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Old 04-20-2010, 09:56 AM   #1
junked89
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Default Beginner yeast curiosity

I am fairly new at this but have done 5 batches now. All 5 have been done with a wyeast smack pack and no starter. My batches have all begun fermentation fairly quickly (as in I brew, go to work and fermentation has begun when I get home 8 to 10 hours later) I would like to know what I am missing here? I understand that a starter is preferred to pitch the proper number of cells but I would like clarification. Are my batches not fermenting completely because of a low yeast cell count? I keep seeing the term "promotes good fermentation" in relation to starters, what is that? I control temperature and let the batches ferment until no activity is going on isn't that "good fermentation"? I am searching for enlightenment

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Old 04-20-2010, 11:57 AM   #2
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More yeast cells equals less stressed yeast. Stressed yeast can equal off flavors. Also, more healthy yeast cells at the beginning of fermentation can help your wort attenuate better.

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Old 04-20-2010, 12:03 PM   #3
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From what I understand, it's purely a subjective thing.

Some people always make starters, some people never make starters; both groups of people report that they have stellar results. Obviously, up to this point not making it hasn't been a problem for you. If it hasn't, then I see no reason to change up your technique.

Even though some people dont make starters and some do, the evidence that some people post about making starters influenced me to do them myself. Basically, a smack pack contains somewhere from 25-100 billion cells depending on if you got the propagator or the activator pack. Wort needs about 200 billion for a standard gravity beer (correct me if I'm wrong). Obviously, there's about half as much in one of those packs. Making a starter just allows you to make some (presumably) foul tasting beer that your yeast can grow in number in initially, so you can pitch the enlarged amount of yeast into your wort and they can get going making that delicious, delicious ethanol.

Apparently, when you allow your yeast to grow separately (and if you decant the starter liquid) then you can avoid having some of the off flavors in your beer that they may produce while propagating.

Again, not everyone makes starters and if this works for you, I would suggest continuing to do it.

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Old 04-20-2010, 12:12 PM   #4
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As you gain more experience, you will determine your own techniques. People are pretty opinionated on this subject. I would suggest trying a batch (preferably one you've made before) with a starter and seeing what you think. The problem is, there are lots of variables every time you brew. It's hard to change only one.

Personally, I've brewed great beers making starters, and I've brewed great beers without making starters.

Here is my current approach:
Low OG Ales: Liquid yeast / no starter
High OG Ales: Liquid Yeast with starter
Dark Ales when I'm being cheap: Dry Yeast
Hefeweizens: Liquid Yeast with or without a starter depending on my mood and prep time (you can get some interesting flavors by underpitching yeast above fermentation temperatures)
Lagers: Liquid Yeast with starter

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Old 04-20-2010, 12:47 PM   #5
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Yeast will multiply (i.e. asexual reproduction) when confronted by an abundance of sugar. When they multiply, they emit enzymes and chemicals and what not. If there is a huge amount of sugar and space relative to the amount of yeast, they will go a bit crazy. If temp. is controlled and given time, the yeast will go back and clean up most of these other chemicals they released, but not all. But, just because these chemicals are present doesn't mean you can taste them.

Using a starter is just a way of increasing yeast cells so that the yeast doesn't have to multiply so many times. While going from 100 million cells to even 250 million doesn't seem like a big deal; yeast cells grow geometrically. So, just that bit of a head start might mean the yeast only have to divide twice to ferment out the wort instead of three or four times.

On the flip side, it seems some growth is beneficial, which is why many experts advise not to pitch onto the entire dregs from a previous batch.

I think you can pitch a smack pack into 5 gal. of wort and get very good beer. However, at $7/pack, you should learn how to reuse the yeast using starters just to save some money.

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Old 04-20-2010, 12:52 PM   #6
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Since yeast multiply asexually, in theory ONE yeast cell would be enough to eventually ferment a batch of beer. Of course, that would take a very long time and the wort would be vulnerable to other things that could grow in that time like wild yeast and bacteria, too, so that wouldn't be a good idea. But my point is that fermentation will happen whether you pitch the optimum amount of yeast or not. And I think all of us have "had to" pitch just one package or vial at one time or another- maybe the starter froze, or smelled infected, so we grabbed a fresh vial or there was no time for a starter, etc. I would say that it would make ok beer most of the time, especially if the yeast package is fresh and the wort is 1.050 or under.

The reason most of us make starters, then, is to ensure the correct amount of yeast. Stressed yeast do produce some off-flavors, although not always terribly unpleasant, and we want to avoid that. Also, pitching the correct amount of yeast ensures that the yeast can begin fermentation before any stray microorganisms can get a foodhold. Yeast is 1/4 of the ingredients in beer- water, hops, yeast, grain. Yeast are living organisms, and very important!

You can certainly make great beer without a starter. You can make great beer more consistently with a starter. It takes more variables out of the equation. One package of Wyeast might have 80 billion cells today, depending on the time it was made and how it was treated in transit, before you even bought it. Or, it could have 50. Or 100. You can't tell by looking at the package. Even if there are technically enough in there, a starter can rouse them and get them going before you dump them in your wort. I don't see any disadvantage to making a starter, but I see plenty disadvantages to not making a starter. That's why I make them.

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Old 04-20-2010, 01:11 PM   #7
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For me, it comes down to the fact that I want to do everything I reasonably can do, to create the best end product I can.

I've been at this for quite a few years, and I can say without any doubt that there are three things that have made a big difference in the quality of my beer, and I won't make a batch without doing these three things:

1. Fermentation temperature control
2. Pitching the optimal amount of yeast
3. Full boils

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Old 04-20-2010, 02:42 PM   #8
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So would the outcome of the beer be better (in theory) if I pitch 2 packs of dry yeast (US-05) instead of one per 5 gallons of wort?

Also, in line with starters. Could I save a half gallon of my mash running's in a sanitized container like a growler or a few mason jars and refrigerate, save for a week or two, then boil to make a starter?

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Old 04-20-2010, 03:36 PM   #9
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Thanks for all the info! To this point I have not made anything above 1.050 original gravity with the exception of the scottish I am bottling today which was just a bit higher at 1.052 (this one I am actually a bit worried about as there was a HUGE amount of sludge in the bottom of the primary after two weeks, at least a gallons worth and now it's been in a secondary for a bit too) Anyways, I guess I will try making a starter here soon but the next 2 batches I am doing will be fairly low gravity as well so I probably wont bother.

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Old 04-20-2010, 03:38 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yambor44 View Post
So would the outcome of the beer be better (in theory) if I pitch 2 packs of dry yeast (US-05) instead of one per 5 gallons of wort?
From what I understand this would not need to be done because a packet of dry yeast has a plenty big cell count...it just could use to be rehydrated a bit first before pitching.
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