Dry lager yeast: should I make a starter?

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Yeast Farmer

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I finally have a fridge set up for temperature controlled fermentation, so I'm about to try my first lager. I usually don't do yeast starters, but I've seen a lot of things saying that they are a necessity for lagers. I've also seen things saying that starters are unnecessary or not recommended for dry yeast. But what if I'm making a lager with dry lager yeast? I have one packet of 34/70, 5 gallon batch.

Related question: If I make a starter, can I get away with using half the packet and saving the rest? (yeah, I'm a cheapskate.)

Just bottled a room-temp Helles style beer with Lutra kveik, so it will be interesting to see how the pseudo-lager compares to the real thing.
 

dmtaylor

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Skip the starter. However, rehydrating might not be a bad idea for a lager. Normally I would not rehydrate, but for a lager, *maybe*. I think you'll be pleased with the result from W-34/70, no matter how you pitch or ferment it, this is a very forgiving yeast, and clean and tasty. Not as great as Diamond or S-189 perhaps, but still very good.
 

McMullan

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Depends what you mean by a 'starter'. You could add about a g per L, for a close-to-optimal starter. Or, like I've been doing a lot of recently, bung in a whole pack of dry yeast (about 11g) into a half batch (about 12L) wort. Then repitch the freshly harvested yeast into a full batch. Either way, you'll get better results compared with following the manufacturers' claims and general advice for home brewers. The advice that differs from what they recommend for their professional customers.
 
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I've seen a lot of things saying that they are a necessity for lagers. I've also seen things saying that starters are unnecessary or not recommended for dry yeast.
This reads like you may have too much information (or conflicting information) from uncertain sources.

Here's my thought process when I start with a "new to me" strain of dry yeast:
  • trust (but verify) the current information from the dry yeast labs / providers.
  • blend in current forum discussion
  • be cautious with dry yeast forum posts more than about two years old
  • be skeptical of any source of information on dry yeast that's more than five years old
If I were to start brewing lagers, my starting point would be either
  1. pitch multiple packages (assuming cost wasn't a factor) or
  2. make a starter (if cost was a factor).
It's likely that others have a different thought process for dry yeast. And I'm OK with that.
 
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Yeast Farmer

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As my grandfather used to say, "When all else fails, read the directions." The instructions say 1 packet per 10 to 15 liters, pitched directly into the wort. So ideally, 2 packets for a 5 gallon batch. I'm all for whatever option requires the least amount of work, but I have some DME I need to use up and only one yeast packet, so i'll probably make a half gallon starter.
 

Red over White

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If I were pitching & fermenting 5 gallons of 12P wort at 50°F I would absolutely make a starter. If I was pitching and fermenting that same wort at 62°F a single sachet vitality starter would be fine. Keep your temperature and starting gravity in mind when making decisions about pitch rate. If you have a tilt or similar device it will readily illuminate these differences. I brew 10 gallon split batches and take detailed notes about everything. Proving out these things in house on your wort is everything. Trust but verify my friend.
 

wepeeler

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If I were pitching & fermenting 5 gallons of 12P wort at 50°F I would absolutely make a starter. If I was pitching and fermenting that same wort at 62°F a single sachet vitality starter would be fine. Keep your temperature and starting gravity in mind when making decisions about pitch rate. If you have a tilt or similar device it will readily illuminate these differences. I brew 10 gallon split batches and take detailed notes about everything. Proving out these things in house on your wort is everything. Trust but verify my friend.
For liquid yeast, yes, but you don't want to make starters with dry yeast. It destroys their cell walls. Dry yeast is ready to go right out of the pack. Pitch 2 and call it a day.
 

Red over White

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For liquid yeast, yes, but you don't want to make starters with dry yeast. It destroys their cell walls. Dry yeast is ready to go right out of the pack. Pitch 2 and call it a day.

