Making a big yeast starter

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nostalgia

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I'm brewing a lager this weekend, so I'm starting to build up a big starter. Thought I'd share some pictures, since there are always lots of starter questions here.

MrMalty claims I'll need about 4 liters of starter, since I'm using a stirplate. So here's the plan: first make a starter like I normally do with 32oz (1 quart) of water and 4oz of dried malt extract. Pitch the yeast into that and let it ferment on the stirplate overnight.

Next make another 2 quarts of wort in the same way (with 8oz DME) and add that to the existing starter. Let it ferment overnight.

Repeat once more to make a total of 5 quarts of starter. I'll take one quart of that off and let it ferment out separately to be stored (instead of washing the yeast from my batch after it's done).

On to the pictures! First the mise en place.

bigstarter1.jpg


DME, 5l Erlenmeyer flask, digital scale, spray bottle of Star-San, probe thermometer and already smacked smack-pack of yeast.

Weigh 4oz DME in the flask, add 32oz water, drop in the stir bar so it can get boiled and sanitized. Put it on a burner and boil for 10 minutes, being careful of boilovers. Since my thermometer's probe is good to 400+ degrees I boil it for the last 5 minutes to sanitize it.

bigstarter2.jpg


After 10 minutes, I put a piece of tin foil over the neck (after spraying the foil with Star-San) and it's time to cool down. I know borosilicate glass is supposed to be able to go right into an ice bath, but I started it in lukewarm water so it doesn't shock it too badly. It's not going to make it cool noticeably slower as long as you change the water out frequently.

bigstarter3.jpg


Once it cooled under 65F, I pulled out the thermometer, sanitized my scissors, hands and yeast packet, and pitched the yeast.

bigstarter4.jpg


one more post for picture count...
 
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nostalgia

nostalgia

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And then onto the stirplate it goes.

bigstarter5.jpg


I turned up the RPMs until I had a good stable vortex going and turned out the lights. More tomorrow!

-Joe
 
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This is very helpful... I'll be beginning my first ever liquid yeast starter this weekend and was wondering about the quantities made when splitting the yeast for storage. Thanks! This looks like wiki material to me.

And I see from the bread hook in the background that you're also the proud owner of a KitchenAid mixer.
 

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Interesting.
I am brewing my first 10g (1.056)batch in 2 weeks, and wondered the options of stepping up 1 liter starter, or just making a 4 liter starter.
 
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nostalgia

nostalgia

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From what I've read it's better to step it up from a 1l to a 4l starter. Maybe someone smarter than me can chime in with the science.

I'm adding 2 quarts this morning and 2 quarts in 12 hours. That way I can give it 24 hours to ferment and a 12 hour crash cool before using on Sunday.

-Joe
 

mandoman

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when i do lagers or hi gravity ten gallon batches i just make a 2.5 gallon batch of beer, aerate the heck out of it in a 5 or 6 gallon carboy, and pitch a vial, slurry, or even a starter to it. Then I use some of the cake (after mrmaltys slurry estimates) for the actual beer. End up with 2.5 gallons I can experiment with in the process.
 

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Just a thought but...

You probably don't leave the tin foil that tight but I think it will stop any fresh O2 from getting if it is crimped that tight. I always fight wanting to have it snug vs leaving it loose so it can get oxygen exhange..
 

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Based on what you're doing, I'm guessing that you could use the 5 L flask for any size starter, right? Where did you find the flask? I'm having trouble locating one that big and it seems it would be cheapest to just buy and use one large flask for everything.
 
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nostalgia

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I added 2 more quarts of wort this morning and am boiling two more quarts now.

I'm torn on whether to bring it upstairs where it's warmer. It's about 58F where it is now. I've read conflicting reports on whether to ferment a starter at pitching temps or room temps.

-Joe
 
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nostalgia

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I'm bringing it up to room temp for tonight. I'm going to stick it in the fridge in the morning so it has at least 24 hours to settle.

If I wasn't going to brew on Sunday I'd leave it at cellar temp longer.

-Joe
 

mandoman

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another thought....

I get 1 gallon (~3.75L) apple juice glass jugs from a buddy who drinks it. They work just fine on my stir plate although the bottom is a bit rounded.
 
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nostalgia

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I got mine from Midwest. Paid about $40. I remembered seeing the one at Northern but couldn't remember where I saw it :( Oh well.

bigstarter6.jpg


Looking good. Just popped it in the fridge. I'm hoping to get a good settling by tomorrow. Otherwise I may have to push off my brew day. Learning by doing :)

-Joe
 
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nostalgia

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Well, my fridge smells like fermentation, there's bubbling in the starter and a nice layer of yeast on the bottom. I'm guessing that means now would be a good time to pitch!

I'm going to try to decant most of the wort off, since the starter is so big.

-Joe
 
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nostalgia

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It really needed another day or two to settle - those lager yeasties didn't want to floc out :)

So I ended up sanitizing my 2l flask and pouring the first two liters off into that, which I popped back on the stirplate. I dumped about another 1l down the drain and pitched the bottom 2l into my Oktoberfest.

So I'm quite hopeful that there was a large enough yeast colony there, but just in case I'll have the 2l backup ready.

-Joe
 

platypotamus

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question about stepping up your yeast starter size... should you let the krausen fall back in, before adding more wort? or just take it off the stirplate at some point and drop it in the fridge to let the yeast settle out, and then add the additional wort?
 

SouthernYankee

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question about stepping up your yeast starter size... should you let the krausen fall back in, before adding more wort? or just take it off the stirplate at some point and drop it in the fridge to let the yeast settle out, and then add the additional wort?

