Homebrewers Association | AHA Forum

General Category => Yeast and Fermentation => Topic started by: gmac on December 19, 2010, 08:53:05 PM

Title: Do I need a starter?
Post by: gmac on December 19, 2010, 08:53:05 PM
Most of the posts that I've read here recommend using a starter to increase the pitchable yeast numbers.  But Wyeast says that their Activator should be enough to ferment 5 gals of wort without a starter.  I am sure that they are correct but is there benefit from doing a starter anyway?  I'm very new to liquid yeast.  I searched for "Starter" before posting and found way too many posts to search through them all and adding "Making" to the search just made it worse. 

If you recommend a starter, can you give me a really simple beginner level recipe?  I was thinking 1/4 cup of DME boiled in 1L of water in a sterilized 2L bottle with an airlock?  I assume you don't want a lot of blow out because you are trying to capture and keep the yeast, not let it go out the top.  I am going to be using Wyeast ESB ale yeast (sorry, forget the #).  I don't have a stir plate or anything like that, just a pop bottle right now.  I am assuming if I start a starter 24 - 36 hours before I intend to brew that would be enough?

Thanks
Title: Re: Do I need a starter?
Post by: majorvices on December 19, 2010, 09:11:13 PM
Both WY and WL sell their yeasts and pitchable, and in most cases you can "get away" with pitching them in a beer under 1.060 or so. But you won't be making the best beer possible if you don;t pitch enough yeast. Fermentation is the key to making great beer. Making wort is only secondary.

Check this article here for more information: http://www.byo.com/component/resource/article/1749-yeast-pitching-rates-advance-homebrewing

As far as the best way to make a starter: you certainly don't need a stir plate. They do grow more yeast but they are not essential. I recommend getting a gallon glass jug. Use about 3 oz of DME per quart of starter. Boil the DME first, then cool before adding to your glass jug (unless you have a lab flask or some sort of thermal resistant glass jug adding it boiling will break).

Aerate well before adding your yeast and try and give it a good swirl every now and then until fermentation is complete. Then crash cool in the fridge for 24 hours or so, decant the spent starter beer and then pitch only the yeast slurry on the bottom. Check out the pitching calc at www.mrmalty.com to get an idea how big a starter to make.

All that said, for new brewers dry yeast can actually be a better option. For one thing, dry yeast comes ready to go. No starter needed. Also, aeration is not as critical since all aeration does and build the sterols in the cell walls so that the yeast can bud. But dry yeast already has the sterols stored. The best dry yeast I have ever used is US-05.  It is a very clean fermenter and attenuates nicely.
Title: Re: Do I need a starter?
Post by: chezteth on December 19, 2010, 10:06:46 PM
+1 to Majorvices' advice.  When I make a starter I do not put an airlock on the jug.  I use plastic wrap or aluminum foil to cover the top.
Title: Re: Do I need a starter?
Post by: oscarvan on December 20, 2010, 12:39:56 AM
FWIW I have made 4 partial mash beers now (all well under 1060) with just the Wyeast packs, and they fermented just fine, quite vigorously in fact. Anything 1060 or up I would indeed do a starter, or use two packs.....(I know, more $$)

They were all less than 2 weeks old, and appeared to have been cared for (as in refrigerated)
Title: Re: Do I need a starter?
Post by: majorvices on December 20, 2010, 12:56:28 AM
FWIW I have made 4 partial mash beers now (all well under 1060) with just the Wyeast packs, and they fermented just fine, quite vigorously in fact. Anything 1060 or up I would indeed do a starter, or use two packs.....(I know, more $$)

They were all less than 2 weeks old, and appeared to have been cared for (as in refrigerated)

Fresh definitely helps. But, FWIW, your still underpitching (see the link I posted above). And you won't know what you are missing until you make a starter. You say they fermented "fine", but they most likely still generated more fusels and esters than had you pitched at the proper rather. And, trust me, eventually you will be on here with a posts that says something like "Its been 48 hours and no signs of fermentation...." And the first reply will be "did you make a starter?"  ;)
Title: Re: Do I need a starter?
Post by: gmac on December 20, 2010, 03:35:18 AM
+1 to Majorvices' advice.  When I make a starter I do not put an airlock on the jug.  I use plastic wrap or aluminum foil to cover the top.

You just leave it loose enough for gas to escape?  I can see how aluminum foil would work ,not sure how I'd get plastic wrap to stay on without pulling it tight enough to seal but I am sure it can be done.  Assuming foil, you just crimp it around and over the top?

. Check out the pitching calc at www.mrmalty.com to get an idea how big a starter to make.

Not sure what I'm doing wrong but I couldn't get the site to work for me. 

I really like the different options available with liquids, especially lagers so I appreciate the advice on dries but I think I will keep plugging away with liquid until I get it right.  Not ignoring your advice, just too stubborn to deviate from what I want to do.  Also, my selection of dry yeasts around here is absolutely terrible.  Liquid isn't any better but I order on-line so I figure I may as well try to get what I want. 

