Author Topic: Am I missing out by NOT making a yeast starter with my 2.5 gallon batches?  (Read 2195 times)

Offline amh0001

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I currently brew 2.5 or 3 gallon BIAB batches. One of my biggest questions is about yeast. With the lower volume and with checking MrMalty I generally can pitch one tube/pack of yeast into the wort.

My question is tho. If I have this yeast sitting in the fridge for a couple months and/or they have been packaged a couple months before I receive it, Am I missing out by not making a starter to ensure the yeast is at its optimum health.

I generally do not enjoying having to make a yeast starter, but I wonder for the sake of healthy yeast, even in a smaller batch, am I not making the best beer?

I have heard JZ talk about how he will make smaller batches like a mild or ordinary bitter to grow up some even healthier yeast for his next batch. He says usually the 3rd batch is noticeably better then the first.

I was thinking about brewing a bitter and then washing/repitching into a porter, but I have never washed and harvested yeast. I dont mind paying the extra couple bucks for a new vial/pack as long as its not that big of a deal.

Thanks

Offline beersk

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Re: Am I missing out by NOT making a yeast starter with my 2.5 gallon batches?
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2012, 06:59:32 AM »
Quote
I was thinking about brewing a bitter and then washing/repitching into a porter, but I have never washed and harvested yeast. I dont mind paying the extra couple bucks for a new vial/pack as long as its not that big of a deal.
This should be fine. But it's usually best to make a starter with yeast that is a little out of date, or just in general.
But you don't want to make starters bad enough that you'll pay extra for another vial? Starters at least ensure you have healthy yeast. You don't have to make them for every batch, learning to harvest the yeast is easy enough. You don't need to rinse (boiled and cooled water) or wash (with phosphoric acid solution) it.
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Offline weithman5

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Re: Am I missing out by NOT making a yeast starter with my 2.5 gallon batches?
« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2012, 07:31:21 AM »
i brew small batches,  i will put the next few beers on the previous yeast cakes. i used to make starters out of half vials but now i will often just use full vial for starter especially if out of date. in fact my lhbs sells out of date vials cheaper and i will typically grab a few of them.
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Re: Am I missing out by NOT making a yeast starter with my 2.5 gallon batches?
« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2012, 08:16:41 AM »
If the pack/vial is only a month or two old then you should be OK pitching it into a low- or mid-gravity ale.

Even if it's fresh, I personally would be hesitant to use a White Labs vial without a starter. With the Wyeast packs you get a viability check.
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Offline beersk

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Re: Am I missing out by NOT making a yeast starter with my 2.5 gallon batches?
« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2012, 09:42:20 AM »
Dang, I have a couple vials of White Labs oktoberfest lager yeast that expired on October 31st or something like that. Mr. Malty puts them at 10% viability and for a 4 gallon batch of 1.045 lager, I need 5 vials and about a gallon starter.  Fargh! I don't even feel like bothering with it...
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Offline woodlandbrew

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Re: Am I missing out by NOT making a yeast starter with my 2.5 gallon batches?
« Reply #5 on: December 22, 2012, 04:05:51 PM »
Mr. Malty's viability by date is very conservative in my experience.  I over pitched by over ten times because of it recently. 

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Offline reverseapachemaster

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Re: Am I missing out by NOT making a yeast starter with my 2.5 gallon batches?
« Reply #6 on: December 22, 2012, 04:52:52 PM »
The varied lag and stress of underpitching or pitching laggard yeast probably produces some variability in flavor and fermentation performance that I'd suspect would make consistently brewing the same beer very difficult. It doesn't necessarily mean the effects of underpitching/pitching laggard yeast makes less than the best beer, although it might, but it makes consistency more of a challenge.
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Online gmac

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Re: Am I missing out by NOT making a yeast starter with my 2.5 gallon batches?
« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2012, 07:44:53 PM »
Are you happy with the beer?
I for one think that sometimes we get too wound up on doing things exactly as the experts say and making the beer as "perfect" as possible.  Yes, I want to make the best beer I can but if I'm just making table beer for day to day drinking I'm fine with making a beer that's only 90% of "perfect".   Or 80% or 60%...  If I wanted to enter in competitions I would aim for 100% but since I'm sort of dis-enchanted with that silliness, I brew to make beer for me and I'm happy to drink what I make. 

All I can say is make a starter once, see if you like it better.  But, don't let the assumption that it "should" be better make you think it's better.  Best way would be to make a double batch, split it into two fermenters, one as usual, one with a starter.  Bottle it and have someone give you one of each blind and see what you think.  Otherwise it's gonna all be subjective.

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Am I missing out by NOT making a yeast starter with my 2.5 gallon batches?
« Reply #8 on: December 23, 2012, 07:14:01 AM »
I am a small batch brewer, and one thing I have learned is to make a starter if there is any question as to the viability.  For Wyeast, if the pack swells quickly after smacking then I don't make a starter.  But if it seems sluggish then I do.  With White Labs if the Best Before date is several months away then I skip the starter.  Otherwise yes I make a starter.  And for lagers, I always make a starter regardless of which brand or how old the pack is.
Dave

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Offline erockrph

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Re: Am I missing out by NOT making a yeast starter with my 2.5 gallon batches?
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2012, 09:22:46 AM »
I brew the same size batches as you and I only bother with a starter for lagers or really big brews. I do prefer using Wyeast smackpacks, but only because it makes me feel like I'm giving the yeast a kickstart a few hours before pitching. Please note - I have no facts to base this on other than it's a security blanket for me and makes me feel better.

It certainly can't hurt to make a starter, but if you feel like your beers are coming out to your satisfaction, then I don't see the need.
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Offline kgs

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Re: Am I missing out by NOT making a yeast starter with my 2.5 gallon batches?
« Reply #10 on: December 23, 2012, 10:33:52 AM »
As another small-batch brewer, I would say the key factors are the age of the vials and the size of the batch. If it's really 2.5 gallons, and the yeast is fresh, things should be ok. If it's more like 3 or 3.5 gallons, and the yeast has been in your fridge... then make a starter.

That said, these days I always make a starter. If I am impatient or on a tight schedule, I use dry yeast. My brew days are precious to me, and I can handle failure but would just as soon dial in as much success as is possible.

I haven't done this in a while, but I'm going to do a back-to-back stout on the yeast cake for the one I'm brewing tomorrow--assuming I like the first batch, that is!
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Offline dordway29

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Re: Am I missing out by NOT making a yeast starter with my 2.5 gallon batches?
« Reply #11 on: December 23, 2012, 11:49:45 AM »
If you want to make the best possibly beer absolutely make a starter. Even with small batches and smaller gravities... you'll be reducing the amount of diacetyl and acetaldehyde produced during the "lag phase" of your fermentation.

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Am I missing out by NOT making a yeast starter with my 2.5 gallon batches?
« Reply #12 on: December 23, 2012, 01:03:14 PM »
Afterthought.... there may be exceptions to the "pitch big" and "always make a starter" rules of thumb.  And that is, when making German hefeweizens or Belgian ales.  I say this because I think these yeasts actually need a lot of stress in order to produce the most delicious fruity flavors.  If you want your German or Belgian beers to turn out very ordinary and light and easy to drink, then pitch big.  But if you want complexity, don't be afraid at all to underpitch.  With yeast that is 3 or more months old, though, I would still make a starter, just to confirm viability if nothing else.
Dave

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