Do you have supporting information about destroying cell walls? In 12P wort cells bud 3x typically in the average ferment. I have deep dived into this very thing and may have missed your reference.
 

wepeeler

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Do you have supporting information about destroying cell walls? In 12P wort cells bud 3x typically in the average ferment. I have deep dived into this very thing and may have missed your reference.
YEAST: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation by Chris White and Zamil Zainasheff

"Another case where you normally do not want to make a starter is with dry yeast. Dry yeast is inexpensive, and it is usually cheaper, easier, and safer to buy more dry yeast than to make a large starter. Many experts suggest that placing dry yeast in a starter just depletes the cell reserves that the yeast manufacturer tries to build into their product. For dry yeast, do a proper rehydration in tap water: do not make a starter."
 

Red over White

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YEAST: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation by Chris White and Zamil Zainasheff

"Another case where you normally do not want to make a starter is with dry yeast. Dry yeast is inexpensive, and it is usually cheaper, easier, and safer to buy more dry yeast than to make a large starter. Many experts suggest that placing dry yeast in a starter just depletes the cell reserves that the yeast manufacturer tries to build into their product. For dry yeast, do a proper rehydration in tap water: do not make a starter."

Much respect for this book, it taught me a lot. I don't think the dry yeast described in this books Era reflects today's landscape, but that is just my own experience.
 

lumpher

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I use dry almost exclusively, and have 98% of the time for many years, and I can say I have never seen instructions on any packet of dry yeast to make a starter. They all say to either pour directly in and on top, or rehydrate then dump in. I'm not a yeast expert, so I follow what the manufacturers say to do, and it doesn't fail me.
 

wepeeler

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Much respect for this book, it taught me a lot. I don't think the dry yeast described in this books Era reflects today's landscape, but that is just my own experience.
I would trust a book written by 2 guys who have devoted their careers to yeast development. Dry yeast is not all that different from when this book was written.
 

Red over White

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I would trust a book written by 2 guys who have devoted their careers to yeast development. Dry yeast is not all that different from when this book was written.
I'm not sure what you are saying? Are the cell walls destroyed or are cell reserves depleted? Please clarify.
 

Immocles

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I'm a dry yeast guy. I wouldn't make a starter, but I'd direct pitch two packets. I often direct pitch a single packet into 3G of wort at traditional lager temps, but for 5G I would bump that up into 2 packets and let it ride.

Related question: If I make a starter, can I get away with using half the packet and saving the rest? (yeah, I'm a cheapskate.)
You probably could and be perfectly fine. But if you're looking to save money on yeast, I would just reuse the slurry or dump a new, higher OG wort onto a fresh yeast cake.
 

wepeeler

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I'm not sure what you are saying? Are the cell walls destroyed or are cell reserves depleted? Please clarify.
Cell reserves depleted and cell walls harmed so that the cell can't regulate what passes through the cell wall.

I'm trying tell you that dry yeast doesn't need a starter.
 

McMullan

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YEAST: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation by Chris White and Zamil Zainasheff

"Another case where you normally do not want to make a starter is with dry yeast. Dry yeast is inexpensive, and it is usually cheaper, easier, and safer to buy more dry yeast than to make a large starter. Many experts suggest that placing dry yeast in a starter just depletes the cell reserves that the yeast manufacturer tries to build into their product. For dry yeast, do a proper rehydration in tap water: do not make a starter."
This was an opinion of the authors back then. It doesn't seem to be supported with any evidence and the focus of the book was wet yeast. If they'd considered things a bit further, and looked under a microscope, they might have expressed a different view. It's not unusual for commercial brewers to repitch dry yeast. I've been testing it out myself for several months. The first beer fermented (by dry yeast) is relatively inferior. Some breweries actually blend it with subsequent batches. Obviously, when repitched wet wort needs to be oxigenated to replenish membranes sufficient for budding. Some say it's necessary to start oxigenating with generation 2 slurry when using dry yeast. My point being there is nothing wrong with making a starter with dry yeast. It just rehydrates the dry cells and conditions them, metabolically speaking, to ferment wort. It should be our aim when using dry yeast. The yeast cells are going to be better conditioned to ferment wort. If you strip away all the PR and marketing speil surrounding 'convenient' dry yeast, it might become apparent making a starter with dry yeast is a no-brainer, in terms of pitching more better-conditioned yeast cells at lower cost. Home brewers have been sold different procedures, a compromise on best pitching practices.
 

jtgoral

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Cell reserves depleted and cell walls harmed so that the cell can't regulate what passes through the cell wall.

