Opinions Needed - Propagation and Repitching Yeast

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Garrett_McT

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Dear HBT Community,

I am going to attempt to propagate my first yeast culture in a starter. I read through the propagation section of the book titled Yeast by Chris White and Jamil Zainasheff. My understanding of White Labs pure pitch vials is that they have a 4 month shelf life. Using BeerSmith I am anticipating the following parameters

Beer Parameters
Batch Size = 2.5 gal
OG = 1.048
Yeast Cells Needed = 113.7 billion cells
Yeast = White Labs American Hefeweizen Ale WLP320
Yeast Best By = Feb 19, 2021
Yeast Production Date = Oct 19, 2020 (with my knowledge of 4 month shelf life)
Yeast Viability = 35.28%
Yeast Cell Count in Vial = 35.3 billion

Yeast Starter Parameters
My Desired Cell Count = 0.65*113.7 = 73.9 billion
Starter Gravity = 1.036
Starter Volume = 730 ml

This will be my first Hefeweizen, as well as my first starter. In the mindset of creating repeatable outcome, would propagating a culture in this fashion give similar results as to pitching straight from a vial? Essentially would this propagated culture create the same quality beer as a store bought pure pitch of the same cell count?

Also, would I be able to repropagate this same culture from bottom cropping the yeast slurry for a future iteration of the beer without sacrificing quality? Or would that be too much yeast duplication?

Thanks for Your Help,
Garrett_McT

[edit] I forgot to say that BeerSmith requires for the starter prescribed 3.04 oz of DME
 
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VikeMan

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I think White Labs has been using 6 months for a while. Also, Pure Pitch yeast reportedly (by White Labs themselves) has a slower death rate (thus a higher viable cell count at any given age) than other manufacturers' yeast. I don't know if whatever calculator you used has caught up with their claims.

That said, "if in doubt, make a small starter" is rarely bad advice.

Also, would I be able to repropagate this same culture from bottom cropping the yeast slurry for a future iteration of the beer without sacrificing quality? Or would that be too much yeast duplication?
You ought to be able to take the yeast through several harvest/re-use cycles before you start to see any issues, assuming you keep the yeast healthy. As for "too much duplication," the cells in your White Labs tube come from divisions that go back millions of years.
 
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Garrett_McT

Garrett_McT

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I think White Labs has been using 6 months for a while.
BeerSmith uses made on dates and White Labs has Best By Dates, so I will have to readjust the made on date. Thanks for the info!

Also, Pure Pitch yeast reportedly (by White Labs themselves) has a slower death rate (thus a higher viable cell count at any given age) than other manufacturers' yeast. I don't know if whatever calculator you used has caught up with their claims.
I heard a recent podcast of Brad Smith (creator of BeerSmith) interviewing Chris White. Chris White was saying how far more superior his yeast is, through their packaging process, propagation, and patented packaging they use. Brad responded that he has gotten feedback from users and has adjusted White Labs inputs by a lot compared to their competitors.

As for repurposing slurry, I am very excited for the entire process. Hopefully if I learn a good amount from handling yeast I can hopefully step up my game and start harvesting wild yeast cultures, but in a very safe manner.

Thanks for the feedback, I intend on getting a 2000 ml flask before the weekend and propagating the vial for brew day on Sunday.
 

DuncB

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Just because a packet of yeast is past it's date, don't assume all is lost. Start propagation earlier and with weaker wort and less of it.
Then step it up.

Week before last grew up a WLP 1983 that was 16 months past it's date to a 3 litre starter over 3 stages and pitched to a 1.081 and it has gone great guns.

But be prepared with some other yeast in case it doesn't go well.
 
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Garrett_McT

Garrett_McT

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Just because a packet of yeast is past it's date, don't assume all is lost. Start propagation earlier and with weaker wort and less of it.
Then step it up.

Week before last grew up a WLP 1983 that was 16 months past it's date to a 3 litre starter over 3 stages and pitched to a 1.081 and it has gone great guns.

But be prepared with some other yeast in case it doesn't go well.
Thank you for reassuring me as I make this next step in my brewing journey!

I only need to grow it by a number of doublings of 1.09 = (73.9-35.3)/35.3, would I really need to do a step? I am worried about contamination.

Also I anticipate on starting the yeast starter on Friday night to let it grow to my desired amount of about 74 billion cells while also giving it enough time to settle out so I can decant the used wort and pitch just the yeast slurry. If I start the starter on Friday night and anticipate on brewing Sunday morning, do you think that will be enough time to have that happen?
 

