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Old 10-07-2011, 02:18 AM   #1
Dec 2010
Durham, NC
Posts: 53

Has anyone tried maintaining their own wild yeast culture? What's the 'shelf life' of brett or lacto/pedio in the fridge?

I don't have an easy time getting living dregs of sour beers, so I've been buying brett, lacto, pedio separately and pitching. That's a fair amount of money wrapped up for a single batch's yeast, and I think I can do better.

I think there are a few options. Let's assume that sacc/brett/lacto/pedio are all pitched at primary:
* Pulling a blend of the brett/bug mixture before pitching into the primary.
* Washing the yeast from the primary fermenter's cake after moving beer to secondary.
* (For beers that don't have a seconday, like a Lambic) Washing the yeast off the cake after a year of aging.
* Use the dregs from homebrewed sours to rebuild and pitch.

I figure the first option of saving some of the bugs at the start is the way to go, since it keeps them separate from the Sacc strain. Given this, what is the best way to maintain this through multiple future batches? Could I just store a mason jar of and every 3-6 months build a starter for a week with it and put half back in the fridge and half into the beer?
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Old 10-07-2011, 04:11 AM   #2
Feb 2011
Hatboro, PA
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I'm doing my first lambic and am planing on trying to save some bugs after a year
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Old 10-07-2011, 04:14 AM   #3
Jan 2011
Pittsburg, KS
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I've heard wood chips are a good way to store bugs. Russian River follows this practice to my knowledge. I'm not sure the shelf life, kept in a zip lock bag, at room temps, that's my guess, but I'd say 1-2 months. I've heard it gives them a place to "live" especially brett strains, as they can consume cellotriose.
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Old 10-07-2011, 09:42 AM   #4
Jun 2010
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Why do that when you can just get this? I know you want your own house culture, but at least in the interim, why not just get the 3278 to get something wild? Is it worth the money to buy a seperate strain of each to keep the Sacc out is my question. Over time, I'm sure the bugs would change character anyway if it were just your house blend (brett, lacto, and pedio).
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Old 10-07-2011, 02:36 PM   #5
Nov 2008
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saving slurry from sours is pretty easy. I generally just use part of a cake from one I have going to kick start a new one (along with a yeast packet)

The cake will progressively become more bacteria dominated this way though

statseeker makes a good point, its much less $$ to buy one of the blends than each individually. And if you inclined you can isolate the bugs in the blend using streak plates (do it at home with agar-malt or gelatin-malt)

To DanPM - I dont think RR actually uses oak chips to save their culture, its in their barrels. They did however about ~4yrs ago give out chips to people. This started a flurry of people trying to do this. Unfortunately its kind of a messy PITA way to save bugs. You have to find a relatively sanitary way to dry them, then store them. Not easy things to do. Not to mention that the # of cells on the oak chips are pretty small.

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Old 10-07-2011, 07:30 PM   #6
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Nov 2009
Lucid Dream Land
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Best way to maintain a culture is to keep feeding the culture with fresh wort from time to time. Sure the bacteria will out number the yeast but that's why you only toss in a portion of your culture in each batch. I would keep a brett blend separate and then a blend of brett and bacteria. There are plenty of live organisms in bottled lambic and other sours. You just have to be patient in growing them up. I have streaked differential media plates that isolate wild yeast and another medium that isolates bacteria. Even out of bottles bottled over a year ago (some as many as two years) in Belgium I got growth of both brett (with possibly other wild yeasts) and lactic acid bacteria. I keep my jars in the fridge and take them out from time to time to give a dose of fresh wort. After a while I throw it back in the fridge.
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Old 10-08-2011, 01:39 AM   #7
Mar 2010
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1) Saving from your starter is probably the best. I've just started doing that. I'm making a starter with saved bugs, part of cake from previous batch, and any dregs I get. That ends up being about 6 pints. I save about 8 ozs in a mason jar for next time. Add new sacc and off you go. I think saving early, is the best way to ensure most organisms are still viable.

2) Washing yeast. I don't know what will stay in suspension and what will decant out. I would not know if I was throwing away some of the goodness that I want to save.

3) Re-using cake rather than washing would be better.

4) Who knows what has survived the years of fermentation and conditioning.

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Old 10-09-2011, 01:34 PM   #8
Jan 2009
Pea Green, Colorado
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I've been maintaining my sour strain(s) a couple of different ways.

1. After I pour a bottle of sour I pour the dregs of this bottle into a swingtop and store the swingtops in the cellar. I imagine you can keep this swingtop in a fridge and do the same thing.

2. I kept half the cake from my first batch (along with oak spiral) in a sanke and used fresh wort to create a fresh batch of sour, this alone keeps the strain going, unknown if it gets too sour yet because I haven't yet tasted it.

3. I'm lucky enough to have "good" sour strain(s) in my cellar, this is where my original sours come from, typically if a "normal" beer doesn't turn out the way I want in some way I can set it in the cellar and open it up to innoculate it with the cellar strain(s). So I assume if the sour in the sanke gets too sour I can start over with this.

Good luck with your maintenance
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