Author Topic: Do I need a starter?  (Read 1941 times)

Offline gmac

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Do I need a starter?
« on: December 19, 2010, 01:53:05 PM »
Most of the posts that I've read here recommend using a starter to increase the pitchable yeast numbers.  But Wyeast says that their Activator should be enough to ferment 5 gals of wort without a starter.  I am sure that they are correct but is there benefit from doing a starter anyway?  I'm very new to liquid yeast.  I searched for "Starter" before posting and found way too many posts to search through them all and adding "Making" to the search just made it worse. 

If you recommend a starter, can you give me a really simple beginner level recipe?  I was thinking 1/4 cup of DME boiled in 1L of water in a sterilized 2L bottle with an airlock?  I assume you don't want a lot of blow out because you are trying to capture and keep the yeast, not let it go out the top.  I am going to be using Wyeast ESB ale yeast (sorry, forget the #).  I don't have a stir plate or anything like that, just a pop bottle right now.  I am assuming if I start a starter 24 - 36 hours before I intend to brew that would be enough?

Thanks

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Re: Do I need a starter?
« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2010, 02:11:13 PM »
Both WY and WL sell their yeasts and pitchable, and in most cases you can "get away" with pitching them in a beer under 1.060 or so. But you won't be making the best beer possible if you don;t pitch enough yeast. Fermentation is the key to making great beer. Making wort is only secondary.

Check this article here for more information: http://www.byo.com/component/resource/article/1749-yeast-pitching-rates-advance-homebrewing

As far as the best way to make a starter: you certainly don't need a stir plate. They do grow more yeast but they are not essential. I recommend getting a gallon glass jug. Use about 3 oz of DME per quart of starter. Boil the DME first, then cool before adding to your glass jug (unless you have a lab flask or some sort of thermal resistant glass jug adding it boiling will break).

Aerate well before adding your yeast and try and give it a good swirl every now and then until fermentation is complete. Then crash cool in the fridge for 24 hours or so, decant the spent starter beer and then pitch only the yeast slurry on the bottom. Check out the pitching calc at www.mrmalty.com to get an idea how big a starter to make.

All that said, for new brewers dry yeast can actually be a better option. For one thing, dry yeast comes ready to go. No starter needed. Also, aeration is not as critical since all aeration does and build the sterols in the cell walls so that the yeast can bud. But dry yeast already has the sterols stored. The best dry yeast I have ever used is US-05.  It is a very clean fermenter and attenuates nicely.
Keith Y.
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Offline chezteth

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Re: Do I need a starter?
« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2010, 03:06:46 PM »
+1 to Majorvices' advice.  When I make a starter I do not put an airlock on the jug.  I use plastic wrap or aluminum foil to cover the top.

Offline oscarvan

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Re: Do I need a starter?
« Reply #3 on: December 19, 2010, 05:39:56 PM »
FWIW I have made 4 partial mash beers now (all well under 1060) with just the Wyeast packs, and they fermented just fine, quite vigorously in fact. Anything 1060 or up I would indeed do a starter, or use two packs.....(I know, more $$)

They were all less than 2 weeks old, and appeared to have been cared for (as in refrigerated)
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I brew WITH style..... not necessarily TO style.....

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Re: Do I need a starter?
« Reply #4 on: December 19, 2010, 05:56:28 PM »
FWIW I have made 4 partial mash beers now (all well under 1060) with just the Wyeast packs, and they fermented just fine, quite vigorously in fact. Anything 1060 or up I would indeed do a starter, or use two packs.....(I know, more $$)

They were all less than 2 weeks old, and appeared to have been cared for (as in refrigerated)

Fresh definitely helps. But, FWIW, your still underpitching (see the link I posted above). And you won't know what you are missing until you make a starter. You say they fermented "fine", but they most likely still generated more fusels and esters than had you pitched at the proper rather. And, trust me, eventually you will be on here with a posts that says something like "Its been 48 hours and no signs of fermentation...." And the first reply will be "did you make a starter?"  ;)
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Offline gmac

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Re: Do I need a starter?
« Reply #5 on: December 19, 2010, 08:35:18 PM »
+1 to Majorvices' advice.  When I make a starter I do not put an airlock on the jug.  I use plastic wrap or aluminum foil to cover the top.

You just leave it loose enough for gas to escape?  I can see how aluminum foil would work ,not sure how I'd get plastic wrap to stay on without pulling it tight enough to seal but I am sure it can be done.  Assuming foil, you just crimp it around and over the top?

. Check out the pitching calc at www.mrmalty.com to get an idea how big a starter to make.

Not sure what I'm doing wrong but I couldn't get the site to work for me. 

