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Author Topic: Yeast Starter  (Read 4076 times)

Offline ECH

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Yeast Starter
« on: April 30, 2015, 02:57:33 AM »
OK, first time doing a starter, ordered a stirbar and have stuff here to make a homemade stir plate.

Went to NG, and all they had is Dark DME, is this OK to use? I know most use light DME, is the Dark going to make much difference? Use less of the Dark DME to make the starter, as opposed to what would be used with Light DME? Or does it matter?

Beersmith says I need to do a 3l starter (yeast is a little old, Nov '14, 1214 Belgian Abbey), using 2 packs of yeast, (4.7l starter if only using one).

Going rate is 1/2 cup of DME per liter?

How long before brew day should I make the starter, if I am just shaking it up in a 1gal bottle?

Also, video I watched, buddy had an airlock on the starter bottle. Isn't the whole point in shaking it up every so ofter to get oxygen into the starter? The airlock would prevent that wouldn't it?

Offline robcoombs

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Re: Yeast Starter
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2015, 08:01:18 AM »
If you have to take the time to build a stir plate, you could get them to order some light DME in. They may even have some when  orders come in this Friday. But I'm not sure how much this would matter. You should be decanting most of the  liquid before pitching anyways. Don't adjust the amount you used for dark vs light DME, you're looking for a certain amount of sugar.

I assume you have a flask as well since you're building a stir plate? Don't forget to take a stir plate into account when calculating the size starter you need.

I generally do starters with 1/2cup DME, 650ml water. But some other more experienced guys here may do something different. I've never had a problem though with that ratio.
I usually do a yeast starter 4 days prior to brew day. 2 days for the yeast to grow in the flask on the stir plate. 2 days cold crash in fridge to allow as much yeast as possible to drop out. On brew day I bring it up to room temp before pitching.

The airlock is necessary for the same reason it's necessary when fermenting a beer. To allow co2 out and prevent infection from getting in while the starter is fermenting. So yes, necessary. Though before I had a flask I was using a growler and I had a sanitized piece of aluminum foil on top. But obviously a flask is ideal.

Oh, and if you haven't used that yeast before...it is very aggressive! I'm still trying to scrub beer off the ceiling.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2015, 08:09:18 AM by robcoombs »

Offline Roger

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Re: Yeast Starter
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2015, 09:20:32 AM »
The reason for light DME is it's less likely to affect the flavour and color of the beer. I'm sure dark will work though. I always check the gravity of the starter instead of using a ratio of DME to water. I usually shoot for 1.030-1.040. If the yeast is older or the least bit questionable though I'd do a stepped up starter that's where you do at least a couple starters doing one with a lower gravity of around 1.025-1.030 and a lesser volume letting it do its thing then decanting and then doing it again with more volume and a higher gravity. This is just a gentle way to treat the yeast so you have a high amount of viable yeast cells to work with.
I agree with Rob your gonna want to cover the flask with something I don't use an air lock I use a piece of foil sprayed down with Star San. Your right though the starter does need oxygen so the foil allows a bit of oxygen in while keeping out the nasties. I also shake the hell out of it just before pitching the yeast to get as much oxygen into the starter as possible.

Offline jamie_savoie

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Re: Yeast Starter
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2015, 09:45:17 AM »
For starter I do 1g per 10ml, so for a 1L starter I use 100g DME, for 500ml 50g and so on.
Thereís no diff between dark and light DME, itís just that it might affect the SRM of the wort itís going into. No big deal
Personally, I prefer the mr malty for pitching rate tool. http://www.mrmalty.com/calc/calc.html
For airlocks, I personally never put them on my starters.  I just sanitize a piece of foil and tightly wrap over.  Iíll put an airlock if the starter is finish and I intend to only use it weeks later.  I donít even put an airlock on my primary fermenter until 3-4 days after pitching (just foil).
Also consider doing multiple steps since your yeast is old.  I would so something like 500ml for 2-3 days then step up to 1.5-2L for 1-2 days


Offline Two Wheeler

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Re: Yeast Starter
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2015, 09:53:37 AM »
Everyone does this a little differently, much like anything to do with brewing.

I have an equipment profile set up in Beersmith for starters, and let it calculate however much DME I need to get to 1.040 at the given volume.

I use a flask and stirplate, and just put sanitized foil on top to allow air in. I believe there's enough yeast and/or alcohol to negate the sanitation risk.

If I had the yeast with enough time before brewing, I like to cold crash and decant the beer off the yeast before pitching... but that doesn't always work out so I've pitched the whole starter a few times and haven't noticed a difference.
Jordan Harris
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Offline ECH

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Re: Yeast Starter
« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2015, 06:00:04 PM »
The starter is going in a Winter Warmer type beer for next winter.