I'm trying tell you that dry yeast doesn't need a starter.
Fermenting the wort in a starter using dry yeast is bad and fermenting the wort in your beer batch is good? Really? Why? What is the difference from yeast point of view?
 
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Yeast Farmer

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I don't think the dry yeast described in this books Era reflects today's landscape, but that is just my own experience.
Especially the "cheap" part. Yikes. $8-9 per packet does not induce me to think "I'll just buy two and save myself some time." In my internal battle between laziness and cheapness, cheapness wins.

The question in my mind is, why does putting dry yeast in a starter destroy the cell walls, and putting it into a fermenter doesn't?
 

hottpeper13

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i read a paper from the MBAA that rehydrated yeast in RO water, tap water ,1.010. 1.020. 1.030, 1.040,1.050 and 1.060 wort. Then they tested viability. It's been 2 years but this is what I remember. Tap water and 1.060 were the least viable . 1.030,1.040 were the most 1.030 won by small margin.
My friends call me cheap ,I like to think I'm frugal. I would make an overbuild starter and save some for next time. I've repitched 34/70 up to 4 times, the last one a 1.100 uber bock. When I want to brew another lager I make an overbuild starter and the cycle begins.
 

Steveruch

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Especially the "cheap" part. Yikes. $8-9 per packet does not induce me to think "I'll just buy two and save myself some time." In my internal battle between laziness and cheapness, cheapness wins.

The question in my mind is, why does putting dry yeast in a starter destroy the cell walls, and putting it into a fermenter doesn't?
$8-9? Yikes! Shop around. The last S-189 I bought was half that..
 
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RM-MN

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Especially the "cheap" part. Yikes. $8-9 per packet does not induce me to think "I'll just buy two and save myself some time." In my internal battle between laziness and cheapness, cheapness wins.

The question in my mind is, why does putting dry yeast in a starter destroy the cell walls, and putting it into a fermenter doesn't?
Just yesterday I bought a nice craft beer at the restaurant for $6.50 and you're complaining about an extra $9 to make 5 gallons of beer? Add a gallon of water to your wort so you can decrease the cost per gallon of beer.
 

wepeeler

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This was an opinion of the authors back then. It doesn't seem to be supported with any evidence and the focus of the book was wet yeast. If they'd considered things a bit further, and looked under a microscope, they might have expressed a different view. It's not unusual for commercial brewers to repitch dry yeast. I've been testing it out myself for several months. The first beer fermented (by dry yeast) is relatively inferior. Some breweries actually blend it with subsequent batches. Obviously, when repitched wet wort needs to be oxigenated to replenish membranes sufficient for budding. Some say it's necessary to start oxigenating with generation 2 slurry when using dry yeast. My point being there is nothing wrong with making a starter with dry yeast. It just rehydrates the dry cells and conditions them, metabolically speaking, to ferment wort. It should be our aim when using dry yeast. The yeast cells are going to be better conditioned to ferment wort. If you strip away all the PR and marketing speil surrounding 'convenient' dry yeast, it might become apparent making a starter with dry yeast is a no-brainer, in terms of pitching more better-conditioned yeast cells at lower cost. Home brewers have been sold different procedures, a compromise on best pitching practices.
I understand the re-pitching principle, but I'll stick with no starter for the initial dry yeast pack.

The guys who wrote the book devoted their entire careers to yeast. I'm sure they're well versed, and do count cells (as evidenced by their push for the home brewer to start a yeast lab and count cells).

If what you're doing is working for you, then great. I was just trying to help out in what I feel is an unnecessary step for the dry yeast user.
 

McMullan

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Of course, we don't need to make a starter with dry yeast, but I'd challenge anyone who hasn't to give it a go and assess a valid comparison for themselves. Too often arguments hinge on what a home brewer is prepared to do rather than what he or she knows works best. A valid comparison between starter vs no starter for dry yeast is easily doable for any interested home brewer.
 

moreb33rplz

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direct pitch 2 packs dry yeast into lager or ale above 1.065, direct pitch 1 for everything else

I'm so glad I stopped using liquid yeasts and starters a couple years ago (they worked great but I can't tell a difference in results with dry yeast direct pitch and its so much easier)
 

camonick

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Yikes. $8-9 per packet does not induce me to think "I'll just buy two and save myself some time."