I really like the different options available with liquids, especially lagers so I appreciate the advice on dries but I think I will keep plugging away with liquid until I get it right.  Not ignoring your advice, just too stubborn to deviate from what I want to do.  Also, my selection of dry yeasts around here is absolutely terrible.  Liquid isn't any better but I order on-line so I figure I may as well try to get what I want. 

Thanks for the advice.  Off to find a glass jug tomorrow.  Now, where the heck do I find a glass jug these days?

Offline chezteth

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Re: Do I need a starter?
« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2010, 10:06:57 PM »

You just leave it loose enough for gas to escape?  I can see how aluminum foil would work ,not sure how I'd get plastic wrap to stay on without pulling it tight enough to seal but I am sure it can be done.  Assuming foil, you just crimp it around and over the top?


Yes, I just fold it over the top.  Even with plastic wrap pulled down over the top of the jug the gases can get through.  Gases can get through really small spaces but with the foil or plastic wrap on top keeps any bad stuff out.

Happy Brewing,
Brandon

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Re: Do I need a starter?
« Reply #7 on: December 20, 2010, 04:46:58 AM »
Thanks for the advice.  Off to find a glass jug tomorrow.  Now, where the heck do I find a glass jug these days?

My LHBS stocks them. But you can also often find them in the juice isle at the grocery store (organic apple juice often is stored in them). Alternatively you could use a plastic jug (IMO one time use, then toss just to be safe). I wouldn't want to use one that had milk in it though. They are hard to sanitize. Water should be fine though.

Re: Lagers. Starters are even more important with lagers. You will need about 2Xs the amount of yeast than with ales. Aeration is critical too. Your gonna want to have a dedicated temp control unit to maintain the proper temps with lagers. They are quite a bit different on many leveles than ales.

Re: MrMalty - try this http://www.mrmalty.com/calc/calc.html

Re:
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Offline tom

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Re: Do I need a starter?
« Reply #8 on: December 20, 2010, 07:25:30 AM »
As always, +100 to what Major says.
"Fine" wine still come in 1 gallon bottles?
Brew on

Offline abraxas

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Re: Do I need a starter?
« Reply #9 on: December 20, 2010, 09:02:00 AM »
The best dry yeast I have ever used is US-05. 

I'll second this.

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Re: Do I need a starter?
« Reply #10 on: December 20, 2010, 09:33:46 AM »
FWIW I have made 4 partial mash beers now (all well under 1060) with just the Wyeast packs, and they fermented just fine, quite vigorously in fact. Anything 1060 or up I would indeed do a starter, or use two packs.....(I know, more $$)

They were all less than 2 weeks old, and appeared to have been cared for (as in refrigerated)

Until you make a starter, you won't know how much better your beer can be.
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

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Offline kerneldustjacket

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Re: Do I need a starter?
« Reply #11 on: December 20, 2010, 10:39:04 AM »

"Fine" wine still come in 1 gallon bottles?

Better still, there's a brand that comes in a 4 litre jug (135 ounces).
My first year of homebrewing I did one gallon batches using a 4 litre jug...the 7 extra ounces of headspace was just right.
John Wilson
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Offline gmac

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Re: Do I need a starter?
« Reply #12 on: December 20, 2010, 04:25:39 PM »
So here's a dumb question. 
Can I put 4 liters of starter in a carboy, let it ferment for a day or two, put it in the cold room (about 2 degrees C right now), dump out the liquid and put my wort directly in on top? 
Can you use anything besides DME?  I only bought enough DME for the recipe I want to make.  I can get more but if I'm just gonna chuck it, why not just sugar boiled in water?
Thanks

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Re: Do I need a starter?
« Reply #13 on: December 20, 2010, 04:30:20 PM »
So here's a dumb question. 
Can I put 4 liters of starter in a carboy, let it ferment for a day or two, put it in the cold room (about 2 degrees C right now), dump out the liquid and put my wort directly in on top? 

Yeah, although you might find it's more hassle than it's worth.

Can you use anything besides DME?  I only bought enough DME for the recipe I want to make.  I can get more but if I'm just gonna chuck it, why not just sugar boiled in water?
Thanks


Well, you could use LME... ;)  But sugar won't cut it.  It's gotta be malt so that the yeast doesn't get acclimated to other sugars.  In addition, sugar doesn't have the nutrients the yeast need.
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

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Re: Do I need a starter?
« Reply #14 on: December 20, 2010, 04:32:49 PM »
+1 - you want to grow the yeast on a maltose diet. Growing them on sugar is like giving kids candy before dinner, and then being frustrated when they don't want to eat their broccoli.
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