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Starters... a little confused

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Schneider89

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I'm confused about a couple things concerning yeast starters.

I don't understand if the type of malt extract you use in a starter matters, besides the OG. Will the flavor carry over to your actual wort if you pour the whole starter in?

Also, how could you just take the yeast out of a starter? What I mean is... how do you isolate yeast in a liquid, and move it into your actual wort?

I'm sorry, I've read about starters -- the concept just confuses me a bit. Maybe it's because I'm not used to measuring out a mini-wort, or measuring out anything for that matter, and all of these formulas for yeast and cells per milliliter are making my head spin a bit.
 

ArcaneXor

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Use the Yeast Pitching Rate Calculator on MrMalty.com to figure out how large a starter you need, then use Homebrew Starter Wort Calculator to calculate how much DME to add. I usually do my starters at 1.035 OG and very lightly hop them to prevent the starter from going too sour. Generally, starters smaller than 1 liter will not achieve significant propagation and will achieve little other than testing for viability and getting yeast metabolism up to speed.

I let my starters ferment to completion, then I put them in the fridge overnight and decant as much of the liquid from the yeast as I can. Since I hopped it, I often drink the decanted liquid to check for unusual flavors that could be indicative of stressed yeast. Usually, it tastes refreshing and good.
I then swirl up the remaining yeast and pitch.

Just use standard Pale or Pilsner DME (aka Light/Extra Light). Darker extracts will also work, but I wouldn't use dark DME for a starter that will be used in a cream ale, for instance.
 

McGarnigle

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Alternatively, you could pitch the whole starter (wort + yeast) into your batch. Don't wait for the yeast to settle first. If it's not a huge starter, it probably won't have any effect on the final taste. The advantage is you don't have to take the step of putting it in the fridge as Arcane does, and you'd save time.
 
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Speaking of Starters. I made my first one yesterday using a Belgium Liquid Yeast. I boiled two litters of water with 2 cups light dry extract - as directions on the yeast packet said - brought it up to room temp and then pitched the yeast into it after aerating. SUPPOSEVELY you should see some activity pretty quickly 24 - 48 hrs. HOWEVER I awoke this morning anxous to see what had happened and it doesn't look like it fermented - there is no krausen and all the yeast has settled to the bottom. I am sure I just need to give it another 24hrs or so but does anyone have any expierence with this?
 

ArcaneXor

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Macushla -

If the yeast was stressed or mostly dead, it may take a few days for it to recover. Keep shaking it up - starters benefit from frequent or even constant (with a stirplate) agitation.
 

Coastarine

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1. The type of malt extract is pretty unimportant. What is important is that it is malt-based. The idea here is that the yeast go through generations quickly, always go for the easiest sugar first, and will lose their motivation/ability to ferment malt sugars once they've been living the good life on simple sugars for a while. Some people say to use wheat extract for your starter if you are brewing a wheat beer. If it is just as easy to get, then I say sure why not, but if it is time to make the starter and you don't have wheat extract laying around, regular DME will do just fine.

2. As mentioned above, once the starter is placed in the fridge and the temperature is brought down slowly, the yeast will go dormant and form a nice sludge at the bottom of the vessel. Don't attempt to "crash" the temp; it causes the yeast to react in a way that is good if you are done with them, like in a finished beer, but bad if you want to employ them again, as in a starter. Putting the starter in the fridge will be just fine. The liquid can then be poured off, and when you are ready to pitch, pour some of your new wort into the starter, get the yeast suspended, and pour that into your wort in the fermenter.

HOWEVER for moderate gravity ales, which is to say that a) they have plenty of flavor, as opposed to very light ales or lager with a more delicate flavor, and b) they don't require a very large starter, whereas a high gravity ale or lager requires a very large cell count and thus a large starter, you can pitch the entire starter at peak activity (24-48 hours) without much fear of it making a difference in the flavor of the whole batch.

Even more info here

Hopefully that helps clear things up.
 

pnj

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If you put the starter in the fridge, how soon can you use it after pulling it back out of the fridge? Does it need a few days to come back to life? or can you use it the same day you remove it from the fridge?
 

