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Old 11-12-2009, 03:03 PM   #1
ubermick
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Default Washing starter yeast?

Bit of an odd question, but given that homebrewers are odd people, can't think of a better place to ask it!

So I've been doing this for six months now, several batches through the wringer - some bad, some decent, one absolute grand slam.

I've moved from partial mash to all grain, and loving the drop in batch price as a result. Stopped buying hops from the LHBS, and bought in bulk from hopsdirect, and loving the better drop in batch price as a result. And now I'd like to eliminate the other expensive non-grain item from my batch bill, the yeast.

I've read through several tutorials on washing yeast, including the excellent illustrated version on these here interwebs forums - and in my journey, stumbled upon the genius idea of capturing yeast from commercial bottles (the Rogue Pacman yeast seems to be a popular and easy-ish one) where you make a starter, pour the dregs from 2-3 bottles of your source beer in (after adequate sterilization), then cross your fingers and pray for rain.

Question, though, for anyone who practices both - is it possible to capture yeast, and just wash the starter without having to pitch it into a batch first, or is it a case of there being nowhere near enough yeast in the starter flask to make washing worthwhile?


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Old 11-12-2009, 03:17 PM   #2
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That's totally possible! If you're looking to wash the yeast in a starter made from a commercial beer, it's probably best to "step-up" the starter to a full 1000ml starter. Maybe start with 100ml and then bump it up to 500ml and then 1000ml. This should give your yeast plenty of time and energy to multiply in your starter. You can then simply throw that starter into the fridge for a bit, decant off the liquid, and save the remaining yeast.


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Old 11-12-2009, 05:29 PM   #3
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Once you have cultured the yeast, you should pitch it into a batch of beer.
I don't think that washing the starter will help anything.

If you do decide to wash a starter, let us know how it turns out.
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Old 11-12-2009, 05:53 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HairyDogBrewing View Post
Once you have cultured the yeast, you should pitch it into a batch of beer.
I don't think that washing the starter will help anything.

If you do decide to wash a starter, let us know how it turns out.
Yup, that'd be the ideal situation, just harvest the yeast from the bottle, propogate it, and dump into a batch, but am thinking more about situations where I'd have some beer who's yeast I didn't want to use right away. Like the Rogue Pacman, I have a bottle of XS Imperial Stout that I'm itching to guzzle, but my next planned 2-3 brews are Belgians and lighter stuff, since I've already brewed up two porters and a stout in the past 2 months! (Yep, I know the Pacman can be used in ales too!)
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Old 11-12-2009, 07:06 PM   #5
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In that case, I think it'd be better to wait until you're closer to needing the Pacman, and then build it up. There's not much sense in building up a yeast culture just to stick it in the fridge for several weeks to deteriorate. It's not like it'll be that hard to come by some Rogue bottles down the road.

And on that note, you should probably get the yeast from a lower alcohol beer. The higher the alc, the more stressed the yeast was during fermentation, and the less representative the yeast is of the "true" strain.
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Old 11-12-2009, 09:31 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kanzimonson View Post
And on that note, you should probably get the yeast from a lower alcohol beer. The higher the alc, the more stressed the yeast was during fermentation, and the less representative the yeast is of the "true" strain.
Duly noted. They just had their sidewalk sale down at the SF Alehouse, and I had a buddy pick up a case of 22oz Mocha Porters - for $18!! I need to get over there and snag 'em, sound like they'll be an ideal candidate. (If the @#$@# hasn't scarfed 'em down already!)
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Old 06-29-2010, 11:25 AM   #7
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I'm going to wash my Pacman yeast starter and save it for a future brew in a few weeks doing the same thing you suggested at the start of this thread. How did this work for you, did you ever give it a go?
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Old 07-23-2010, 04:08 PM   #8
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I didn't - got sidetracked with other things, but now have moved on quite a bit in terms of brewing. Stepped up to 10 gallon batches, the Brutus clone is built, I'm kegging, and just finished my motorized grain mill this past week. I've got a freezer full of hops (well, not full) and a cupboard full of grain (well...) but no yeast. I've been reading through the tutorial on slanting yeast, but am still trying to decide on the best course of action.

Slanting yeast seems (key word, seems) to be the ideal candidate for buying a tube of yeast, and dividing it out so there's 6-7 extras on hand for future brews. But there's a serious inconvenience factor for me there - given that the yeast needs to be stepped incrementally, so I'd have to get a starter going 4-5 days before brew day. Probably a small price to pay for free (or rather, low cost) yeast, but still a bit of a pain in the arse.

Then there's washing... which looks like it works nicely, but I'm more hesitant about doing it, given the higher chance for contamination and introducing beasties to the yeasties. That's why I was thinking of trying to do the best of both worlds. Buy making a large starter with the express purpose of yeast harvesting, it creates a good amount of viable yeast, which I was thinking I could just wash in the same way as the tutorial, and store in smaller vials.
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Old 07-23-2010, 04:17 PM   #9
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that osunds like what i have been doing lately. i have been making a large starter, then crash cooling it in the fridge. i decant off most of the liquid then, and when i pitch into a batch i just put some of the yeast into a few smaller jars/vials for later starters, and pitch the rest.


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