Question about starters: cheaper/easier options?

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rjstew

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I do 10 gallon batches which requires 6L+ starters. 3lbs of DME costs $12 and will make 2 starters. I brew at least 20 batches a year, so we're talking about a minimum of $120 in DME, which I would much prefer to put toward the main ingredients in beer; hops, yeast and barley.

I was thinking about "partigyling" after I sparge and get wort that's around 1.30. Unfortunately I don't have freezer space to store the wort. If I were to save the 1.30 wort it in a gallon sanitized pickle jar, fill as far to the top, flush with CO2, store for a month in the fridge and then boil for 15 minutes before pitching the yeast into the starter, is that asking for off flavors in the finished beer?

Is there any way I could make a cheaper starter? I also loathe the process of making starters itself for some reason.
 

kh54s10

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I recently did up 6 quarts and 5 pints. I used 3.25 lbs of 2 row so about $3.25. I came up a little low on gravity so I had to boil for a while to get the gravity up. Then canned them in my pressure cooker. One quart didn't seal and is in the fridge, the rest are on a shelf in my basement.

This reminds me I have to get a starter going for my next batch!!
 

Aristotelian

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I do 10 gallon batches which requires 6L+ starters. 3lbs of DME costs $12 and will make 2 starters. I brew at least 20 batches a year, so we're talking about a minimum of $120 in DME, which I would much prefer to put toward the main ingredients in beer; hops, yeast and barley.

I was thinking about "partigyling" after I sparge and get wort that's around 1.30. Unfortunately I don't have freezer space to store the wort. If I were to save the 1.30 wort it in a gallon sanitized pickle jar, fill as far to the top, flush with CO2, store for a month in the fridge and then boil for 15 minutes before pitching the yeast into the starter, is that asking for off flavors in the finished beer?

Is there any way I could make a cheaper starter? I also loathe the process of making starters itself for some reason.
I would try canning it. Put the wort in big mason jars and boil them to totally sterilize. Never tried it but I would think you could even store it in a cupboard indefinitely this way. Reboil when you open it just to be safe.
 

KegWrangler

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I don't think the pH of wort is low enough to prevent botulism infection at room temperature storage (below pH 4.6 - USDA).

I believe canned wort must be canned in a pressure cooker in order to be shelf stable.
 

thekraken

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A cheaper/easier option: dry yeast. I assume that's not the kind of answer you're looking for.

Canning, I think, would be an overall easier option but probably not cheaper unless you already have a pressure canner.

Any one ever tried making beer starters with apple juice? If you decant would much flavor still carry over? That might be an easy/cheap option.
 
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rjstew

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The canned wort is $10 for 4L, so that's even more expensive than DME.

I don't have a pressure cooker, so that's not an option. Just read the BYO article that says if you add lactic acid to lower the ph to 4.6 or lower it will prevent the growth of botulism.

For all the extra work with partigyling, boiling, storing, I may just stick with DME. Although I'll buy 50lbs of it at a time.
 

Skep18

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Is there any way I could make a cheaper starter? I also loathe the process of making starters itself for some reason.
I also hate making starters. I used to even harvest yeast from starters to further reduce yeast costs but as of a few months ago I have decided to use dry yeast on beers which won't overly benefit from the presence of specific yeast flavors. Even if they do, dry yeast can still do the job well.

Keep in mind dry yeast does not mean it is a lesser yeast. Perhaps even the opposite. IME some of the common dry yeasts out there offer some attractive benefits over liquid yeast.

1. They can sometimes produce very minor flavor contributions which can translate into more consistent recipe results.

2. Not relying on a starter means a consistent pitch rate every time which further translates into more consistent recipe results

3. They don't need a starter which takes a few days out of my brewing process AND allows me to spontaneously wake up and decide, "I want to brew today." If you need more yeast, I just buy another pack for $4.

4. Not requiring a starter means less opportunity for contamination.

5. Some of the common dry yeasts out there flocculate quite well rather quickly.

6. Some common dry yeasts have a very broad temperature spectrum compared to liquid options meaning less fuss over temp control.

