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Stir Plates and Starters

I’m new at home brewing. My third beer is currently in primary, and after every batch it becomes apparent that there is something else that I “need”. After reading a lot on here about the importance of yeast starters, it would seem that a flask and some spare DME would be my latest needs. Playing around on Mr. Malty it seems that a stir plate cuts the size of starter needed for all but the biggest of beers down to 1L.

My question is how stir plates affect the time required to make a starter. Will a stir plate allow me to make a starter Friday night and pitch Saturday afternoon? I’m trying to rationalize the added expense of a stir plate as long term cost and time savings. Is it worth it?

I don’t trust my starter being done in 1 day. I like to do it a week ahead. Stir plate for for 2 days and put it in the fridge.

You can build a stir plate for around $20 with parts from an old computer and Radio Shack. ... late/277/1

Find a glass jar instead of a flask. Wine jug, apple juice, even a flower vase.

I like my flasks. But, agree that building a starter a few days ahead and giving yourself enough time to cold crash and decant prior to pitching is my preferred method. If your handy at all, building a stir plate can be a fun project.

Stir plate does speed it up and gives you higher cell numbers, but if you want to go with the classical homebrew “make a starter, let it finish, cold crash to precipitate most of the yeast, decant, pitch” scheme then yes, you’ll need to make a few days in advance. You can also spend time playing with your hands and build a stir plate, or you can just keep an eye on eBAY and get equipment from closing labs or surplus etc (got one plate for 13-15 and another for 20 something with a ton of stirring bars of various sizes).

I have a problem with that scheme, but people don’t like hearing things like that and I haven’t tested it yet to back it up. So yeah, you’ll need to make a starter couple day in advance.

Before you invest in a stir plate, you can make a simple starter in a .5 or 1 gallon growler and see if it corrects your problem. I love my stir plate but after my first 3 batches of beer, there were a lot of other investments that are a better use of funds.

I’d actually like to hear more if you see this.

its possible that is is worth it. However, I’ve had plenty of luck without. I simply give the flask a slosh each time I walk by it.

I’d actually like to hear more if you see this.[/quote]

I’m also interested in hearing your theory.

I had read that it is best to pitch the yeast while still active. Cold crashing would put the yeast into a dormant state. After decanting do you add nutrients or more DME to get them going again?

KP voiced my concern. The problem I have with this approach is that by the time starter is done fermenting the yeast is floating in alcohol and other metabolic byproducts and the medium is depleted of nutrients. In such conditions the culture begins to die, cells start preparing for starvation and dormancy. Basically they pass the plateau stage and go into decline. Cold crashing further pushes them into dormancy. As far as I can tell it’s always better to pitch any culture in mid-late-log which would be something like 1 day after making starter or at high krausen. The cells are not as numerous, but they are healthy and at the peak of replicative and metabolic activity. So in a way it’s like comparing an army of 100 tired soldiers compared to 50 blood-frenzied berserks. Of course that would mean pitching in the whole starter rather than just yeast sediment which may result in flavor contributions. Crashing and decanting doesn’t put the yeast too far into dormancy, but they still have to wake up. You see where I’m going?
I could be wrong as I am not a microbiologist (way too large scale for what I’m doing lol) but as far as I can tell, it’s solid logic.

I’m still very new to all of this, but I was under the impression that you wanted to pitch at the height of activity. Jamil on Brew Strong gives that advice I think also. But like I said… newbie.

I’ve often considered the “to crash or not to crash” debate with respect to yeast starters. Having made many, many starters on a stirplate, I’ve always pitched the entire starter (on average, these are 1.5-2.0L starters) as close to high krausen as possible. Depending on the age and viability of the yeast used, that can occur in as little as 8-10 hours or, in some cases, as long as 3-4 days. In general, my approach is in line with Jamil’s Mr. Malty article on yeast starters:
“…the bulk of the yeast growth is done by 12-18 hours. I like to pitch starters while they’re still very active and as soon as the bulk of reproduction is finished, usually within 8 to 18 hours. This is really convenient, because I can make a starter the morning of the brew day or the night before the brew day and it is ready to go by the time the batch of wort is ready. There is no need to make a starter a week in advance, because I pitch the whole starter, liquid and all (up to a certain size of starter). Yes, you can wait longer and completely ferment it out so you don’t have to pitch the liquid, but if you’re going to do that, you should use a larger starter and allow the fermentation to go complete cycle over several days, chill, decant the beer and pitch just the yeast. If you’re making a smaller starter, it is better to just pitch the entire active starter within about 6 to 12 hours of pitching the yeast into the starter.”
So, an answer to the original question is it all depends on, variously: the size of the starter, the viability of the yeast, your own personal schedule, etc…
For those that crash and decant, do you let your starter completely ferment out and then crash? What’s been your experience (plus/minus) with differences between pitching a decanted starter vs. pitching the entire starter? I would like to be able to pitch a volume less than the entire starter (never need an extra 2L in the fermenter), but I’ve never had any issues with doing so (nothing deleterious to overall flavour, etc.).

I cold crash and decant all of my starters and they have always performed greatly. I’ve done it both ways and prefer the decanting method. I typically let my starters run for 24-36hrs before cold crashing.

Okay, so I just made a 1500 ml starter with 2 cups of Golden Light DME. I’ve got a sweet vortex going, but it actually looks pretty calm. Looking closely, I can see small particles swirling around. I started this around 2:20 this afternoon and will likely pitch late afternoon tomorrow. I don’t think 1.5 liters would funk up my brew, but I do like the idea of cold crashing and decanting. Should I do it first thing in the morning, or coldcrash before I go to bed?

It’s been my experience that you need a couple of days to get everything settled out, otherwise you’ll be decanting a bunch of yeast.

I agree. I always give mine a couple of days.

Great thread guys. I’m getting into starters as well and am building a stir plate this weekend. Do you let the stir plate run constantly while the yeast is fermenting? Is there a certain time period that I should or shouldn’t leave the stir plate running?


[quote=“Shadk”] Do you let the stir plate run constantly while the yeast is fermenting?[/quote]Yep, leave it going.

Got my stir plate yesterday. Going to brew the Bourbon Barrel Porter kit this weekend. I’m planning on doing a 1L starter Thursday night and leave it going until I am ready to pitch Saturday afternoon. I’ll see how that goes and make adjustments from there.

With a OG of 1.065 you are going to need a slightly bigger starter than 1L. Even if your yeast is 87% viable you would need 1.25L. If its a month old you would need 1.5L.

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