For those of you who make starters, what is your practice and why?
Do you pitch the whole starter volume, or do you crash the starter and decant a smaller volume?
I pitch the whole volume if it's just a quick, small starter to "wake up" the yeast for an ale.
For lagers, though, I often make a 1-gallon starter starting with 2 yeast packs (Mr. Malty's recommendation). I do that at room temperature on a stir plate. Then, I cold-crash the starter for about 24 hours and decant about 3/4 of the liquid before pitching. I do this because the starter "beer" is often much different in character than the finished batch will be. As well, I'm concerned about off-flavors - especially esters and acetaldehyde - from the starter making their way to the finished beer. On the other hand, crashing and decanting aren't perfect - so I wonder how much good viable yeast from the starter I'm losing to this practice.
What's your practice and experience? Recommendations? Do I just need to relax, don't worry...?