Liquid yeast primarily just offer a larger range of variables over dry yeast options. These variables can include attentuation rates, flocculation rates, different specific flavor profile contributions, temperature ranges, etc. Usually the biggest desire is a specific flavor contribution but IME some dry yeasts offer a clean profile which simply acts to ferment the beer with less contribution to the flavor. This can sometimes be desireable, especially when you have issues with temp control and specific pitch rates.

northern brewer sells canned starter wort.
This was attractive when I first saw it. As you mentioned the costs of starter wort can add up. If you're spending anyways you might as well look into the premade option.

A cheaper/easier option: dry yeast. I assume that's not the kind of answer you're looking for.
As mentioned above, for many reasons this is why I ended up going back to dry yeast.
 

Owly055

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I frequently top crop using a sterilized ladle. It's easy and gives an excellent crop for the next brew. If you crop several times you end up with quite a bit of really high quality yeast. I consider each brew as a big starter. When top cropping you get the very best yeast, and no trub. I just did 3 brews, a day apart, top cropping each from the previous brew. The top crop from this brew will go into the fridge for awhile until I have a fermenter freed up. You don't need a starter with top crop.

Also consider your "starter" as part of your brew. Make a starter using a similar malt profile, and put the whole thing in your fermenter........... I do this when I make a starter. The starter is part of my recipe.


H.W.
 

Skep18

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I frequently top crop using a sterilized ladle. It's easy and gives an excellent crop for the next brew. If you crop several times you end up with quite a bit of really high quality yeast. I consider each brew as a big starter. When top cropping you get the very best yeast, and no trub. I just did 3 brews, a day apart, top cropping each from the previous brew. The top crop from this brew will go into the fridge for awhile until I have a fermenter freed up. You don't need a starter with top crop.


H.W.
Would I be correct in assuming you have some method to ensure your pitch rate is adequate every time?
 

pricelessbrewing

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I frequently top crop using a sterilized ladle.
Sanitized ladle I assume you mean, as sterilization would require you to do something not usually accessible to homebrewers.


Make up some starter wort with a couple lb of 2 row and use that.
 

MrFancyPlants

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I've successfully used pasteurized apple juice for starters.. And it is real easy although I haven't worked out the price comparison. I have heard that simple sugars should not be used for starters for an unstated reason, but my batches came out fantastic. Those seem like large starter sizes. Are you using a lager yeast? Ive harvested pacman from the bottle this way, which can take a little while, but rinsing a yeast cake with a half gal of apple juice produces an explosive fermentation, I think because of the added nutrients from the trub.
 

Gavin C

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6+L starter each time!

My lagers at ~1.05 typically require a 2.5 liter starter for a 5.5 gallon batch. Ales much less. All starters made on a stirplate a full-throttle.

Do you only make big lagers/massive ales in 10 gallon batches?

Harvest yeast from each brew and use when possible in future brews. You're brewing every two weeks so no starter is needed, just the right amount of slurry.

If you routinely require big starters like that are there effective ways to reduce their required calculated size and/ or cost. These do seem needlessly large for all but the biggest ales or big lagers. Don't get me wrong I'm all for an appropriately sized starter.

  • Effective use of a stir plate will reduce the required starter size.
  • Buy DME in bulk
  • Make a 1.040 brew of wort and pressure can it as described in the linked articles.


Also dry yeast is cheaper and more and more starins are becoming available. But again I like the variety that liquid strains provide so am just throwing the idea out there.
 

UndeadFred

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I'm looking into this too. A pressure canner at Wal-Mart is $57 currently. You could mash 2 row and can that. Work vs costs, just like everything else in homebrewing..

In your case it makes total economic sense.. it doesn't yet in mine...
 

philosofool

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Two things stand out to me:
(1) Pitch on your old yeast cakes.
(2) Get a stir plate so you can make 2L starters for a 1.056 batch. Total cost of a DIY plate w/ erlenmeyer is like $65, which would pay for itself in about 9 months.

