How many of you use a yeast starter?

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Beer Viking

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How many of you just pitch yeast as is and how many of you use a starter? If you are really sanitary is there need to use a starter?
 

mattdee1

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I like to do starters with liquid yeast when I need some kind of more "special" yeast, but lately I've been using a lot of dry yeast because it's so much simpler. And so long as I'm just wanting a fairly neutral-tasting ale yeast there does not appear to be a downside to just opening the packet and sprinkling it on my wort. I know not everybody agrees with that, but sometimes you grow tired of wasting time on steps whose value is more theoretical than actually perceivable.
 

NewJersey

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I have NEVER done a starter in over 6 years of brewing. Never had an issue. I prefer dry yeast for most ales or lagers. One packet up to 1060 never had a problem.
Sometimes with liquid yeasts in something over 1060 I just buy 2. So much easier than messing with starters. To each their own tho
 

tracer bullet

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I do it to have plenty of yeast to do the job, and believe (partly from reading, partly from experience) that the benefit of this is that it prevents the yeast from struggling and gives me more predictable results. It is indeed extra work but since I do it a couple days ahead of brewing and I spend a grand total of 15 minutes on it, it isn't so tough.

Starters + temp control = I get results indicated by the manufacturer (flavors, flocculation, etc.) instead of who-knows how it'll end up tasting. One thing I have learned to aim for over time is consistency of my process, so I can focus on improving my recipes.
 

McKnuckle

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Like many things in brewing, you use a starter when you need one, and you don't use a starter when you don't. It's not just a personal opinion kind of thing.

Also, starters have nothing to do with sanitary conditions (which you should always ensure) or lack thereof. It's all about introducing a healthy yeast population that's adequate to ferment your wort based on its volume and original gravity. Sometimes you need to grow more yeast, and other times you don't.

There are calculators like this one to help you determine what to do.
 

nebulabrewing

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I make starters all the time with my liquid yeasts.

1. I like to overbuild the starter so I can save yeast for the next starter. This prevents me from having to order that yeast again. I’m on my third generation of 1318, and it’s great.

2. Liquid yeast provide more different flavor profiles for many different types of beer.

3. I find that liquid yeast provide a better flavor than dried yeast. I use dried and liquid yeast, but will prefer liquid every time.

Sanitation is important, but not why brewers use yeast starters. Yeast starters are used to create healthy yeasts.
 

Alex4mula

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On 63 brews I have never used a starter. But all my brews are below 8% ABV. Mostly use dry yeast for convenience but also liquid if the recipe requires it. Having said that, I can see the benefit like to be sure it is fine if you reuse yeast and/or maybe use post-use date yeast. I always say someday I'll get into it but for now I just see it as over-complication for my particular brewing process.
 

McKnuckle

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It's not really a thing to "get into" for its own sake. One does it when necessary. It's a means to an end.

If you harvest yeast from a prior batch and don't re-brew with it for a couple months or six, you'll need a starter. If you have only a single package of liquid yeast for a large batch, or if the gravity is high, or if the yeast is a bit (or much) older than ideal, you make a starter.

If you are always pitching full, new packs of dried yeast into your wort, you basically never need to worry about starters.
 

Desert_Sky

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20 years going and I still do rather large starters. It just makes for a better beer if the yeast dont have to work as hard imo. It also depends on the size of your system
 

jddevinn

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Every time, overbuilding to save yeast for next time.

If you are really sanitary is there need to use a starter?
Starters aren't for sanitary reasons, they are to get the correct amount of yeast at the beginning of fermentation. In general:

Ales Yeast Cells Required = (0.75 million) X (milliliters of wort) X (degrees Plato of the wort)
Lagers = (1.5 million) X (milliliters of wort) X (degrees Plato of the wort)
 

Dinadan

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I have never made a starter. I pitch either dry yeast or else trub from an earlier batch. It always ferments.
 

