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I think my beer turned into vinegar. How do I know for sure

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Cro Magnon

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Personally, I can't imagine a vinegar-like flavor caused by tannins from the grains, even if squeezing actually extracted more of them (doubtful).
Ok that's great to know....because I have such a low yield, and I make such small batches....feels awful to leave any wort in the bag.
 

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To find the cause I would first disassemble all the valving on the cold side and check for residue. The bottling wand plunger spring was the culprit for my infection.
 

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I feared I was being a bit too lax with temp control. Although I really don't have the facilities to control temp too much. Been considering putting it in a bucket of cold water and replacing frozen PET bottles to keep it more or less on the lower side. I've been wrapping with a wet towel....but I don't know actually how many degrees in reduction this causes. Any ideas?
A swamp cooler (wet towel) is better than nothing, and will drop the temps by a few degrees or prevent them from rising too high. But I think a water jacket doped with a frozen bottle (or 2) is a more active and efficient way. Insulating that whole setup from higher surrounding ambient temps (e.g., by using a thick blanket, sleeping bag), again, is beneficial.

I've used a large beverage cooler, halfway filled with cold water, in which I placed 1 or 2 6.5 gallon brew buckets. Draped with a sleeping bag, it stayed at 64-65F, using 2 frozen bottles of water a day. But that's in a coolish ~70-74F area already.
 
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You can sanitize your hands only to a certain degree, so skin contact with chilled wort or beer should be avoided unless you pasteurize (the wort) again, afterward. Maybe wear gloves when squeezing?

On the other hand, there's really no need to strain/filter the (chilled) wort that tightly (finely). Just by letting the chilled wort sit in the (covered) pot for 30 minutes, most trub will have precipitated. Pour or siphon the clear wort on top carefully into your fermenter, leaving the trub (with some wort) behind. Even some trub in your fermenter won't harm your beer. It may be even helpful, and it all precipitates out after fermentation has finished, while it conditions, before packaging (bottling/kegging). Cold crashing generally speeds up precipitation.

That leftover trubby wort can be strained or refined but if touched by skin or other non-sanitary devices, should be re-pasteurized before adding to your batch in the fermenter. I often do that under the paradigm: "No wort left behind!"
From a 5 gallon batch I can reclaim about 2-3 quarts from the trub by straining through tight mesh nylon "hop bags." The reclaimed wort gets then re-pasteurized at 150-160F for 20' or simply reboiled. It can then be added to the main batch (if volume is lowish), fermented on the side in it's own (small) fermenter, used to make syrups, or (yeast) starter wort.
Oh I missed this! Very important lesson for me here. So squeezing the strainer cloth with my hands is a no-no. Also yes, in retrospect I don't need to do such fine straining at this stage. I can leave a little bit of wort with most of the hop residue behind. And whatever comes through to the fermenter can just settle as trub.

Thanks a lot for this info! In my case the last bit of trubby wort must hardly be 200 ml so I don't know if its worth saving....

Wait....WHAT DID I JUST SAY??!
 
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A swamp cooler (wet towel) is better than nothing, and will drop the temps by a few degrees or prevent them from rising too high. But I think a water jacket doped with a frozen bottle (or 2) is a more active and efficient way. Insulating that whole setup from higher surrounding ambient temps (e.g., by using a thick blanket, sleeping bag), again, is beneficial.
Great to know....I will give this a shot...seems very doable with minimal equipment.

I've used a large beverage cooler, halfway filled with cold water, in which I placed 1 or 2 6.5 gallon brew buckets. Draped with a sleeping bag, it stayed at 64-65F, using 2 frozen bottles of water a day. But that's in a coolish ~70-74F area already.
Never thought of a sleeping bag or a beverage cooler but what a great idea! I'll have to find a tall beverage cooler though, rather than the rectangular box kind.. Thanks for all the great info!!
 

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Never thought of a sleeping bag or a beverage cooler but what a great idea! I'll have to find a tall beverage cooler though, rather than the rectangular box kind.. Thanks for all the great info!!
Any shape will work, as long as it fits your fermenter and the water bottles.
Mine is a rectangular one. :)
The water jacket only rose up about 3/4 of the beer level inside the buckets, just high enough before they started to become buoyant. The turbulence of fermentation and natural convection currents keeps the beer moving.

Other brewers have been successful by building a (2") styrofoam box in which they place their fermenter plus a few frozen water bottles.

The next step up is using a (spare) fridge or freezer and a temp controller.
 