$8-9? Yikes! Shop around. The last S-189 I boight was half that..
I don’t have a local HBS because I live in BFE. I order all my supplies and ingredients online. Every store I buy from sells 34/70 or Diamond for $5-6. I’ve used both, but prefer 34/70. Direct pitch 2 packets into 5 gallons or 1 into 3.
I’m considering using some Mangrove Jack’s for my next lager… it’s even cheaper.
 

McMullan

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Some people actually like that classic 'home-brew thing' acquired by poor pitching practices, including pitching dry yeast directly into FV wort. It's really not wrong, if you like that kind of thing. If you like it you like it. Carry on doing whatever works for you. Our tastes buds are wired differently, that's all. What I consider 'that home-brew thing' others might consider 'more flavoursome' than commercial beers. I guess some of us aim to emulate home brew and some of us aim to emulate commercial beers. For me it's mainly traditional English ales, which don't taste anything like standard home brew. Applying my thinking and process to lagers has helped me produce some pretty good traditional lagers, too. It works according to my senses.
 

camonick

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Some people actually like that classic 'home-brew thing' acquired by poor pitching practices, including pitching dry yeast directly into FV wort.
I think many folks will take offense to this statement including myself. I always direct pitch my dry yeast into my fermenter. I have won several medals with my lagers using this technique and not once have there been any comments on the score sheets that mention anything about that ‘home-brew thing’. I also give away lots of samples (many to members on this forum) and I’ve also never received any comments like that from them. Some comments even say it’s as good or better than some commercial versions.
 

McMullan

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I think many folks will take offense to this statement including myself. I always direct pitch my dry yeast into my fermenter. I have won several medals with my lagers using this technique and not once have there been any comments on the score sheets that mention anything about that ‘home-brew thing’. I also give away lots of samples (many to members on this forum) and I’ve also never received any comments like that from them.
What are you comparing with? How do you know you wouldn't have won more medals had you made starters for dry yeast and repitched? 🤷

Edit: note when I typed 'pitching directly into FV wort' I was referring to the practice of not making a starter, not how dry yeast cells get rehydrated.
 

camonick

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What are you comparing with? How do you know you wouldn't have won more medals had you made starters for dry yeast and repitched? 🤷

Edit: note when I typed 'pitching directly into FV wort' I was referring to the practice of not making a starter, not how dry yeast cells get rehydrated.

I’ve pitched dry packets and re-pitched saved slurry from previous fermentations, and to my unrefined palate, I can’t tell any difference, as well as others I’ve shared with. Pitching dry packs into my wort is so much faster and easier than dicking around with a starter.
I’ll do me, you do you.
 

moreb33rplz

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Some people actually like that classic 'home-brew thing' acquired by poor pitching practices, including pitching dry yeast directly into FV wort. It's really not wrong, if you like that kind of thing. If you like it you like it. Carry on doing whatever works for you. Our tastes buds are wired differently, that's all. What I consider 'that home-brew thing' others might consider 'more flavoursome' than commercial beers. I guess some of us aim to emulate home brew and some of us aim to emulate commercial beers. For me it's mainly traditional English ales, which don't taste anything like standard home brew. Applying my thinking and process to lagers has helped me produce some pretty good traditional lagers, too. It works according to my senses.
This is kinda triggering and passive aggressive. Also wrong to imply that direct pitching dry yeast results in a subpar, or even different, flavor profile or beer drinking experience.

I'm not a scientist. But I have brewed several hundred batches over 18 years using every kind of yeast delivery method you can possibly think of, and direct pitching dry yeast is certainly towards the top of my preference list.
 
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McMullan

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This is kinda triggering and passive aggressive. Also wrong to imply that direct pitching dry yeast results in a subpar, or even different, flavor profile or beer drinking experience.

I'm not a scientist. But I have brewed several hundred batches over 18 years using every kind of yeast delivery method you can possibly think of, and direct pitching dry yeast is certainly towards the top of my preference list.

