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When to use a yeast starter?

I’m trying to find a definitive answer to this question: when is it recommended or necessary to use a yeast starter?

I’ve brewed 2 batches with dry yeast (Caribou Slobber & Brickwarmer, both extract w/specialty grains) and did not make a starter. Fermentation went fine, imo. I’m thinking of trying a liquid yeast option next. I want to make the Cream Ale extract kit and use the White Labs WP001 California Ale yeast. I’ve read great things about that yeast and I think it would lend good flavor to a cream ale. I just don’t understand if I’m supposed to make a starter or not if I use that yeast in a session ale.

To my understanding, a starter is simply a way of (1) making sure your yeast is good before pitching and (2) increasing the cell count before pitching. So… is a starter only necessary for high OG? Lots of people in the kit reviews talk about making starters but I can’t seem to find why they make them so often.

Any advice is greatly appreciated.
Thanks!

It depends on the OG of the brew you are making. Check out www.yeastcalc.com to get correct pitching amounts for your brew.

In my opinion, every beer I’ve made over 1.040 has come out better when I use a starter (assuming liquid yeast). Personally, I wouldn’t even consider doing anything else.

Make no mistake, you will make beer by pitching a vial/smack pack into 5 gallons of beer that has a gravity higher than 1.040. Will it be the best beer possible? Likely not.

Remember, brewers make wort, yeast make beer. Happy yeast make better beer. Happy healthy yeast make the best beer.

Thanks for all the info, everyone. It’s very helpful for a newbie like me. I think I get the gist of it. Any yeast can make beer out of wort, but the healthiest and most active yeast will yield the best tasting beer. So with that said, I think it’s time I start experimenting with my yeast! :slight_smile:

I just found several podcasts about yeast on the Brewing Network so I’ll download those and give them a listen to learn as much as possible. Thanks!

It’s going to depend on your taste buds.

I have tasted some very good beers that were under pitched.

But if you are going to use White Lab yeast, I would make the starter just to verify the yeast is alive.

Denny believes his beers taste better with starters. I’m not going to argue with him. It’s his taste buds.

Pietro says you likely wont make the best beer. I think that statement is a bit overboard.

And with out looking at your yeast sample under a microscope, you have no idea how many yeast you are pitching. Making a starter is just a guesstimate to how much yeast you will have.

I always make a starter when using liquid yeast, and never brew anything under 1.045. Not sure it’s necessary, but it works well for me. The only issue i have is krausen overflowing with my 2 liter flask. I have a starter on a stir plate now (wlp001) with 1.5 liters & got the volcano effect. This is the second time this happened. :cheers:

To the OP, if you want to experiment with yeast, split a batch into two 2.5-3 gallon batches. Pitch a half a vial directly into one, grow up a starter with the other 1/2 vial and pitch. Then have a blind triangle tasting once both beers are done and carbed. I bet 80% of the tasters will pick the starter’d beer over the other pepsi-challenge-wise, with a variety of taste buds.

[quote=“Pietro”][quote=“Nighthawk”]

Pietro says you likely wont make the best beer. I think that statement is a bit overboard.

[/quote]

To the OP, if you want to experiment with yeast, split a batch into two 2.5-3 gallon batches. Pitch a half a vial directly into one, grow up a starter with the other 1/2 vial and pitch. Then have a blind triangle tasting once both beers are done and carbed. I bet 80% of the tasters will pick the starter’d beer over the other pepsi-challenge-wise, with a variety of taste buds.[/quote]

The test by the crew at BYO contradicts your premiss. But I agree that doing your own “test” is how you will find what taste best to you.

One thing also to consider is most online calculators are based on experiments done by pro brewers who reuse their yeast. So I assume there is a lot of dead yeast after multiple uses so the pitch rate might be optimized for multiple pitches maybe?

