Author Topic: Starters: when to pitch and how much is too much?  (Read 1358 times)

Offline lazydog79

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Starters: when to pitch and how much is too much?
« on: August 05, 2011, 07:33:15 AM »
Yesterday was my brew day for my Bier de Garde that I am fermenting with WLP 011 European Ale Yeast.  Up until now, my SOP for starters was to make up an appropriately sized starter (per Mr. Malty) 48-72 Hours before the brew, let it ferment out, decant the starter beer, and pitch the cream.  With this brew, it took the yeast almost 36 hours to get going - from what I've read typical for 011 - so it didn't have time to ferment out.  Rather than risk increasing under-pitching and increasing my lag time, I decanted off about half of the 2.75 qt. starter and pitched the rest.

So far, I'm impressed with the results - I had slow bubbling within 3 hours of pitch and aggressive fermentation inside of 12 hours.  This is definitely getting me to rethink when to pitch.  My lingering question is how much starter beer is too much to pitch into a 5 gallon batch? 

Offline hoser

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Re: Starters: when to pitch and how much is too much?
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2011, 07:38:39 AM »
Jamil (Mrmalty) says it should be 10% or less of your total volume.  A little bit probably depends on the style of beer you are brewing.  Probably less for a pilsner ( I would decant like you mentioned).  You can probably go a little over the 10% with a RIS or barleywine.  This issue is the flavor impact from the starter wort.  I think you will be fine, especially if you pitched at high krausen or around that time.  RDWHAHB! :D

Offline narvin

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Re: Starters: when to pitch and how much is too much?
« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2011, 07:45:16 AM »
Lag time is mostly meaningless for predicting how a beer will turn out.
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Offline hoser

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Re: Starters: when to pitch and how much is too much?
« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2011, 08:13:39 AM »
I prefer longer lag times vs. shorter lag times, but that is just my opinion.  When my beers take off to quick I am concerned about yeast growth occuring too fast, fermenting too warm, and fusels, etc. I like to think of fermentations as more of a marathon than a sprint.  IMHO a bubbling air lock is the most meaningless thing in homebrewing.  It is a sign of gas escaping from a vessel or container, not fermentation itself.  
« Last Edit: August 05, 2011, 08:30:46 AM by hoser »

Offline denny

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Re: Starters: when to pitch and how much is too much?
« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2011, 08:18:01 AM »
Lag time is mostly meaningless for predicting how a beer will turn out.

Seems like too many people fail to realize that.
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Offline bluesman

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Re: Starters: when to pitch and how much is too much?
« Reply #5 on: August 05, 2011, 08:42:15 AM »
I usually don't worry about lag time because I am usually pitching an appropriate (calculated) amount of viable and healthy yeast. The lag time is the time required for a specific yeast to acclimatize to a specific set of conditions which will vary from yeast to yeast and wort to wort. An active starter will typically cut your lag time significantly but is not absolutely necessary for producing the best beer possible.
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Offline lazydog79

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Re: Starters: when to pitch and how much is too much?
« Reply #6 on: August 05, 2011, 08:54:06 AM »
Yeah, I wasn't that concerned about lag time - more the pitching rate.  Not that much yeast had settled on the bottom, so I didn't want to decant as I usually did.  I was just surprised at how fast it took off.  A lot of the reviews on 011 commented on long lags and slow ferments, which I saw on my starter.  I'm assuming pitching more active yeast accounts for that.  I usually only like a pint or so of starter beer going in the fermenter rather than the quart and changed I put in.  But figuring that a little over a quart puts me at about 5%, I'm under the 10% rule and the malt of the Biere de Garde should cover up the starter.

Offline thcipriani

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Re: Starters: when to pitch and how much is too much?
« Reply #7 on: August 06, 2011, 04:20:01 PM »
As was noted above, I think you could probably get away pitching your whole 2-liter starter at the height of activity in something like a stout or something with enough flavor to hide it. I saw the 10% rule in Dr. White's and JZ's yeast book and was a little surprised - I remember back when Jamil was winning Ninkasi's and said multiple times that he just pitches his whole starter after about 8 hours. Pitching at the height of activity is definitely something to consider when you're brewing on short notice, but I tend not to do that too much anymore.

What I've been doing is a combination of decanting and pitching at the height of activity - I saw this in Zymurgy and it's apparently Jamil's revised process. I pressure cook starter wort and I do 3 sizes - 500mL, 1L and 2L. I use the 1L and 2L as you'd expect - the 500mL I save for brew day. I let my starters ferment out, then let them sit out for 8-12 hours to rebuild glycogen reserves then refrigerate until brew day. Morning of brew day - sometime when I'm heating sparge water - I'll decant my starter and let it warm back up to a reasonable temp (or until I get my mash pH set - whichever comes first) then I'll throw 500mL additional wort on the settled yeast and I pitch that whole thing. I only do this with ales. This is a technique that's been working amazingly well for me - fermentations have been pretty amazing - quick and complete.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2011, 04:24:22 PM by thcipriani »
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Offline lazydog79

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Re: Starters: when to pitch and how much is too much?
« Reply #8 on: August 06, 2011, 06:58:23 PM »
Hmmm... That's an interesting routine - a way to split the difference between the two camps.  Thanks for sharing.

Offline bluesman

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Re: Starters: when to pitch and how much is too much?
« Reply #9 on: August 06, 2011, 07:23:20 PM »
I follow the same regimen. Ferment out, allow to rest for about 24 hrs then crash cool. Decant most of the spent wort and pitch. My new technique is to add some fresh wort to the decanted starter
about three hours prior to pitching. This enables the starter to become active prior to pitching.
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Offline pricepeeler

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Re: Starters: when to pitch and how much is too much?
« Reply #10 on: August 24, 2011, 09:33:13 AM »
Does anyone have a link to the Zymurgy article that thcipriani is referencing.

Sounds like a good read,
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Offline hoser

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Re: Starters: when to pitch and how much is too much?
« Reply #11 on: August 24, 2011, 09:34:52 AM »
I follow the same regimen. Ferment out, allow to rest for about 24 hrs then crash cool. Decant most of the spent wort and pitch. My new technique is to add some fresh wort to the decanted starter
about three hours prior to pitching. This enables the starter to become active prior to pitching.

+1 this is my recent MO as well.  I also place the starter in the same fermentation chamber as wort so I am pitching at the same temp as well.