Author Topic: starters made with RO/distilled water  (Read 481 times)

Offline KCguy

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starters made with RO/distilled water
« on: April 17, 2019, 01:57:08 PM »
Am I denying the yeast some needed minerals from my hard water by using only RO water and DME in my starters?  I never boil to make wort first, just use RO since its as clean as boiled water....would boiling the hard tap water and DME first boil off some of that hardness/minerals and result in the same makeup as using nonboiled RO water anyway? 
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Online Robert

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Re: starters made with RO/distilled water
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2019, 02:22:46 PM »
I don't have super hard tap water (calcium is definitely below optimal for brewing,) but I always add a wee tad (super precise scientific measurement, that) of Wyeast nutrient to my starters.  I figure that has anything mineral-wise (and otherwise) the yeast really needs, that my water + DME may not.  If you want to use RO, that's an option; at least it's cheap insurance to make you feel good.  I use it in the boil too as cheap insurance.  It provides zinc, which is deficient in almost all water and worts.
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Offline Bob357

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Re: starters made with RO/distilled water
« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2019, 05:03:39 PM »
The DME should have everything the yeast needs, but a pinch of nutrient wouldn't hurt.
 My water weighs in at around 550ppm TDS, the bulk of which is calcium and sodium. I use it for starters and have never had a problem. Just run it through a Brita filter and add 1/8 tsp Wyeast Nutrient. I do decant before pitching and brew with adjusted RO water.
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Offline KCguy

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Re: starters made with RO/distilled water
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2019, 01:43:09 PM »
I do decant before pitching...

Confused on this - decant the starter? 
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Offline mainebrewer

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Re: starters made with RO/distilled water
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2019, 03:46:05 PM »
I do decant before pitching...

Confused on this - decant the starter?
Let the yeast settle to the bottom of the container (I cold crash mine in the fridge) and then pour off (decant) most of the wort. Leave enough so you can liquify the yeast and pour it into your fermenter.
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Offline denny

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Re: starters made with RO/distilled water
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2019, 07:26:03 PM »
I do decant before pitching...

Confused on this - decant the starter?
Let the yeast settle to the bottom of the container (I cold crash mine in the fridge) and then pour off (decant) most of the wort. Leave enough so you can liquify the yeast and pour it into your fermenter.

Or you can do an SNS starter and not have to mess with that
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Offline KCguy

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Re: starters made with RO/distilled water
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2019, 07:29:34 PM »
Or you can do an SNS starter and not have to mess with that

I googled that and am guessing youre not referring to anything to do with breastfeeding? 
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Offline riceral

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Re: starters made with RO/distilled water
« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2019, 08:54:01 PM »
Or you can do an SNS starter and not have to mess with that

I googled that and am guessing youre not referring to anything to do with breastfeeding?

Here's a run down on shaken not stirred starters:
https://www.experimentalbrew.com/blogs/denny/old-dognew-tricks    and here
https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/forum/index.php?topic=24447.0
« Last Edit: April 25, 2019, 08:57:19 PM by riceral »
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Offline BrewBama

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Re: starters made with RO/distilled water
« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2019, 09:06:51 PM »
Here’s what I have saved on SnS starter:

author S. cerevisiae

All one needs to make a well-shaken starter is a sanitizable vessel that is at least four times the volume of the starter being prepared, a sanitizable screw-on cap for the vessel, and a funnel.  I do not know if anything comparable is available in the UK; however, one U.S.-gallon glass jugs (demijohns in UK speak) are plentiful in the United States.   Home brew supply stores sell plastic replacement caps for these jugs that can be sanitized (38mm polyseal screw top caps).  If one has money to burn, a 5L borosilicate glass media bottle like I currently use is a very nice toy.  However, 5L media bottles can cost prohibitive when purchased new.  I acquired my current 5L media bottle as unused laboratory surplus, and it was not cheap.  I used a 1-gallon glass jug for a very long time before switching over to using a 5L media bottle.