I have the same question!
I just made a 1L starter lastnight and wanted to go up to a 2L size.
 

dstar26t

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I'd like to chime in and give a few pointers for using the PRC (pitching rate calculator) and doing a stepped starter. If we start with 5 gallons of 1.053 OG lager and one 25 day old liquid yeast pack, MrMalty spits out a 4.02L starter and 370 Billion cells needed. That would be for 1 yeast pack into 4L of 1.040 wort.

When you add your single yeast pack to a 2L starter, you can use the calculator to figure out how many cells are made. With the original numbers plugged in to the calculator for your beer, manipulate the OG and/or batch size until the starter size needed is 2L. Plugging in 1.0387 for the OG will do this. So, based on the viability of your yeast and the size of the first step starter (2L), the PRC says you've made 274 Billion cells.

Now, at this point you have 2 options for the second step up. Chill, decant and add an amount of 1.040 wort that we will calculate later, or add the right gravity wort so that when combined with the existing, you get a 1.040 resultant. I don't like having to calculate the resultant so I chill and decant to start over.

Using the PRC as we left it with the 1.0387 fake gravity, uncheck the "Calculate Viability from Date" box. We will now fool the calculator and raise the viability of our resultant first step yeast as if it were one super viable yeast pack. Raise the viability % until the "# Vials or packs needed without starter" goes to 1. This should be 261%. Now, put your gravity back to the real number of 1.053 and the PRC gives you the second step size necessary for 370 Billion cells which is only 1L. Until I learned this, I was over pitching.
 

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I found this out the hard way the last time I tried building a lager starter. You have to start like a week before brew day. My plan was to build up in two steps with a crash cool and decant in between steps and it took way too long for the initial ferment. I ended up pitching the whole thing because I could tell they weren't floc'd yet.
 

SpanishCastleAle

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I've read that propagating lager yeast at room temp (maybe a little on the cool side of it) is perfectly fine and I've not noticed ill effects from doing so. I've also read that when propagating lager yeast at room temp you want to chill it for at least 24 hours before decanting/pitching.

dstar,
I have a question about your method. Allegedly, making too small of a starter yields yeast that is less ready-to-ferment your batch of beer because the yeast cell mass doesn't increase much and the yeast will be depleted of nutrients. So you'll get a little more quantity but reduced quality. It seems if you step up a starter, the second step must be WAY bigger than the previous step. Otherwise you're just making too small of a starter for all that yeast you grew in the first step, thus yielding yeast that is depleted of nutrients. I've done something very similar to what you outlined but the results were not always that good. Doesn't mean it was the yeast though.
 

dstar26t

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I could see the yeast getting depleted of nutrients if you let the second step go too long on the stir plate. The job gets done very quickly if you're adding just 1L to 274 billions cells. If it sets on the stir plate too long after they're done, they start to eat away at their glycogen reserves since you're still keeping them in an active oxygen environment...that will weaken them. 1L won't give a lot of growth but you're only after so much...it can take less than 12 hours for that small second step to be fully finished. I'm not a veteran at this procedure so if there's a better way, I'm all ears. I know that when I was over pitching lagers, there was a problem with hitting the final gravity. Ales with WLP001 weren't as sensitive.
 

SpanishCastleAle

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I must not understand it correctly then dstar, I thought the short fermentation was exactly the problem that yielded yeast with depleted nutrients. As far as an alternative, I wish I had one. It's difficult without getting into unrealistic sized starters. May as well just make a low grav 5 gal batch, which is often what I do.

Ha, I doubt I've ever over-pitched a lager! Interesting observation.
 

dstar26t

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In this example, it may be best to start out with a 1L starter (from 1 package of yeast) and then step that up with a 2L starter, that will get you the same cell count in a healthier way I suppose. The second step I do is always bigger since I do 12 gallon batches.
 

duffman2

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I'm bringing this thread back because it is addressing exactly the issues I'm facing while looking at building a big lager starter for the first time. I've done 1 and 2L ale starters, but this is a first.

So, for now I'm thinking I'll go from 1L to 3L total for my Vienna lager starter using the approach outlined above

Anybody else care to comment on their BLS (Big Lager Starters) or their experience with them?
 

dstar26t

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The best thing to do is just get a bigger flask and bigger stir plate if needed. For double batches of big beers, I've been using a carboy on my scrappy stirplate.

 

bctdi

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Just a question here, I`m getting ready to do a 1.076 beer.Would it be ok to just do a 3 quart starter right from the beginning instead of stepping up?I`m not sure of the benefit of stepping up vs just doing a big starter:confused:.I have never stepped up a starter, but was looking into doing so, but I want to try to avoid that if possible to reduce to chances of infection.Can anyone shed some light on this for me?
 

samc

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Just a question here, I`m getting ready to do a 1.076 beer.Would it be ok to just do a 3 quart starter right from the beginning instead of stepping up?I`m not sure of the benefit of stepping up vs just doing a big starter:confused:.I have never stepped up a starter, but was looking into doing so, but I want to try to avoid that if possible to reduce to chances of infection.Can anyone shed some light on this for me?

That's the way I do it. I've been using one White Labs vial and making 4L starters in one shot for 10 gallon batches. A small amount of yeast nutrient, stir plate and I get a furiously fermenting starter which I decant and pitch.
 

dstar26t

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For Belgians, I use 1 million cells per mL per degree plato, which is not what mrmalty recommends for ales, closer to what it calculates for hybrids. I read somewhere that one or some Belgian breweries pitch that rate and I tried it and liked the results.
 

dstar26t

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Got a 7L starter going for a BDS with 4 packs of Wyeast 3787. That krausen formed even with the recommended dosage of fermcap-s.

 

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