Need help with making a yeast Starter!

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syd138

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This is what I read from the wiki on making a starter:

Boil
Bring one pint of water to a boil in a two quart saucepan on the stove top.
Reduce the heat, add one half cup of Dry Malt Extract (DME) to the water, and mix it thoroughly. Gently boil the wort for ten minutes.

Cool
Remove the saucepan from the stove top, and cool it to room temperature, ~75ºF (~24ºC). Put the cool wort into an approximately half gallon (~2L) container. Cover and aerate thoroughly.

Pitch Yeast
Pour the contents of the yeast vial or smack pack into the container. Shake to mix the yeast into the wort. Cover the container with a piece of foil or a loose-fitting cap.

Wait
There will be very little sign of activity, but the starter should be ready in one to three days. You may step up the starter by adding additional wort over a period of days.



Questions:
- What kind of DME should I use? For something like WLP300, should I use Wheat DME?
- What kind of container can I use? I have a 1/2 gallon reusable plastic water bottle.. will this work? Can I screw the cap on, or do I need to put tin foil over it? How tightly to you put the tin foil on?
- I take it that this should sit out at room temperature away from sunlight? When are you supposed to put it in the fridge? Can you keep it at room temp as long as you want, or do you need to put it in the fridge after 3 days?

I've never made a starter before because I am afraid of contamination, but since many of my past beers have been slow to ferment, I need to start doing this.

Thanks for the help.
 

Dougan

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Questions:
- What kind of DME should I use? For something like WLP300, should I use Wheat DME?
Extracts are all fermentable so I wouldn't sweat what kind of extract you use. My only recommendation is that you pick one that is going into your beer. For example, if you're brewing a light beer, you don't want a dark extract because it will darken your beer. But most yeasts should thrive in any type of extract.

- What kind of container can I use? I have a 1/2 gallon reusable plastic water bottle.. will this work? Can I screw the cap on, or do I need to put tin foil over it? How tightly to you put the tin foil on?
I used to use a nice chemistry flask but since that broke, I've been using a 1/2 gallon gatorade bottle with a #8 stopper. The glass flasks are nice because you can put them on the stove and not have to transfer from a pot and risk infection, but they are not necessary.

You will need a way to vent gas just like you would in a regular fermentor, so the cap won't work . The foil is better but still allows air in. Some people use foil with a flask for cooling-- so the air can move in and out while it's cooling but prevents chunks from coming in. If you don't have an extra airlock/stopper set up, you can sanitize a balloon and poke a hole in it. I've even heard of some people using condoms for bigger mouths, but that is not my style. But you definitely want to have some sort of airlock or balloon in the mix.

- I take it that this should sit out at room temperature away from sunlight?
Room temp is right. If it's a lager yeast maybe a bit lower but you don't have to ferment at normal lager temps. Sunlight isn't as big of a deal because beer skunking is a result of hops + sunlight and you don't have hops in your starter. However, sunlight can alter the temperature of your starter and you should keep that in mind.

When are you supposed to put it in the fridge? Can you keep it at room temp as long as you want, or do you need to put it in the fridge after 3 days?

There's a lot of approaches. Basically, you can pitch anytime after the fermentation gets going in the starter. Some pitch as it's fermenting, some wait until it's done, decant the liquid, and pitch. I usually pitch while it's still fermenting but if you were to wait until it was done, I would recommend doing it less than three days after fermentation is done. You see, after that point the yeast starts going dormant and then will take longer to wake up in your beer, and that won't help your lag time as much.

But yes, to answer your question, it's better for non-active yeast to be in the fridge. When it's in there you can put the cap on your bottle if you're sure it's done fermenting.
 

JuanKenobi

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I would recommend using a bigger starter. I use a 3 pint starter made with 6oz. of DME for 5 gallons when using liquid yeast. Even that seems to be considered small based on what I've read, but it fits nicely into a 1/2 gallon growler.

Also, I'm not sure that I would use a regular plastic container. It seems like regular plastics are usually a no-no in any brewing process. I'm not actually sure about that, but I think it's best to err on the side of caution. Maybe some of the experts around here could clarify.

Aeration is VERY important in a starter (hence the foil) so it's a good idea to at least agitate the starter periodically to keep it aerated. This will resuspend any fallen yeast as well.

If you search the forums you'll find a ridiculous amount of information on making starters.
 

springer

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Questions:
- What kind of DME should I use? For something like WLP300, should I use Wheat DME?
I use light DME for all the starters doesn't effect the beer
- What kind of container can I use? I have a 1/2 gallon reusable plastic water bottle.. will this work? Can I screw the cap on, or do I need to put tin foil over it? How tightly to you put the tin foil on?
My usual starter vessel is a 1/2 gallon growler but I have used 2 Liter soda bottles you can just lightly put the cap on allowing the CO2 to escape . foil is just a cover no need to be tight I use my O2 system and hit the starter every few hours no need to shake just a swirl every now and again
- I take it that this should sit out at room temperature away from sunlight? When are you supposed to put it in the fridge? Can you keep it at room temp as long as you want, or do you need to put it in the fridge after 3 days?
room temp 2-3 days is fine it just like leaving beer at room temp sunlight no real effect as there are no hops to cause skunk. Just may warm the starter to much

I've never made a starter before because I am afraid of contamination, but since many of my past beers have been slow to ferment, I need to start doing this.

Thanks for the help.

its really very easy to do also I only use a starter for liquid yeast I just pitch dry yeast.
 

BioBeing

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Just to add one point: if you grow for a day or 2 or 3, then put it in the fridge overnight, the yeast will settle out, and you can decant most of the spent wort down the sink so it wont affect your beer at all. The resuspend the yeast in what is left, warm back up a bit and pitch.
 