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😅
Any shape will work, as long as it fits your fermenter and the water bottles.
Mine is a rectangular one. :)
The water jacket only rose up about 3/4 of the beer level inside the buckets, just high enough before they started to become buoyant. The turbulence of fermentation and natural convection currents keeps the beer moving.
Ah yes the ol' turbulence and convection currents! *frantically rummages through trash for 6th grade physics text books* 😅
No No I get what you mean ...guess it shouldn't be a prob cos 8 litres of wort is pretty heavy if the the container is in is only like 4-5 inches bigger in diameter than the fermenter so I shouldn't be worried about Pennywise showing up saying "It'll float too!"

Other brewers have been successful by building a (2") styrofoam box in which they place their fermenter plus a few frozen water bottles.
This is something I can get my hands on easily. Again, never considered it!

Thanks again, Island!
 

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I never even considered saving the last bit of trubby wort....but hey..what about the fat yeast cake? Do you combine saving the last bit of wort with yeast washing? Or is it only one or the other?
Saving, straining, and re-pasteurizing the leftover trubby wort depends on if it's worth the effort. If it's 6-8 oz, maybe not. 2 quarts becomes more lucrative.

I sometimes save some of the yeast cake in a jar in the fridge. Or pitch a new batch on a part of it.

My yeast cakes are quite compacted. After transferring to a keg (3-5 gallon batches), there's no more than a pint or a quart of beer left on top of the cake. If I save it I swirl it up to homogenize it and pour into a 1/2 gallon pickle jar, or 1 or 2 smaller mason jars.

Not sure what you mean with "Do you combine..."

I rarely wash/rinse yeast. What we do is actually called yeast rinsing. Yeast "washing" is a different process that requires an acid to kill bacteria, and is typically done right before pitching into a new batch, as the acid also weakens the yeast.
 
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Saving, straining, and re-pasteurizing the leftover trubby wort depends on if it's worth the effort. If it's 6-8 oz, maybe not. 2 quarts becomes more lucrative.

I sometimes save some of the yeast cake in a jar in the fridge. Or pitch a new batch on a part of it.

My yeast cakes are quite compacted. After transferring to a keg (3-5 gallon batches), there's no more than a pint or a quart of beer left on top of the cake. If I save it I swirl it up to homogenize it and pour into a 1/2 gallon pickle jar, or 1 or 2 smaller mason jars.

Not sure what you mean with "Do you combine..."

I rarely wash/rinse yeast. What we do is actually called yeast rinsing. Yeast "washing" is a different process that requires an acid to kill bacteria, and is typically done right before pitching into a new batch, as the acid also weakens the yeast.
I misunderstood saving trubby wort for saving the the *beer* remaining on the yeast cake after you bottle /keg....so never mind i understand what you mean....As far as washing/rinsing yeast...I've been looking through some other threads....don't want to chew your head anymore about that so thanks for all the info!
 

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I misunderstood saving trubby wort for saving the the *beer* remaining on the yeast cake after you bottle /keg....so never mind i understand what you mean....As far as washing/rinsing yeast...I've been looking through some other threads....don't want to chew your head anymore about that so thanks for all the info!
This may clarify some of the terminology used: Wort becomes beer, after pitching yeast.

Also, wort cannot be kept safely, it will spoil. To prevent that, it can be sterilized (pressure canner at 250F) or frozen.
 

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I save some of the yeast cake , or trub too. I just put it in a bottle in the fridge. Maybe not the best practice, but so far it always makes beer.
 

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Cro Magnon

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I save some of the yeast cake , or trub too. I just put it in a bottle in the fridge. Maybe not the best practice, but so far it always makes beer.
Nice...I've been told to swirl up the yeast cake with the last bit of beer when saving the yeast cake. Why do we do this? Why not try to pour out as much of the remaining beer and save as much raw yeast cake as possible?
 

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"1) I squuuuueezed the crap out of the brew bag. Actually until the stuff coming out of it had an oily consistency. But then again I did this for a stout and a hefeweizen before and I never had any off flavours (one would think at least in a hefeweizen it would become obvious)."

I've read it's a bad idea to squeeze the malt bag as this can leach tannins that will possibly make things tart/astringent.

"2) Another thing I learned from another poster on HBT is with regard to wort cooling, cos I don't have a chiller. I pour the wort through a funnel filled with ice and this results in really fast cooling. However, I use sanitary ice (boiled, cooled and put in sanitized ice trays, collected in sanitized collection trays), and the funnel and the vessel I was pouring into were both sanitized...so again...I dunno..."

