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Old 08-14-2009, 10:28 PM   #1
2-0turbo
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Default Low-budget yeast starters

I know what you're saying...I don't have a 2000 ml Erlenmeyer flask or a stir plate and I think I really should start making starters. Me too! So what is a low-budget brewer to do? Come up with a cheaper way.

So, just a brief background. I am brand new to home brewing and have completed only 3 batches. I've read about everything I can get my hands on and listened to Jamil and other webcasts on brewing. Needless to say I'm really enjoying it and also like getting into the more technical stuff. I'm getting ready to brew a Midwest Octane IPA this weekend and since my Whitelabs was getting a little old and the Octane is my highest gravity beer to date (1.065), I thought I should make a starter.

So, I gave it a whack. This is my thanks to HBT for answering all the questions I've had over the past few months about home brewing. So, what follows is my low-budget approach to building a starter along with some pictures along the way to help those along who might be too afraid to try it.

Materials:
  1. Liquid yeast (WLP007 in my case)
  2. A container ~1 liter bigger than your starter, a 3-liter water bottle in my case
  3. Some dry malt extract, 10% of whatever water you're adding

So, I used ~200 grams of DME. I didn't have a scale, so I used about 1/2 of a 500-gram package which worked out to about 1 1/2 cups dry. I brought the 2-liters of water to a boil, removed it from the heat and added the DME. I resumed the boil and continued for 15-minutes.

Next, sanitize the lid for your pan and get some ice water going to crash cool your wort as fast as possible. The buzzer goes off, grab the wort, put on the sanitized lid and throw it in the sink with the ice water. All this time, I have the water bottle in a solution of Starsan. Every 5-min or so, I put the lid on, shake it like crazy and then dunk the whole thing back down into the solution. I also threw a piece of aluminum foil (cut to size), my funnel and my vial of yeast into the bucket.

After about 20 minutes, the temp of the wort was below 70F. Retrieve the water bottle from the Starsan, empty it out and set it on the counter. Insert sanitized funnel. Pour the wort into the water bottle. Shake up the yeast and open carefully. Pour into the wort. Retrieve the lid for the water bottle from the Starsan, put it on the bottle and start shaking. I shook for about 1-min, took the lid off and squeezed the bottle a few times to exchange some air and then repeated.

When I was satisfied the wort was aerated adequately, I removed the lid and loosely put the piece of aluminum foil over the top. I waited about 2-hours and just before bed, shook it up again. I keep the cap for the water bottle in the Starsan solution while I'm not using it. I carefully remove the aluminum foil and secure the cap and shake again.

I repeated that step before work this morning and noticed that the yeast were starting to work because as soon as I started shaking, CO2 was coming out of solution and the bottle was swelling quickly! Crack the lid to relieve the pressure and shake some more. I did the same thing when I got home from work today. Total time for starter so far: 24 hours.

You can see in the last picture that the yeast is doing well and starting to settle out a little bit. The wort has that cloudy look to it, you know, like really young beer looks--definitely different than last night when you have clear wort.

So, brew day is Saturday (tomorrow). I think I'll pitch the whole 2-liters into the carboy as it shouldn't hurt anything and will give me a little extra volume. So far so good. I'll update the thread after the beer is going. Maybe I'll post a picture of what it looks like every day because I was gravely concerned over my first batch and I know that other beginners are too. You're just never sure what "normal" is supposed to look like.

I hope you enjoyed this. Feel free to critique my method or madness or if you've got any hints and tips for how you've done cheap starters!


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BB Primary 1: O'Flannagains Standard Stout
BB Primary 2: DFH-60 minute clone
BB Secondary 1: Dark Soul of the Night Russian Imperial Stout (Until Oct 2010 sometime)
Bottle Conditioning: None
On Hand: DFH-60 minute clone, Light Pilsner (Munton's kit)
Up Next: I dunno...I'm out of fermenters.

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Old 08-14-2009, 10:29 PM   #2
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Here are the rest of the pictures I couldn't seem to attach to the first post.


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__________________
-Matt

BB Primary 1: O'Flannagains Standard Stout
BB Primary 2: DFH-60 minute clone
BB Secondary 1: Dark Soul of the Night Russian Imperial Stout (Until Oct 2010 sometime)
Bottle Conditioning: None
On Hand: DFH-60 minute clone, Light Pilsner (Munton's kit)
Up Next: I dunno...I'm out of fermenters.
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Old 08-15-2009, 04:17 PM   #3
fratermus
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2-0turbo View Post
I hope you enjoyed this. Feel free to critique my method or madness or if you've got any hints and tips for how you've done cheap starters!
Good job; I am glad to see you jumping in. All of brewing seems to be learning and experimenting, I think.

I am, uhhh, frugal (wife uses other words for this trait). I have found, however, that a $10 gram scale off eBay and a freebie home-made stirplate are massively useful in brewing. I use the gram scale for other stuff too, like measureing sugar/salt/yeast for bread.

I use glass for my starters, mainly because I have a pressure canner and can use it to sterilize things. I pour the mixed starter wort into flasks, cover loosely with foil, and sterilize. I usually do this at night before bed and by morning the sterile starters are room temp and ready for action.

Toss in yeast as needed, and decant from sterile flask into the next sterile flask.
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Old 08-15-2009, 06:50 PM   #4
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I all but given up on starters. Now I just make experimental low gravity one gallon batches.
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Old 08-16-2009, 11:28 AM   #5
2-0turbo
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Default Well, the starter worked quite well

So, I brewed up a batch last night and planned on using my starter that I made on Thursday. I knew from reading on here that the fermentation would usually be quick and vigorous. Typically, when simply pitching a tube of Whitelabs, I would just start to see some activity after 24-hours and things would be underway by 36-hours.

So, I awake this morning to check my beer and I about T+8 hours. Whoa! Things are going! Made a mess! I had a blow-off tube setup, but usually my blowoff tubes don't do much. I put them on more for insurance than anything. So, I had the blow-off container setup on some boxes of wine next to my fermenter. The boxes were saturated with wort, wort was sprayed all over the wall, the floor and my bookcase. It wasn't too bad to cleanup and my wife just said "I'll get you a bucket with some soap and water" and I got it cleaned up. She wasn't upset at all, which is nice.

So, to sum up. The starter definitely shortened the lag time for fermentation to start in the fermenter. The activity in the fermenter is the most violent I have ever seen and the blow-off is still blowing-off. After reading Jamil's site and reading about his pitching rate research, I think I'm going to use a starter from now on if I'm using liquid yeast. It was good to proof the yeast and make sure they were still viable and it certainly shortened my lag time. I hope the beer tastes good!


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__________________
-Matt

BB Primary 1: O'Flannagains Standard Stout
BB Primary 2: DFH-60 minute clone
BB Secondary 1: Dark Soul of the Night Russian Imperial Stout (Until Oct 2010 sometime)
Bottle Conditioning: None
On Hand: DFH-60 minute clone, Light Pilsner (Munton's kit)
Up Next: I dunno...I'm out of fermenters.
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