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Starter vs. More Yeast Packets

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LoadedFront

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If the purpose of creating a starter is to increase the cell count of the yeast to match to your OG, couldn't you achieve the same results by just pitching an additional packet or two of yeast? Beyond a viability test and the financial hit, is there any reason why a starter is preferable to additional yeast packets?
 

Suthrncomfrt1884

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I think a viability test and financial hit are enough for me to continue using a starter...regardless of whether theres no other benefit.
 

MBasile

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I think part of the point of a starter is to also get the yeast active and eating, sort of "hit the ground running" approach. I'm a newbie though, so I could be wrong.
 

android

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this is an acceptable way to pitch yeast. if you've read brewing classic styles, they recommend two ways of pitching, the right amount of packets, or the appropriate starter. so if you want to spend the extra money, go right ahead.
 

HotbreakHotel

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I typically pitch two packets in a 5 gallon batch. For an extra $2 I don't mind. Dry yeast starts up quickly anyway, so there is no benefit to a starter other than an extra $2 in your pocket.

If I'm using liquid at $7-8 per vial I'll do the starter instead of buying a second vial, plus the starter will get the beer fermenting a lot faster than pitching straight from the vial.
 

Dinklefwat

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I don't have a LHBS - I have to order everything online. So I sometimes choose to order two yeast packs instead of one. That way, if one is bad, I still have the option of making a starter with the other one. If I only order one and it's not viable, I have to delay brewing for at least a week.
 

Revvy

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I've never heard of a yeast pack not being viable from an online distributor.
It is rare...the only time that has happened has been in the heat of high summer in a non refrigerated pack. That's why I personally wouldn't order liquid yeast in the heat of summer, even if they give you the "ice pack" option for mail order.

But USUALLY those people who think their yeast is dead are usually the people who are going by airlock activity and not hydrometer readings and think their yeast is dead when really it isn't.
 

michael.berta

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Personally I use re hydrated dry Nottingham ale yeast (no starter) with pitching rate calculated on the website Mr Malty Pitching Rate Calculator

I only use liquid yeast for specialty beers (Bavarian Hefe, Belgians and lagers. When I use liquid yeast I make a starter as per the pitching rate calculator. Making starters is just more work and not worth my time for most American & British style ales.

I don't know of anybody who makes starters with dry yeast if that is what you are asking...
 

Buffman

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I think there is some confusion over your question. If you're asking whether you can pitch more than one packet of dry yeast, then yes. However, you do not want to make a starter for dry yeast. If you wish, you can rehydrate it in sanitized (boiled) and cooled water before pitching.

With liquid yeast, you can either pitch more than one package (vial or smackpack) or make a starter. I don't think it makes any difference in performance, but at $7 each for liquid yeast, I make a starter.
 

Suthrncomfrt1884

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It is rare...the only time that has happened has been in the heat of high summer in a non refrigerated pack. That's why I personally wouldn't order liquid yeast in the heat of summer, even if they give you the "ice pack" option for mail order.

But USUALLY those people who think their yeast is dead are usually the people who are going by airlock activity and not hydrometer readings and think their yeast is dead when really it isn't.
I've had two bad batches of yeast in the last year. I only buy liquid yeast...that's about all the LHBS carries. Anyhow...I don't rely on airlock activity. I blame both of them on improper handling. Either by the homebrew shop, or their suppliers.

I can't prove one of them was bad. I used the wyeast smackpack. I smacked it....five hours later it hadn't blown up. Rather than waste my time making a starter with a potentially bad yeast, I took it back and got a better one. By the time I got it back to the store, it had been about 18 hours and it still hadn't expanded.

My second... I made a starter without allowing the wyeast pouch to expand. Two days later when I had intended to brew, my starter hadn't done anything.

I'm paranoid about my yeast now. I transport it from the brewshop in a cooler. I also keep multiple types of dry yeast on hand that I ordered online....just incase.
 

Revvy

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I've had two bad batches of yeast in the last year. I only buy liquid yeast...that's about all the LHBS carries. Anyhow...I don't rely on airlock activity. I blame both of them on improper handling. Either by the homebrew shop, or their suppliers.

I can't prove one of them was bad. I used the wyeast smackpack. I smacked it....five hours later it hadn't blown up. Rather than waste my time making a starter with a potentially bad yeast, I took it back and got a better one. By the time I got it back to the store, it had been about 18 hours and it still hadn't expanded.