Boiling hot wort pouring over ice will pickup oxygen probably at an undesirable time. Do the beers seem to go stale quickly?

"3) When pouring the wort into the fermenter, I strain it through a muslin cloth or handkerchief (both sanitized) but because the hop residue clogs it up so quick...I have to squeeze it towards the end.....but I've sanitized my hands as well. "

Same problem as #2 above. The wort may not be at the optimal temps for introducing oxygen. Also, instead of a muslin cloth or handkerchief use a paint strainer bag. Purchase a box of 25 (or whatever quantity). Of course, these are NEVER use for anything other than beer. Nice as they have an elastic top and easily go onto and stay onto the 5 gallon white plastic buckets many use for brewing. These will not clog. When they wear out, throw away and get a brand new one from the box.
 

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.I'm now in constant fear of vinegar... Texas vinegar massacre, Vinegar the 13th, Vinegar 3: Son of Vinegar, I Vinegar on your Grave..

why i just pastuerize my fermenter....every time i do it "by the book", my beer is sour...... i just let the natural biome do it's thing.....
 
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why i just pastuerize my fermenter....every time i do it "by the book", my beer is sour...... i just let the natural biome do it's thing.....
Not sure what you mean...you mean when you just use sanitizer your beer always ends up sour? And with regard to pastuerizing your fermenter...what is it made of? I ferment in PET so boiling it is out of the question.
 

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Not sure what you mean...you mean when you just use sanitizer your beer always ends up sour? And with regard to pastuerizing your fermenter...what is it made of? I ferment in PET so boiling it is out of the question.

i use a HDPE 15 gallon one....i use it for my sparge water, so in a round about way, i've realized i'm pastuerizing it in the process.....never a sour batch....it does taste for lack of a better descriptor, "dusty"....but never sour!
 
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I've read it's a bad idea to squeeze the malt bag as this can leach tannins that will possibly make things tart/astringent.
Yeah this bit I'm not sure about as well. I would say I've heard 50% of the time people saying don't squeeze, and the other 50 saying squeezing is fine. From trial and error, two batches came out fine, and this is the first one that's off. But I can't narrow it down specifically to the squeezing. I wonder if brulosophy has an experiment on it.

"Boiling hot wort pouring over ice will pickup oxygen probably at an undesirable time. Do the beers seem to go stale quickly?"
What do you mean 'at an undesirable time?' Well for one the ice melts pretty quick after I pour the wort over it, and it cools to just about 33C by the time I'm done. Secondly I thought at this stage since we want to oygenate the wort anyway, this is fine. Are you saying that oxygen gets trapped in some way and released at a later time?

Same problem as #2 above. The wort may not be at the optimal temps for introducing oxygen. Also, instead of a muslin cloth or handkerchief use a paint strainer bag. Purchase a box of 25 (or whatever quantity). Of course, these are NEVER use for anything other than beer. Nice as they have an elastic top and easily go onto and stay onto the 5 gallon white plastic buckets many use for brewing. These will not clog. When they wear out, throw away and get a brand new one from the box.
Thanks for the tip about paint strainer bags (I'll have to look it up, I don't know what they are). When you say wort is not at the ideal temp for introducing oxygen....what is the ideal temp?
 
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i use a HDPE 15 gallon one....i use it for my sparge water, so in a round about way, i've realized i'm pastuerizing it in the process.....never a sour batch....it does taste for lack of a better descriptor, "dusty"....but never sour!
That's interesting....how hot is the sparge water? I know PET can't handle very hot...Boiling water will start to melt it instantly. HDPE can take higher temperatures for sure, I don't know how high that threshold goes. I'd be interested to know what the minimum temp below boiling, would be enough to sanitize equipment enough to warrant not having to use sanitizer thereafter. But interesting, good to know!
 

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That's interesting....how hot is the sparge water? I know PET can't handle very hot...Boiling water will start to melt it instantly. HDPE can take higher temperatures for sure, I don't know how high that threshold goes. I'd be interested to know what the minimum temp below boiling, would be enough to sanitize equipment enough to warrant not having to use sanitizer thereafter. But interesting, good to know!

i usually heat my sparge water to 180-190f, put in my fermenter throw the lid on, and let it sit till it cools to 170f....or so...
 

