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Higher volume, lower gravity starter, vs. lower volume, higher gravity starter...

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For academic/curiousity's sake:

I am going to make a 11 gallon batch of 1.048 OG beer. Simple, right?

I am going to make a starter, which will have to be split between two 6.5 gal. carboys/fermenters.

Which is best? I have 260 grams DME and a single Whitelabs vial of WLP002.

4 liters of 1.025 OG Starter? (for ~2 liter starter for each carboy)
3 liters of 1.033 OG starter? (for ~1.5 liter starter for each carboy)
2.5 Liters of 1.040 OG Starter? (for ~1.25 liter starter for each carboy)

(I already did the 4 Liter/1.025 OG starter. I am going to make it work, either way, but I am wondering if I was stupid or not.)

What would you do, personally? What does science say? Microbiologists out there?
 

jaycount

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I am not a scientist but I stayed at a Holiday Inn one time.

And I ALWAYS make my starters 1L water:100g DME. IIRC, that's 1.040 OG. I will adjust the starter size to the beer size, but never change my starter OG.
 
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Ridonkulous05
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Hmmm... Maybe should have gone with the 2.5/1.040 option.

I'm rationalizing my decision by telling myself to go with a weaker starter, because I am using year-old harvested yeast (also a no-no)...

Well, I've got four packs of Nottingham in the fridge, anyway, in case this monkeyshine does not work...

Any other thoughts?
 

Denny

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Weaker is always better for a starter. Remember, yeast health is vital...a lot of unhealthy yeast doesn't really do you any good.
 
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Ridonkulous05
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Follow up:

The 1.025 starter showed no activity after being inoculated with 11.5 month-old harvested WLP002 yeast (that was being kept in a 40 deg. F refrigerator) after 24 hours. So, seeing as I was going to split a batch into two carboys, I decided to experiment.

I had two packets of Nottingham on hand, and I decided to re-hydrate one of them in the 1.025 starter (4.0 L). (Good thing that it was a weak starter in this case, as I figured re-hydrating in 1.025 would be less stressful than into 1.040 [or higher] wort.)

When the boil and chilling of the batch was done, I split the batch into two 6.5 Gal. carboys. (I filled the one to receive the entire contents of the "starter" slightly less, so that the filled volumes of both would be more similar.) Then, I put the 4.0 L "starter" into one of the carboys, and I just sprinkled the other Notty packet on top of the other filled carboy (a 'no-no', I know)...

Initial observations: The re-hydrated, four-Liter addition had reached high kraeusen in less than 12 hours, and the kraeusen has already fallen today (Wednesday), and the brew day was last Sunday. The "Sprinkle" carboy showed activity in 18 hours, and reached high kraeusen yesterday (Tuesday).

I do not know if any of the WLP002 may have made it into the first carboy with the re-hydrated Notty, and I don't have a plain, normally-re-hydrated Notty batch as a control for this experiment, so it is not strictly scientific, but I think that I will enjoy these two beers, anyway! (The fermentation room smells wonderfully of hops from the blowoff...)

I will do my darndest to post noted differences (if I can recognize any) when I get to the consumption phase.
 
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Ridonkulous05
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Denny,

-Yeah- no question. Even reading my original post, I see that, before making the starter, (in my mind) I had a vial's worth of WLP002 washed/harvested yeast.

Not the case.

There may (likely) not have been enough cell count to show any activity after only 24 hours. However, I had cooled wort waiting for yeast.

It's good to know that there may still be some hope for some WLP002 influence in one of the carboys (as that's my favorite strain [so far])....

Not obligating you, or anything, but do you care to share any pointers or observations about starters from small quantities of (maybe old) harvested yeast? (I'm asking, because this was not an encouraging attempt- Though, I WAS successful with doing a starter [in ~36 hours] from [other vials of] this same harvested batch, when it was only about three months old, though ...)

Thanks for the feedback!
 

Clementine

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I love this, it is so much smarter to do experiments rather than relying on the well I have always done it this way and therefore it is right, mentality. So the a question is does a weaker wort make more healthy yeast? My thought is yes but how weak is too weak?

Also how do you test yeast health? To start with you can use all the usual parameters like Attenuation, Lag time, activity level etc. However I don't think this will show much difference, so do we get a beer analysis of esters, fusel alcohols and other by products by a lab?, visually examine yeast wall thickness under a microscope? or see how far you can push the two types of yeast before they are killed from the alcohol they produce by adding sugar it stages until the yeast die? For my mind the beer analysis is the best method as this is what we are ultimately after which is cleaner clearer better beer.


To add my 2 cents on my process, I have always done exactly 1.040 OG starters and actually diluted them to get them there exactly. The reason for this is to allow me to have repeatability in my starters. I chose 1040 as my readings where I gain information on Yeast cell concentration did their work with this concentration and changing from this would alter the resulting calcs for the amount of yeast created. When making yeast from slants your results are a little unknown and the first few attempts are a bit scary and trying to figure out if you have made enough yeast seems like a shot in the dark until you get familiar with your process. I might try this with a few starters and calculate how much sugar is in a 1025 and a 1040 wort so I can then adjust my cell density formula to work from sugar content rather than volume.

A second thought, if you aren't using a stir plate it might be hard to get repeatable results as the sugar won't have as big as impact as the amount of O2 present in the solution and shaking or other methods are probably a little less controllable than a stir plate. Also as there is less sugar in the water will the yeast have trouble getting to all the sugar if they are not constantly agitated?

As to your question above on lag times for small amounts of yeast. When I do the first steps on my starter from slants they are very slow to show any signs and some times you can't even see any results until you do a 2nd step. Some of my slants get to around 6months old and they are very slow to show signs of fermentation even 36hrs and the signs aren't like a fully pitched starter with a krausen.

Geek on Ridonkulous love the work

Clem
 

Denny

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Denny,

-Yeah- no question. Even reading my original post, I see that, before making the starter, (in my mind) I had a vial's worth of WLP002 washed/harvested yeast.

Not the case.

There may (likely) not have been enough cell count to show any activity after only 24 hours. However, I had cooled wort waiting for yeast.

It's good to know that there may still be some hope for some WLP002 influence in one of the carboys (as that's my favorite strain [so far])....

Not obligating you, or anything, but do you care to share any pointers or observations about starters from small quantities of (maybe old) harvested yeast? (I'm asking, because this was not an encouraging attempt- Though, I WAS successful with doing a starter [in ~36 hours] from [other vials of] this same harvested batch, when it was only about three months old, though ...)

Thanks for the feedback!
When I use old yeast, whether an out of date smack pack or an old slurry, I always start off in a small amount (maybe 500 ml. at most) of a 1.020 wort. Give it plenty of time....several days at least. Then crash, decant and step up using 1.030-35 wort. You may need to do that twice. I guess the advice i consider most important is have your yeast ready BEFORE you brew. If you don't have an adequate starter of healthy yeast, you no more have the supplies you need for brewing than you would if you didn't have malt or hops.
 
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Ridonkulous05
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Sage Advice.

Lucky I had the gry on hand for backup. Lesson learned.

If I am not willing to flub it and pitch dry, I will never "roll" without a working starter...

Thanks!
 
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