Yeast Starter: Pitch the whole shebang, or just the yeast cake?

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Tad_Porter

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Hey, Beer Lovers:

So I've been making yeast starters for a while, and love them. For reasons that have to do with using gyle as my source of carbonation, I need some advice. I always made a half-gallon starter, and just pitched the entire thing--liquid and all--into my carboy. Here's the question: can I let the starter sit until a nice yeast cake has formed (~3 days or so), pour off the liquid, and pitch just the yeast? Will this essentially nullify the whole point of a starter, or will I still get all the yeasties I need?
 

hinke

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I decant the liquid after the yeast has settled, no problems. I usually put it in the fridge so the yeast will fall to the bottom before decanting the liquid.
 

breez7

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If I have time ill put it in the fridge for a day, decant and pitch the cake. If not I poor in the whole darn thing.
 

Revvy

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It's really up to you, some decant, or some just swirl it all in. One factor to consider is whether or not the "starter beer," the liguid on top smells sour or not. Often, especially in the summer it may sour in only a few hours. Some folks add a hop pellet as a preservative/preventative measure. The couple of ounces of sour beer wont really affect the taste of your finished product (unless maybe you were brewing an extremely light tasting beer.) It's really up to you.

Another factor is whether or not the yeast is a low flocculating yeast and there may be a lot still in suspension. The "beer" will be cloudy rather than clear-ish. If it's a witbier or hefe yeast for example it might be better just to swirl and pour it all in, you'll get the max number of yeast cells that way.

My starter flask is huge and often I will build up a starter over a few days and end up with 1 1/2 to 2 quarts of "beer" in it. If the yeast has pretty much flocculated I will, if I have time cold crash it like the web pic above, but even if I don't I will carefully pour off all but about 2 cups of the liquid, then swirl the remainder to re-suspend the yeast and dump it in my fermenter.
 
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