Making my first starter

I am going to make the Bourbon barrel porter extract kit. I have the wyeast packet 1728. I also have fast pitch and a malestrom stir plate Now is where my questions begin. Does one still smack the packet and wait for it to active, then pitch into the starter wort? Second is how long to leave the starter on the stir plate? I see people saying 12 to 48 hours. What is the difference in the time you leave it on the stir plate?

I can answer yes to smacking the starter pack. I have yet to use a stir plate, so hoping someone else can weigh in on that. I would assume the longer it is on the plate the better, but I could be wrong.

I like to go about 36 hours on a stir plate. Sometimes there are longer lag times with older yeast so the 18 to 24 hours often mentioned isn’t long enough…

Have you used a pitch rate/starter calculator like this one to estimate whether a one step or two step starter is needed based on the age of your yeast?

Thank you for the quick response. This helps a lot. I did not know about the age of yeast to figure what type of starter works best. Great information.

FYI: “maelstrom” is a cool sounding name for a stir plate, but it gives the wrong idea. You just want a nice dimple in the surface when it’s running. You don’t want to be sending your yeast to Oz with Dorothy and Toto.

I’ve moved to smaller batches, so I haven’t needed a starter in a while, but my preferred timeline was to run the starter Tuesday-Wednesday then crash it in the fridge Thursday-Friday. I would then decant the spent starter at the start of the brew, and pitch just the yeast. My rushed timeline was to run the starter Friday, and pitch the whole flask Saturday; no fridge or decanting.

Pro tip: When you decant/pitch, have a small magnet between your fingers and the flask neck. It will “catch” the stir rod so you don’t accidentally pitch it too. If you do inadvertently pitch the stir rod, do not fish it out. You’ll do no harm leaving it in, but whatever you would do to remove it adds risk. Set a post-it or other reminder to recover the rod after you rack the beer.

Here is how I’ve been doing it (so has Denny). I can’t believe how well it work with both ales and lagers (10gal batches of numerous OGs). For my lagers I will do it with 2L. I’ve noticed less lag time. I’ve never attempted anything scientific to compare esters, off flavors, etc.

I too have the maelstrom but now only use it if I’m trying to culture dredges from a bottle.

More great information. Thanks jmck & loopie.

There is no need to smack the pack if you;re making a starter. All that does is show viability and your starter will show you that.