My second... I made a starter without allowing the wyeast pouch to expand. Two days later when I had intended to brew, my starter hadn't done anything.

I'm paranoid about my yeast now. I transport it from the brewshop in a cooler. I also keep multiple types of dry yeast on hand that I ordered online....just incase.
Honestly, I bet if you had further made a starter you would have found your yeast was fine, despite not expanding the pack enough. There's really no such thing as "potentially bad yeast" it's not like they mutated into anything. If you had made a starter you would have grown the viable yeast cells....

It only takes a couple cells to grow a lot of yeast.

And in the second case, what do you mean by "my starter hadn't done anything?" Many times starters don't "do anything" except grow a layer of "sediment" which IS floculated healthy yeast.

Of a dozen or more starters and yeasts harvests, I have only had one that ever krauzened, and NONE that never took off, given enough time and patience.

Except for infecting a starter due to poor sanitization, it really really is hard for yeast NOT to do what they do naturally.

That's how we can make a huge starter from the dregs of a bottle of beer...we let the viable (living) cells reproduce, and we feed them incrementally, and they continue to reproduce.

Next time don't be so "paranoid" about the yeast. And don't be so quick to count it out.

Seriously most LHBS know enough about what they are doing in terms of proper yeast storage, same with suppliers, it doesn't take a genius these days to know how to stick liquid (and dry yeasts usually) in a fridge, and ship in bulk in a styrofoam cooler.

We're talking billion dollar corporations (the yeast labs, and that's what they are LABS) and they aren't going to risk their rep by letting their suppliers and stores that carry their stuff , handle it improperly.

Besides...Yeast IS hardier than most newish brewers wanna give them props for...I mean You can't say that THIS YEAST was stored "properly" and yet, they managed to make a batch of beer with it.

45 million year old yeast ferments amber ale

If we can make beer with that....even the tiniest viable glop in a barely smacked pack, is going to work as well. :D

Gang I can't say this enough;

Unless you bought liguid yeast through the mail in the heat of summer, or added your yeast into boiling wort. your fermentation will happnen.

Yeast just don't not work anymore, that is an idea that came from the bad old days before homebrewing was legalized in 1978 when yeast came in hard cakes that travelled in hot cargo holds of ships and may have sat on a store shelf for god knows how long...And then sat under the lid of blue ribbon malt extract for god knows how long on grocery stores shelves.

But since 1978 yeast science has been ongoing and the yeasts of today, wet OR dry are going to work in 99.9% of the situations we have, if you give them the time to do so.

But every noob who starts an "my yeast is dead thread" just really pertpetuates a fear that has come from way back then, they got it from Papazain and other brew books written Thirty or more years ago, and were told horror stories of those yeasts, and it influenced their writing, which influence nervous noob brewers as well.

And then, most of the time, you new brewers then freak each other out!!!! You see an "infection" or "Not fermenting" thread title, or 10 on a given day :D and most of you don't even read the story behind it...you just see a dozen yeast is f-d up threads...and then believe my yeast has the potential to be f-d up.

But as the guy who answers those questions on a daily basis and finds out that no hydro reading was taken, nor has it been 72 hours, and THEY (not you) ARE going by airlock bubbling- AND when they do take a hydro reading or pop the bucket lid, they see that there was a krausen....and most of the time they actually post back, to say they were being paranoid, and fermentation DID happen.

But to someone who actually doesn't follow up on those threads, they think that yeast is so damn fragile....when it is the brewer's nerves that are. :D

But Unless you bought yeast through the mail in the heat of summer, or dumped it in boiling wort 99% of the time your yeast will do it's job...no matter what the title of many threads APPEAR to say.

Yeast handling and growing is a science, AND a BUSINESS[EVEN DRY YEAST GANG, they are all grown in labs, not fly by night operations (that's why the whole argument about dry being sub-par to liquid is really idiotic)..and with the internet, and books, and magazines, including this months BYO btw, even the most inbred LHBS employee SHOULD and probably does know how to properly handle and store yeast prior to selling it to you.





:mug:
 

Grinder12000

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I can't prove one of them was bad. I used the wyeast smackpack. I smacked it....five hours later it hadn't blown up.
ummm - why did you think that was bad ?? I've had smack packs that NEVEr blew up that made great beer.

