I feel stupid every time I make a starter

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fuzzybee

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... as I try to put DME into a steaming Erlenmeyer flask. What are y'all's secrets for adding DME without it just clumping up?

Ideally I'd like to make a tiny beer and save jars of starter but I definitely don't have time this weekend.
 

lumpher

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Put the DME into a ziploc bag. Put the opening of the bag into the flask. Swirl the flask (holding it with a hot pad or glove) while dumping the bag in. Keep swirling and tilting until it's all added. Best way is before the water starts steaming, or clumps will form in the bag, around 170 or so.
 
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fuzzybee

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Put the DME into a ziploc bag. Put the opening of the bag into the flask. Swirl the flask (holding it with a hot pad or glove) while dumping the bag in. Keep swirling and tilting until it's all added. Best way is before the water starts steaming, or clumps will form in the bag, around 170 or so.
Yeah - I thought about adding it earlier as it was clumping tonight. I guess I could keep swirling the flask to keep it from scorching?
 

lumpher

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When I use dme or lme I always stir the water in a boil kettle or swirl the starter flask as I'm adding it, and add it before the water gets really hot.
 

bracconiere

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i'd say add the water to the DME, slowly? to loosen it up first? i have a similar problem with brown sugar...just needs to get hydrated first to soften it....
 

jpitz31

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Yes, Put it in a pot on the stove, add the DME when the water is warm, not hot, Disolve the DME then heat up to a boil. After boiling and cooling a bit transfer to the flask or mason jar. I put mine in mason jars and sterilize in an instant pot. Will store on the shelf pretty much forever.

Cheers
 

redrocker652002

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I have only done one starter, and if I remember correctly, I heated up the water in a small pot prior to adding the DME. Added the DME and then bring to a boil. Boil for about 5 to 10 mins, I think I split the difference and went with 8. Cooled the wort and poured it into a sanitized plastic bottle. Sanitized a piece of aluminum foil and put it on the counter. Shook the crap out of it every time I walked by. I pitched it later the next day in my wort and it took off in about 12 hours. Not sure if that is right or not, but that is what I did and it worked out good for me.
 

bruce_the_loon

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Haven't used DME before, but I do use corn sugar for priming and have experience with corn starch, cocoa and so forth.

Best way to avoid clumping is to add slowly small amounts of water to the dry powder in a small mixing jug and mixing with a spoon until you get an evenly wet paste. This allows you to crush clumps that form without them spinning away in the full volume of water. Once you have the wet paste, add some more water, dump into the flask and repeat to rinse out. Then add the remaining water.
 

AZ Maverick

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I always make my starters by boiling the DME in a pot on the stove, cool it down a little by putting the finished boil pot in the sink filled with cold water, then transfer it through a sanitized funnel into the flask.
Then I get the temperature adjusted to where I want it before I dump in the yeast, then onto the stir plate.
 

Bassman2003

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Many years ago I went to pressure canning starter wort. One day a year (or two) I make a bunch of mason jars up and I am good to go. Making the starters is just opening a jar and pouring in. Also useful to have the canner around for yeast freezing media. One of the best homebrew items to have inho.
 

hottpeper13

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No DME for me! after I rack the wort into fermenter I put the trub in a sanitized pitcher and into the lagerator(33*) overnite. It settles and I pour into an old LME or honey container and put in the freezer. When I want a starter I thaw it and pour in a flask and bring to a boil then chill. Since it was already boiled I just need to get it to 180*. currently I have 4 in the freezer.
 

duncan.brown

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Many years ago I went to pressure canning starter wort. One day a year (or two) I make a bunch of mason jars up and I am good to go. Making the starters is just opening a jar and pouring in. Also useful to have the canner around for yeast freezing media. One of the best homebrew items to have inho.

I’ll second this. Pressure canning a batch of starters every 6 months has been one of the best improvements to my brewing experience. I can come home from work, sanitize a flask, pop open a mason jar and have the starter going in 15 mins ready to brew on the weekend.
 

FswBG

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I make starters for most of my brews and have tried adding DME every which way to avoid clumping. I opt to add the DME to the Erlenmeyer flask then room temp water and swirl to dissolve it before putting it on the stovetop. I sometimes will give it another swirl around 100-120F but never after the break has formed. I feel that's the least messy and easiest way to do it. The cast wort always looks the same no matter the method so I don't personally think there's a difference adding the extract room temp v hot.
 

Bassman2003

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I mash up a small 1.070 batch and run two rounds of 7 mason jars in my canner. This yields 14 - 2L starters (I add a bottle of water when making the starter to dilute down to 1.035).
 

DavidWood2115

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I usually make 3L starters (overbuild 1L and pitch 2L). After cracking an Erlenmeyer flask over direct flame, I switched to using a pot. I weigh the DME in the empty pot, add about 2L of RO water, put it on low, and stir with a wire whisk occasionally as it slowly comes to a boil. Heating on low takes longer, but it eliminates the risk of a boil over and I've never detected any scorched DME. I then cool the pot in the sink to near pitching temperature, then pour into a sanitized flask through a sanitized funnel and top off to 3L with RO water, and throw it on the stir plate.

