Author Topic: Starters - Pitch whole, or crash & decant?  (Read 263 times)

Offline yugamrap

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Starters - Pitch whole, or crash & decant?
« on: December 06, 2018, 10:03:32 PM »
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...?

 
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Offline Robert

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Re: Starters - Pitch whole, or crash & decant?
« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2018, 10:13:58 PM »
I generally share your concerns.  Especially when it's been on a stir plate, the starter wort is something I don't want in my beer.  Really don't want significant amounts of any foreign wort in there.  I never thought I might be losing anything desirable in decanting.  Surely can't be significant, and the benefits are worthwhile.   If I were making what you call a wakeup starter,  I'd make sure to avoid the stir plate, and there shouldn't be any abnormal fermentation products to worry about.   But I usually just complete and decant on any scale, because I can't easily time starters for pitching at high kräusen.

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Offline yugamrap

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Re: Starters - Pitch whole, or crash & decant?
« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2018, 10:30:01 PM »
Rob - I saw on another thread that you reuse yeast harvested from the 10-gal corny in which you ferment.  Do you just harvest after pushing the batch to a serving or lagering keg?  How long is "too long" for you such that you'd choose not to harvest?  When you harvest, do you just jar and refrigerate the slurry, or do you wash it?

I'm curious about harvesting/reusing yeast because I'm brewing more lagers and wouldn't mind saving a few bucks on purchasing yeast if I can harvest and reuse successfully.

Could we get you to a SNOB meeting sometime to do a presentation on harvesting/reusing yeast?       
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Offline narcout

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Re: Starters - Pitch whole, or crash & decant?
« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2018, 10:30:47 PM »
Do you pitch the whole starter volume, or do you crash the starter and decant a smaller volume?

I've pitched a full 1 litre starter at high krausen several times, and it works fine.  However, my personal preference is to chill, decant, and just pitch the slurry.

I don't think either way is inherently better.  You might pick one over the other based on timing, circumstances, particular goals, etc.

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Offline Robert

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Re: Starters - Pitch whole, or crash & decant?
« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2018, 10:41:31 PM »
I transfer the beer to keg, then swirl up slurry and pour some into a Mason jar, loosely covered.  I used to rinse because that was conventional homebrew wisdom,  but have learned it's actually quite harmful and it's better just to keep it under the beer it made.  I usually am able to reuse within a week,  but I gather others store yeast much longer.   A little yeast in a jar is subjected to much less stress (temperature,  pressure etc.) than under commercial conditions.

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Offline RC

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Re: Starters - Pitch whole, or crash & decant?
« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2018, 10:43:05 PM »
I only do vitality starters (which is the same, I think, as what you're calling wake-up starters). I use a stir plate and a foam stopper. I want the yeast to have O2 to build those cell membrane components. That's part of the "waking-up" process. I give the starter about 4-5 hours before pitching into the main wort. I also don't have to add O2 to my main wort doing it this way, as the cells will already have had ample O2 in the starter wort. I pitch the whole starter, since I'm not giving the yeast any time to settle. But this is not a concern. Since this is just a vitality starter, it's only about one liter of starter wort, which is negligible in a 6 gallon batch. I've had great success doing starters this way, I highly recommend giving it a try.

Offline TeeDubb

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Re: Starters - Pitch whole, or crash & decant?
« Reply #6 on: December 07, 2018, 04:37:03 AM »
I used to use do a traditional ~1.5L starter on a striplate using DME or leftover (previously frozen) wort. I would prepare the starter a few days before brew day, cold crash, and then usually pour off most of the liquid, stir to agitate the yeast cake and pitch.  This forum led me to the 'shaken not stirred' or SNS method.  I have used this a few times now and it has worked very well.  There is much less hassle in the days leading up to brew day and my fermentations take off very quickly now (4-12 hours).  You can read about it on these threads:

https://www.jimsbeerkit.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=70926

https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/forum/index.php?topic=24447.0

I will probably sell my stirplate - no going back! The benefits seem to be significant and I like the idea of pitching a starter that is at high krausen.  FYI - I now pitch the whole starter since the cold crash step is skipped. Give it a try and see what you think.

Online Richard

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Re: Starters - Pitch whole, or crash & decant?
« Reply #7 on: December 07, 2018, 06:04:16 AM »
For many brews I used a stir plate to make starters which were refrigerated and decanted. Earlier this year I decided to try the "Shaken Not Stirred" approach instead. I pitched the yeast into 1 liter of DME-based wort in a 1-gallon (nice mixture of metric and English units) container the night before, then pitched the whole mess into the wort on brew day. This was easy, but I didn't see any decrease in lag time or any increase in activity or beer quality. I tasted the mixture before pitching on one brew and decided I didn't want a liter of that stuff going into my beer. I am back to traditional starters with a modification. I cold crash and decant, but at the start of brew day I take the decanted yeast out of the refrigerator and add a small amount (~250 ml) of wort saved from making the starter. By the time I am ready to pitch it, the yeast is awake and producing CO2, although perhaps not at high krausen. I feel better about pitching this smaller amount of "beer" than I do about pitching 1 liter of SNS "beer". Neither tastes particularly good, but at least the quantity is smaller the way I do it now.
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Offline kramerog

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Re: Starters - Pitch whole, or crash & decant?
« Reply #8 on: December 07, 2018, 07:38:07 PM »
I do the traditional decant.  I'm going to start to add spent yeast to the boil of the starter as a source of nutrients particularly zinc rather than to the wort to take advantage of my practice of decanting.

Offline denny

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Re: Starters - Pitch whole, or crash & decant?
« Reply #9 on: December 07, 2018, 07:55:32 PM »
I do the traditional decant.  I'm going to start to add spent yeast to the boil of the starter as a source of nutrients particularly zinc rather than to the wort to take advantage of my practice of decanting.

Actually, traditional is pitching the whole thing.  Decanting is a relatively recent thing.
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