Golddiggie

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I use a starter with virtually every brew. I have a stirplate, which makes things a LOT easier. Plus you don't need to make as large a starter than without the stirplate. Using the canned, concentrated, starter wort that's available makes it even easier than when I first started brewing.

Earlier this year we brewed my mocha porter (over 8% ABV, 6 gallon final volume into keg) that used yeast that I had treated and froze back in 2012 (Wyeast 1882-PC). Three starter steps gave me VERY active and healthy yeast. Infusing the batch wort with pure O2 meant that the yeast had what it needed to make healthy cell walls in the brew. It went completely ape-**** in just a few hours.

I've always used liquid yeast for my beers. Mead batches were mostly made with dry (wine) yeast. I did try one batch of mead with WL099 that didn't reach it's full potential. :( I tend to use just a couple of different strains of Wyeast for my beers. Mostly because I know what they are going to give my recipe. I factor that information into the recipe when I design it. I'm NOT using other people's recipes for my beers. I haven't since batch #3.

The only time I've not done a starter with liquid was for a 3 gallon batch (final volume) of cider that we made up two weekends ago. At <7% ABV, and low volume, I figured the single (very fresh) smack-pack was enough. It took off quickly, so I figure I was correct.

Using my methods, I've been able to get the yeast to go past it's listed ABV range. I've also had no off flavors from stressed yeast. Nor stuck fermentations in beers.
 

jddevinn

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Just because it "ferments out" does not mean that you are not getting the best result. A fermentation with no temperature control will ferment as well.
 

Ridenour64

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I make a starter every time for both dry yeast and liquid.
 

slogger

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I’ve never made a starter. It’s an extra step I’ve never needed(knock on wood).
 

PereJoe

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For small 25 ltr 6.6 gal batches I’ve never had problem just sprinkling 1 dry yeast pack over well-aerated wort. For my 1 bbl (100 ltr) batches I always make a 1 ltr starter simply to get the cell count into good range.
As experiment (forced...i forgot to make the starter) I once used a single Y1214 smack-pack on entire 1 bbl batch (OG 1.075), aerated the hell out of it by agitating the barrel few times during 12 hrs and had good fermentation, but plenty of off flavours too, so assumed it was from from the stressed yeast. Re-pitching that into next batch went fine.
 

A1sportsdad

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I use liquid yeast and create a starter all the time for reasons mentioned above. I want a very healthy, ready to go batch of yeast and l like the options you can get with liquid vs dry yeast. It doesn't take a lot of effort to create the starter, just a little planning so it's ready when you want it. I also use a fermentation fridge so I can control the temp until I want to let it free rise.
 

Spivey24

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For ales I will typically use liquid yeast, build a 2 liter starter, decant, then split that in half. if doing a single batch, I will save half for a future batch. If doing a double batch, just split it. According to the starter calculators, this gives a boost in numbers for the current batch, plus saves money or a run to the LBS in the future. I use a 2 liter flask and stir plate for this. But if I am not pressed, I will just get a pack of Wyeast or Omega and just pitch it straight. Never had an issue doing this and it’s a hell of a lot easier.
For lagers, I will just try to get to proper pitch rates depending on the recipe. I will more likely use washed yeast for a lager due to the lesser hops.
When first reading about starters, these articles say you should do them since they are easy to do. BS, they are a pain in the butt and a bunch of extra steps. You have to get wort to the right volume and gravity, heat it, cool it, aerate, pitch, get the stir plate going, decant, clean, etc. Then I have had spill overs on the stove, a cracked flask, a stir plate gone bad, and a batch that went nuts and bubbled over the flask and stir plate. The point being, if you don’t have a reason, and it’s not improving your final beer then save yourself the hassle.
 

bwible

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I use Wyeast the vast majority of the time. When I’m going to re-use yeast, I plan several brews in advance that can use the same yeast and brew in order, light to dark, weak to strong, less hoppy to more hoppy - same way judges judge beer. For example my recent series with Wyeast 1099 goes Blonde Ale, ESB, English IPA. I only plan to use that yeast 3 times.