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Sounds like Acetaldehyde and Lacto to me. Let's face it, no matter how diligent we are with our sanitation, sooner or later it happens to all of us. In 16 years I've had 3 batches go sour. All 3 soured batches happened using plastic buckets and 6 years ago I switched to all stainless steel. So I probably had micro scratches in my plastic. Or, maybe I just had a micro lapse in my sanition, like forgetting to resanitize a spoon or something? But it's not a question of if but when. Some folks are quite happy to chalk it up as a sour. Not Me! My last soured batch about 6 years ago was a Aventinus clone that made me want to puke. I was gonna toss the whole batch. Decided first to take a few bottles to my LHBS to get some advise on what went wrong. They pleaded with me to not dump it and let it sit a few more months as it would be, to them, a wonderful sour in the making....😳😳. I gave it to them with my blessings! What to them was a great sour was to me a foul tasting total waste of time money and effort. So to each his own. Let someone else , who you know is not sour beers , taste it . They might love it. Personally I would chalk it up to an enevitable 1st incident of lost cause batch. It happens. My 2 cents.
 
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Sounds like Acetaldehyde and Lacto to me. Let's face it, no matter how diligent we are with our sanitation, sooner or later it happens to all of us. In 16 years I've had 3 batches go sour. All 3 soured batches happened using plastic buckets and 6 years ago I switched to all stainless steel. So I probably had micro scratches in my plastic. Or, maybe I just had a micro lapse in my sanition, like forgetting to resanitize a spoon or something? But it's not a question of if but when. Some folks are quite happy to chalk it up as a sour. Not Me! My last soured batch about 6 years ago was a Aventinus clone that made me want to puke. I was gonna toss the whole batch. Decided first to take a few bottles to my LHBS to get some advise on what went wrong. They pleaded with me to not dump it and let it sit a few more months as it would be, to them, a wonderful sour in the making....😳😳. I gave it to them with my blessings! What to them was a great sour was to me a foul tasting total waste of time money and effort. So to each his own. Let someone else , who you know is not sour beers , taste it . They might love it. Personally I would chalk it up to an enevitable 1st incident of lost cause batch. It happens. My 2 cents.
Thank you Sean, for sharing your experience! Acetaldehyde and lacto....hmmm. I can't say I'll ever be able to know how it got in but I'll have to cut out some of the more risky steps I described earlier. And yeah about the sours....I'm gonna keep a few bottles as an experiment and see what happens in a few months....As it tastes right now ( not that it tastes ANYTHING like a finely brewed and fermented sour) it doesn't appeal to me so I'll have to dump most of it. May be my palate is unrefined or maybe sours will never be my thing. But hey I haven't really had a good one. Anyway, 3 soured batches in 16 years sounds like an insanely good success rate. This was only my 4th batch which is why I'm pretty upset :( Anyway, it's all good and part of the learning process. As you say, inevitable incident. Thanks again for sharing!
 
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I was wondering if reused PET bottles which I use for bottling could be a problem as well. Thing is they are never scrubbed with anything abrasive so they can't really develop scratches. But even aside from that, I don't know if there are any number of other factors that can render PET bottles less desirable over time for bottling.
 

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lol, PETE's Wicked Brew! ;) you use plastic bottles for bottling? i do too, but from a keg, and only for an evening.....
 
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lol, PETE's Wicked Brew! ;) you use plastic bottles for bottling?
Yup 😅 Well for a few reasons. Liquor stores have been close during the lockdown so I can't source empty bottles. Furthermore can't afford a capper right now. Third, PET actually tolerates close to 3x more vols of CO2 than glass bottles so if I have an incomplete fermentation, I don't have to worry about bottle bombs. All this is because I make really small batches so I don't take hydrometer readings for the FG. How do you feel about bottling in PET?
 

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How do you feel about bottling in PET?

i got sick of buying bottle caps for glass, so when i went to my buddy's house for a night of drinking....i'd counter pressure fill a few 1 liter soda bottles for the night......never tried to naturally carb in them or have them last more then the night....but i loved the screw top, tops.....
 

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I was wondering if reused PET bottles which I use for bottling could be a problem as well. Thing is they are never scrubbed with anything abrasive so they can't really develop scratches. But even aside from that, I don't know if there are any number of other factors that can render PET bottles less desirable over time for bottling.
I used PET bottles for years and glass flippy bottles. Sure if the bottles are not sanitized right they could lead to ruined beer. But I never had a beer go sour AFTER bottling...it always occurred in the plastic fermenter buckets. No sour batches since switching to stainless steel fermenter....yet. I'm sure it will happen sooner or later. We are only human after all! I always double sanitized my bottles. I would make a 2 gallon Clorox solution according to the label instructions, dunk all the bottles and caps, completely rinse several times until no more smell of chlorine, then dunk in starsan solution and drip dry. I have since been blessed with a 2 tap kegerator and kegs (last Xmas) so don't use bottles too often any more but when I do I follow those sanitizing steps. Time consuming but it worked for me. Everyone has their own way of doing things.
 