Preparing the starter medium (a.k.a. starter wort)

The starter medium is prepared like one would prepare a starter any other way.  A 10% weight/volume solution is made by mixing 100 grams of pale DME into a little more than 1L of water.  The goal here is to end up with 1L of media after the solution has been boiled and cooled to room temperature.  I boil the solution for 15 minutes in a 3-quart stainless steel sauce pan (A U.S. quart is slightly smaller than a liter).  The media is chilled in the sauce pan with the cover affixed using an ice water bath in my kitchen sink. 

Sanitizing the starter vessel, screw-on cap, and funnel

The starter vessel, screw-on cap, and funnel should be sanitized while the medium is boiling and chilling. While I use bleach and StarSan, feel free to use your preferred sanitizer.  It is critical that the funnel is sanitized as well, and that one does not touch the inside surface of the funnel after it has been sanitized.

Note: One thing that I like to teach home brewers is to get into the habit of wiping the lip over which yeast or nutrient will be poured with an alcohol saturated cotton ball before decanting yeast, medium, or supernatant (supernatant is the clear liquid that lies above the solids in a starter, yeast crop, or a batch of beer).  Wild microflora (yeast, mold, and bacteria) rides through the air on house dust.  What we want to do is ensure that we do not drag any dust that may have come to rest on the pouring lip of the container that we are decanting into a vessel in which we intend to grow a culture or ferment a batch of beer.  This precaution makes sense If one thinks about what a nurse or doctor does before giving one an injection.  The reason why a doctor or a nurse cleans an injection site with an alcohol wipe before giving one an injection is to prevent the needle from dragging microflora that is on one’s skin into the injection site.

Pouring the starter medium

After placing the funnel in the starter vessel, one should wipe the pouring lip of the sauce pan in with an alcohol saturated cotton ball before pouring the starter medium into the starter vessel.  I use 70% or 90% isopropyl alcohol.  I used to use 95% ethanol (a.k.a. grain alcohol).  However, my state outlawed its sale due to teenagers and young adults abusing it.  Any 140 proof or better clear spirit will work.  Please do not use methylated spirits. 


Inoculating the starter medium

If using a White Labs vial, wipe the pouring lip of the vial with an alcohol saturated cotton ball before pouring the yeast culture into the starter vessel.   If using a Wyeast smack pack, wipe the outside of the smack and the blades of the pair of scissors that one is using to cut a corner off of the smack pack with an alcohol saturated cotton ball before making the cut, and wipe the cut edge of the smack pack with an alcohol saturated cotton ball before pouring the contents of the smack pack into the starter vessel.


Caping and shaking

Here’s where my method differs from the way the average home brewer makes a starter.  The reason why a vessel with a screw-on cap is necessary with this method is because one is going to shake the culture very vigorously for about a minute.  I usually tell brewers to shake the starter vessel like it owes you money (think mafia enforcer).  The goal here is to attempt to turn the media into foam. That's why the vessel has to be at least four times the volume of the starter.  One should then allow the starter to sit for around thirty minutes before loosening the cap to allow the foam to drop.

A well-shaken starter in a 5L media bottle



Pitching the starter

Pitching is one area where most home brewers get it completely wrong.  A starter is not a small batch of beer.  It is a yeast biomass growth medium.  The goal here is to grow the culture to maximum cell density and then pitch it.  Maximum cell density occurs at high krausen.  Beyond that point, all cell reproduction is for replacement only. Yeast taken at high krausen is much healthier than yeast that is taken from a sedimented starter or batch of beer.  That’s why traditional breweries crop yeast at high krausen.  Allowing a starter to ferment out and settle places the cells in the yeast equivalent of hibernation where they will have to undo survival-related morphological changes that occurred at the end of fermentation as well as completely replenish their ergosterol and unsaturated fatty acid reserves after being pitched. 

High krausen should occur within 12 to 18 hours after pitching the starter.  The yeast biomass grows exponentially, not linearly.  The yeast cell count grows at a rate of 2^n, where the symbol “^” means raised to the power of, and n equals the number of minutes that have elapsed since the end of the lag phase divided by 90; hence, the difference in propagation time between 200B cells and 400B cells can be as little as 90 minutes.


