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Yeast starter too small?

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trabus

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So I just brewed a batch of Russian Imperial Stout this weekend using my first yeast starter. Today I realized that I made the starter about half the size called for in the recipe (recipe calls for 3 pint starter, I made a 1.5 pint starter: 3/4 cup of DME). I only saw "yeast starter" and didn't notice the size of the starter in the recipe. The OG for the recipe ended up at 1.083, and the yeast used was White Labs WLP001 California Ale yeast. I also didn't put yeast nutrients in during the boil because I couldn't find them.

Anyhow, it kicked off well, and went solid for 2 days, but then dropped off to no airlock activity at all 52 hours after pitching. I haven't seen any activity at all today (day 3), which made me start to wonder if the size of the starter may have been insufficient for the amount of alcohol that will be produced in the beer. I'm going to wait it out for a few more days before I even take a sample, I'm not going to start worrying yet.

My question is, if there isn't enough yeast to push through the full fermentation, what are my options?
 

Poindexter

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I just bottled a RIS a ferw days ago that I pitched at 1.082 and bottled (after weeksd in primary and months insecondary) at 1.018.

Here is what you do.

1. relax, don't worry, have a home brew.

2. Chico is pretty well understood yeast. Lots of homebrewer's have used it inlots of different brews. What are you using as a temperature controller on yoru fermenter? How hot did your fermenter get?

3. If the answers to #2 are "nothing" and "I don't know", here is what you do. Get a stick on thermomenter for you next brew (theya re under five bucks) so you can at leeast start to see how hot yeast get.

4. At the end of one week, 168 hours (or so) after pitching, get a gravity sample, and bump this thread with whatever your gravity reading is.
 

XxonValdez

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Not a seasoned brewer by any means, but a seasoned microbiologist, really the size of the starter would likely dictate how long it may take to get full fermentation, but not the overall fermentation as the yeast will continue to grow until unfavorable conditions arise regardless of the size of the starter, I would imagine anyhow, hopefully someone else will correct me if I am wrong, hope it helps reassure you anyways that all will likely be fine :mug:
 
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trabus

trabus

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I have a stick-on thermometer on the bucket.

I pitched a little high, at 75, and put it in my garage to see if it would cool it a bit. When it was still at 75 a few hours later, I placed the bucket in a shallow tub with a wet towel around it. I put a fan on it and it dropped to 62 over night. I then turned off the fan and brought the tub into my kitchen which stays at a pretty constant 70. It's been hovering around 64 since mid Sunday when I brought it into the kitchen.

The fermentation started somewhere around 6 hours after I pitched, and went pretty strong until yesterday afternoon when it started to slow. When I woke up this morning, there was no airlock activity at all.
 

solidghost

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Should be fine.
My nottingham yeast had stop airlock activity in just under 2 days after foaming!
 
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trabus

trabus

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I think I may have found my answer on the white labs site-
I had a question regarding the High Gravity yeast (WLP099 Super High Gravity Yeast). I used WLP001 California Ale Yeast for the initial fermentation of a 1.120 wort, and it pooped out at 1.032. I wanted to use the high gravity yeast to finish it off. Would the best route be to make a starter and aerate and pitch just like a new beer or will oxidation be a problem?

Make a starter and aerate the starter, not the beer. That will take care of the oxidation problem and still give the yeast a good start.
That is, IF it doesn't finish completely by this Saturday. :)
 

cubbies

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The size of the starter should not really matter. In theory, if you dropped one yeast cell in wort, it would grow until the the oxygen ran out, or until there was enough yeast to do the job. Of course, it is pretty likely a different organism would take over before that. And there would be some serious off flavors from the yeast having to work so hard. But all in all, in theory, it would work. That is where the benefit of the starter comes in. You should have shorter lag times, becuase the yeast wont have to reproduce as much, which will limit the chance for an infection and you should limit off flavors because the yeast should not have to work as hard. This also can result in shorter fermentations. However, a starter that is "too small" should not prevent the beer from completing.
 
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trabus

trabus

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cubbies said:
However, a starter that is "too small" should not prevent the beer from completing.
I thought the concern with higher gravity wort is that the yeast get overwhelmed by the alcohol and die off before the job is done. I also only shook the fermenter to add O2, so I was worried there may not be enough there to get the job done.

Regardless, I'm going to let it sit until Friday, crack it open then and figure out what to do from there.
 

cubbies

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Alcohol can kill yeast eventually, but that has nothing to do with a starter. Using a starter will not make your yeast more alcohol tolerant.
 
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trabus

trabus

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cubbies said:
Alcohol can kill yeast eventually, but that has nothing to do with a starter. Using a starter will not make your yeast more alcohol tolerant.
I didn't think that the individual yeasts would gain alcohol tolerance, I simply meant that the yeast colony would have greater numbers, and through numbers alone would complete the fermentation past the point where an individual would die from alcohol levels being too high to survive.

Anyhow, it seems to have started bubbling again somehow as of an hour ago. I'm going to hope that's a good sign and just relax for now. The whole point of this topic was to figure out what I should do in the case where the yeast cannot complete the fermentation, so I could prepare if necessary.
 

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