I will almost guarantee both those times you have good yeast.

revvy probably said that but it was too damn long

REVVY - STEP AWAY FROM THE COFFEE. LOL


hmmm - yea - he said it. I will 2nd his opinion as I have been there done that and I know how you feel. revvy has talked many brewers off the ledge.
 

Suthrncomfrt1884

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ummm - why did you think that was bad ?? I've had smack packs that NEVEr blew up that made great beer.

I will almost guarantee both those times you have good yeast.

revvy probably said that but it was too damn long

REVVY - STEP AWAY FROM THE COFFEE. LOL


hmmm - yea - he said it. I will 2nd his opinion as I have been there done that and I know how you feel. revvy has talked many brewers off the ledge.
I'm starting to feel like I'm being attacked here for a simple comment.

The problem is... when a wyeast packet says "allow the packet to swell for three hours prior to pitching or immediately pitch once broken".... I'm going to assume the yeast isn't what it should be if it hasn't swollen. Especially when that packet says there is no need to make a starter because it will completely innoculate 5 gallons of beer. I make starters to be safe. I see no problem in doing this...or encouraging other brewers to do the same. It's like chewing someone out for using too much sanitizer.

Also, me not smacking my yeast before pitching into a starter is something that clearly is okay by the writing on the packets. All of my starters have had some type of clear indication that krausen had been there. It's not much, but a thin line above my liquid is enough for me to be happy.

I too culture my own yeast... I'm aware of how well they do their jobs. But, if a package doesn't do what it says it's going to, I have a reason to be concerned. Yes, I may be able to do a multi-step starter and build the yeast up, but why should I have to? I'm paying $7 for a pack of yeast. It should do it's job right out of the package. Hell, for $7, it should pour my beer for me.

Revvy, you've been brewing for a lot longer than I have. I'm not questioning your knowledge, I just have my opinions. I guess one of those is that packaging shouldn't be misleading. If the bag doesn't need to blow up, then why tell me it will?
 

Grinder12000

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Suthrncomfrt1884 - not attacking - honest. If "I" sounded that way I apologize.

The Wyeast SHOULD blow up in the perfect world. Just like fermentation SHOULD start in a few hours - but - sometimes it takes 3 days for any activity in a carboy.

The starter thing - Of the 30 starters I have . . started . . I've only seen activity perhaps 3 times. I asked the same questions and was told to relax.

Instructions - I used a tube of White Labs last weekend. It said USE BEFORE FEB 2009. Well - it's late August 2009. It did fine. I believe the Wyeast pack not blowing up is a sign that perhaps it was not 100% perfect but as long as there are a few hundred yeasties they will multiplly into a few billion needed.

I feel instructions are only guidelines.
 

flyangler18

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I've never heard of a yeast pack not being viable from an online distributor.
I've never had any yeast come DOA, but know brewers in the club who have. Rare, but it does happen.

Those little bags of nutrient can be tricky to pop, so I'd not worry about a smackpack that doesn't swell as expected, provided the manufacturer date is current and the yeast has been handled properly (to your knowledge). The yeast is shipped under refrigeration to the LHBS and any retailer worth their snuff and worth my business knows to get the vials and smack packs into their cooler on the hop. Starters can sometimes behave a bit unusual, depending on the strain characteristics and how the starter is agitated. Kräusen rings aren't always apparent on the flasks, especially if you are using a stir-plate for continuous agitation. In recent memory, the only strains that raised obvious kräusen for me have been WLP300, WLP550 and WLP400 - strains notoriously active. Trust your senses - does the yeast seem 'off' in any way after the starter has fermented out? Smell, appearance, even taste.

To the OP, making a starter is much cheaper than purchasing multiple smackpacks or vials to acheive proper pitching rates.
 
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LoadedFront

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All-

Thanks to all who have replied, and I apologize if my question was a bit ambiguous. I certainly understand the finanicial implication that many have hinted at. The root of my question was whether or not the starter was simply to attain higher cell count, or if there was some other "magic" that occurred. One poster replied that the starter got the yeast going so they could hit the ground running. Is this true, or is it really all about cell count?

I guess one advantage I see to pitching multiple packets is that you can brew when you find time without the need to plan the starter 2-3 days ahead of time. At times, it is difficult for me to be able to say I will brew on a particular day.

One final question. Since reproduction in a starter may tend to be somewhat uncontrolled as compared to a lab setting, is it possible to pitch too much yeast?