Dougan

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Also, I'm not sure that I would use a regular plastic container. It seems like regular plastics are usually a no-no in any brewing process. I'm not actually sure about that, but I think it's best to err on the side of caution. Maybe some of the experts around here could clarify.

I'm not an expert, but I figure if it's something you can put water in, you can put a starter in there for a couple days. My personal rule has been only to use PET recyclables which are recycle #1's. They are also what better bottles (and gatorade bottles!) are made of so I am positive that those are fine. As for things like 2-liter bottles, etc... I'm not positive and probably wouldn't do it myself just because of how easy it is to get something I know works, but if you can put soda in it and put it on a shelf for 6 months, I'm sure some wort and yeast are fine for 2 or 3 days.

I also do agree that the 1 pint starter is probably a little small. I see a 1 pint, 1/2 cup dme starter being more applicable for yeast harvesting from a bottle. However, small starter is better than no starter-- even though you won't grow much yeast, you'll still 'wake up' the yeast and that's probably more important, in my opinion, for a 5 gallon batch size. My starters are usually about a liter.
 

Bernie Brewer

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I do half-gallon starters. Before I had my flask, I fermented my starters in an apple juice jug. If you can find a gallon-sized glass jug, it'll work fine. cover the opening with foil and let it sit. You'll be glad you took up the practice of making starters.
 
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syd138

syd138

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ok.. so I got back from the HBS.

I bought a 1000ML chemistry flask and a stopper+airlock.

I am currently boiling 32oz of water in the flask on my stove.. after a little bit, I will put in 1/2lb of Light DME that I bought.. then let it cool to about 70 before I pitch the yeast.

Sound right?
 

JuanKenobi

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My personal rule has been only to use PET recyclables which are recycle #1's. They are also what better bottles (and gatorade bottles!) are made of so I am positive that those are fine.

I've only ever heard of PET in reference to better bottles. Good to know about the recycling #1 thing. Thanks.
 

nostalgia

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I am currently boiling 32oz of water in the flask on my stove.. after a little bit, I will put in 1/2lb of Light DME that I bought.. then let it cool to about 70 before I pitch the yeast.

Sound right?
The technique sounds right, but the quantities don't. According to this calculator over at Brewer's Lair you're making a 1.080 SG brew instead of the 1.040 we generally go for. Whether or not that's bad, a more experienced brewer than I will have to answer.

A 1.040 starter runs 1oz DME/cup of water, so 4oz (1/4lb) DME per quart.

-Joe
 

nostalgia

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One last question..

Should I put vodka or water in the airlock?
From everything I've read you should put sanitized aluminum foil over the mouth of the flask and not use an airlock. Again, I don't know what the problem is with the airlock.

-Joe
 

bad coffee

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the airlock won't let the oxygen in, which you need for the yeast. You could use an airlock that doesn't have any liquid in it...

B
 

Dougan

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I've only ever heard of PET in reference to better bottles. Good to know about the recycling #1 thing. Thanks.

Yeah, I was pretty excited to learn that too. I'm 95% sure that all #1 is PET but not positive. PET will have something with "PET" in it labelled under the recycling triangle, though, I know that for sure.

bad coffee said:
the airlock won't let the oxygen in, which you need for the yeast. You could use an airlock that doesn't have any liquid in it...

B
Yeah I guess some people do not use airlocks on their starters. my approach is to put an airlock on it. While waiting for fermentation to begin, I shake it regularly to make sure there's oxygen in it and when I do this, I take the airlock off and put it back on when done. Once it's fermenting I let it do my thing. Never had any problems.
 

85 Haro Designs

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Wow, I'm really doing a lot of things "wrong" and still getting good results.

I make a starter with dry LME and dry yeast at least 3 days before I'll be brewing. I use an airlock and "swish" the starter during the first 3 days - probably every 6/7 hours minimum.

I just used a starter that I made LAST April (as in April 2008)! "Woke it up" a week before brewing. Added more wort and it went right back to fermenting. Let it settle out a few days and pitched it. So far (it's in secondary right now) and it tasted great during the last hydrometer reading (during primary racking to 2ndary).

I remember reading many years ago they found a bottle of unopened beer on a ship that sunk over 150 years ago. They revived the yeast by adding fermentables! How's that for making a starter!
 
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syd138

syd138

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ok.. so I shouldn't put air in the air lock?

But should I swish the yeast around or is that bad?

Before I pitched the yeast, I really areated the wort so the yeast looks pretty active right now.
 

JuanKenobi

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ok.. so I shouldn't put air in the air lock?

But should I swish the yeast around or is that bad?

Before I pitched the yeast, I really areated the wort so the yeast looks pretty active right now.

In short you're starter will work just fine however you aerate and cover it. Continued aeration throughout yeast growth will just make the starter more efficient. The idea is to get to an optimal pitching rate for your batch. Better aeration = higher population. If you can deal with a little head spinning check out this article on yeast culturing. It's about culturing and storing yeast, but it covers pitching rates and starters in depth as well.
 
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syd138

syd138

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cool, thanks for the help.

When I get home, I'll take the airlock off an put some tinfoil on.. then swirl it around a bit.
 
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syd138

syd138

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ok.. so I just got home..

yeast all in the airlock.. giant clumps of yeast all over the flask.

There is still about a 1/4 inch of yeast on the bottom.. but should I go out and buy another thing of yeast?

This sucks
 

MaynardX

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To me, everything sounds fine. I would just sanitize a piece of foil, take off the airlock and put the foil on top.
 

Kronin

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i was gonna say, 1000ml is only one litre... this is way small for a starter, from what I have read, and when the yeasty starts to go nuts then need room to go nuts or they come out and take money from your dresser, and your daughter gets knocked up. Bad yeastiez!
 
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