British Versus American Pitching Rates

If one believes the yeast calculators found on American sites, one will end up growing 2 to 3 liter starters for 23L batches.  Frankly, the guys who wrote this code know more about coding than they do about yeast.  No two yeast cultures behave the same when pitched, and no two yeast cultures require the same pitching rate.   The only thing that will teach one the proper pitch rate for any given strain is experience with the strain in one’s brew house.  Additionally, it is often desirable to underpitch in order to achieve a desired flavor profile.  British styles benefit from underpitching.  I often pitch as little as 60B cells into 19L of wort when fermenting normal gravity beer (i.e., < 1.065).   Wyeast 1768, which is allegedly Young’s stain, performs much better when pitched at a rate of 3B cells per liter than at a rate of 10B cells per liter when fermenting normal gravity ale.  It produces what I like to refer to as the British lollipop ester when the beer is young.   This strain produces a .delightfully fruity and malty pint when used with a grist that is composed mostly of British pale malt.




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Offline ynotbrusum

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Re: starters made with RO/distilled water
« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2019, 01:51:03 AM »
I sure miss that guy.  What a yeast whisperer.
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Offline goose

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Re: starters made with RO/distilled water
« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2019, 03:06:47 PM »
I don't have super hard tap water (calcium is definitely below optimal for brewing,) but I always add a wee tad (super precise scientific measurement, that) of Wyeast nutrient to my starters.  I figure that has anything mineral-wise (and otherwise) the yeast really needs, that my water + DME may not.  If you want to use RO, that's an option; at least it's cheap insurance to make you feel good.  I use it in the boil too as cheap insurance.  It provides zinc, which is deficient in almost all water and worts.

I make my starters with only R.O. water since my well water is way too hard (400 grains of hardness) and contains black manganese that is not good for the yeast.
Per Rob, I too add a a "wee tad" of yeast nutrient to the starter to give the yeast a slight nutrient kick.  My starters for 10 gallon batches are boiled for 7-10 minutes in a 4 L Erlenmeyer flask (5 L if making a lager starter) fitted with a foam plug (I have an electric range in the kitchen and use a wire gauze under the flask to prevent hot spots when boiling).  I then cool the entire mixture to room temperature in a cold water bath before pitching the yeast and placing the flask on a stir plate (I still use mine Denny!  ;D).  By doing this I don't have to pour the starter medium into the flask and can reduce possible bacteria contamination in the starter.  The foam plug is sterilized by the steam coming off the starter medium during the boil.
I don't bother to decant anymore since there will still be a lot of cells suspended in the liquid that are viable, so why not use them.  The starter is made about 18-24 hours before the brew day and my lag times are pretty short.
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Online Robert

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Re: starters made with RO/distilled water
« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2019, 03:12:27 PM »
Goose, I've always been afraid to cool my flasks directly in a cold water bath, even though borosilicate glass should be able to take it.  I'm worried that there could be flaws in the student grade flasks we get from homebrew retailers, so I leave it at room temperature for a bit and then refrigerate.   Are yours fancy professional labware, or would I be safe?
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Offline ynotbrusum

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Re: starters made with RO/distilled water
« Reply #12 on: April 26, 2019, 05:51:14 PM »
Rob, the only time I have broken an Ehrlenmeyer flask was when I was cleaning it and clanked it against the sink, but mine are apparently lab grade borosilicate (I bought them from a lab supplier, anyway)...of course, there is only one way to find out!  FWIW mine handled heat to freezer without an issue.
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: starters made with RO/distilled water
« Reply #13 on: April 26, 2019, 09:27:06 PM »
I through a pinch of CaCl2 in, a little nutrient, and the DME. There are enough minerals in those 3.
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Online Robert

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Re: starters made with RO/distilled water
« Reply #14 on: April 27, 2019, 08:22:06 PM »


but mine are apparently lab grade borosilicate (I bought them from a lab supplier, anyway)...

After bunch of online window shopping (is that a thing?) I think I've identified a solid indicator of lab vs. student grade:  If it can be shipped to Texas without the seller first confirming that the intended recipient has a government permit on file, it's likely just student grade.  Who'd a' thunk.
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