By the way, here's my starter process (I do five gallon batches):
(1) Mix DME and desired volume of filtered water with 1/4 tsp of yeast nutrient in a clean pot and bring to a boil, simmer with lid for 10 minutes.
(2) While that comes to a boil, add 2oz. of filtered water to a 2L erlenmyer with the stir bar in it, cover the neck with foil, and bring to a boil, simmer gently until wort is done.
(3) Once the starter wort has boiled for 15 minutes, tranfer to erlenmyer, put the foil back on the erlenmyer, bring the whole thing to a boil (takes 30 seconds to a minute).
(4) Remove from heat and transfer to a water bath for chilling (takes about 30 minutes to an hour to chill, but that's completely hands-off time.)
(5) Once cooled, add yeast, place on stir plate and let it go for 36 hours.

I have pitched the whole thing into a beer without noticable off-flavors, but I prefer to chill 24 and decant before pitching.

The total hands on time for the above is about 15-20 minutes. Erlenmyers are crappy conductors and it takes forever to boil the whole volume of water in the erlenmyer (plus I'm afraid to really put a bunch of heat on the erlenmyer), so I boil in the pot and add a little water to the erlenmyer to sanitize the inside of it with the stir bar.
 

Gavin C

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The total hands on time for the above is about 15-20 minutes. Erlenmyers are crappy conductors and it takes forever to boil the whole volume of water in the erlenmyer (plus I'm afraid to really put a bunch of heat on the erlenmyer), so I boil in the pot and add a little water to the erlenmyer to sanitize the inside of it with the stir bar.
You can make it simpler and faster

Borosilicate glass is an excellent conductor of heat. Flasks are designed for direct heating. 1 minute of boiling is adequate to sanitize a starter.

I do it all in the flask.

Add DME to flask, add water to desired volume, add nutrient, stir bar and 1 drop of Fermcap-S. No muss, no fuss.

 

Gavin C

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If I were to save the 1.030 wort it in a gallon sanitized pickle jar, fill as far to the top, flush with CO2, store for a month in the fridge and then boil for 15 minutes before pitching the yeast into the starter, is that asking for off flavors in the finished beer?
.
I assume you mean 1.030 and not 1.3 as per your OP. This is a lower gravity than is optimal. Upping the starter gravity to 1.04 will reduce the needed volume and get the same growth rate.

Storing unsterilized wort (unless it's frozen with a view to reboiling prior to usage) is not safe. Botulism toxin can be produced in the wort and is a real and present threat to the health of anyone consuming that starter or remnants of it in your beer. Very dangerous to life.

If you need to make starter wort in bulk and store it MUST be pressure canned to sterilize it. Sanitizing is not sufficient.
 

kombat

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I don't have a pressure cooker, so that's not an option.
It wouldn't be an option even if you DID have one.

You need to use a pressure canner, not a pressure cooker.

That said, if you have a local homebrew club, ask around - I'm sure a member would be more than happy to lend you their pressure canner for a weekend in exchange for a few bottles of homebrew. That's how I got the whirlpool holes punched in my kettle and HLT without shelling out $120 for the Greenlee punch.
 

ThomasPaine

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Something to consider is going to your local brewery and asking if you can buy some yeast. Of course this may not be economical for some.
 

philosofool

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You can make it simpler and faster

Borosilicate glass is an excellent conductor of heat. Flasks are designed for direct heating. 1 minute of boiling is adequate to sanitize a starter.

I do it all in the flask.

Add DME to flask, add water to desired volume, add nutrient, stir bar and 1 drop of Fermcap-S. No muss, no fuss.
Thanks, Gavin C. I check the boiling time and you are right: the EPA recommends 3 minutes to sanitize at high elevation (I'm at 2,133 meters, boiling at 92.6 C). I'm pretty sure I got 15 from a brewing site/book at some point, but as usual, that's a conservative number needlessly "on the safe side."
 