I've considered canning starter, but for 3L starters that's a lot of jars per batch.
 

McMullan

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... as I try to put DME into a steaming Erlenmeyer flask. What are y'all's secrets for adding DME without it just clumping up?

Ideally I'd like to make a tiny beer and save jars of starter but I definitely don't have time this weekend.
Don't use Erlenmeyer flasks or DME. Make your own starter wort. Hold back some kettle wort on brew day or do a mini mash. Heat sterilise jars in a kitchen oven. Let them cool a bit then pour in hot starter wort. This helps maintain sanitary conditions. Ghetto hack microbiology 101. I've never understood why home brewers faff around with expensive easy-to-break flasks. Get some large jam jars. Or, if you really want to look like you know what you're doing, look out for some used Duran lab bottles.
 

Dland

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That's what I used to do back in the old days before dry yeast: Just fill and cap a few sanitized bottles of wort from next batch and put in back of fridge. Label or put in distinctive bottles so no one mistakes for finished beer.
 
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fuzzybee

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That's what I used to do back in the old days before dry yeast: Just fill and cap a few sanitized bottles of wort from next batch and put in back of fridge. Label or put in distinctive bottles so no one mistakes for finished beer.
Did hopping rates not matter?
 

mashpaddled

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I add the DME and stir it in before the water gets anywhere close to hot enough to steam. At low gravity I don't have any issues with DME settling out so there's no scorching. Even if it scorched a bit, what little gets into the beer will be so slight that it won't affect flavor. The yeast don't really care what the wort tastes like as long as they can ferment it.
 

IslandLizard

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Good advice was already given here.

I'm with McMullan:
Don't use Erlenmeyer flasks
And most definitely not for boiling starter wort!

But I can see the Erlenmeyer's flat bottom having charm on a stir plate. Many Mason jars today are quite flat bottomed too. Just test it out with water.
I use 1/2 (U.S.) gallon glass pickle jars, to make 1.6 liter starters. That leaves just enough headspace.

Use a kitchen pot
Use a kitchen pot to boil your starter wort. Stainless is preferred, but anything will work as long as you can clean the inside well. And it needs a well fitting lid.
Heat, mix, then boil your DME, or saved-out wort from a previous batch, in the pot.

Chilling
When done boiling, turn heat off, then cover with the sanitized lid. I'd sanitize the pot's rim too before putting the lid on. Let it steam up inside for a few minutes, then put the (now covered) pot in a sink or tub with cold water. No need for ice here, water works fine.

To speed things up, give the chilling water a stir every few (5) minutes or so.
Most importantly: don't open the pot!

When the water is getting too warm, drain it, and use fresh cold water. Or move the pot to a 2nd tub with cold water. You could add some ice to the chilling water now, if you're in a hurry, but it's really not necessary. It will get to room temps quite fast without ice.

You can do other things while it's chilling, like prepping your work area, cleaning and sanitizing jar(s), etc.

Important note in regard to risk of botulism:
You can keep saved-out, leftover wort from brew day in the fridge for a few days. But if you need to store it longer, freeze it!*
I use plastic cottage cheese or sour cream tubs. The 48 oz size is the most useful, but anything will work. Keeping the saved-out wort at a higher gravity is advantageous for storing, takes up less volume. Dilute to proper starter wort gravity when preparing the starter.

* Most important reason for freezing is a very small but realistic chance of botulism growing in wort, even when chilled.
 

Dland

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Important note in regard to risk of botulism:
You can keep saved-out, leftover wort from brew day in the fridge for a few days. But if you need to store it longer, freeze it!*
I use plastic cottage cheese or sour cream tubs. The 48 oz size is the most useful, but anything will work. Keeping the saved-out wort at a higher gravity is advantageous for storing, takes up less volume. Dilute to proper starter wort gravity when preparing the starter.

* Most important reason for freezing is a very small but realistic chance of botulism growing in wort, even when chilled.
Over the years, we bottled many bottles of wort on brew day to use as starters later. As long as same sanitary precautions were taken as when bottling beer, never a problem. And if there had been a problem, it would be very evident when one uncapped the bottle of wort, not that that ever happened. Have a bit of canning experience too, and do not take botulism lightly.

I'd be more suspicious of what lingeres in the walls of your reusable plastic containers. No way plastic, glass or stainless only.
 
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IslandLizard

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** Freezing is not 100% protection from Botulism. 240F is the only real protection (pressure canning).
Indeed, it doesn't kill the bacteria, only pressure canning (@240F and over) does.

But freezing (wort) will inhibit the bacteria from forming spores, and any spores present from growing, thus preventing botulinum toxin from being formed. The frozen wort should be reboiled then chilled right before use.

Now letting wort sit out there for a few days at room temps or higher, without pitching yeast and starting fermentation, is always risky, especially in low oxygen environments.
Chilling (wort) to refrigerator temps (34-38F) will slow the toxin forming process down, but may not entirely stop it. So it depends on how long it's being stored in the fridge.

