Originally Posted by whoaru99
Any thoughts about why White Labs says the vial by itself is good for five gallons (under 1.070), but a pitch calculator says as high as ~7 liters for starter?
Seems like a rather huge disparity in suggested practice. What happens if you use just the vial or a smaller starter? Under-attenuation or just a really long ferment time or?
No offense, but make a starter. It's really not that difficult. Go to the LHBS, buy a pound of DME for $4, find a mason jar or Flask around the house, make up a 1.040 solution with water that fills the mason jar half full, and pitch the yeast. Cover the jar with foam or something to prevent microbes (critical). Let the yeast go to work. Takes fifteen minutes and costs five bucks. This isn't the best way to go about it, but the easiest for someone who has no interest/equipment in starters.
As a microbiologist, I'll try to explain this. There's different rates of pitching. Wyeast, at least, suggests one million yeast cells per mL per degree Plato. (1.060 is 15 P, Plato is a measure of sugar levels) When you pitch at this rate in ales, the cells need to replicate many times, which creates more esters, meaning more yeast flavors. If it's a Belgian beer, that could be good, if it's a cream ale, that's probably bad. Along with other factors, the less yeast cells you pitch, the more off-flavors you'll get. Mr. Malty is calculating that formula to 6 or 12 million per mL per Plato, which means you're going to get a faster ferment, less off-flavors, less chances of under-attenuation, etc, etc. There's the differential.
In lagers, you are fermenting cool, and looking for a very crisp, clean beer, so you need to pitch much more cells. I think WL/Wyeast only suggests like 2 or 3 million per mL per Plato, while Mr.Malty suggests like 12 or 18 million per mL per Plato. I was listening to an interview of White Labs people this summer so those company numbers may be slightly off.
The walkaway is the yeast companies are trying to offer a good product but selling a liter of yeast is impracticable. At least in most ales, you can get away with just pitching the vial and have a solid beer. You want to make a decent lager or a great ale, you gotta do a starter. You can really control how your beer tastes by your pitching rate, most pro brewers will acknowledge it's one of the most important factors in brewing, perhaps even more then your malt bill or hop schedule.
Good video if you are interested.