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Old 06-05-2009, 12:04 AM   #1
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Default First Brew - Wyest Activator, Starter, only LME... best option?

I was hoping I could go through my whole first brew session without asking a stupid newbie question, but after searching for the past half hour I've come across a lot of different information and I hope I'm not making this more complicated than I need to.

Anyway, I planned on doing my first brew in about 24-36 hours (Friday night or Saturday morning). I have just a basic ale kit from midwest supplies that uses only LME. In addition, I have a Wyeast Activator pack. I know that for the very first brew I probably should have just kept things simple and used dry yeast, but oh well.

So I was looking at making a starter tonight but obviously most of the instructions in the wiki and in books talk about using DME. I don't have any. I saw some people mention that you could use about 2/3 cup of LME with 2 cups of water. And many posts are saying you should have at least 1L or more of starter. Ok, no problem, but then I realized the only LME I have is what came with the kit. So would it be ok to use some of that, or is that going to create problems later on when doing the boil and using less LME?

I realize that the activator pack says you can just pitch it directly, but I figure I should just get in the habit of making a starter from day one.

So am I just making this harder than it has to be? Should I just say screw the starter and pitch the activator pack directly, or can I just use some of the LME from the kit with a few cups of water? Or should I really be shooting for a larger starter anyway and just wait until I buy some extra DME and do that next time?

Just want to get into good habits from the start and increase my chances of making a most excellent beer. Thanks.



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Old 06-05-2009, 12:10 AM   #2
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You can make a starter the night before or early morning the day of brew day, generally 18-24 hours is when you will be at "high krausen" (whether or not you have a krausen in the starter). If you don't have any DME on hand you can use the LME, but if you use what came with your kit, you are going to alter you OG, which will obviously effect you FG. If you can get some DME in the next 6-8 hours I would suggest making the starter, or if you aren't concerned with hitting your target gravity, otherwise I would directly pitch the yeast.

Are you using Wyeast, or White Labs, or something else?



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Old 06-05-2009, 12:10 AM   #3
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Does it look like this?


If so what you have is a smack pack, which is a yeast starter. When you "smack" it you break open a package of yeast nutrient. Over the course of a few hours the yeast come to life and inflate the pouch. You can pitch directly after smacking, but you will get the best results if you do it 6 hours or so in advance.

Relax, everything will be just fine.

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Old 06-05-2009, 12:15 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RogerMcAllen View Post
Does it look like this?


If so what you have is a smack pack, which is a yeast starter. When you "smack" it you break open a package of yeast nutrient. Over the course of a few hours the yeast come to life and inflate the pouch. You can pitch directly after smacking, but you will get the best results if you do it 6 hours or so in advance.

Relax, everything will be just fine.
It's not truly a starter, it is a proofer. A starter is meant to increase your viable cell count to the correct pitching numbers. You can use the smack-pack and directly pitch, my first brew I pitched a vial of White Labs into my wort without any starter (I didn't know any better) it had a long lag time, but it still turned out alright.

Since I made my first starter, and got to see and taste the improvements to my brews I highly recommend it, but if you aren't prepared to make one then just pitch what you have, but for the future, always have a pound or two of DME on hand for starters.

Good Luck!
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Old 06-05-2009, 12:15 AM   #5
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Yeah it's a wyeast smack pack. I know it can be pitched directly, but I've also read on many different posts that even doing a starter with that is beneficial. But like Schnitzengiggle said, if it's going to screw with my gravity readings using the only LME I have it might just make things too complicated for a first timer.

I could make a trip to a brewing store after work tomorrow to get some DME and delay my brewing until Sunday. I guess one more day wouldn't kill me.

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Old 06-05-2009, 12:32 AM   #6
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I have had great results making a starter with 1 cup DME and 4 cups (1quart) of water in a 1/2 gallon growler with a foil cap, and letting that baby grow for about 18-20 hours. Lag times have been as low as 3 hours, and rarely longer than 6 hours.

If you really want to brew on your scheduled day, just go for it, a starter is not absolutely necessary, it will reduce yeast stress and possible off flavors from that stress, but RDWHAHB. I would suggest making sure you can control your fermentation temps as well as possible, and then move on to making a starter, Definitely my first big mistake was not having a steady fermentation temp for my first brew. No matter what you decide to do your brew will still turn out great!

Remeber, have fun, don't get too technical brewing isn't supposed to be stressful!

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Old 06-05-2009, 12:51 AM   #7
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Thanks for all the tips.

