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Chaining starters instead of washing yeast?

I’ve been “chaining” my starters for a year to get multiple batches out of one pack. Basically I create/step-up the starter I need for a given batch. Let it ferment out, cold crash, decant on brew day. During the boil I boil up another batch of starter wort with DME and cool it. Then I pitch most of it into my beer, saving a bit to pitch into the now-cooled starter wort. That starter ferments out over time and goes in fridge for later use. I do my starters in flasks, and use sanitized foil and a rubberband in the fridge for storage.

What do you think? Washing seems like more work and most yeast washers recomend that you create a starter from the washed yeast anyway.

The only potential problem is how many generations you are from the original culture. That being said, as long as your yeast is remaining pure and you are getting the desired fermentation, I don’t see any reason to stop what you’re doing.

I pitch the whole starter. Then harvest the yeast.

When I use it again, I make a starter and add 2-4 spoon scoops of the cake. Saving the rest for later use. When you think it’s getting old, harvest the yeast from a new batch of beer and toss the old stuff.

Looks good to me sir.

I’ve been pouring a bit of yeast from my starters back into my White Labs tubes rather than pitching on top of the cake from previous batches - I guess that’s chaining starters. My rationale is that I’m less likely to have picked up undesirable microbes in the starter phase than during cooling, transferring, fermenting, sampling, plus transferring again.

I’m about to do this myself for the first time. I usually save from a previous batch but wanted to brew “out of order” and do the 1.092OG before the 1.050-ish ale. I saved a bit of the starter and will re-starter it in a bit.

Interesting timing. I just brewed a batch yesterday, making a larger starter than needed, put the remainder in the fridge, decanted, and then poured into two sanitized White Labs vials. Planning to do the same next weekend using one of the vials. I’ve been looking forward to trying this for a month or two. In theory, this seems easier, cleaner and safer than harvesting.

Any lessons learned since you’ve been doing this for a year?

I don’t think I’ve learned anything as nothing has gone wrong yet :smiley:

I do have a few rules I follow when doing starters:

  • Make sure you have a OG of 1.035-1.040. Norther Brewer’s yeast starter instructions for 2L starters state 1500ml water to 150g DME. But you will lose liquid during that 10min boil. So I usually add 100-150ml of water on top of the 1500ml so that when the boil is done so I have 1500ml of liquid with 150g of DME in it resulting in the expected gravity.

  • I don’t pitch fresh starter wort into a dirty starter fermenter. Put the fresh starter wort into a freshly cleaned and sanitized fermenter and then pitch the remaining original starter on to that.

  • I don’t have a stir plate, but a loose piece of sanitized foil and occasional shaking for the first day or so does well enough.

  • I prefer flasks for decanting, but they are expensive and 1/2g growlers work pretty well too.

  • I’ve kept starters in my fridge for 2 weeks with foil over them and a rubber band. No issues yet just decanting and pitching.

  • Always always always keep records. I got 100 “mailing tags” from the office store with wire twisties on them for 2 bucks. When I smack a fresh pack I start a tag with the date and yeast. If I step up, I note that on the tag with date and transfer tag to the new fermenter. If I chain the starter, I also note that fact and the date on the tag.

  • I usually only go for 3 batches from a yeast pack. Since I use dishsoap to wash and StarSan in RO (used over the course of a month before replacing) I don’t like to test my sanitiziation skills :smiley:

Hope this helps.

So far, so good. I made an oversized starter for one batch. Pitched the required volume for that batch and then separated out the remainder into a couple White Labs vials (after cold crashing and decanting). Last weekend I made an oversized starter with one of those vials, pitched and saved the remainder as above. I now have ~45ml of “clean” Wyeast 1272 (assuming adequate sanitation).

As far as I can tell at this point, both pitches resulted in a normal fermentation.

For reference, it looks like an off-the-shelf White Labs vial contains ~13ml of yeast.

Great! Glad it is working for you. I’ve considered over-sparging to collect some starter wort instead of buying DME but getting the gravity to 1.035 - 1.040 seems like a pain so I’m sticking with DME.

I generally do a combo of both. My final runnings are in the 1.030 range and I just add a little DME.

If I know I am going to use the same yeast a few times soon I just make a huge starter use what I need for brew day, put the rest in jars and refridgerate, then I dont have to bother washing or saving cakes. When I sue them make a starter and go

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