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Making a starter with just sugar, not wort/DME?

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Tall_Yotie

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TL;DR: Has anyone actually tried using sugar as a starter, and what was the results?

Found myself without any way to make a starter that doesn't require mashing grain, and I don't want to deal with the extra time that would take. So I was wondering about using just sugar, or honey, or similar as a way to make a yeast starter.

All my searching has given me this:
"You can't use sugar, the yeast will not be able to ferment Maltose after that!"

But I have yet to find someone that actually tried it. All I get is that repeated gem of knowledge. But that has been the answer I have seen since "table sugar adds cider flavors", "you need to do a secondary fermenter", "the beer can't sit on the yeast cake or it will go cannibalistic" and other old points that have been finally tested and shown wrong.

I would just try it, but don't want to risk the yeast if it has actually been tested and shown to be bad.

So in short, has anyone actually tried using sugar as a starter, and what was the results?
 

jtratcliff

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That's what I've heard, too... They get all fat and happy on sucrose and then turn their noses up at maltose...

But I dunno that I buy it.... That said, I've never tried a pure sugar starter, either... If I were to, at the very least I'd throw in some yeast nutrient or something...

Do you really even *need* a starter?
 
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Tall_Yotie

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I do need a starter, as it is a 1.080 OG and is an older pack of yeast. Otherwise I ignore.
 

Jayjay1976

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Seems like a weird place to cut corners. I mean, why bother at all making a starter when you know the yeast will not be properly conditioned to ferment beer?
 
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Tall_Yotie

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Seems like a weird place to cut corners. I mean, why bother at all making a starter when you know the yeast will not be properly conditioned to ferment beer?
Because I have the yeast, and rather than spend extra money on more yeast and the shipping for it, as I don't need anything else, I want to use what I have. And also, I don't know if it won't be "properly conditioned to ferment", that is what I am exactly asking. Does anyone actually know if it IS a problem, and not just repeating what they read from someone else that was repeating as well?

We used to say sugar made cider flavors, you couldn't use plastic buckets, you couldn't let beer sit on yeast, you had to use a secondary. I am trying to find out if anyone has hard evidence that the tale of "sugar makes yeast lazy" is real or not.
 

Mtrhdltd

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I think this is a great opportunity for you to experiment. That's the only way you will really know. I'm personally against any table sugar in my beer. I even use honey for mead starters. The great thing about making your own is doing what you want, not what others say. Let us know your results.
 
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Tall_Yotie

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I think this is a great opportunity for you to experiment. That's the only way you will really know. I'm personally against any table sugar in my beer. I even use honey for mead starters. The great thing about making your own is doing what you want, not what others say. Let us know your results.
Ya know what, I think I will. Worst case I am out some grain or have to repitch!
 

jtratcliff

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Maybe just do a mini mash for your starter? Handful of grain... Crush very fine... Conversion can be done in 15 minutes... Bring to a quick boil... Just to kill bugs ....


You're not making beer, here.. Justin getting some maltose... No need to mash for 60 minutes or boil for 60... 15 min mash, 5 min boil...

Might be better than going all sucrose...
 

shetc

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I listened to a podcast on making hard seltzer. Turns out it is really quite difficult because you're just fermenting sugar. To make it work, the brewer needs to add all the missing nutrients and chemicals that the malt normally provides. Who'd a thunk it.
 

dtashmore547

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never done anything else, a sprinkle of sugar a few drops of lemon juice a day before brewing. nothing weird has happened to any of my brews.
 

VikeMan

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never done anything else, a sprinkle of sugar a few drops of lemon juice a day before brewing. nothing weird has happened to any of my brews.
Why the lemon juice? Also, a "sprinkle" of sugar isn't a yeast starter, i.e. something that will increase the cell count. But it could "proof" the yeast, if that's what you're after.
 

dtashmore547

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no this has worked for me for many years, started in wine making in the late seventies this was the used method so just continued to use it for my beers, the lemon juice is to increase the acidity, if you were using malt it would naturally be acidic but tap watercan even be alkaline. the intention of a starter is to wake up the yeast from its dormant state, this way does that and has never failed me or "poofed my yeast" whatever that means, my ales have always turned out good.
 

