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jar234psu 06-20-2010 11:12 PM

Sort-of newbie question about AG starters
Hi everyone,

I'm new to the forums here and I was hoping that you could offer some of your expertise. I'm still new-ish to brewing (I have about 11 AG batches under my belt, but still a beginner in the grand scheme of things:mug:), and I had a question about a method that I've been using recently to make a yeast starter for my AG batches. I've never seen this method in-print or specifically recommended, so although it makes sense to me, I'm wondering if what I'm doing is a no-no.

Basically after my boil I save about 1/2 gallon of the cooled, sterile wort in a sanitized growler, and pitch my yeast directly into the growler. About 24 hours later, I rack the full volume of wort from the temporary vessel in which it was stored, into the primary fementer, and then pitch the entire starter from the growler into the full volume of wort.

The reason for using the temporary vessel immediately after the boil is so that the hot break/sediment/hops can settle to the bottom. Depending on the recipe, I've typically been able to nab about 1/2 to 1 gallon of unfermentable sludge, which would have otherwise taken up space in my primary.

I only do this for batches that are not especially high in OG (say around 1050-1055), and I've had success with this method so far. As I see it, the advantages to this are:

1) I don't have to spend extra $$$ on DME for the starter.
2) I can afford the hot break & sediment a little extra time to settle out.
3) My starter has exactly the same composition as my recipe.
4) I dont have to go to my LHBS 3-4 days beforehand to pick up the yeast.

One disadvantage is:

Increased time during which the wort is in a vulnerable state, thereby increasing the risk of infected brew. However, I always take great care in sanitation, so it hasn't been an issue.

Can you give me some feedback on this method? Am I missing any other disadvantages? Like I mentioned, it's been successful so far, but opinions would be much appreciated:fro:

Yooper 06-20-2010 11:39 PM

I don't like wort sitting unpitched for any length of time. I pitch within 20 minutes of finishing the boil, usually!

I make RWS (real wort starters) all the time. But I do it differently. I save leftover wort and freeze it. About 3 days before brewday, thaw it and boil it for a couple of minutes then cool and pitch the yeast. I then have a starter, made according to mrmalty.com's pitching calculator. When it's fermented out, I stick it in the fridge. On brewday, I brew and take out the starter. I decant the spent wort in the starter jar, and pour the yeast into my primary right into the aerated wort.

I don't see your "plusses" as plusses, to be honest. First, you don't have to buy DME. Just save and freeze unused wort, and add water to get you to 1.040. Or, do a very small mash three days before brewday. Secondly, if you whirlpool you won't have that sludge. Or, go ahead and pour it in. Or strain the wort. It doesn't matter a bit. It'll all compact into the trub. What looks like 6 inches of trub will only be a small amount in the bottom of the fermenter anyway once it compacts down after fermentation. Third, a starter actually does better if the OG is 1.035-1.040. What if you make a beer with an OG of 1.055? You might be stressing the yeast in order to make a starter with the same wort you're using. I don't see the advantage to pitching it in a small volume vs. pitching it into the wort in the beginning if that's the case. I mean, it's the same beer. You're just putting it a smaller amount the day before- it's not really a starter by that definition. To my mind, the point of a starter is to decrease lag time and produce the proper amount of yeast for fermentation.

And lastly, you have to buy ingredients so you just buy yeast (or save from other brews) when you buy the ingredients. Yeast lasts a long time, so you don't have to buy it a day or two before brewing.

I don't mean to sound critical- I'm glad it works for you. I'm just not sure there is much (if any) benefit, and the risks would outweigh any benefit if there was one.

PintOfBitter 06-20-2010 11:41 PM

i think your method is interesting, and obviously is working well for you. I personally wouldn't take your route because (following your numbering:)
1)I have a stock of canned sterile wort on hand
2)I just rack off the sediment that collects in the primary
3)I don't worry too much about starter vs. wort makeup
and 4)I generally purchase my ingredients in advance of my brewday.

don't get me wrong, i think your method is pretty ingenious. Hope you won't have any bad batches hit you due to the waiting period. Are you still quick-cooling your wort?

rockytoptim 06-20-2010 11:42 PM

Just my opinion but I have never worried about getting trub in my primary as it all settles out anyway.

On the starter I would just buy some DME and make the starter the 24 hour before. Besides its always good to have DME on hand in cause your a little low and need some to hit your numbers. If you make your starter a couple of days ahead then you can crash cool it and pour off the wort just leaving enough to have a yeast slurry. When you start your brew day just take the slurry out of the fridge and by the time you got your wort in the fermenter the slurry will be up to temp and ready to use. Leaving the wort for 24 hours with nothing in it just leaves the door open for other bad things to happen.

brewingkitty 06-20-2010 11:44 PM

i vote mini-mash starters by the gallon. as far as the no-chill, i would only do it in a sanke.

jar234psu 06-20-2010 11:52 PM

Thanks everyone for the feedback. Great points for me to think about!


Originally Posted by PintOfBitter (Post 2121695)
Are you still quick-cooling your wort?


bosco_NJ 06-21-2010 12:15 PM


Originally Posted by YooperBrew (Post 2121691)
I make RWS (real wort starters) all the time. But I do it differently. I save leftover wort and freeze it.

Hey Yoop, could you go into a lil' more detail about doing this for me.
1)what type of containers are you using.
2)what temp does the wort have to be before you can put in the freezer.
3)i have plenty of mason jars that i save my washed yeast in. but i was under the impression i had to put wort filled jars through some sort of canning process first before i could freeze them. could i use my pressure cooker for that.

Thanks, Bosco

biochemedic 06-21-2010 12:47 PM

This sound like a basic no-chill method that I understand is pretty common in New Zealand.
Another option I've heard would be to just make a basic low gravity mash and use a canning process to make 1 quart aliquots of wort that you can store and use as starters when needed

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