VikeMan

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I only need to grow it by a number of doublings of 1.09 = (73.9-35.3)/35.3, would I really need to do a step? I am worried about contamination.
I would. And there's no reason to sweat contamination if your sanitation is sound.

Also I anticipate on starting the yeast starter on Friday night to let it grow to my desired amount of about 74 billion cells while also giving it enough time to settle out so I can decant the used wort and pitch just the yeast slurry. If I start the starter on Friday night and anticipate on brewing Sunday morning, do you think that will be enough time to have that happen?
That's a pretty tight schedule. I cold crash flast flocculators at least overnight. Two night minimum for medium flocculators, and three for slow flocculators. And I'd figure on about 24 hours in front of that if using a stir plate. Or at least 48 hours ahead of crashing if no stir plate.
 

duffy5018

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Thank you for reassuring me as I make this next step in my brewing journey!

I only need to grow it by a number of doublings of 1.09 = (73.9-35.3)/35.3, would I really need to do a step? I am worried about contamination.

Also I anticipate on starting the yeast starter on Friday night to let it grow to my desired amount of about 74 billion cells while also giving it enough time to settle out so I can decant the used wort and pitch just the yeast slurry. If I start the starter on Friday night and anticipate on brewing Sunday morning, do you think that will be enough time to have that happen?
Typically, I create my starter on Thursday (day 1) so it can cool over night in the fridge beside the yeast. The next morning (day 2), I pitch the yeast in the starter, sit it on my stir plate on the kitchen counter, and let it do its thing til about 6pm the next day (day 3), and put it back in the fridge for the following days brew, usually pulling it at the end of the brew (typically around 5pm), to sit next to the fermenter for a few hours as they both come to equilibrium.

For harvesting, if you're worried about the slurry health, contamination, etc, you could over build your starter. Instead of making 730ml, make a full liter, then before throwing in the fridge to let it settle, pour 250ml off the top into a mason jar, cover loosely, and put in the fridge.
 

DuncB

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The starter doesn't have to drop bright before pitching, if you over build and have to pour away cloudy liquid above a settled layer you will still have a lot of cells. Those reluctant sinkers are either active or not as flocculant and if not flocculant you don't really want them anyway.
 
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Garrett_McT

Garrett_McT

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That's a pretty tight schedule. I cold crash flast flocculators at least overnight. Two night minimum for medium flocculators, and three for slow flocculators. And I'd figure on about 24 hours in front of that if using a stir plate. Or at least 48 hours ahead of crashing if no stir plate.
@VikeMan and @duffy5018 I am not using a stir plate. I am going to buy a 2000 ml this time around and get a stir plate in the near future. So Ideally I have my starter, monitor the gravity after it stops active fermentation to ensure its done. Then put in fridge until it all settles out and bottom crop the starter or pitch the whole slurry?

Can I hold the complete starter slurry in the fridge for say 1-1.5 weeks before then pitching in the wort? Say start starter this weekend, and hold in fridge until I brew next weekend? Since you are saying it is too short of a window to have it ready by Sunday
 

VikeMan

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@VikeMan and @duffy5018 So Ideally I have my starter, monitor the gravity after it stops active fermentation to ensure its done. Then put in fridge until it all settles out and bottom crop the starter or pitch the whole slurry?
After the yeast has settled out, decant most of the starter beer off and pitch what's left.

@VikeMan and @duffy5018
Can I hold the complete starter slurry in the fridge for say 1-1.5 weeks before then pitching in the wort?
It's less ideal, i.e. you'll lose some cells, but you could. Personally, I'd plan it closer than that.
 

DuncB

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@VikeMan and @duffy5018 I am not using a stir plate.
So Ideally I have my starter, monitor the gravity after it stops active fermentation to ensure its done.
You will want to swirl the flask as often as possible as no stirplate. Growth rates are slower without a stir plate.

I've never monitored the gravity. You will see the wort / brew become cloudier as the cells multiply and might see a krausen but not always.
Bubbles if active ferment and clearing from top down once ferment over. That's time to either fridge it or pour off some of the top to make space and then add more wort to grow more cells.
Just to throw the cat among the pigeons your planned beer isn't that big and it's going to be a hefeweizen, some recommend an underpitch for this style to get more expression so if you grew up to one packets worth of cells in your starter by sunday you'd be fine. Suspect that you probably would.