Thanks for the advice.  Off to find a glass jug tomorrow.  Now, where the heck do I find a glass jug these days?
Title: Re: Do I need a starter?
Post by: chezteth on December 20, 2010, 05:06:57 AM

You just leave it loose enough for gas to escape?  I can see how aluminum foil would work ,not sure how I'd get plastic wrap to stay on without pulling it tight enough to seal but I am sure it can be done.  Assuming foil, you just crimp it around and over the top?


Yes, I just fold it over the top.  Even with plastic wrap pulled down over the top of the jug the gases can get through.  Gases can get through really small spaces but with the foil or plastic wrap on top keeps any bad stuff out.

Happy Brewing,
Brandon
Title: Re: Do I need a starter?
Post by: majorvices on December 20, 2010, 11:46:58 AM
Thanks for the advice.  Off to find a glass jug tomorrow.  Now, where the heck do I find a glass jug these days?

My LHBS stocks them. But you can also often find them in the juice isle at the grocery store (organic apple juice often is stored in them). Alternatively you could use a plastic jug (IMO one time use, then toss just to be safe). I wouldn't want to use one that had milk in it though. They are hard to sanitize. Water should be fine though.

Re: Lagers. Starters are even more important with lagers. You will need about 2Xs the amount of yeast than with ales. Aeration is critical too. Your gonna want to have a dedicated temp control unit to maintain the proper temps with lagers. They are quite a bit different on many leveles than ales.

Re: MrMalty - try this http://www.mrmalty.com/calc/calc.html

Re:
Title: Re: Do I need a starter?
Post by: tom on December 20, 2010, 02:25:30 PM
As always, +100 to what Major says.
"Fine" wine still come in 1 gallon bottles?
Title: Re: Do I need a starter?
Post by: abraxas on December 20, 2010, 04:02:00 PM
The best dry yeast I have ever used is US-05. 

I'll second this.
Title: Re: Do I need a starter?
Post by: denny on December 20, 2010, 04:33:46 PM
FWIW I have made 4 partial mash beers now (all well under 1060) with just the Wyeast packs, and they fermented just fine, quite vigorously in fact. Anything 1060 or up I would indeed do a starter, or use two packs.....(I know, more $$)

They were all less than 2 weeks old, and appeared to have been cared for (as in refrigerated)

Until you make a starter, you won't know how much better your beer can be.
Title: Re: Do I need a starter?
Post by: kerneldustjacket on December 20, 2010, 05:39:04 PM

"Fine" wine still come in 1 gallon bottles?

Better still, there's a brand that comes in a 4 litre jug (135 ounces).
My first year of homebrewing I did one gallon batches using a 4 litre jug...the 7 extra ounces of headspace was just right.
Title: Re: Do I need a starter?
Post by: gmac on December 20, 2010, 11:25:39 PM
So here's a dumb question. 
Can I put 4 liters of starter in a carboy, let it ferment for a day or two, put it in the cold room (about 2 degrees C right now), dump out the liquid and put my wort directly in on top? 
Can you use anything besides DME?  I only bought enough DME for the recipe I want to make.  I can get more but if I'm just gonna chuck it, why not just sugar boiled in water?
Thanks
Title: Re: Do I need a starter?
Post by: denny on December 20, 2010, 11:30:20 PM
So here's a dumb question. 
Can I put 4 liters of starter in a carboy, let it ferment for a day or two, put it in the cold room (about 2 degrees C right now), dump out the liquid and put my wort directly in on top? 

Yeah, although you might find it's more hassle than it's worth.

Can you use anything besides DME?  I only bought enough DME for the recipe I want to make.  I can get more but if I'm just gonna chuck it, why not just sugar boiled in water?
Thanks


Well, you could use LME... ;)  But sugar won't cut it.  It's gotta be malt so that the yeast doesn't get acclimated to other sugars.  In addition, sugar doesn't have the nutrients the yeast need.
Title: Re: Do I need a starter?
Post by: majorvices on December 20, 2010, 11:32:49 PM
+1 - you want to grow the yeast on a maltose diet. Growing them on sugar is like giving kids candy before dinner, and then being frustrated when they don't want to eat their broccoli.
Title: Re: Do I need a starter?
Post by: gmac on December 20, 2010, 11:36:14 PM
Well, now I know.

Looks like I'll be making a starter tonight.  I am hoping to brew later this week so I'd better get my butt in gear. 
Thanks for all the great advice.
Title: Re: Do I need a starter?
Post by: gordonstrong on December 21, 2010, 02:05:46 PM
+1 - you want to grow the yeast on a maltose diet. Growing them on sugar is like giving kids candy before dinner, and then being frustrated when they don't want to eat their broccoli.

Great analogy.  I am *so* going to use that.
Title: Re: Do I need a starter?
Post by: majorvices on December 21, 2010, 02:29:15 PM
+1 - you want to grow the yeast on a maltose diet. Growing them on sugar is like giving kids candy before dinner, and then being frustrated when they don't want to eat their broccoli.