Coastarine

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Same day. What I have done before is pull it at the beginning of the brew day and decant (decanting while cold makes for a nice tight yeast cake) then let it sit on the counter during the brew and slowly come to room temp. Swirl with wort, and pitch.

If you're not decanting, there is no need for it to go in the fridge unless you made it too early, in which case you might as well decant.
 

nostalgia

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Lot of starter threads recently. I'll have to add my version of a how-to on my website ;)

Anyway, here's how I did my last starter:

1. If using a Wyeast smack pack, smack it and give it a few hours. I waited 8 and it never swelled.

2. Boil 1 quart of water

3. Add 4oz of dried malt extract (1oz DME/cup of water).

4. Boil 5-10 minutes.

5. Cool to 75F.

6. Pour into a clean and sanitized 1/2 gallon growler.

7. Pitch yeast into growler.

8. Cover with sanitized aluminum foil and shake the bejeezus out of it.

9. Let it ferment out, swirling it every time you walk by. Note that I did not see any traditional signs of fermentation. No kraeusen or anything on top. However after 2 days I knew it was alive when I swirled it - CO2 came out of solution and made a nice head on the starter and CO2 puffed out from under the aluminum foil.

10. Put in the fridge the night before brewing.

11. When ready to pitch, pour off most of the liquid on top, shake well, pour into fermenter.

I had signs of fermentation in the fermenter after 12 hours, very vigorous fermentation after 24.





Hope that helps,

-Joe
 
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Schneider89

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Yes, thanks for all the replies everyone -- really clears a lot of my questions about starters up. I hadn't seen anything about cooling the starter to let the yeast coagulate at the bottom before, so before you guys answered I really couldn't fathom how to separate the yeast. Thanks a bunch!
 

CBBaron

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If you use a xtra light DME for your starter it will have minimal effect on the final beer. If you are making a darker beer then you can safely use amber DME without a problem. I just keep the lightest DME I can find on hand.

As mentioned you can allow the starter to finish fermenting then cool the starter and pour off most of the liquid leaving the yeast cake behind. Or easier and quicker is to pour the entire starter in you beer. I usually make 2 liter starters 12-24 hours before pitching. In 12 hours the yeast population is near maximum and the yeast are very active. Pitching at that time ensures pitching a large health population of yeast resulting in a short lag time and vigorous ferment. I feel this is better than letting the yeast go dormant in the chilled and completely fermented beer. The yeast should be healthier and adapt faster. It also means I can make the starter the night before I plan on brewing instead of several days in advance.

Craig
 

TCJosh

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I have a related question...Im going to brew in a few days and the recipe calls for 5lbs of light DME. That's the only DME I have in the house. If I use a cup of this to make a starter, will I be shorting my recipe too much on brew day, meaning....If i use a cup out of my 5 pounds, will that cup short make a difference in my recipe? Also, Im going to use brown sugar in the recipe, Im sure I know the answer, but why not make a starter with this, or any other fermentable sugars? Thanks!
 

HoppyDaze

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If you make a starter with the DME you end up putting it right back into the beer when you pitch it. So there will be the same amount of fermentable sugar in the beer in total. Only difference is that one cup of it has already been fermented out. Plus, one cup is around 5~6oz and your recipe calls for 5lbs, which is a total of 80oz. So we're talking about 6% being used for your starter; which in my opinion is nothing to worry about. Go ahead and use the DME for your starter...
 

Boondoggie

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I had signs of fermentation in the fermenter after 12 hours, very vigorous fermentation after 24.
Right now I just pitch smack packs directly, and I've always had vigorous fermentation within 24hours... Even with the Belgian Tripel I made, it made me very happy I'd done a blowoff...

To me the starter seems like a solution to a problem I've just never encountered. :confused:
 

nostalgia

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It's like not wearing your seatbelt. You may never get into your accident, but if you ever do, you'll be sorry.

I've had a few brews lag badly, which is usually a result of under-pitching.

My most recent smack-pack never swelled, and even when made into a starter took several days to show signs of activity. I'd much rather that lag happen in my starter than in my beer.

It's a solution to a problem you've never had; that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

-Joe
 
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