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Stupid starter question...or is it?

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fishersfirst

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Despite trawling through numerous threads and sticky's, I'm still searching for the answer to a question so here goes..

I'm brewing 5 gal batches and started first with dry yeast, then discovered Wyeast smack packs. My assumption was that this would eliminate the need to rehydrate dry yeast and that you could simply pitch the smack pack to your chilled wort.
I've since read threads of folks still preparing starters even with the smack packs.

My question:
Is it ok just to pitch the smack pack?

If yes, great.
If no, what are the benefits of still prepping a starter? (Assuming I'm not regularly doing OG's greater than 1.060)

Cheers
 

SFGiantsFan925

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Despite trawling through numerous threads and sticky's, I'm still searching for the answer to a question so here goes..

I'm brewing 5 gal batches and started first with dry yeast, then discovered Wyeast smack packs. My assumption was that this would eliminate the need to rehydrate dry yeast and that you could simply pitch the smack pack to your chilled wort.
I've since read threads of folks still preparing starters even with the smack packs.

My question:
Is it ok just to pitch the smack pack?

If yes, great.
If no, what are the benefits of still prepping a starter? (Assuming I'm not regularly doing OG's greater than 1.060)

Cheers
Well, the easy answer is yes. You can still pitch just the pack. Or vials. Or dry yeast. But making a starter is better. I was in your shoes. But instead I was using White Labs vials of yeast. Pitching just the vials into my cooled wort. All my batches were starting within 48 hours of pitching yeast. I looked at making starters as getting healthier yeast, ready to get to work, and a much quicker start to fermentation.

Use the calculator on mrmalty.com. Here is the link: Yeast calculator

Once you do this, it gives you a very good ballpark on how much yeast you will need to pitch. Once you get this number, make the starter. I wont go into that as there are a TON of threads on it, videos on youtube, google answers. etc.. The info is out there.

The difference? I used a starter and fermentation started within 2 hours. Pretty good. And it was with a healthier, more abundant yeast, all from 1 vial of White Labs. Instead of me pitching 2 vials and hoping for the best. I hope more people can chime in, but I hope this helps. Try a starter. For about $20 you can get a 2000ml flask, DME and yeast nutrient if you want. Its worth it in my opinion.
 
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fishersfirst

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Thanks guys very useful info.

One more question, if you're adding a starter say 1/2 gal of lower gravity than your wort, how will you precisely know your OG, or are you taking it after pitching?
 

Glynn

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I did the pitch the smack pack for a long time with good results but now that i am doing a two step starter my starting fermentation time has increased by 15 hr or more. Generally my smack would take 24 to 30 hrs to get going. with the starter it only took 8 hr. its easy to do. A little more then one week before i plan to brew i mix 1 qt water with 1 cup dme, boil it for 5 min and cool. Place wort into a 1/2 gal growler and cover with sanitized foil and shake. pitch yeast and cover with foil. after 3/4 days i crash it in the fridge for a day, pour off the old beer (being careful to leave the yeast at bottom) and add another qt of cooled wort and cover with foil. every day i give it a little swirl while it fermenting.
 

biestie

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Thanks guys very useful info.

One more question, if you're adding a starter say 1/2 gal of lower gravity than your wort, how will you precisely know your OG, or are you taking it after pitching?
If you really want to know, you could use the beersmith dilution tool if you have that software. However, a 0.5 gal starter is pretty big to directly pitch to a 5 gal batch, not so much because of dilution, but because it can affect the flavor of your beer. Most say that you shouldn't go over a liter, and JZ's yeast book says no more than 5% of the original beer volume (which is around a liter).

The dilution question isn't something I've ever worried about, but I plugged it into beersmith and you're really only looking at a couple of gravity points for a big beer, negligible for a smaller beer. I think the real answer is, if you've got a big enough starter that you're worried about dilution, you need to decant it anyway.
 

Seedly

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I always try to match the conditions of the final wort in my starter as often as possible. Making a high gravity beer? I make a high gravity starter (perhaps a little lower, but in the same ballpark)! Using fermentables other than malt? Put some in!

So far Ive gotten good results.
 
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