Plan on splitting it into 2 secondaries, one aged on heavy toast American Oak cubes soaked in bourbon of some sort, and the other half on heavy toast French Oak cubes soaked in a Cuban Rum

So the Dark DME likely won't matter in the end to it, was just thinking down the road for other beers that might not be so dark.


So, do you have to cold crash and decant off the beer from the starter? Or just pitch as is?

I have 2 packs of the yeast, as my intentions were just to use the 2 smack packs in the beer, was also my intention to do it last Nov. (when the yeast was fresh) to have the beer for this past winter....just things didn't work out. Beersmith says if I use one pack, due to the age, I would need 4.7l of starter fluid for it to work, if I use both packs in the starter, then I can cut it down to 3l of fluid.

No flask, but a 1 gallon carboy, so might be a little big to shove in the "house" fridge (and I also don't want to piss off SWMBO), and definitely won't fit in my beer fridge. Ordered a stir bar, from OBK, should have just gotten the Light DME from them as well as when I was at NG, they only had dark, and when I asked about the light, they said they only had the dark (in sort of a take it or leave it attitude), should have left it there, but thought the stir bar would have been in this week.

Stir plate is going to be DIY. I did a year of Electronic Engineering at Moncton NBCC and our final project was an AC to DC variable converter, YT video I saw a guy just used a PC fan and glued a couple of magnets to the fan center, and used it as the stir plate engine. I have the magnets, converter and lots of PC fans, so figured I would just make one.

Offline robcoombs

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Re: Yeast Starter
« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2015, 08:40:46 PM »
I agree with you the dark DME likely won't matter in this beer. If you decant, I can't imagine it would matter even if you were doing a lighter beer. You don't HAVE to cold crash, just as you don't HAVE to decant. I started off cold crashing for 24 hours, and pitching the whole thing. Now I tend to cold crash for 48 hours (if I plan enough ahead) and decant most of the wort before pitching. I don't notice a difference with those changes, I just decided to change my process.

Instead of doing a 4.7L starter, you could always just do a 2L starter, decant and then do a 2.7L starter with that same yeast. Like @jamie_savoie said though since the yeast is a bit old you may want to step this pack up multiple times. Your beer ideas sound great, you'd hate to ruin it with a stalled ferment because you didn't treat the yeast properly.

I did a DIY stir plate as well. I don't have any EE education but I managed to figure it out so you shouldn't have any problems. The only thing I wonder about with the 1gal carboy is the glass thinkness. I'm not sure if the stir plate will be able to spin the stir bar in that container, especially if you're considering making a 4.7L starter. You obviously want to test it with water before tearing open that pack of yeast. 

Offline Roger

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Re: Yeast Starter
« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2015, 11:03:11 PM »
Like @robcoombs said the stir bar might have a hard time spinning in a carboy. The glass on the bottom is thick and convex. It's possible but the stir plate will need to be heavy duty. Flasks have a completely flat bottom so the stir bar spins freely. I look forward to seeing what you come up with though. Brewing DIY is great fun!  :cheers:

Offline ECH

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Re: Yeast Starter
« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2015, 01:17:30 AM »
Bottom of the 1gal carboy is actually flat. Not as flat as a flask would be, but not as convex or a thick as a 6-7 gal carboy.

For $8 vs a $20 2l or $35 5l flask....worth a shot.

Offline Two Wheeler

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Re: Yeast Starter
« Reply #9 on: May 01, 2015, 09:11:28 AM »

For $8 vs a $20 2l or $35 5l flask....worth a shot.

Definitely, make sure to add some pics!
Jordan Harris
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Offline ECH

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Re: Yeast Starter
« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2015, 12:23:44 PM »
OK, didn't make a stir plate yet, but did do a starter that I am just shaking every time I walk by.

Been about 36hrs, and no activity at all.

3L starter, 2 packs of 1214 Belgian Abbey (from Nov. '14), and as of yet, no activity

Am I just being impatient? Or am I better to cut my losses as the yeast is dead from being too old.

Offline jamie_savoie

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Re: Yeast Starter
« Reply #11 on: June 07, 2015, 12:12:37 AM »
Looks normal to me for a 7 months old yeasts.  With older yeast itís better to make a smaller starter for couple of days, decant and step it up.  But relax, Iím sure itíll be active soon and itíll make delicious beer ;)

Offline ECH

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Re: Yeast Starter
« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2015, 12:58:19 AM »
Yeah, when I looked at it this afternoon, it had about an inch to inch and a half layer of yeast at the bottom of the bottle (1 gallon carboy), so stuck it in the fridge.

Was just expecting it to form a krausen like it would in a full batch of beer, (since it is just a small beer in the starter), but when I didn't see any signs of a krausen at all, got me a little worried.

Offline robcoombs

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Re: Yeast Starter
« Reply #13 on: June 07, 2015, 11:01:39 AM »
I've had starters with certain liquid yeast strains that didn't form a krausen.