I did not make a starter for the first batch, just pitched the smack pack after it swelled. Put ESB right on top of yeast from Blonde in same fermenter after racking. Put English IPA right on top of yeast cake from ESB in same fermenter again right after racking.
 

VikeMan

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Also, starters have nothing to do with sanitary conditions (which you should always ensure) or lack thereof.
I agree with this, but I also understand why the OP mentioned sanitation. I've seen more than a few books/articles over the years that talk about a healthy yeast pitch outcompeting unwanted microbes. While this is true in the sense that the healthier/more numerous yeast cells will eat more fermentables than the other bugs, it doesn't mean that the spoilage microbes don't eat anything. If they are there in significant numbers, they will do noticeable damage, happily working right alongside the yeast. It would be nice if the books/articles would be a little clearer about that.
 

Chuckbergman

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I make starters all the time with my liquid yeasts.

1. I like to overbuild the starter so I can save yeast for the next starter. This prevents me from having to order that yeast again. I’m on my third generation of 1318, and it’s great.

2. Liquid yeast provide more different flavor profiles for many different types of beer.

3. I find that liquid yeast provide a better flavor than dried yeast. I use dried and liquid yeast, but will prefer liquid every time.

Sanitation is important, but not why brewers use yeast starters. Yeast starters are used to create healthy yeasts.
I never saved yeast from a starter to create a new starter for my next brew. I've always just harvested when transferring from fermenter to keg. Is the process any different harvesting from the starter? Do you just pour "most" of your starter into your fermenter and save what is left?
 

Chuckbergman

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2 benefits that I've seen from using yeast starters the last couple years.

1. Save money on buying yeast
2. My initial fermentations are crazy active compared to just adding yeast packet to fermenter.
 

odie

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I might have tried once or twice years ago. Don't really recall. Haven't used a liquid yeast in 20 years?

I've never had any problems pitching dry yeast right onto the wort. I've had great results with a single US-05 on 14% RIS all the time.

I've harvested high gravity yeast cakes and reused several month later just by pitching it into the fermenter with good results.

Sanitation and cleanliness are important. "Starters" are not.
 

IslandLizard

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I always make yeast starters from (liquid) yeast. Whether it's a fresh pack, an older pack, or a saved out slurry, I want to pitch the recommended cell quantity according to one of these yeast pitch calculators:

BrewUnited's Yeast Calculator
Mr. Malty

A starter also proves viability and when you overbuild it, enough to save out for a next (clean) starter.
 

D.B.Moody

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I've been brewing since 1994. In 271 batches: 1 liquid yeast, one rehydrated dry yeast, 269 dry yeast pitched directly from the packet.. No problems and simple. Except for 3 meads and one cyser I am an extract brewer.
 

Konadog

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Do you just pour "most" of your starter into your fermenter and save what is left?
When my starter is done, turn stir plat off and while the yeast is still in suspension, pour off enough to fill a small jar and refrigerate. The rest is for the batch of beer. This way you always have clean healthy yeast being stored. This is what it looks like once it settles out.
2020-09-23 18.50.01.jpg
 

IslandLizard

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When my starter is done, turn stir plat off and while the yeast is still in suspension, pour off enough to fill a small jar and refrigerate. The rest is for the batch of beer. This way you always have clean healthy yeast being stored. This is what it looks like once it settles out.View attachment 706045
And that ^ is as much, or even more yeast as comes in a White Labs or WYeast pack!
 
OP
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How exactly do I harvest yeast from my primary when fermentation is done so I can pitch it into a future batch? How much needs to be pitched?
 

eric19312

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How exactly do I harvest yeast from my primary when fermentation is done so I can pitch it into a future batch? How much needs to be pitched?
There are many ways and all have tradeoffs.