Remember to top crop a hefeweizen yeast rather than from the bottom when you are saving for your next brew.
IMG_20210715_112135.jpgStart of growing up note colour and volume.
IMG_20210611_191130.jpgLittle bit of activity
IMG_20210508_184330.jpgHigh krausen has fallen
IMG_20210529_181242.jpgCrazy krausen but did start with a lot of cells as used slurry from last brew ( too many cells really )
IMG_20210719_120308.jpgTop picture 4 days after couple of additions, note colour change, volume and starting to settle without chill having turned the stir plate off.
 
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VikeMan

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Just to throw the cat among the pigeons your planned beer isn't that big and it's going to be a hefeweizen, some recommend an underpitch for this style to get more expression so if you grew up to one packets worth of cells in your starter by sunday you'd be fine.
I almost recommended underpitching, but then I realized this isn't really a hefeweizen. I think White Labs' description of the strain producing "very slight banana and clove notes" is wishful thinking. Widmer "hefe" doesn't have those notes and neither have WLP320 homebrews I've tasted.
 
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Garrett_McT

Garrett_McT

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You will want to swirl the flask as often as possible as no stirplate. Growth rates are slower without a stir plate.

I've never monitored the gravity. You will see the wort / brew become cloudier as the cells multiply and might see a krausen but not always.
Bubbles if active ferment and clearing from top down once ferment over. That's time to either fridge it or pour off some of the top to make space and then add more wort to grow more cells.
Just to throw the cat among the pigeons your planned beer isn't that big and it's going to be a hefeweizen, some recommend an underpitch for this style to get more expression so if you grew up to one packets worth of cells in your starter by sunday you'd be fine. Suspect that you probably would.

Remember to top crop a hefeweizen yeast rather than from the bottom when you are saving for your next brew.
View attachment 737183Start of growing up note colour and volume.
View attachment 737184Little bit of activity
View attachment 737186High krausen has fallen
View attachment 737185Crazy krausen but did start with a lot of cells as used slurry from last brew ( too many cells really )
View attachment 737182Top picture 4 days after couple of additions, note colour change, volume and starting to settle without chill having turned the stir plate off.
Do you have a good idea what the cell count is in those steps? I hope BeerSmiths starter calculator is good, because I have been paying attention to pitch rates as if late, especially with beers that require esters like saisons and hefeweizens.
 
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Garrett_McT

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I almost recommended underpitching, but then I realized this isn't really a hefeweizen. I think White Labs' description of the strain producing "very slight banana and clove notes" is wishful thinking. Widmer "hefe" doesn't have those notes and neither have WLP320 homebrews I've tasted.
I anticipate under pitching, 65% of the cell count that is required. But I guess I didn’t do my homework on the yeast profiles. I was hoping for the traditional Hefeweizen esters.
 

DuncB

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I anticipate under pitching, 65% of the cell count that is required. But I guess I didn’t do my homework on the yeast profiles. I was hoping for the traditional Hefeweizen esters.
you might have to try getting those flavors with mashing temps and ferment temps and then just let the yeast do what yeast does.
You may have read these,

I have no idea on the cell counts, not something that I've done yet. I've still only done a dozen or so starters. Just a habit of taking pictures of things you never know when they will be useful. But the top and bottom pictures were from growing a yeast as mentioned that was more than a year beyond it's use by date. So the calculator said no viable cells at the start. I also worry with the liquid yeasts I get about the cold chain to new zealand but touch wood they have worked so far.
 

Beermeister32

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I used a 12 pack of Widmer Hefeweizen a few years back to begin a starter. The recipe was a clone of Widmer and it really tasted very similar. Ok, it was 2013, boy how time flies...

That being said, there was no banana/clove that I could detect. I read somewhere that they actually use an Altbier yeast. Maybe the American palate wasn’t ready for the banana/clove profile back when they were starting up. Anyway, plenty of yeast in those bottles, was very easy to get a starter from the last dregs from each bottle, and you can hold back a couple bottles to see how your beer compares.
 

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Reneauj62

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Dear HBT Community,

I am going to attempt to propagate my first yeast culture in a starter. I read through the propagation section of the book titled Yeast by Chris White and Jamil Zainasheff. My understanding of White Labs pure pitch vials is that they have a 4 month shelf life. Using BeerSmith I am anticipating the following parameters

Beer Parameters
Batch Size = 2.5 gal
OG = 1.048
Yeast Cells Needed = 113.7 billion cells
Yeast = White Labs American Hefeweizen Ale WLP320
Yeast Best By = Feb 19, 2021
Yeast Production Date = Oct 19, 2020 (with my knowledge of 4 month shelf life)
Yeast Viability = 35.28%
Yeast Cell Count in Vial = 35.3 billion

Yeast Starter Parameters
My Desired Cell Count = 0.65*113.7 = 73.9 billion
Starter Gravity = 1.036
Starter Volume = 730 ml

This will be my first Hefeweizen, as well as my first starter. In the mindset of creating repeatable outcome, would propagating a culture in this fashion give similar results as to pitching straight from a vial? Essentially would this propagated culture create the same quality beer as a store bought pure pitch of the same cell count?

