Yeast Starter Made. What do I do with it?

Post #1 made 3 years ago
If someone asked me this question, I would have no idea how to answer it well.

I well remember a post made by a guy called Darren on an Aussie website years ago, saying for this beer you will need to make a 15 litre starter (it was not a typo). The batch size was only 23 litres and so I was left scratching my head, like I do on so many brewing forum posts.

Some commercial brewing software has a starter feature but I think it is a little gimmicky. For example, it might ask you to supply starter size. Type in 12 litres and it certainly doesn't reduce your batch size by 12 litres. (Personally, this stuff should not even be in a brewing program. It's just ridiculous. The only real way you can know any yeast count is with a microscope. The estimates in these programs are as good as make-believe.)

Anyway, I'm very educated on how much a yeast cell count depends on a myriad of factors. What I am not educated on is if you make a yeast starter, should you be tipping in the whole starter to your wort or letting it settle and only tipping in the yeast layer?

(Am I right in saying the only way you would even get a yeast layer is by chilling?)

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Post #2 made 3 years ago
I can't really add much to this Pat, but thought I would subscribe in case it lead anywhere of further interest.
I personally don't use nor like yeast calculators. I prefer to use my own experience & judgement.
Maybe for somebody new they are useful as ballpark estimators, but to me it is somewhere between a thimble & a bath tub, because as you said, the only true way to know is with a microscope & counting chamber.

Off topic & maybe worth another thread is over-pitching, can anybody say they have knowingly over-pitched and didn't like the results (scientifically)?
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Post #3 made 3 years ago

When I use a yeast starter for a lager I normally just swirl it around to mix it and dump it into the wort. I use a starter so infrequently that I never remember if I should dump off the (water-beer) layer. I am sure that a cup of the water-beer will make no difference in the long run and the swirling around and mixing gives it a little oxygen before going into the batch of beer?

I am not really sure if this is an answer to your question or not? The only time I have used a starter this year is for the podcast on BBR. I had three 19 liter batches of beer to inoculate so I needed a big starter to cover all three batches. I just keep adding DME to a 2000 liter flask until I got enough of the Wyeast 1968.

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Post #4 made 3 years ago
mally, I think that anyone who has pitched with the complete dregs of their last ferment has likely overpitched. I can't say that I have noticed any problems arising from this howver, now I usually oly use a couple of cups of dregs. Not real scientific but it works and I get very active ferment in about 8 hrs.
PP, you don't need to chill to get a solid layer, it happens with fermenting ales at room temp right? The chill will make it happen faster and more solid tho and thus easier to decant the top fluid. There are many schools of thought regarding decanting and I am not sold on any one of them. I think it is one of those processes with many arguments attached.

Post #5 made 3 years ago
This is something I really need education on. I only know how to use dry yeast, but I really don't feel like I am shorting myself.

mally: I don't knowingly over pitch, but I do knowingly under pitch.

I've read that for hoppy ales, some of the big brewers (Russian River being one) tend to underpitch hoppy beers slightly to keep the yeast from scrubbing IBU's and such from the beer.

I see so many people blindly throwing in 2 packs of dry yeast at a time for an IPA, can't bring myself to do that .. and have had 0 issues so far.

Example: My house IPA. mr. malty calculator only calls for 1.2 packs per 5G VIF (11.5g packs) for 1.070 OG, so I just stick with the 1 pack when using US-05.

The mangrove jack yeast comes in 10g packs, so 1.35 would be required according to that calculator. I still get good results with just the 1 pack, but I was admittedly tempted to get a third pack to make it 1.5 per fermenter this past brew.

I guess the calculators give a decent starting point, but I agree there are many other factors to consider. Personal experience trumps all.
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Post #6 made 3 years ago
Not that a newb opinion is much value here :sneak: , but I think this is another one of those subjects that depends on the many variables involved. Yeast strain I think is a big one, as floc varies so much from one strain to another. Another one that goes hand in hand with strain is age of the starter.

If I do a starter 12-24 hours before the brew, the liquid above the yeast is generally still quite cloudy, which I assume means there are still a lot of yeast doing their thing throughout the starter. In this case I think it makes sense to pitch the whole thing. If you plan ahead and/or are doing a multi step starter, you generally have more time to allow the little guys to settle.

The rule I usually stick to is if the liquid is still cloudy, either pitch the whole thing, or wait/refrigerate until it is clear, then decant.

Again just a newbs assumption with no science to back it up but seems logical enough to me. I have been using liquid yeast for only my last 5 batches or so, all with starters, and haven't had any problems so far either decanting or not(depending on cloudiness). So far I have only done about 1 litre starters (no fancy yeast calculators either), I think if I did much larger I would definitely want to either wait or chill, and decant.
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Post #7 made 3 years ago
Thanks guys, especially you goulaigan. That all makes a lot of sense to me - great answer!!! And please, don't be worried about a newb opinion. There's heaps of areas I still find grey, like this one, that you or others might be able to give a quality answer to (like you just did). Thank you :salute:.

