with water to one 1 liter.
11. Loosely cover top of flask with foil
12. Put flask in a warm area for 24-48 hours
13. Add to carboy

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Old 02-06-2011, 04:17 PM   #3
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pilot210, your procedure sounds very similar to what I am doing, though it looks like you re-hydrated dry yeast. From what I can gather or assume, the pitching rate for mead is similar to ales, and that liquid yeast behave similar when it come to producing a healthy population of yeast to pitch.

Does up to 48 hour give the yeast enough time to finish their business in the starter? My experience is varied, but not well controlled. I, until recently, did not know jack about degassing, and only accidentally degassed with staggered additions in the must or shaking the starter to add oxygen. Up to 48 hour is fine for an ale starter, but we all know that maltose and honey and the yeast used for them respectively, have different fermentation behavior. And suppose I pitch the whole starter instead of decanting, what is the likeliness of off flavors? I know I am rambling on, but I am coming up short with my research about this topic, and expertise on the matter seems rather elusive.

Thanks again.

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Old 02-06-2011, 08:17 PM   #4
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Yeah, a starter is a starter -- the technique is the same, except for mead you should probably use honey and nutrient just as will be in the mead. Supposedly some yeasts will change their enzyme contents to deal with specific kinds of fermentable, and the difference between the balance of fermentables in beer wort vs honey must can lead to an increased lag time.

You can pitch the whole thing, but many people also decant most of the spent must off the yeast sediment, then resuspend and pitch the smaller volume. If your sanitation and procedure is good, there's no reason why pitching the mead from the starter would harm anything, but it is a fairly large volume (I generally make a roughly 1/2 gallon starter for a liquid mead yeast).

Oh, and you really don't need a starter for dry yeast...if you want to get your pitch rate up, just pitch more packs! I routinely use 3 packs (5 gm each) of dry yeast for an average (for me, ~ 1.105-1.120) mead

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Old 02-06-2011, 09:36 PM   #5
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haven't got a clue about beer starters, but I make mine by mixing a couple (or 3) of table spoons of honey into about 200 mls of water, mix in the GoFerm (rehydration nutrient from Lalvin) into it, check the temp to make sure it's not gonna kill the yeast and then mix in the yeast.

That's what gets added to the must, and no, at this stage I haven't added any nutrient/energiser to the must. Once the yeast starter is pitched and the must is showing signs of fermentation starting, only then do I add half of the nutrient.

When the must has hit the 1/3 sugar break, then I add the rest of the nutrient.

Oh and I also aerate the must daily until it hits the 1/3 sugar break.

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Old 02-07-2011, 03:02 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fatbloke View Post
haven't got a clue about beer starters, but I make mine by mixing a couple (or 3) of table spoons of honey into about 200 mls of water, mix in the GoFerm (rehydration nutrient from Lalvin) into it, check the temp to make sure it's not gonna kill the yeast and then mix in the yeast.

That's what gets added to the must, and no, at this stage I haven't added any nutrient/energiser to the must. Once the yeast starter is pitched and the must is showing signs of fermentation starting, only then do I add half of the nutrient.

When the must has hit the 1/3 sugar break, then I add the rest of the nutrient.

Oh and I also aerate the must daily until it hits the 1/3 sugar break.
Sorry...only referenced beer starters b/c the OP mentioned it, and I assumed they knew what I was talking about. Essentially it's the same thing...either way, you're making a simple miniature batch of beer/mead with a relatively low gravity for the sole purpose of increasing your yeast cell count to effectively deal with a higher gravity wort/must.

After reading the description of your technique though, I think clarification of terms is needed -- it sounds as if you may be doing as much of a "rehydration and proofing" procedure as creating a starter. You mention that you don't add nutrient initially...I suppose since you're adding Go-Ferm, which is a nutrient source this makes up for not adding "regular" nutrients, but I'd contend that you should be adding something...either Go-Ferm or regular nutrients as you would for SNA on a regular batch.

Further to your description sounding less like a starter, and more like a rehydration protocol, your volume (200 ml) is low for a mead starter...you're not going to get that much cell count increase from that volume of must. If you look at a pitching calculator (MrMalty is the usual go-to website...) you really should have about 4 LITERS of starter (I'm actually way on the low side with my 1/2 gallon starters) to get enough cells for proper pitch rates on a mead.

Still, you really don't need to make a starter for dry yeast as long as you use more packets...as I mentioned, I usually use 3 (which is actually also kind of low...really should be using 4 to 5 packets (5 gram size) for a must of 1.100 or higher).
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Old 02-07-2011, 01:15 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by biochemedic View Post
If you look at a pitching calculator (MrMalty is the usual go-to website...) you really should have about 4 LITERS of starter (I'm actually way on the low side with my 1/2 gallon starters) to get enough cells for proper pitch rates on a mead.

.
I am glad you mentioned the Mr. Malty calculator. There is a part of it you select either ale, lager or hybrid for the type. This got me thinking if I should be looking at wine pitching rates to understand the ideal cell count when pitching to mead. I usually go with a 1/2 gallon starter, but those are for my semi-sweet or dry if I am going the liquid yeast route. I seem to have really bonked when I made a 2 qt. starter, then pitched that to an almost 1 gal. starter, and eventually into a sweet with 18#/5 gal.. Starter look OK, but never really took off in the must. Eventually, after my patience waned, I pitched a couple packs of ec-1118, which, as you could imagine, did the trick. This is just one example of starter problems that I have experienced, but I suspect that the yeast got stressed or when not quite 100% healthy when I pitched.

Thanks for all the input!
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Old 02-07-2011, 04:00 PM   #8
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Interesting that you seemed to have a slow start from such a large starter! I use the "ale" setting on Mr. Malty. I think I read somewhere that the pitch rates for mead are similar to that for ale, but I honestly can't reference that info...

I generally just use the calculator to get me in the ballpark...I know I still underpitch somewhat, and it's a question of convenience more than anything else. Overall, I'm leaning more towards dry yeasts recently for the convenience factor, especially with the meads, since the wine yeast packets are relatively cheap, and buying 3 isn't a big deal.

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Recent Meads: Mead Day '11 Ginger Metheglin, Mead Day '12 Traditional (orange blossom) Mead, Fresh Simple Cyser '12
Primary: Hopefully being refilled next week!
Secondary: Why do I keep this line here...?
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Planned: Hop Metheglin #3 (NZ hops), Trad. Gesho T'ej
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