This screams to me that you have a flaw in your brewing.
Carry on doing whatever works for you.
It doesn't work for me. And I've been doing valid comparisons in my brewing environment for several months now, specifically to assess the performance of dry lager yeast. I'm pretty confident the advice I offer (to the interested) is sound enough to be offered in the first place. 🤷
 

JohnDBrewer

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If you have two packs pitch them both for lagers. If you have just one and know it has been well taken care of (i.e. not shipped through the mail with uncontrolled temp, etc.) you'll probably be ok. If only one pack shipped or store in an uncontrolled environment do a starter.
 

McMullan

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I’ve pitched dry packets and re-pitched saved slurry from previous fermentations, and to my unrefined palate, I can’t tell any difference, as well as others I’ve shared with. Pitching dry packs into my wort is so much faster and easier than dicking around with a starter.
I’ll do me, you do you.
No offense intended, but what I read here is that you're really against spending about 10 minutes hands-on time making a simple yeast starter. After spending the best part of 2 days planning, preparing and executing a brew day then cleaning up, spending 10 minutes hands-on time to pitch the best yeast possible - which we have to prep fresh ourselves - is a no-brainer, to me.
 
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Yeast Farmer

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Oooh, I kicked a hornet's nest didn't I, lol. To try to bring things back into context, I think we can agree on a general consensus that making a starter with dry yeast is not necessary and not ideal, compared to just using the right amount of dry yeast. My specific situation is that I have one (1) packet of w 34/70 on hand, when ideally as per the manufacturer's instructions, I should use two. I'm wondering if the benefits of propagating a packet of yeast in a starter outweighs the alleged negative side effects of making a starter with dry yeast. Just pitching the single packet is also on the table. I suspect that all of the above options will result in beer.

W 34/70 used to be a cheap yeast, but it ain't no more. The lowest price I can find for a packet is $8.49. You can find it as low as $6 per on ebay if you buy 6 at a time. $6 in my mind is still expensive for a packet of dry yeast, considering that I still have a bunch of Nottingham that cost me around half that. And I'm not sure if I want to get into lagering enough to drop $36 on yeast right now.

Just yesterday I bought a nice craft beer at the restaurant for $6.50 and you're complaining about an extra $9 to make 5 gallons of beer?
There's nothing wrong with that logic, but I haven't bought a beer in a restaurant in 10 years. I'm not paying that for something that I can make for a buck. The price of beer to me is what it costs me to make it, and $9 per batch is a significant increase.

Some people actually like that classic 'home-brew thing
I know what you mean and I don't take offense. I'm not emulating commercial beers, and I don't enter competitions. There are two kinds of homebrewers: those who want to make the best possible beer, and those who want to make economical beer. I'm the latter kind, although I don't think there's anything wrong with the quality of my beer, as far as my personal tastes go. I prefer my homebrew over any commercial examples of similar styles, and that includes ales fermented at 75-80 degrees or with underpitched yeast. Using grain and hops that I like makes a million times more of a difference to me.
 

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I'm a dry yeast guy. I wouldn't make a starter, but I'd direct pitch two packets. I often direct pitch a single packet into 3G of wort at traditional lager temps, but for 5G I would bump that up into 2 packets and let it ride.


You probably could and be perfectly fine. But if you're looking to save money on yeast, I would just reuse the slurry or dump a new, higher OG wort onto a fresh yeast cake.

This. Make a smaller batch or a super session-gravity steam beer that you won't be underpitching. Then use the clurry/cake to make stronger/bigger batches of lager.
 

McMullan

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I agree, dry brewer's yeast isn't necessarily cheap anymore. one of the reasons I haven't bothered trying 34/70 is high cost. I can get a decent authentic-to-style liquid yeast for a few bucks more. Nothing if I'm culturing from my own collection. In terms of brewing with less waste, dry yeast starters are a viable option, no pun intended 😃
 

McMullan

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This. Make a smaller batch or a super session-gravity steam beer that you won't be underpitching. Then use the clurry/cake to make stronger/bigger batches of lager.
That's a starter batch, technically speaking. About 1g/L wort. That potentially translates into about 3 big starters from one pack of dry yeast 🤘
 
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