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Old 06-23-2013, 02:51 AM   #1
MrDarcy
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Default Harvesting Bottle Yeast & Starter for 1-gallon Batch

OK, I'm mostly just experimenting here, but I've always wanted to harvest yeast from my homebrew bottles or bottle-conditioned commercial beers for use in future brews. Well, next up for me is a 1-gallon batch of Arrogant Bastard clone (my wife got me an appropriately sized fermenter, and I'm transitioning from Arrogant Bastard-hater to -enthusiast, so I figured what the hell!). I want to make a starter for this 1.069 estimated OG recipe (according to BeerSmith), or am I just nuts? Again, I wanted to experiment...

My real question is, how do I calculate the starter size given the 1-gallon batch size and the fact that I'm using bottle-harvested yeast? According to Mr. Malty, "No starter needed." But I want to make one anyway, damnit! Could I, for example, just calculate the starter size for a 5-gallon batch at this OG and then divide by 5?

Thanks in advance for your input and advice!

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Old 06-23-2013, 03:23 AM   #2
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It's been a while since I have looked at a yeast calculator, but isn't there a way to reduce your current amount of yeast? What I'm saying us, you will have considerably less yeast than a smackpack worth. So I don't really believe that the calculator is correct in saying no starter needed. You'd be fine pitching a whole vial or smack pack, but the dregs from a bottle? No way.

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Old 06-23-2013, 03:36 AM   #3
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Just looked again at an online calculator. If I choose slurry (vs smack pack or vial), and say I have 1billion cells/ml and only 20ml, that's only 20 billion cells.

If you wanted to pitch at a rate of 1million cells/ml/degree Plato, you'd need more like 65billion cells, so you're only 1/3 of the way there. The calculator says a single step 1L starter will get you there.

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Old 06-23-2013, 07:01 PM   #4
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OK, so if I just make a 1L starter I should be OK? I went ahead and made 1L of wort, cooled it, and then just dumped-in the yeast slurry from two 22 oz bottles (sanitizing everything, of course). 18 hours later I see no sign of activity. I just feel like I've done something wrong—I mean, if it were this easy to make a viable starter from bottles, wouldn't everybody be doing it...?

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Old 06-24-2013, 08:48 PM   #5
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This starter is fermenting quit vigorously now (after out 40 hours), but I'm getting concerned they I've done something wrong. As mentioned above, I basically dumped the yeast from 2 bottles into 1L of starter wort. I didn't step-up the starter at all. Is this bad? I've tried searching but I can't find a good explanation on why stepping up is important (I.e., as opposed to just adding wort equal to the final starter size desired). Can anyone help me here? It just seems like this would be a LESS stressful enviro for yeast--lots of food and lots of room! So, why step-up at all?

Thanks so much!

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Old 06-24-2013, 10:25 PM   #6
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OK, so if I just make a 1L starter I should be OK? I went ahead and made 1L of wort, cooled it, and then just dumped-in the yeast slurry from two 22 oz bottles (sanitizing everything, of course). 18 hours later I see no sign of activity. I just feel like I've done something wrong—I mean, if it were this easy to make a viable starter from bottles, wouldn't everybody be doing it...?
It's easy, just not that easy. To harvest from bottles, you need to start with a very small, low gravity starter; 250ml of 1.020 wort. It won't get very active, but you'll get some yeast after several days. Decant and pitch slurry into 500 ml of 1.020 wort and repeat. Pitch into 500 ml of standard starter wort (1.040). That will get you enough yeast to build a 1 L starter for brewing.
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Old 06-25-2013, 12:56 AM   #7
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It's easy, just not that easy. To harvest from bottles, you need to start with a very small, low gravity starter; 250ml of 1.020 wort. It won't get very active, but you'll get some yeast after several days. Decant and pitch slurry into 500 ml of 1.020 wort and repeat. Pitch into 500 ml of standard starter wort (1.040). That will get you enough yeast to build a 1 L starter for brewing.
Sounds easy, but time consuming. (Which I am OK with.)

How do you know (aside from volume of slurry) how many yeast cells you have? And how do you know how viable the yeast is? It's not like the dead yeast float to the surface like fish and get decanted off...

So don't you end up with a slurry of both live and dead yeast? Or am I over thinking this? Thanks.
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Old 06-25-2013, 02:08 AM   #8
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Sounds easy, but time consuming. (Which I am OK with.)

How do you know (aside from volume of slurry) how many yeast cells you have? And how do you know how viable the yeast is? It's not like the dead yeast float to the surface like fish and get decanted off...

So don't you end up with a slurry of both live and dead yeast? Or am I over thinking this? Thanks.
Yes, you're over thinking it. You can guestimate the cell count by the amount of solids that floc, there's charts/pics online (Wyeast.com?) that will show you a rough idea. W/o a hemocytometer you can't truly count, and w/o a microscope you can't count viability, but it's safe to say that if you do it right, and end up with yeast, you'll have enough to pitch. Any dead cells are just more nutrient for the viable ones once you pitch.

It's time consuming, yeah, but well worth it if you want unique strains like Conan (Heady Topper) or souring blends. Those first low gravity steps will take a bit to do anything, as basically the yeast is just waking up and the viable cells are reproducing a little. After that, it's like any other starter.
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Old 06-25-2013, 02:09 AM   #9
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Thanks so much for the response, NordeastBrewer77! Yes, this seems to the yeast-from-bottles starter advice I see most frequently, but I guess my question now is (and it's just intellectual curiosity, I suppose) why step-up the starter at all? Why not just dump the yeast into the full 1L of starter wort from the get-go?

I appreciate the follow-up question, too, freisste. I'm curious about that as well...

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Old 06-25-2013, 02:13 AM   #10
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Thanks so much for the response, NordeastBrewer77! Yes, this seems to the yeast-from-bottles starter advice I see most frequently, but I guess my question now is (and it's just intellectual curiosity, I suppose) why step-up the starter at all? Why not just dump the yeast into the full 1L of starter wort from the get-go?

I appreciate the follow-up question, too, freisste. I'm curious about that as well...
It's just that that large and high gravity of an environment will be too stressful on the few (million) viable cells in the bottle(s) you harvest from. They can mutate from stress, or not do anything at all. Giving them a little bit of lower gravity wort will give them a better chance of "waking up" and reproducing good, viable yeast for you to pitch.

If you look at my profile, under the "articles" selection, there is a write up I did about harvesting from commercial bottles. It's one of the things I like to do a lot in my home brewing, and I've found the "low n slow" method to be the best way to build up good counts w/o a lab.
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it's not a barley wine. it's an ale.
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Have you seen the price of ketchup lately? And I'm not talking Heinz.
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