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Old 12-22-2009, 07:39 PM   #1
scone
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Default Confused about starters...

I've been reading about starters for two days now, listened to the BrewStrong show about them, and I guess I have more questions than I did before I started...

The consensus seems to be that one should use a stir plate, and decant.

Now, I'm not too lazy to build a DIY stir plate, but I'm wondering if it actually might be better to use simple starters (no shaking or stir plate) combined with pitching the whole starter. Kaiser among others has touted the benefits of pitching starters at high krausen. So my questions are (and there are many, I apologize...)

1) Why force the yeast to go dormant by letting them eat all the available sugar and refrigerating them for a day before decanting and pitching? Is it not better to continuously step them up (e.g. pitch 2-3 quart starter right into the 5 gallon wort)?

2) Why continuously aerate the wort if the yeast will propagate themselves just fine in an open container? Is it just for speed, or is it better for the finished beer in some way?

3) Many people say the starters are oxidized so it's bad to pitch them. How can a simple starter at high krausen be oxidized? I thought this doesn't happen until fermentation is over?

4) Many people say that the starter wort tastes bad... but to me it doesn't taste any different than beer at that stage of fermentation. It's got a ton of suspended yeast, it's flat, and it's green as green can be... but it would eventually taste just fine given enough time right?

5) Aaand finally, do some yeast respond better to stir plates, while some respond better to open fermentation, and some to closed (air lock on the starter)? Anybody know what's best for each strain, or is there a way to tell?



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Old 12-22-2009, 08:00 PM   #2
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I do my starters at room temp so there may be off flavors in there I dont want in my beer. I don't think O2 is a problem because the beer should be pretty O2 free with the airlock on there, even if constantly agitated with a stir bar. I ran an airlock on my stirplate fwiw.

Also, if you are stepping up a starter you would either have to decant or progress to larger and larger containers.

There seems to be a lot less krausen using a stir plate which means less chance of a mess. This keeps SWMBO happy too. Fermentation also seems to finish faster because all the yeast is in suspension and not packed down on a yeast cake.


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Old 12-22-2009, 08:09 PM   #3
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Heck, I just make a little wort using DME, boil it for 10 minutes or so...cool it fermentation temp and pitch yeast. usually from some washed yeast I have saved. Then after a day or two I throw the entire rig in whatever I am brewing. More beer is better. I usually do my starters in clear wine bottles. One bottle if under 1.060 and two if over.
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Old 12-22-2009, 08:14 PM   #4
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1) Why force the yeast to go dormant by letting them eat all the available sugar and refrigerating them for a day before decanting and pitching?

refrigerating the starter gets the yeast out of suspension allowing you to pour off the bad starter beer and keep the yeast. the yeast will stay active for 24-48 hours after eating all the sugar. that way they are healthy and hungry for new sugar.

2) Why continuously aerate the wort if the yeast will propagate themselves just fine in an open container? Is it just for speed, or is it better for the finished beer in some way?

yeast grow easiest in an oxygen rich environment. the less stress you put on the yeast the better. by covering the container you are preventing other organism from getting into your starter.

3) Many people say the starters are oxidized so it's bad to pitch them. How can a simple starter at high krausen be oxidized? I thought this doesn't happen until fermentation is over?

oxidation can happen at any time. aerating after the boil before the wart temp gets below about 80 will oxidize it. continuously aerating your starter (which is a good idea) will speed growth and oxidize the starter. its best to put the starter in the fridge to get the yeast out of suspension and then gently pour off the starter beer. then add a little pre-boiled water and shake then pour into your wart.

4) Many people say that the starter wort tastes bad... but to me it doesn't taste any different than beer at that stage of fermentation. It's got a ton of suspended yeast, it's flat, and it's green as green can be... but it would eventually taste just fine given enough time right?

no because the starter is oxidized it will develop a cardboard aroma and taste over time.

5) Aaand finally, do some yeast respond better to stir plates, while some respond better to open fermentation, and some to closed (air lock on the starter)? Anybody know what's best for each strain, or is there a way to tell?

all yeast work the same way. some Belgian style beers are traditionally brewed in open fermenters but that is due to tradition. at the time people didn't know about yeast or other microorganisms. to prevent oxidation and contamination all fermenters should be sealed with some sort of pressure release valve (an airlock)
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Old 12-22-2009, 08:17 PM   #5
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I have been saving (freezing) extra wort [last runnings] from my batches. And I am planning to brew this weekend with some washed WY1728 yeast.

So as a followup question - what is the recommended SG of a starter for a beer under 1.060? 1.030-ish?
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Old 12-22-2009, 08:19 PM   #6
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the OG is assumed to be 1.040 for all starters unless other wise stated.
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Old 12-22-2009, 08:24 PM   #7
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I should clarify, when I said "open container" i really meant one that is covered loosely with foil. It's open in the sense that air can get in and out, but things cannot fall into it. Plus I'm only talking about starters, I would not ferment beer in anything that didn't have an airlock.

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Old 12-22-2009, 09:56 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TipsyDragon View Post
yeast grow easiest in an oxygen rich environment. the less stress you put on the yeast the better. by covering the container you are preventing other organism from getting into your starter.

oxidation can happen at any time. aerating after the boil before the wart temp gets below about 80 will oxidize it. continuously aerating your starter (which is a good idea) will speed growth and oxidize the starter. its best to put the starter in the fridge to get the yeast out of suspension and then gently pour off the starter beer. then add a little pre-boiled water and shake then pour into your wart.
So I would assume that if you were to make a simple starter, then the best way to do it would be to NOT use a stir plate? Perhaps this would minimize oxidation?

Which I guess begs another question, if the goal is to create a starter that can be pitched whole, at high krausen, would it be beneficial to use an airlock? Is it a bad idea to use the aluminum foil cover to allow it to "breath"/oxidize?
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Old 12-23-2009, 02:25 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scone View Post
So I would assume that if you were to make a simple starter, then the best way to do it would be to NOT use a stir plate? Perhaps this would minimize oxidation?

Which I guess begs another question, if the goal is to create a starter that can be pitched whole, at high krausen, would it be beneficial to use an airlock? Is it a bad idea to use the aluminum foil cover to allow it to "breath"/oxidize?
for a starter you want to oxidize it. it will make the yeast grow better but wreck the taste of the starter which is why you don't add the liquid to the beer. using aluminum foil is AOK. airborn microbes will not be able to get past it.
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Old 12-23-2009, 08:03 PM   #10
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I'm still not convinced...

I'm not trying to be a hardass about this, but I'm really curious about the exact mechanics of oxidation in starters and their effects on beer. Actually the more I read about, the more curious I am.

For starters, I am assuming that oxygenating the beer (by aerating it) is NOT the same thing as oxidizing the beer. Oxidizing takes time, and involves a lot of chemical reactions. When you aerate, you are only dissolving oxygen. What happens to that dissolved oxygen is what I'm really trying to understand here.

You are saying that an oxygenated starter will cause the finished beer to become stale. What I've been reading leads me to believe that oxidation (as it pertains to flavor) is a chemical reaction between free oxygen radicals, and other stuff in the beer, and it's effect on the flavor of the beer takes time (weeks to months).

So can a starter really be irreversibly oxidized in such a short amount of time? And if not, then won't the extra oxygen in the starter be used by the yeast as it multiplies in the wort? Thus pitching a highly aerated starter shouldn't have any oxidative affect on the finished beer, since the yeast will use it all up right? Am I making sense?


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