Thankfully, I have a nice fermentation room in the basement that is a constant 65. Now bottle conditioning, that's a different story. But I guess it wouldn't hurt to not have a starter this first time around. I have 3 potential fermentation vessels so I guess I could get to another batch in a few weeks and compare the difference.

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Old 06-05-2009, 03:21 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marubozo View Post
Thanks for all the tips.

Thankfully, I have a nice fermentation room in the basement that is a constant 65. Now bottle conditioning, that's a different story. But I guess it wouldn't hurt to not have a starter this first time around. I have 3 potential fermentation vessels so I guess I could get to another batch in a few weeks and compare the difference.
For a normal gravity wort (not a high gravity Belgian or something), you should be fine with the Activator used as directed on the package. It's designed to come up to pitchable volume within the package. When your gravity gets high, or you have difficult fermentables (bog only knows what that would be), you might need a starter to get a larger volume of active yeast up front. If you really think you need a starter and don't want to keep DME or LME on hand for it, just pitch your wort onto the yeast cake from your last batch. GIANT starter.

But you'll be fine just going with your Activator if your kit really is just a basic ale. No starter, just follow the directions. Just remember that fermentation activity isn't likely to be instant with a liquid yeast--you may have 24-36 hours before anything much happens. Maybe longer if you are actually keeping things at 65 deg. You might consider keeping the beer in a living area until you start to see a little action, then move it to the basement.

Liquid yeasts are not necessarily "better" yeasts than dry (a common misperception), and typically have much fewer cells than dry yeast, so they take longer to get rocking. The thing with liquid yeast, as I understand it (somebody correct me), is that they tend to be much purer strains of yeast, so if you're looking for a particular yeast profile, you're more likely to hit it with liquid.
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Old 06-05-2009, 04:15 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bikeboy389 View Post
For a normal gravity wort (not a high gravity Belgian or something), you should be fine with the Activator used as directed on the package. It's designed to come up to pitchable volume within the package. When your gravity gets high, or you have difficult fermentables (bog only knows what that would be), you might need a starter to get a larger volume of active yeast up front. If you really think you need a starter and don't want to keep DME or LME on hand for it, just pitch your wort onto the yeast cake from your last batch. GIANT starter.

But you'll be fine just going with your Activator if your kit really is just a basic ale. No starter, just follow the directions. Just remember that fermentation activity isn't likely to be instant with a liquid yeast--you may have 24-36 hours before anything much happens. Maybe longer if you are actually keeping things at 65 deg. You might consider keeping the beer in a living area until you start to see a little action, then move it to the basement.

Liquid yeasts are not necessarily "better" yeasts than dry (a common misperception), and typically have much fewer cells than dry yeast, so they take longer to get rocking. The thing with liquid yeast, as I understand it (somebody correct me), is that they tend to be much purer strains of yeast, so if you're looking for a particular yeast profile, you're more likely to hit it with liquid.
Even a .048 brew needs 177 billion cells an Activator smack pack at 100% viability only has 100 million = serious underpitching

There is no growth in the Smack pack its only purpose is to proof the viability of the yeast and even then it could only be mid 70-80% of the original count .

To the OP if you only have LME from the kit use it and pitch the whole starter at around 12-18 hours the yeast will be in active fermentation and you wont alter the kits gravity.
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Old 06-05-2009, 09:11 PM   #10
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Even a .048 brew needs 177 billion cells an Activator smack pack at 100% viability only has 100 million = serious underpitching

There is no growth in the Smack pack its only purpose is to proof the viability of the yeast and even then it could only be mid 70-80% of the original count .

To the OP if you only have LME from the kit use it and pitch the whole starter at around 12-18 hours the yeast will be in active fermentation and you wont alter the kits gravity.
Preach on brother, with all of the great info on not only HBT but the web, I feel a little frustrated when people misinform noobs. I still consider myself a noob, and the OP has definitely done some research here and has learned about starters, so for others to say that a Wyeast Smack-Pak or a White Labs vial havethe proper amount of yeast in them for a 5 gallon batch, their information is just wrong.

Can you pitch them from the vial or pack? Yes.

Will you be pitching the correct amount for 5 gallons? No.

Will you still have fermentation? Yes, up to 72 hours later, but yes.

Will your brew still be good? Absolutely.

One last statement here for all of those who are misinformed on starters.

Mr Malty a plethora of information on starters, as well as other brewing related practices.


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