Thanks again to all. Interesting discussion.
 

flyangler18

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The root of my question was whether or not the starter was simply to attain higher cell count, or if there was some other "magic" that occurred. One poster replied that the starter got the yeast going so they could hit the ground running. Is this true, or is it really all about cell count?
Opinions on this may differ somewhat, but this much is true: starters are for growing yeast, not making beer. I pitch slurry only, decanting the spent wort off after cold-crashing.

One final question. Since reproduction in a starter may tend to be somewhat uncontrolled as compared to a lab setting, is it possible to pitch too much yeast?
Theoretically, yes, but practically, no. The rate and amount of reproduction is limited by wort gravity, available food and available oxygen.
 

Woolseal

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There is no difference except the price. Adding two packets of US-05 or Nottingham dry would actually give you more yeast then a 1040 liquid yeast starter. There is also the added cost of DME for the yeast starter plus the time to make it. Just my two cents.
 

Revvy

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Southern, I'm not picking on you either, I'm just saying to you (but mostly to the newer brewers who are lurking) not to count their yeast out so soon.

Even if you don't pitch into the batch you planned and go with another yeast, don't toss out that starter. Give it a couple more feedings, wash it and either slant or mason jar it and store it for later use.

Yeast are really tenacious critters, except in the rarest and most extreme circumstances, they will survive, reproduce and work for you. If they can harvest 4500 year old yeast from a hunk of amber, then even a deflated smack pack, or properly stored outdated tube, will more than likely still have enough viable cells to reproduce into a starter.

Bobby M recently did a test on year old store yeast here; https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f13/testing-limits-yeast-viability-126707/

And my LHBS cells outdated tubes and packs of yeast dirt cheap 2-3 dollars each and I usually grab a couple tubes of belgian or other interesting yeast when I am there and shove it in my fridge. and I have never had a problem with one of those tubes. I usually make a starter but I once pitched a year old tube of Belgian High Gravity yeast directly into a 2.5 gallon batch of a Belgian Dark Strong, and after about 4 days it took off beautifully.

I don't know if you know the story of Charlie Papazian's yeast (White Labs "Cry Havoc") or not. He talked about it on basic brewing. The recipes in both Papazian's books, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing and The Homebrewers Companion, were originally developed and brewed with this yeast. Papazian had "Cry Havoc" in his yeast stable since 1983.

He has used it nearly continuously since 83, sometimes pitching multiple batches on top of a cake, sometimes washing or not washing, etc. In a basic brewing podcast iirc last year he talked about how a batch of the yeast after a lot of uses picked up a wild mutation, and he noticed an off flavor in a couple batches.

Now most of us would prolly dump that yeast. Instead he washed it, slanted or jarred it (I can't recall which,)marked it, and cold stored it, and pretty much forgot about it for 10-15 years. He had plenty other slants of the yeast strain, so he left it alone.

Well evidently he came across that container of yeast, and for sh!ts and giggles made a beer with it. Evidently after all those years in storage, the wild or mutated yeast died out leaving behind a few viable cells of the "pure" culture, which he grew back into a pretty hardy strain...which iirc is the culture that White Labs actually used for their cry havoc...because of it's tenacity and survivability.

It really to me, just goes to show once again how really hard it is to f up this beermaking, and that to give the yeast the props they deserve.

:mug:
 

AnOldUR

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In recent memory, the only strains that raised obvious kräusen for me have been WLP300, WLP550 and WLP400 - strains notoriously active.
Agree. My last two starter were Pacman and WLP550. The Pacman had no sign of activity after 24 hours on the stirplate. The WLP550 had a thick krausen even with the strirplate crankin'. Both had the beer fermenting in less than 24 hours.




Edit:
The WLP550 is agressive stuff. At the high point there was a 12 degree difference between the ambient temperature and the carboy temperature!

And, oops, that should have been "less than 12 hours". The were both going in the morning after evening pitches.
 

sims_l22

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You can purchase White Labs or Wyeast at High Gravity for around $5.75 depending. I am not confident with the yeast starters, so i spend the exra money. I have not used dry yeast since I started using the Wyeast Smack Packs and my beer taste great.
 

de_ronde

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I needed this thread today.

I was worried about a less than happy smack pack, and I am leaving down before the LHBS opens on Tuesday.

Thanks HBT, Thanks Revvy!
 
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