Owly055

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Sanitized ladle I assume you mean, as sterilization would require you to do something not usually accessible to homebrewers.


Make up some starter wort with a couple lb of 2 row and use that.

I guess most home brewers lack boiling water????
 

Owly055

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Would I be correct in assuming you have some method to ensure your pitch rate is adequate every time?
You would not.............. The amount of top crop after it has settled out is unquestionably more than adequate. I often split it into two. It goes into a sterile plastic screwtop transparent container by Rubbermaid. You can clearly see how much settled yeast you have, and I have never been concerned with insufficient yeast. it's usually overpitched.... which is not a problem..... depending on weather you want a lot of yeast character or a neutral character. Some yeasts I intentionally underpitch to achieve more of the yeast character. This is the highest quality yeast you can get. You are cropping from the top where the fermentation is going on. Obviously this method is not suitable for lagers.

I use the "that looks about right method"..............

H.W.
 

Skep18

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You would not.............. The amount of top crop after it has settled out is unquestionably more than adequate. I often split it into two. It goes into a sterile plastic screwtop transparent container by Rubbermaid. You can clearly see how much settled yeast you have, and I have never been concerned with insufficient yeast. it's usually overpitched.... which is not a problem..... depending on weather you want a lot of yeast character or a neutral character. Some yeasts I intentionally underpitch to achieve more of the yeast character. This is the highest quality yeast you can get. You are cropping from the top where the fermentation is going on. Obviously this method is not suitable for lagers.

I use the "that looks about right method"..............

H.W.
Soooooooo everything you described sounds like you do have some method to ensure you have an adequate amount... Just sayin'.

So do you just measure SG to find when you hit the FG and it still has a yeast cake on top?

This is the highest quality yeast you can get.
Now that is quite a statement. You should contact Wyeast and White Labs and tell them how to optimize their yeast quality. (I assume you meant the most viable and/or active yeast. Same conversation as the sterilize/sanitize as you mentioned before. That is unless you do bake your plastic screwtop in the over at 500*F dfor 3 hours. Do you?)
 

RayZab

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So for everyone that cans there starter wort using the pressure canner method. What is a general expiry on the canned wort?
 

m00ps

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So for everyone that cans there starter wort using the pressure canner method. What is a general expiry on the canned wort?
Sounds like ti could last years at room temps. Even longer int eh fridge
 

Skep18

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I guess most home brewers lack boiling water????
Not to split hairs here but...

Link

Boiling water is generally unable to fully sterilize jewelry, needles, or other body modification equipment. Boiling water is 100 degrees Celsius. Although this will theoretically kill most organisms other than endospores and some viruses in half an hour, because endospores are not killed and the consistency is poor, no health boards consider boiling as a viable form of sterilization.

The CDC has permitted boiling of needles and medical tools for an hour in extreme cases in areas where autoclaves and other more functional methods are not available. They emphasize the additional difficulty of controlling contamination from the containers for the boiled items, as well as the tools used to transfer them (since you can't boil something inside an autoclave bag). After the item is boiled it is then transferred to a sterile field to dry, and then placed in a sterile container if possible.

It should also be pointed out that while in theory boiling mostly works, in real-world tests at dental clinics still using boiling as their method of sterilization in the 1980s, staphylococcus bacteria were found on tools that had been boiled - and this is one of the most common bacteria linked to infections - in body piercings. Other studies have shown that boiling water may not always even disinfect (British Dental Journal, 1985, #159).

It must be emphasized that boiling as a sterilization procedure is not recommended and is utterly unacceptable in a professional context.
EDIT for future: Didn't want to rebump this but the above is showing boiling water at atmospheric pressure is NOT sterilizing anything. It is SANITIZING equipment. I was merely pointing out I think the gentlemen is using the wrong terminology which could be misleading to some.
 