Thanks for the other posts as well. I'm just going to go and have a little think on how I would design the two options, lay them out, in a coded BIABacus. The maths is pretty easy even if the starter isn't of the same gravity as the OG of the recipe so that's good. The wording, design and layout, not so easy as usual!

As for over=pitching, 200mls of washed yeast cake is probably over-pitching but I've never had a problem with that on average gravity ales. As mentioned above, I'm not really well studied on this area of yeast counting etc. The only thing I do know is that any time someone has actually counted the cells, it can vary wildy depending on how they have treated the yeast. (Someone had a good link on this on dried yeast a while back but I can't find it now :sad:).

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Post #8 made 3 years ago
I have normally just pitched two yeast packs rather than making a starter. However I was recently told that it was a good idea to make a starter and pitch at high krausen, because it was beneficial for the yeast to be awake and actively eating when you pitch. I tried this a couple days ago. The airlock was bubbling basically immediately, but krausen didn't start to form on the wort until the typical 8-12 hours later.
I oxygenated the wort with a 2 minute shot just like I usually would. I'm wondering if oxygenating the wort was really beneficial or not, since the yeast were pitched in an active phase?
I think I have read that when you use a stir plate for your starter it is not necessary to oxygenate your wort.

Post #9 made 3 years ago
I believe that you still need to aerate the wort even if using a stir plate. The stir plate ensures that the starter has plenty of O2 in order to grow.
I have always used the calculator on Mr.Beer for starters and step ups. I have recently purchased Jamils Yeast book and hopefully soon I will be able to further this discussion.
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Post #10 made 3 years ago
There is so much to comment on this thread...

1. Starters can accomplish several different things, sometimes all at once. A starter can be used to propagate yeast, reinvigorate yeast health or test yeast viability. Making starters should serve a purpose you want to accomplish.

2. The only sure way to get a true yeast count is with a microscope. BUT... it isn't the only way to achieve somewhat consistent pitch rates. The calculators only estimate yeast counts and viability from the various methods we use before pitching, but once we find a method that produces the beer we want, the goal is to replicate that method and therefore come as close as we can to duplicating the yeast pitch and beer flavor. The calculators are a starting place, like a best guess at where we want to be. Jamil and Chris White from White Labs discuss this in their book.

3. The yeast book recommends to not pitch a complete starter without decanting the starter wort if it would represent more than 5% of the VIF lest you want to affect beer flavor. If you are decanting the starter wort, to not select the most flocculent members of the colony, you have to let your starter finish the ferment, generally about 36 to 48 hours, and chill before decanting the liquid and pitching the slurry. I have no practical experience on if pitching say a 2L starter at high krausen into a 21L VIF batch of beer would affect beer flavor compared to decanting and pitching.

4. To try and finish answering PP's original question, I think the jury is still out on decanting or not decanting. I can see the utility in either method. I usually make starters to increase cell counts so I make big starters and decant before pitching. I let them ferment out and after about 36 hours the starter is clear and the yeast have settled to the bottom. I chill for 12 hours or so and decant. I let the yeast warm naturally to room temp or thereabouts before pitching into fermentor. I suppose if I were looking to increase yeast vitality and not cell counts so much, I would look to pitch the starter at high krausen? I really have little experience with the latter method.

5. Stir plate provides oxygen to the starter. The wort in fermentor will still need proper oxygenation.

To finish, I think PP hit it on the head when he said that cell counts depend completely on the handling method and that there are so many variables to control that it is impossible to precisely control cell counts without a microscope. However, I do believe there is utility and better beer to be had by forming yeast handling methods that are as consistent as possible for each beer we brew even without the use of a microscope.

Hope this sparks some more discussion. I love this topic. My beer became much much better when I began making starters, but I also know that it isn't the only way to get proper pitch rates or make great beer. Interested in hearing more from you guys on what works and maybe about if you switch up your pitching method to achieve certain desired results in your beer.

Post #14 made 3 years ago
I generally use liquid yeast, I wash it after I rack the beer off to bottle, and usually get enough for about 4 batches or so, so I divide into 4 jars and refrigerate. When I am ready to brew again I usually just make a 1 litre starter or so about 24 hrs before with one of the jars. If I am doing a big beer I may use 2 jars, and thats about as scientific as I get. I don't have a stir plate, I just swirl the starter everytime I walk by it, and I usually just pitch the whole thing, since I never think to make it early enough to allow it to really settle out... I have used washed yeast that has been in the fridge for 7 or 8 months without any trouble...
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Post #15 made 3 years ago
Thanks goulaigan... I have heard of people using washed yeast that old as well. Key is that you reinvigorate the yeast with a starter. Great stuff. I wonder if you would get different results with the same recipe by only varying the age of your washed yeast that throw into the starter? Or maybe the generation of the yeast pitch? Thanks again for sharing.

Post #16 made 3 years ago
Interesting questions for sure. Haven't been brewing long enough to have starters older than maybe 4 or 5 generations, but I have read that between 7-10 is the most you should go to avoid mutation. I'm also not set up nor have the time to do side by side comparisons, so although interesting, they are not questions I will be able to answer for now. One thing I have noticed is that the older the washed yeast, the longer it seems to take the starter to 'wake up'...
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