Also, would I be able to repropagate this same culture from bottom cropping the yeast slurry for a future iteration of the beer without sacrificing quality? Or would that be too much yeast duplication?

Thanks for Your Help,
Garrett_McT

[edit] I forgot to say that BeerSmith requires for the starter prescribed 3.04 oz of DME
I think the yeast companies use "tactics" to sell more yeast (as they need to stay in business) like telling people to not use a starter with dry yeast (when it is perfectly fine to do so) and the best by dates. Beer bottles at the bottom of the ocean have been cracked open that the yeast re-used and may be 50-100 years old. I read an article about beer yeast being recovered in beer bottles from the Titanic. I also have year old yeast that I had overbuilt and work after a year. So, not sure why yeast from modern day yeast companies would die out so soon. If there are few lively yeast cells you can build them up but, may take a a couple days...
 
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Garrett_McT

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I think the yeast companies use "tactics" to sell more yeast (as they need to stay in business) like telling people to not use a starter with dry yeast (when it is perfectly fine to do so) and the best by dates. Beer bottles at the bottom of the ocean have been cracked open that the yeast re-used and may be 50-100 years old. I read an article about beer yeast being recovered in beer bottles from the Titanic. I also have year old yeast that I had overbuilt and work after a year. So, not sure why yeast from modern day yeast companies would die out so soon. If there are few lively yeast cells you can build them up but, may take a a couple days...
Thanks for the feedback. I am fairly confident I will get good results, I just needed a little support and some points in the right direction. I am quite skeptic of most businesses and their suggestions because ideally they are out to make money.

But I think that if you are looking to have sugar and maltose turn into alcohol and CO2, any yeast will do the job. But here I go with what the yeast business says...there are a lot of other compounds that are produced during the lag phase and then again near the stationary phase of the fermentation which contribute large amounts of flavors and aromas. Some pleasant and sought after, some not. I am going for a good healthy culture of yeast which can be repeated time over time. I hope that if I use good enough yeast to propagate I can then get the same results from professional level lab grown cultures, in other words ones that I buy and are fresh.

I have been developing recipes in my repertoire and hope to start off on a good foot for my first hefeweizen and I am not essentially making one batch of beer for no other reason than to make one batch of beer.
 
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Garrett_McT

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I used a 12 pack of Widmer Hefeweizen a few years back to begin a starter. The recipe was a clone of Widmer and it really tasted very similar. Ok, it was 2013, boy how time flies...

That being said, there was no banana/clove that I could detect. I read somewhere that they actually use an Altbier yeast. Maybe the American palate wasn’t ready for the banana/clove profile back when they were starting up. Anyway, plenty of yeast in those bottles, was very easy to get a starter from the last dregs from each bottle, and you can hold back a couple bottles to see how your beer compares.
If I get good results, from a repeatable process, this time around this is something that is definitely on my radar. The first Belgian beer that I made was a Saison. Luckily Saison DuPont miraculously started distributing in my area right as my second batch was ready to be consumed (or maybe I just started realizing that they did). They have a ton of yeast sitting at the bottom of their bottles, and their yeast culture is something like 120+ years old! What a culture to have in my very own yeast bank!

And I think Bells in Michigan also bottle conditions, not as old as DuPont. But hey! still cool to have!
 

DuncB

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Several Bells clone recipes mention using the yeast from the bottles and maybe cans as well. Brewer recommends it in one book I have with a clone recipe of theirs.
 
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I figured I would send out an update. I siphoned the Marzen off the yeast cake and bottled it on Saturday August 7 and saved the whole yeast cake amounting to about 0.46 gal and split it almost evenly in three quart mason jars. I repitched one whole jar, about 15.75 oz into my Baltic Porter of 3.5 gal batch size and OG of 1.071. I pitched according to the following The Giga Guide to Harvesting and Re-Pitching Yeast using the by weight method. I overpitched by 96.9%, almost double, for fear of pour yeast health.

Well a day later and it is bubbling violently, so probably over pitched but is fermenting!
I attached a photo of the remaining two mason jars which I am actively burping twice a day
 

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