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Best type of DME for yeast starters?

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SixFoFalcon

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I have read that when preparing yeast starters, it is ideal to use an extract that closely approximates the beer you are going to brew. This way, after the natural selection process during yeast reproduction, the yeasties will be optimized for the wort you make on brew day.

I have also read that a lot of people just buy a whole bunch of one kind of DME (usually light or extra light) and use that for all their starters, regardless of what style they are going to brew.

Which do you prefer? Is there really any appreciable natural selection of yeast cells going on in the starter?

I suppose it's necessary to identify your methods for pitching the starter, too. Some people pitch the whole contents of the starter, while others let the yeast flocculate out, then pour off the beer and just pitch the yeast portion. Another factor that influences this is whether you try to time starter production so that you can pitch at high krauesen (obviously this would not allow you to flocculate the yeast out), or whether you let the starter go through complete primary fermentation.
 

mrkristofo

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More than optimizing the yeast's genetics that you pitch, the purpose of the starter is to increase the cells by shear numbers. That said, I usually make my starters around 1.040 with whatever extract I have available (I have some wheat lme in the fridge that I'll probably use next time), and pitch the yeast into that. If you're making a heavier beer (say 1.080), when you step-up the starter you can pitch a slightly higher gravity wort (1.060), which will reduce the overall osmotic shock on the yeast when pitched into the 1.080 wort.

Usually though, I pitch into 750mL of wort, wait for kraeusen to fall, pitch another 750mL, and then use that for my starter.

I hope that's what you were looking for.

-Kris
 

Got Trub?

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I'm in the just use one kind of DME camp. I use extra light and ferment it out, crash chill it and pour of the spent beer and pitch the slurry. Easy, reproducible and works fine. There is no need to change the type of DME you are using based on the type of beer. What you don't want to do is use some other fermentable for your starter as that will select out yeast that won't be happy trying to ferment your wort. This why you don't make a starter with dextrose or table sugar. The yeast lose the ability to ferment maltose very quickly if given the opportunity to ferment simple sugars only.

GT
 
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SixFoFalcon

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Good comments so far. Keep 'em coming!

My gut says that most yeast we get from the standard sources are very, very uniform. 99.9% of the cells are probably identical in the package. I wonder if there isn't really any "natural selection" going on per se (i.e. weeding out certain types of yeasts while others flourish), but rather that the individual yeast cells themselves are being "trained" to get ready for the big show, by building up the optimal internal chemistry for digestion of certain fermentables. I'm not an expert on the subject, so I just can't say for sure.

It doesn't seem practical for me to stock different kinds of DME, so I'd probably opt to just use something like a light DME for everything. My LHBS isn't very close to my house, so I wouldn't just trot down there every time I want to brew and get a small quantity of a specific DME.

As mentioned, the primary function of a starter is to get a high cell count, so as long as you are giving them fermentables and good aeration at the start, you are going to get the benefit of having lots more viable yeast when you pitch. But, if there's a large variation in OG from the starter wort to the brew-day wort, are you still going to get a longer than optimal lag phase as the yeasts try to adapt to the new environment?

I almost hate to throw more questions in the mix, but if the starter is fermented at higher temps, are the estery flavors associated with the higher temps going to carry-over into the large batch of beer, even if you chill the starter and skim off the beer before pitching the yeast itself? And are those higher temps going to alter the yeast cells such that, again, you are adding more lag time when you go to pitch?
 

BarleyWater

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SixFoFalcon said:
I almost hate to throw more questions in the mix, but if the starter is fermented at higher temps, are the estery flavors associated with the higher temps going to carry-over into the large batch of beer, even if you chill the starter and skim off the beer before pitching the yeast itself? And are those higher temps going to alter the yeast cells such that, again, you are adding more lag time when you go to pitch?
Nope, that is what you are pouring down the drain before you pitch the yeast slurry, the esters are alcohols in the liquid, when you decant, you lose any esters that were produced. Anything left over will be so minimal that it will never be detectable in your beer. That being said, I would keep the starter temps within the range given by the yeast manufacturer and not let it get too warm as that could damage the yeast cells.
 

waterkc

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Well we just had this conversation in the Riverside More Beer Store. This is a subjective subject at best I would say. I know in the past we have always pitched with the above statement of light to extra-light extract.

We are going to brew a Brown this weekend and I decided that I would pick a more matched extract to what I brew, I am excited to see how it turns out. I have brewed it in the past, with the light. So we do have something to compare it too.

More to come as it finishes.
 

Hagen

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Are the esters produced in the starter going to be a factor? I assumed that any produced would be cleaned up by the yeast as the actual batch is finishing up in the primary.

I usually make a 1 qt starter, then shake and pitch the whole thing into the wort. I haven't had any issues yet with the process, and I've been doing it some 13 years.
 

gruversm

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If I make a 1000ml yeast starter on Sunday night, will I be OK to pitch into my wort on Friday?
 
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SixFoFalcon

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If I make a 1000ml yeast starter on Sunday night, will I be OK to pitch into my wort on Friday?
Sure, no problem. It will actually be ready to go in 24-48 hours most of the time. Usually if I am pitching within say 48 hours of making the starter, I'll just pitch the whole thing (wort and all). After the active fermentation dies down within the first day or two, it seems that there isn't much yeast in the top 80-90% of the vessel to make it worth pitching that part, so I just pour it off and then pitch the yeasty part at the bottom. But you could still pitch the whole thing if you want... just swirl it up really good so you don't leave much yeast behind.
 
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