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Old 05-22-2011, 01:50 PM   #1
McMalty
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i don't know if it's me doing something wrong or if its my process, but my starters never seem to "start".

I boil half a cup of dme in a pint of water, cool it down just under 70F. Combine it and the yeast in my half gallon jug, shake the hell out of it, cover it loosely with some foil, then put it in a dark place. I swirl it around and shake it whenever i can. 1 day passes, 2 days pass, and it doesn't seem like anything has fermented at all. I then pour it into my newly made batch of brew, and it acts as if there was never even a starter to begin with. It still takes just as long to start fermenting, and from looking at the starter, i don't see any visible evidence that there is any more yeast cells whatsoever.

What the hell am i doing wrong?

p.s I don't use a stir plate (which i know would be beneficial)
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Old 05-22-2011, 01:55 PM   #2
Revvy
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What do you mean by "start?" What activity are you believing is an indicator that a starter has or hasn't started.? I've never had a starter not start. Modern yeast just doesn't NOT WORK these days, contrary to what most new brewers may believe. If yeast can survive 40 million years preserved in amber and a beer can be brewed out of it, then why do you believe your MODERN yeast isn't doing it's job?

Most of the time the person is looking at the wrong "signs of fermentation." And ignoring what is right in front of them.

Activity in a starter really only means one thing and one thing only.

It doesn't matter one blip in your fermenter or your starter flask if the airlock bubbles or not (if you are using an airlock and not tinfoil if you are using tinfoil, you aren't getting bibbling anyway,) or if you see a krauzen. In fact starter fermentation are some of the fastest or slowest but most importantly, the most boring fermentations out there. Usually it's done withing a few hours of yeast pitch...usually overnight when we are sleeping, and the starter looks like nothing ever happened...except for the little band at the bottom. Or it can take awhile...but either way there's often no "activity" whatsoever....

I usually run my stirplate for the first 24 hours, then shut it down, if you are spinning your starter it is really hard to get a krausen to form anyway, since it's all spinning, and there's often a head of foam on it from the movement.


All that really matters is that creamy band o yeast at the bottom.





This is a chilled sample so it's flocculated, but even with an unchilled sample you should see a band of yeast at the bottom. Here's an unchilled version



Same thing, a band.

As it is I've only ever seen two or three krausens actually on my starter (one blew off a bunch of krausen and knocked the tinfoil off the flask,) and the evidence of one on the flask at the "waterline" once. But I've never not had a starter take off.

Look for the yeast at the bottom, don't worry what it looks like on top.

If you have yeast on the bottom....that's all you really need.

If it looks anything like that, your are ready to either feed it again, or use it.

And....starters were made for years before people started using stirplates, so that's not a determing factor in if a starter works or not.
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Old 05-22-2011, 01:59 PM   #3
just2brew
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I've had starters take up to 3 days to get going. To check for activity I look for the foil to slightly inflate when I shake it. I've also poored off a small amount and tasted to see if it is more like wort or more like beer to figure out whats going on.

 
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Old 05-22-2011, 05:31 PM   #4
McMalty
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Revvy
What do you mean by "start?" What activity are you believing is an indicator that a starter has or hasn't started.? I've never had a starter not start. Modern yeast just doesn't NOT WORK these days, contrary to what most new brewers may believe. If yeast can survive 40 million years preserved in amber and a beer can be brewed out of it, then why do you believe your MODERN yeast isn't doing it's job?

Most of the time the person is looking at the wrong "signs of fermentation." And ignoring what is right in front of them.

Activity in a starter really only means one thing and one thing only.

It doesn't matter one blip in your fermenter or your starter flask if the airlock bubbles or not (if you are using an airlock and not tinfoil if you are using tinfoil, you aren't getting bibbling anyway,) or if you see a krauzen. In fact starter fermentation are some of the fastest or slowest but most importantly, the most boring fermentations out there. Usually it's done withing a few hours of yeast pitch...usually overnight when we are sleeping, and the starter looks like nothing ever happened...except for the little band at the bottom. Or it can take awhile...but either way there's often no "activity" whatsoever....