I just think stir plates and erlenmeyer flasks make me look smarter so when my friends come over they are all impressed 8)

[quote=“Pietro”]
To the OP, if you want to experiment with yeast, split a batch into two 2.5-3 gallon batches. Pitch a half a vial directly into one, grow up a starter with the other 1/2 vial and pitch. Then have a blind triangle tasting once both beers are done and carbed. I bet 80% of the tasters will pick the starter’d beer over the other pepsi-challenge-wise, with a variety of taste buds.[/quote]

Thanks, Pietro. I’ll definitely get around to this test eventually. I agree, it seems like the only way to determine what I personally prefer.

[quote=“mattnaik”]
I just think stir plates and erlenmeyer flasks make me look smarter so when my friends come over they are all impressed [/quote]

haha! I admit, I was thinking the same thing. When my wife sees me using an erlenmeyer flask she’ll probably think I’m some sort of genius beer chemist :smiley:

Depends on how long you’ve been married. :wink:

[quote=“BrewBum”]

haha! I admit, I was thinking the same thing. When my wife sees me using an erlenmeyer flask she’ll probably think I’m some sort of genius beer chemist :smiley: [/quote]

Or Walter White. Your wife’s name isn’t Skylar is it?

[quote=“Pietro”][quote=“BrewBum”]

haha! I admit, I was thinking the same thing. When my wife sees me using an erlenmeyer flask she’ll probably think I’m some sort of genius beer chemist :smiley: [/quote]

Or Walter White. Your wife’s name isn’t Skylar is it?[/quote]

LOL! yeah, and I’ll get my friend Jesse to be my brewing partner :slight_smile:

what qualities of the beer are improved with a starter? what worse flavours do you get from an under pitched beer?? cheers :cheers:

I only make a starter for a smack pack or white labs vial if the OG is 1.060 or higher. My LHBS gets white labs in every week so I know they’re fresh.

I usually make a starter for yeast that I’ve harvested from previous batches. Yesterday I brewed Denny’s Lake Waldo Amber which has become a staple around here. I had some Denny’s Fave 50 that I harvested less than 2 weeks ago so I figured wtf I’ll just pitch about half a quart jar of that without making a starter. 24 hours later I’m wishing I’d made a starter.

ALWAYS when using liquid…Maybe if I go under 1.040 I won’t but ALWAYS for 98 percent of beers.
I don’t care if you think your LHBS gets yeast in every week or two. That yeast is shipped goes through stress etc… etc…something only a week old is down to probably 90% viability.
Even if your buying at the bigger places, MW, NB, MB etc… 90% of the yeast your getting is probably close to two weeks old or more

[quote=“grainbelt”]
Even if your buying at the bigger places, MW, NB, MB etc… 90% of the yeast your getting is probably close to two weeks old or more[/quote]

The last liquid yeast i ordered from NB was the day after they were back in stock of WY1028. The date on it was over 2 months old. Just to solidify this point that even a bigger place is apparently getting “new” stock that is months old.

[quote=“mattnaik”][quote=“grainbelt”]
Even if your buying at the bigger places, MW, NB, MB etc… 90% of the yeast your getting is probably close to two weeks old or more[/quote]

The last liquid yeast i ordered from NB was the day after they were back in stock of WY1028. The date on it was over 2 months old. Just to solidify this point that even a bigger place is apparently getting “new” stock that is months old.[/quote]

Could be…I wouldn’t say months old but on average I would say 2-4 weeks which drop the viability of yeast significantly.

Just goes without saying basically always make a starter…or make shitty ho hum beer

[quote=“grainbelt”][quote=“mattnaik”][quote=“grainbelt”]
Even if your buying at the bigger places, MW, NB, MB etc… 90% of the yeast your getting is probably close to two weeks old or more[/quote]

The last liquid yeast i ordered from NB was the day after they were back in stock of WY1028. The date on it was over 2 months old. Just to solidify this point that even a bigger place is apparently getting “new” stock that is months old.[/quote]

Could be…I wouldn’t say months old but on average I would say 2-4 weeks which drop the viability of yeast significantly.

Just goes without saying basically always make a starter…or make #### ho hum beer[/quote]

I live just a couple hours from Wyeast. I often get yeast packs dated a day or two before I buy them. I still make a starter for anything over 1.040.

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