Gavin C

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So for everyone that cans there starter wort using the pressure canner method. What is a general expiry on the canned wort?
The correctly canned wort will outlast the brewer and his/her lineage in all likelihood. No need to refrigerate it just like there is no need to refrigerate canned anything. (unless you want to chill it before you eat the contents)
 

UndeadFred

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Okay I have been contemplating this, or possibly alternatives. What keeps someone from putting wort into a 22 Oz bottle, capping it and putting it in an oven at say 250F for an hour? I suspect the pressure would equalize at the approximate 15 PSI. That should not blow the cap nor bottle and the liquid should still hit 250. The plastic in the cap seal should be at the end of its range there but be okay. And if not, maybe sealed mylar bags? Probably when you go that far it is easier to pressure can but if you are only going to do it occasionally it might be a viable way to do it...
 

Bellybuster

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I've successfully used pasteurized apple juice for starters.. And it is real easy although I haven't worked out the price comparison.
easiest starter going, I've been using apple juice for years when I have no wort. Seriously I have no idea why I can wort at all when I can get apple juice for 79cents a litre.
for those that are about to... I know you will.... don't knock it till you try it.
 

pricelessbrewing

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Apple juice is commonly used for starters for lacto, as it's at a good pH already. However it lacks most of the nutrients needed for propogation of yeast/bugs so if you do use apple juice, pitch a good amount of yeast nutrients to compensate. Also the different sugar composition will affect the yeasts ability to consume more complex sugars, so this is fine for single pitches but if you harvest from starters or collect yeast slurry from after fermentation this may be a problem after a couple generations.

@UndeadFred I'd rather freeze the wort than attempt that.
 

Owly055

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Soooooooo everything you described sounds like you do have some method to ensure you have an adequate amount... Just sayin'.

So do you just measure SG to find when you hit the FG and it still has a yeast cake on top?



Now that is quite a statement. You should contact Wyeast and White Labs and tell them how to optimize their yeast quality. (I assume you meant the most viable and/or active yeast. Same conversation as the sterilize/sanitize as you mentioned before. That is unless you do bake your plastic screwtop in the over at 500*F dfor 3 hours. Do you?)
I crop early in fermentation while active fermentation is going on...... No need to be sarcastic. Young active yeast on top of the ferment is what I'm after. I harvest from the bottom at times too, but this yeast is super active as is obvious from the time it takes it to start fermenting and the rate it ferments. It avoids the process of "washing" yeast. Of course the longer it is kept in the fridge the lower the level of activity, but I brew at least once a week.

H.W.
 

PGEduardo

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One thing I did recently with excellent results is pull off a couple liters of hot wort from my brew and rapidly chill that down, pitching into that. The next morning I pitched that 'mini batch' into the main carboy at high krausen.

Took off like a champ, even with a notoriously slow starting Oktoberfest strain. I think this will be my go to approach with liquid strains in the future...
 

Owly055

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Not to split hairs here but...
It is splitting hairs for practical purposes. I'm not concerned about botulism spores for obvious reasons. I'm not going to go anal about sterilization and buy and autoclave, though at one time I actually had one, believe it or not. We aren't doing surgery here, we're brewing beer. My methods are arguably lax..... I won't attempt to deny that. For example I don't use bubblers/fermentation locks anymore.....They just aren't necessary with the fermenters I use...... In over 100 brews, I have NEVER had an infection (accidental). The only off flavors I've encountered have been the result of fermenting too warm (over a year ago) when I didn't yet have a program for controlling fermentation temp within limits. Brewing is a pretty forgiving hobby if you take some care. Apparently where I live the environment is not teeming with nasty microbes as it appears to be in some areas.

H.W.
 
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rjstew

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6+L starter each time!

My lagers at ~1.05 typically require a 2.5 liter starter for a 5.5 gallon batch. Ales much less. All starters made on a stirplate a full-throttle.

Do you only make big lagers/massive ales in 10 gallon batches?

Harvest yeast from each brew and use when possible in future brews. You're brewing every two weeks so no starter is needed, just the right amount of slurry.

If you routinely require big starters like that are there effective ways to reduce their required calculated size and/ or cost. These do seem needlessly large for all but the biggest ales or big lagers. Don't get me wrong I'm all for an appropriately sized starter.