VikeMan

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the intention of a starter is to wake up the yeast from its dormant state, this way does that and has never failed me or "poofed my yeast" whatever that means, my ales have always turned out good.
In the brewing world (at least) the intention of a yeast starter is to increase the cell count significantly.

I would never suggest you "poof" your yeast. I did suggest that adding a small amount of sugar "proofs" yeast, i.e. the yeast eat it and show visible signs of life, thereby proving you have live yeast.

I'm glad your ales are good. But if you are pitching single packs of yeast into 5 gallon batches for ale your ales, I would suggest that you are pitching less than ideal amounts of yeast cells for some of them.
 

william_shakes_beer

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Everybody has an opinion Here's mine. It is worth what you paid for it.
Yeast is a living organism. It reproduces by budding daughter cells with the *same* genetic composition ( to my understanding yeast has no mechanism for sexual reproduction) If that is the case, why is there such a wide variety of yeast cultures available in the environment and on the Brewing shelves? Because every once in a while, a budding goes awry. The copy mutates in some way. If the mutation means that cell is healthier and can reproduce faster it out competed the original genetic code and dominates. If it is less productive it is crowded out and dies. The mechanism is meant to allow yeast to change as the natural available sugars in the environment change with the climate. Under that reasoning, doing a starter culture with media other than wort may produce yeast less suitable for homebrew purposes. What I am uncertain of is whether a groundwell shift in yeast chracter could happen in a single starters. I suspect not.
 

VikeMan

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Yeast is a living organism. It reproduces by budding daughter cells with the *same* genetic composition ( to my understanding yeast has no mechanism for sexual reproduction)
Yeast can reproduce sexually, but only under very unusual conditions. It doesn't usually happen spontaneously.

If that is the case, why is there such a wide variety of yeast cultures available in the environment and on the Brewing shelves? Because every once in a while, a budding goes awry. The copy mutates in some way. If the mutation means that cell is healthier and can reproduce faster it out competed the original genetic code and dominates. If it is less productive it is crowded out and dies.
This is a pretty good description of natural selection. It's probably also worth mentioning that the vast majority of genetic mutations have no impact whatsoever.

The mechanism is meant to allow yeast to change as the natural available sugars in the environment change with the climate.
This is true in the long term sense. It's evolution driven by natural selection over time.

Under that reasoning, doing a starter culture with media other than wort may produce yeast less suitable for homebrew purposes. What I am uncertain of is whether a groundwell shift in yeast chracter could happen in a single starters. I suspect not.
You are right to expect that this doesn't happen quickly. What does happen quickly isn't a genetic thing, but rather a temporary shift in yeast cells' "behavior," including manufacturing transports and enzymes geared toward what they sense in the immediate environment, or not manufacturing them in a different environment.
 

Velnerj

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Dear OP, look up "shaken not stirred" starter and cross that information with a "vitality starter."

Just pull some wort (enough for a yeast starter) from your mash on brew day, cool and mix in your yeast. By the time you are ready to pitch, your yeast should be very active. Some have argued that it isn't necessarily the amount of yeast you pitch (to a certain degree) but the state of the yeast is in at pitching.
 

Jayjay1976

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Yeast can reproduce sexually, but only under very unusual conditions. It doesn't usually happen spontaneously.
Gee Chuck, the date started out good, but then the conditions became very unusual...

Subdued lighting, a Barry White album, a stir plate and thirty packets of Sweet'N Low.
 

VikeMan

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Gee Chuck, the date started out good, but then the conditions became very unusual...

Subdued lighting, a Barry White album, a stir plate and thirty packets of Sweet'N Low.
That would be a very frustrating date, as Sacch yeast can't make much out of saccharin.
 

Ninoid

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