Great analogy.  I am *so* going to use that.

Gordon - I would be honored!  ;D
Title: Re: Do I need a starter?
Post by: Mikey on December 21, 2010, 02:47:52 PM
So here's a dumb question. 
Can I put 4 liters of starter in a carboy, let it ferment for a day or two, put it in the cold room (about 2 degrees C right now), dump out the liquid and put my wort directly in on top? 
Can you use anything besides DME?  I only bought enough DME for the recipe I want to make.  I can get more but if I'm just gonna chuck it, why not just sugar boiled in water?
Thanks


Yes, you can use a carboy that way and it works very well. I've done it many times. One less vessel to clean.
Title: Re: Do I need a starter?
Post by: gmac on December 22, 2010, 09:55:12 PM
Here's what I've done so far.
I boiled 400 grams of light DME in 4 liters of water and put most of it in a clean and bleached one gallon glass jug, cooled it down and pitched the yeast into the jug.  It is pretty much full to the top so I expect a good amount to blow out the neck of the bottle which I hope will be ok.  There is just tinfoil over the top.

OG of the starter is 1.032. 

How long do I let it sit for before I decant the liquid and pitch the sludge?  I was hoping to brew tomorrow but I can wait until Friday as I have either day available.  If I left it for 24 hours, would that be enough or should I wait until the day after?  Exactly what do they mean when they say "crash the starter"?

A bit more direction concerning how to handle the starter now would be appreciated.
Thanks
Title: Re: Do I need a starter?
Post by: jeffy on December 22, 2010, 11:25:26 PM
Here's what I've done so far.
I boiled 400 grams of light DME in 4 liters of water and put most of it in a clean and bleached one gallon glass jug, cooled it down and pitched the yeast into the jug.  It is pretty much full to the top so I expect a good amount to blow out the neck of the bottle which I hope will be ok.  There is just tinfoil over the top.

OG of the starter is 1.032. 

How long do I let it sit for before I decant the liquid and pitch the sludge?  I was hoping to brew tomorrow but I can wait until Friday as I have either day available.  If I left it for 24 hours, would that be enough or should I wait until the day after?  Exactly what do they mean when they say "crash the starter"?

A bit more direction concerning how to handle the starter now would be appreciated.
Thanks


A couple of things that you may want to change next time: 1) get a bigger jug, enough to contain the fermenting starter at about half full and  2) make sure you rinse the bleach really really really well or use a no rinse sanitizer instead.
That starter should be done and ready to pitch either day.  "Crash" means "crash cool" - put the jug into the fridge until all the cloudiness drops out and leaves a layer of yeast and trub at the bottom.
Title: Re: Do I need a starter?
Post by: a10t2 on December 22, 2010, 11:46:49 PM
I boiled 400 grams of light DME in 4 liters of water ... OG of the starter is 1.032.

For what it's worth, you may want to check your instruments. At least one of those numbers has to be wrong.

Anyway, 24 hours may not be enough time for the starter to ferment out fully. Even 48 hours isn't guaranteed. As big a starter as this is, I would definitely suggest that you crash it until it clears and pour off the majority of the starter "beer". No sense putting almost a gallon of nasty low-gravity unhopped beer into your nice perfect batch of wort.
Title: Re: Do I need a starter?
Post by: gmac on December 23, 2010, 12:39:50 AM
I boiled 400 grams of light DME in 4 liters of water ... OG of the starter is 1.032.

For what it's worth, you may want to check your instruments. At least one of those numbers has to be wrong.


Which do you think is wrong?  I used a kitchen scale and took out 100 g from a 500 g bag.  The 4L was with a measuring cup.  Not exact science but I think probably close enough.  Or are you suggesting that I am reading the hygrometer wrong?
Thanks for the advice.
Title: Re: Do I need a starter?
Post by: tygo on December 23, 2010, 01:41:10 AM
Probably your volume was a little higher than 4 liters.  Like maybe 4.5 liters or so.  400 grams in 4 liters would be about 1.036.  No big deal.
Title: Re: Do I need a starter?
Post by: gmac on December 24, 2010, 09:15:16 PM
Well, the beer is made.  I decanted the "beer" off the yeast, left a 1/4 inch or so of liquid and swirled it into suspension and just pitched it.  There was activity in the air lock within 2 minutes.  Pretty impressive.

I had about a gallon left over from my boil and so I put that into the jug that had the yeast in it to see what would happen.  But, the mouth was a bit big and so when I put the rubber bung in, it slipped in too far.  When I went to pull it out, I got the airlock but no stopper.  So, there's a rubber stopper in the bottom of my 1 gal wort.  Anyone know if this is going to be a bad thing?  I am sure it isn't ideal but should I just dump it now or let it ferment out and get the stopper when I bottle.  I will definitely taste before I bottle.
Thanks.
Title: Re: Do I need a starter?
Post by: Hokerer on December 24, 2010, 09:41:33 PM
Stopper shouldn't hurt anything.  Go ahead and let if ferment out and retrieve the stopper afterwards.