Author Topic: Do you have to have a stir plate? Not really.  (Read 1189 times)

Offline charlie

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Do you have to have a stir plate? Not really.
« on: December 09, 2019, 02:15:14 AM »
Do you have to have a stir plate? Not really.

I'm a bit of a gear head. When I started all-grain brewing in 2009 I got any piece of gear that I thought I needed, which included three stir plates. I didn't really need three stir plates at the time because I was only running one 1 liter starter for 5 gallon batches. But it didn't take long until I upped my game to 10 gallon batches and two 1 liter starters.

My procedure was to pitch the yeast in the sanitized starter, put it on the stir plate, and wait until it finished out. This sometimes involved putting an aluminum pie pan under the flask to catch overflow from the too active starter.

At some point I started putting the starters on the stir plate for 6 hours until they became active, and then turning the stir plate off. At that point I would periodically swirl the flask manually until activity was subsiding, and then put it back on the stir plate until it was done.

These days I pitch the yeast in the starters, put them on the stir plate for one hour, and then swirl the flasks at about one hour intervals until activity subsides. I still put the starters on the stir plates when they are almost done, but I am no longer convinced that a stir plate is a necessary piece of equipment. Do they finish the starter faster? Yes. Are there any negatives to using a stir plate? Only if you object to cleaning up a mess on the bench where the starter krausened over.

I use mostly WLP-001, 007, 029 and Bell's House Yeast, and my experience has held true with these plus numerous others I have used over the years. If your experience is different I would like to know about it.

Note: I run 1L starters in 2L flasks, and 500 ml starters in 1L flasks. 2X volume is not enough to keep an active starter from kruasening over.

Charlie
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Offline Robert

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Re: Do you have to have a stir plate? Not really.
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2019, 05:20:13 AM »
I use a well oversized flask (nominal  volume =/>2x actual starter volume) for the starter, and Fermcap.  The Fermcap is expended somewhere along the way, but there is still very little foam even at late stages.  I leave the stir plate running the whole time to keep gas exchange going -- getting CO2 out is beneficial even after O2 uptake is irrelevant  -- and to keep the yeast in suspension and in maximum contact with the medium.  I'm mostly a lager guy, so that may make a difference.  But I can't recall ever having problems with this protocol and ale yeast either.
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Offline denny

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Re: Do you have to have a stir plate? Not really.
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2019, 02:55:43 PM »
I haven't used a stir plate in over 5 years.  I don't even know where mine is any more.  I've discovered it's unnecessary for me to use one.  And ya know what....it's made absolutely no difference in the quality of my beer.
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Offline EnkAMania

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Re: Do you have to have a stir plate? Not really.
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2019, 04:15:16 PM »
I do vitality starter with 600-750 ml  wort 4-5 hours before pitching.  I use a stir plate, just because I have one and used to using it.  If I was to advise someone new, I would find something else to spend your money on first.
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Offline Kevin

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Re: Do you have to have a stir plate? Not really.
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2019, 04:49:14 PM »
Once I read about the Shaken Not Stirred (SNS) method on this forum my stir plate has sat unused. It has been a year or more and as Denny says It has not made a difference in my beer.
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Offline joe_meadmaker

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Re: Do you have to have a stir plate? Not really.
« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2019, 04:51:43 PM »
I run 1L starters in 2L flasks, and 500 ml starters in 1L flasks. 2X volume is not enough to keep an active starter from kruasening over.

That's interesting.  My normal starter for a 5 gallon batch is a half gallon of liquid in a one gallon glass jug.  I don't recall ever having a blow-off with a starter.  I wonder if the shape of the flask could be part of the cause.  Being that the sides are angled rather than straight.

I normally use a stir plate for starters.  I occasionally use the SNS method, but I find it simpler to just put the starter on a stir plate rather than shaking it.  Both methods work perfectly fine as far as results are concerned.  Although I always use a stir plate for my big starters.  Most of the meads I make are 1/2 barrel batches.  For these I usually do a 2 gallon starter in a 3 gallon carboy.  It's really cool to see those turning on a Maelstrom.

Offline denny

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Re: Do you have to have a stir plate? Not really.
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2019, 05:02:04 PM »
Once I read about the Shaken Not Stirred (SNS) method on this forum my stir plate has sat unused. It has been a year or more and as Denny says It has not made a difference in my beer.

Kinda makes ya wonder why people still do anything else, huh?
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Offline a10t2

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Re: Do you have to have a stir plate? Not really.
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2019, 05:21:04 PM »
Kinda makes ya wonder why people still do anything else, huh?

Because it's a hobby and that's justification enough for wanting a new toy. ;)
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Offline denny

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Re: Do you have to have a stir plate? Not really.
« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2019, 05:48:26 PM »
Kinda makes ya wonder why people still do anything else, huh?

Because it's a hobby and that's justification enough for wanting a new toy. ;)

Yes, and the fact that it's a hobby also means you should think for yourself and try new things, even if they don't involve more equipment.
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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Do you have to have a stir plate? Not really.
« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2019, 07:09:34 PM »
I've never used a stir plate, don't own one, and don't want one.  I try to use dried yeast as often as possible, and then starters are totally unnecessary.  And.... I'm a minimalist anyway.  Minimum equipment, minimum expenses, maximum shortcuts, that's me.  And I get away with it.  I recognize that this is not the norm.  But hell I'm still making pretty darn good beer... and mead, and cider.  Don't get me wrong... I do still tend to overthink a lot of topics... it's just, how to spend as much or more money than all my friends is NOT a goal of mine.  If I'm macho about anything, it's about how NOT macho I am.

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Offline Robert

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Re: Do you have to have a stir plate? Not really.
« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2019, 07:40:40 PM »
Need for one aside, I'm curious about why Charlie gets all this foam-over.  One of the effects of a stir plate is to keep knocking froth down as it forms.  The one and only time I ever remember having a starter/propagation foam over was without a stir plate.   Just wondering. 

Rob Stein
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Offline denny

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Re: Do you have to have a stir plate? Not really.
« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2019, 08:33:36 PM »
Need for one aside, I'm curious about why Charlie gets all this foam-over.  One of the effects of a stir plate is to keep knocking froth down as it forms.  The one and only time I ever remember having a starter/propagation foam over was without a stir plate.   Just wondering. 

Container too small?
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Offline charlie

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Re: Do you have to have a stir plate? Not really.
« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2019, 08:40:33 PM »
One of the effects of a stir plate is to keep knocking froth down as it forms.  The one and only time I ever remember having a starter/propagation foam over was without a stir plate.

I get exactly the opposite effect. I always figured that stirring causes the yeast to be more active and make more krausen. The starters are 100g of light dry DME diluted to 1L with tap water, so they're not high gravity.

The vessels are erlenmeyer flasks at 2X volume, i.e. a 2L flask for a 1L starter.

Charlie
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Offline skyler

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Re: Do you have to have a stir plate? Not really.
« Reply #13 on: December 12, 2019, 12:41:44 AM »
Between dry yeast and slurry, I rarely make starters anymore. When I do, I usually use a stir-plate because it saves time (especially with old/expired liquid yeast). That said, I use a stir-plate maybe once every 20 batches.

Offline denny

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Re: Do you have to have a stir plate? Not really.
« Reply #14 on: December 12, 2019, 03:29:44 PM »
Between dry yeast and slurry, I rarely make starters anymore. When I do, I usually use a stir-plate because it saves time (especially with old/expired liquid yeast). That said, I use a stir-plate maybe once every 20 batches.

I'm curious about the time saving.  A SNS starter takes 24 hours.
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