  • Effective use of a stir plate will reduce the required starter size.
  • Buy DME in bulk
  • Make a 1.040 brew of wort and pressure can it as described in the linked articles.


Also dry yeast is cheaper and more and more starins are becoming available. But again I like the variety that liquid strains provide so am just throwing the idea out there.
Yeah, I do 11 gallon batches and my beers typically range from 7-10%. For example, my last beer was a DIPA, next beer is a breakfast stout, then 7% porter, beer after that is a quad. If my OG is 1.07 and the yeast is 2 months old, I need 533 billion cells. I have a stir plate. That equates to a 4 liter starter. For my breakfast stout with an OG of 1.084, that's 5L. However, since I only have a gallon jar, the largest starter I can make is 3L. I always like to overpitch a bit since I have to step up to make the 2nd starter anyway.
 

Gavin C

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It is splitting hairs for practical purposes. I'm not concerned about botulism spores for obvious reasons. I'm not going to go anal about sterilization and buy and autoclave, though at one time I actually had one, believe it or not. We aren't doing surgery here, we're brewing beer. My methods are arguably lax..... I won't attempt to deny that. For example I don't use bubblers/fermentation locks anymore.....They just aren't necessary with the fermenters I use...... In over 100 brews, I have NEVER had an infection (accidental). The only off flavors I've encountered have been the result of fermenting too warm (over a year ago) when I didn't yet have a program for controlling fermentation temp within limits. Brewing is a pretty forgiving hobby if you take some care. Apparently where I live the environment is not teeming with nasty microbes as it appears to be in some areas.

H.W.
It's not splitting hairs to state that your not going to sterilize with boiling water as you said you will. It was your sarcastic remark about brewers having access to boiling water for sterilization that is the source of disagreement. Nothing else. No one was suggesting except you, that sterilization of anything other than canned wort was feasible or required.

It is very important to sterilize canned wort. Botulism is everywhere. It is not associated with slovenly brewing practices. Make some wort, don't inoculate it with yeast, don't sterilize it and you have created an ideal breeding ground for this deadly pathogen and toxin.

In a thread discussing such matters like pressure canning wort, it is misleading and entirely incorrect to suggest boiling will sterilize. It will not.

This hobby may be forgiving but botulism is not.
 

Owly055

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It's not splitting hairs to state that your not going to sterilize with boiling water as you said you will. It was your sarcastic remark about brewers having access to boiling water for sterilization that is the source of disagreement. Nothing else. No one was suggesting except you, that sterilization of anything other than canned wort was feasible or required.

It is very important to sterilize canned wort. Botulism is everywhere. It is not associated with slovenly brewing practices. Make some wort, don't inoculate it with yeast, don't sterilize it and you have created an ideal breeding ground for this deadly pathogen and toxin.

In a thread discussing such matters like pressure canning wort, it is misleading and entirely incorrect to suggest boiling will sterilize. It will not.

This hobby may be forgiving but botulism is not.

This thread is about starters..........NOT "canning wort" as you suggest. If you look back, I was suggesting top cropping yeast.......... My comment had absolutely NOTHING to do with canning wort...... It had to do with top cropping and thus using top cropped yeast instead of using a starter.

Are you suggesting that we should pressure can top cropped yeast???? Get real!!! Look at the context instead of spouting off nonsense. Sanitizing a ladle to top crop is an entirely different topic from pressure canning wort.

Please explain........do you advocate pressure canning top cropped yeast? Or are you suggesting that I should autoclave my ladle. and presumably my container for top cropped yeast? The reality is that top cropped yeast is stored in the fridge where botulism is of ZERO concern......... If you are going to can your top cropped yeast, by all means pressure can it!! You won't get botulism...........but you won't get fermentation either.

Note that the thread title is "question about starters: cheaper easier options?" Please extract your ___ from your ___ This kind of drivel only confuses the issue. You are beginning to sound like a moron!


H.W.
 
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