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For me low carbonation beers went into glass flippys(bombers), high carbonation went into PET bottles. Never had a burst bottle. Sanitized 12, 16, 22 oz and 2 litre soda bottles work great.
 
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I used PET bottles for years and glass flippy bottles. Sure if the bottles are not sanitized right they could lead to ruined beer. But I never had a beer go sour AFTER bottling...it always occurred in the plastic fermenter buckets. No sour batches since switching to stainless steel fermenter....yet. I'm sure it will happen sooner or later. We are only human after all! I always double sanitized my bottles. I would make a 2 gallon Clorox solution according to the label instructions, dunk all the bottles and caps, completely rinse several times until no more smell of chlorine, then dunk in starsan solution and drip dry. I have since been blessed with a 2 tap kegerator and kegs (last Xmas) so don't use bottles too often any more but when I do I follow those sanitizing steps. Time consuming but it worked for me. Everyone has their own way of doing things.
Great to know there are other PET bottlers out there....or at least that it's not a complete taboo! This batch as well...whatever souring happened, happened in the fermenter and not in the bottles. I'm pretty thorough with sanitizing bottles..unfortunately no StarSan where I am but I use Iodophor. In fact before Iodophor was available I just used betadine for my first few batches and everything was absolutely fine. Thanks for all the tips about sanitizing..hopefully I find a kegerator under the X mas tree someday!
 

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Nice...I've been told to swirl up the yeast cake with the last bit of beer when saving the yeast cake. Why do we do this? Why not try to pour out as much of the remaining beer and save as much raw yeast cake as possible?
You can't pour out a compacted yeast cake by itself, it's a thick sludge. You need to leave enough beer behind so you can swirl up the compacted yeast cake. The amount of beer needed to reconstitute the yeast cake into a pourable slurry varies with the amount of yeast/trub, and compaction. You'll get a feel for it. ;)

The beer that forms on top, after the poured out slurry settles out again, then in turn protects the yeast.
 
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i got sick of buying bottle caps for glass, so when i went to my buddy's house for a night of drinking....i'd counter pressure fill a few 1 liter soda bottles for the night......never tried to naturally carb in them or have them last more then the night....but i loved the screw top, tops.....
That's cool! I love the screw tops as well..really convenient and they actually keep the beer good for the time it takes you to drink half the bottle and the pour out the other half..
 
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You can't pour out a compacted yeast cake by itself, it's a thick sludge. You need to leave enough beer behind so you can swirl up the compacted yeast cake. The amount of beer needed to reconstitute the yeast cake into a pourable slurry varies with the amount of yeast/trub, and compaction. You'll get a feel for it. ;)

The beer that forms on top, after the poured out slurry settles out again, then in turn protects the yeast.
Thanks, finally makes sense to me now :D Good thing I didn't try to pour out a compacted yeast um.... brick. Gotta try this with my next batch. Yeast is working out to be the most expensive homebrew ingredient.
 

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Thanks, finally makes sense to me now :D Good thing I didn't try to pour out a compacted yeast um.... brick. Gotta try this with my next batch. Yeast is working out to be the most expensive homebrew ingredient.
As long as you're able to keep your yeast well sanitary, she keeps on giving. Tripling to quintupling the original (viable) cell count with each round. 6-12 re-pitches of saved out yeast is not unusual. But she will change over time, optimizing herself to your brewery conditions. They also tend to become less flocculant after a few times.

Use a yeast calculator to estimate needed cell count and slurry volume to pitch.
BrewUnited's Yeast Calculator
Mr. Malty

Mr. Malty has a "pitch from slurry" tab that comes in very handy for repitching and making starters from saved out slurries.
 
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Cro Magnon

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As long as you're able to keep your yeast well sanitary, she keeps on giving. Tripling to quintupling the original (viable) cell count with each round. 6-12 re-pitches of saved out yeast is not unusual. But she will change over time, optimizing herself to your brewery conditions. They also tend to become less flocculant after a few times.

Use a yeast calculator to estimate needed cell count and slurry volume to pitch.
BrewUnited's Yeast Calculator
Mr. Malty

Mr. Malty has a "pitch from slurry" tab that comes in very handy for repitching and making starters from saved out slurries.
Wow...there actually is a calculator to calculate slurry volume. Brilliant. Thanks!
 
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