I usually run my stirplate for the first 24 hours, then shut it down, if you are spinning your starter it is really hard to get a krausen to form anyway, since it's all spinning, and there's often a head of foam on it from the movement.


All that really matters is that creamy band o yeast at the bottom.

This is a chilled sample so it's flocculated, but even with an unchilled sample you should see a band of yeast at the bottom. Here's an unchilled version

Same thing, a band.

As it is I've only ever seen two or three krausens actually on my starter (one blew off a bunch of krausen and knocked the tinfoil off the flask,) and the evidence of one on the flask at the "waterline" once. But I've never not had a starter take off.

Look for the yeast at the bottom, don't worry what it looks like on top.

If you have yeast on the bottom....that's all you really need.

If it looks anything like that, your are ready to either feed it again, or use it.

And....starters were made for years before people started using stirplates, so that's not a determing factor in if a starter works or not.
thanks revvy, you should write a book.
I thought 1 of the purposes of starters was to multiply the yeast cells and then start fermenting, which in turn would allow your wort to start fermenting faster when you pitched your starter, also ensuring there was enough to yeast cells to complete fermentation. so if you're saying that my yeast cells are are already multiplying in the starter then good, but I just don't understand why my beer is taking so long for fermentation to begin, I thought it would be more instantaneous
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Old 05-22-2011, 05:45 PM   #5
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Can I ask a similar question regarding a starter? I just made a starter last night and I've made quite a few over the years. Occasionally I would notice some "activity" but I know its possible to miss it. However, this time I didn't get an indication I previously would get.

After my starter was done, if I would shake it, it would foam and release a lot of CO2 (I assume). I assumed that was just CO2 that was in solution from the mini-fermentation process. This time it didn't happen. I've used this strain before (WLP007, dry london ale).

I still got the creamy bottom part that looks to have doubled from before but I am just curious as to what happened differently.
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Old 05-22-2011, 06:25 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by McMalty View Post
i don't know if it's me doing something wrong or if its my process, but my starters never seem to "start".

I boil half a cup of dme in a pint of water, cool it down just under 70F. Combine it and the yeast in my half gallon jug, shake the hell out of it, cover it loosely with some foil, then put it in a dark place. I swirl it around and shake it whenever i can. 1 day passes, 2 days pass, and it doesn't seem like anything has fermented at all. I then pour it into my newly made batch of brew, and it acts as if there was never even a starter to begin with. It still takes just as long to start fermenting, and from looking at the starter, i don't see any visible evidence that there is any more yeast cells whatsoever.

What the hell am i doing wrong?

p.s I don't use a stir plate (which i know would be beneficial)
From http://www.mrmalty.com/pitching.php#s3
"Why don't 1 liter starters produce more yeast, even with a stir plate? There just isn't enough food to build that much yeast, no matter how much O2 and nutrient you add to it. "
You are only using a 1/2 liter starter. There is even less food available to build an adequate yeast colony.

-a.
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Old 05-22-2011, 07:02 PM   #7
Calder
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Quote:
Originally Posted by McMalty View Post
I thought 1 of the purposes of starters was to multiply the yeast cells and then start fermenting, which in turn would allow your wort to start fermenting faster when you pitched your starter, also ensuring there was enough to yeast cells to complete fermentation. so if you're saying that my yeast cells are are already multiplying in the starter then good, but I just don't understand why my beer is taking so long for fermentation to begin, I thought it would be more instantaneous
You don't want an instantaneous start. If it starts too quickly, you over-pitched. Under-pitching stresses the yeast; that's one of the reasons to use a starter, but you still want it to go through a reproduction phase. A lot of the yeast flavors are generated during the reproduction phase, so if you over-pitch, you lose a lot of them. That's one of the reasons you don't want to pitch on a full cake either.

I don't know what the ideal start time is. I like to have mine start between 6 and 12 hours.

 
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