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The little starters that wouldn't

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kmlavoy

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So, I did my first all grain batch today, which went fine except for a massive boil over (more due to inattention than anything).

My problem wasn't my all grain set up, or calculations or anything like that. It was my starter. I made one Friday night and left it on the stir plate all night. By the time we'd cooled the wort, and were ready to pitch, there was still no signs of activity. So, I went to the LHBS (who were not helpful), and got another smack pack. Made another starter.

That's right. Nothing. After about 6 hours, no signs of anything. Being basically out of options, I decided to pitch what was in the Erlenmeyer flask before bed just to see if anything will be there in the morning. I am not terribly confident.

What the hell happened? I did exactly as I've done before, and I've usually had explosive results on the stir plate. Or at least a nice thick layer of yeast at the bottom of the flask after a few hours. I find it hard to believe that I managed to buy 2 smack packs that were bad news. I don't really care about the $6 that I pumped down the drain. I am more concerned that I suddenly can't make a viable yeast starter. Here's what I do:

-2 cups water with 1/2 cup dme and a pinch of nutrient
-boil 15 minutes
-cool
-aerate on the stir plate for 20 minutes
-pitch smack pack
-stir slowly until it's time to pitch

Is there anything that I'm missing, or did lightning strike twice and I bought 2 bad smack packs from 2 different places in a row?
 

RICLARK

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Im not really sure unless it is just having a bad Lag time, I usually make my starters a couple of days ahead of time so I know the yeast is alive and kickin, Maybe just wait a day or so more and see if anything happens if not might try some dry yeast.
 

Brew-boy

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What size was the starter, if 1000ml you really wont see a whole lot as this only wakes them up. A 2000ml will grow about double what you pitched. Are you adding O2 to the starter?
 

Bernie Brewer

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How old was the smack-pack? The older the yeast is, the longer it takes for the starter to take off. And if you got one oldie from the LHBS, chances are that the second one was from the same shipment, and just as old. Usually you figure one day of lag for every month that has passed since the date on the package.
 

boo boo

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Bernie Brewer said:
How old was the smack-pack? The older the yeast is, the longer it takes for the starter to take off. And if you got one oldie from the LHBS, chances are that the second one was from the same shipment, and just as old. Usually you figure one day of lag for every month that has passed since the date on the package.
Exactly what I was thinking.

When I make a starter, I make it a week in advance. If my starter isn't ready, I'll use a dry pack or I'll just not crush my grain to brew.
 

PseudoChef

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I have never seen any active signs of life in my starters and they have all been fine. I'm sure the yeast were still just going through a reproductive stage and that they're fine.
 
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kmlavoy

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The two smack packs were from different places. I got one from Northern Brewer, and the other locally. I pitched the second one last night, and after about 20 hours lag time, there's some activity in the fermenter.

It was a lager yeast, so is there a longer lag time for lager yeasts in starters? My temp was pretty warm. I aerated like crazy before I pitched it.

I guess it's just a little inexperience on my part. I had done my previous starters early in the day on my brew day, and was able to pitch at high kraeusen. I must have been lucky. This one I had done the night before and did a 800 ml starter, as opposed to the usual 600. Lesson learned. I will just have to make them earlier when I'm doing lagers. It was my first all grain yesterday, so my mind was on a ton of different things. My past success with starters lulled me into a false sense of security thinking I'd have a nice roiling starter to pitch.
 
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