 

mendelec

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My small addition to the Mason jars in the pressure cooker/canner conversation is that I usually grow my starters out in 2 steps from the frozen stocks, so I also keep repurposed baby bottles that have about 250ml of starter in them for the first round out of the freezer. It's also handy to have smaller amounts around for when opportunity strikes to culture something new from a beer you find fascinating.
 

DavidWood2115

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So this is probably overkill, but has anyone considered sterilizing fresh wort in a pressure-rated conical/unitank, then storing it in a sanitized corny keg for later use? My Spike CF10 is rated to 15psi, the same as all home pressure cookers. It is questionable that Spike's heating pad would be sufficient to heat the wort to 250F (due to radiant heat loss), but you could stick a standard e-brewing heating element in one of the TC ports or hook up a RIMS tube to get ample power. You would need to provide sanitary make up "air" when you cool the wort, to prevent collapsing the fermenter. And you would might want to use nitrogen gas, since the oxygen in air wouldn't be great for your wort and CO2 would lower the pH.

A bit of extra gear, but one 5 (or 10) gallon batch would provide starter wort on tap for at least several months.... And it wouldn't even need to be refrigerated.
 

mendelec

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Now that's an interesting thought and I do have couple spare kegs about. Hmmm... At that volume, I'd just be inclined to mash a batch and boil it long enough to not worry, since I don't have anything that I can use to pressure sterilize a full volume pressure. Just boiled though, I'd still worry. And, I'd use the CO2 precisely for that reason. Botulism spores can survive boiling, but don't thrive in acidic media. The excess CO2 will blow off pretty fast in the flask. Probably won't ever do it, but it is an interesting thought.
 

IslandLizard

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I'd just be inclined to mash a batch and boil it long enough to not worry,
It's not the length of time the wort is boiling (which is around 212F). It's the higher temp (240-250F, which can only be achieved under pressure) and the time it spends there that sterilizes it.
 

mendelec

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Indeed. Although at the level of pasteurization, there is a time and temp aspect, which is to a certain extent, how one can have a no boil brew and not die. But, neither pasteurization temps nor boiling will touch bacterial spores like C. botulinum. And, it isn't the pressure either. It's that the pressure allows you to achieve a temp capable of destroying C. botulinum spores.

But, as I noted, C. botulinum doesn't grow out in acidic conditions. The different food canning processes largely reflect the acidity of the material being canned, with non-acid foods usually needing the higher temp achieved by pressure canning (I'm oversimplifying). In brewing, the acidity generated by the brewing/fermentation process (along with the alcohol and the hops) and that we overwhelm the system with a ridiculously large inoculum of yeast that keeps the nasties at bay. You have a similar phenomenon going on with yogurt making, where you can get away with mere pasteurization, because you toss in enough of an inoculum where the bacterial fermentation gets the pH down to a safe level in a relatively short amount of time.

But, I wouldn't be comfortable using (un-sterized) wort that had only been boiled at atmospheric pressure and then stored, no matter how long it had boiled. I do have a doctorate in microbiology, but it's been a very long time since I've been at the bench and botulism isn't my idea of a fun time. I'd have to look up what the pH needs to get down to, in order to inhibit sporulation. It's possible and even likely that letting it carb would get enough CO2 in there to be safe, but that's not a gamble I'd take without reading up on it.

Having a keg of starter lying about is an interesting thought, but it may just not be practical to do it safely. Even if I had a kegged starter I felt good about, I'd still be very concerned about safely dispensing some without contaminating the rest. Fermented foods are a sh** ton more stable and resistant to contamination than unfermented and mere sanitation like we use routinely just ain't gonna cut it.

Now that I think about it, I just have no idea how I'd sterilize a keg to be food safe, let alone keep it that way, in an environment where C. botulinum spores could sporulate. I think I'm chalking this one up to an interesting theoretical discussion, but I'm not about to risk an ugly death for a bit of convenience. I'll stick with pressure canned (autoclaved) single use containers of sterile wort.
 

pvtpublic

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Bassman and the lizard are right. But if you're still concerned, boiling for at least 20 minutes after taking it out of storage will denature the toxins produced by bacteria. That's according to a state ag report, please don't make me dig that up, you can find it just the same as I did.
I pressure can at the same time I start the boil, it's really not all that difficult, and I'm lazy, which doesn't explain why I do all grain. But I digress, surprise surprise.

My method, which might not work for you, but may spark an idea in your grey matter; my mash is super efficient, more so than the recipes I brew. So I run the first 4 gallons into my kettle, the next 2 into another container, and another 3 into another. I do my gravity readings and blend the wort until I get my desired preboil gravity. If you don't know how to figure that, get "Designing Great Beers" or just Google it, whatever. Whatever I have left, I adjust with water or DME to hit 1040, then I pressure can. Whatever doesn't fit into quart jars, my kid drinks as a treat.

Well, I hope that help some poor old soul out there somewhere...
 

BigDave1303

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To avoid clumping, mix the DME with cold water then bring to a boil & cool ready for the yeast.
 
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