When I fermented in buckets, speidel tanks and carboys I would rack the beer to bottling bucket or keg and then swirl up the yeast cake with beer remaining in fermentor and then transfer that to a glass mason jar. With buckets I could transfer with a sanitized soup ladle. With carboys I'd wipe the neck with a paper towel dipped in starsan and pour it. With the speidel I'd just remove the spigot and pour out of the bottom port.

For all of those fermentors I had to accept that I would be getting some non yeast trub and some dry hops (if the beer was dry hopped in primary most of mine are) with my yeast. Some brewers advocate cleaning this yeast and trying to seperate the pure yeast from other junk. I just kept it and let it ride into the next batch.

Now I have a conical fermentor and with this I do collect the yeast before dry hopping. I also discard first slug of yeast assuming this will have most of the non yeast trub and then collect a jar full. I use that within 2 weeks and discard the rest.

How much to use? I am not fan of using the whole cake. Way too much yeast. I calculate the amount in beersmith using the date the yeast was harvested to estimate viability and assuming 2 billion cells per mL on harvest date. When I took the yeast from the buckets and carboys and accepted it had more trub in it I assumed 1 billion cells per mL. With the 2 billion cells per mL estimate a 17.5 gallon batch needs about 500 mL for ale pitch rate of 0.75 mil/mLxPlato. I probably use close to 600 mL eyeballing it.

edited to add: the yeast in the jar separates to yeast layer and beer layer. I decant off 90% of the beer before measuring out the amount of yeast I will pitch.
 

eric19312

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And for OP...no starters for me. When using dry yeast I use as many packs as I need and when using harvested yeast I have all I need from previous batch. I'm not ranching a bunch of different yeast strains, it's all Chico all the time, and I find the harvested yeast, typically 1 week old, generally outperforms the new pitches (less lag and finishes faster). Possibly I am underestimating the amount of yeast per mL of slurry. Since I know I am going to be harvesting the yeast and assume it will be repitched i do oxygenate with pure O2 and add a small amount of yeast nutrient to every batch.
 

Konadog

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I am wanting to start doing this. Would love to know your process and suggestions you have. Thanks
I posted this above, it's as easy as making a starter, but a bit bigger, and pouring off a bit to save.

When my starter is done, turn stir plat off and while the yeast is still in suspension, pour off enough to fill a small jar and refrigerate. The rest is for the batch of beer. This way you always have clean healthy yeast being stored. This is what it looks like once it settles out.View attachment 706045
 

mattdee1

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Sometimes on brew day I pull some wort from the kettle 10min into the boil and chill it to pitching temperature. Then I mix in my yeast and put it on the stir plate for the rest of the brew day until I’m ready to pitch into the fermentor. Last time I did this I pitched at around 11pm and had a healthy krausen layer visible when I got up the next morning... no more than 8-10 hours later. I never get a lag time anywhere near that short when sprinkling in dry yeast.
 

BlutoA10C

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2 benefits that I've seen from using yeast starters the last couple years.

1. Save money on buying yeast
2. My initial fermentations are crazy active compared to just adding yeast packet to fermenter.
I'm with Chuckbergman on this one. It does take a little extra planning, but is not complicated and I enjoy the process for some reason.

Cheers!
 

pondjt

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Timely thread as I’m making a starter right now.

Over the summer, I decided starters were superfluous and I wouldn’t do them anymore. I don’t have any hard data but I wasn’t thrilled with the results. I’m back on the bandwagon.

I agree with the gist of most of the comments. It’s a personal choice. Make a beer with it and without, best one wins.
 

VikeMan

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IMO, every wort has an ideal pitch rate (cells per ml per degree plato). It may not be an absolute ideal. Brewers get to to decide what the ideal pitch rate is for their beer. But once you decide that, whether or not you need a starter, and how big, is just math.

For those who never make a starter, or who always make a starter (perhaps always the same size), that's essentially the same as saying "pitch rate doesn't matter."
 
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