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Yeast Starter Kit every time? most of the time?

Hey everyone,

5 Gal extract brewer here, been brewing for about 2 years, maybe a batch every month or so, so I have some experience but still in the learning and growing mode.

To that point, I am slowly trying to expand my brewing skills and quality. One such thing I am debating is should I be looking to graduate to doing yeast starters? and if so, every time? Only for heavier beers? Is it not worth the effort for the more ‘basic’ kits that won’t need all the yeast?

I am not looking to spend $ on anything that I can, but I am willing to invest the $ and time if it is helps the quality even more so.

thoughts?

FYI - If I do, I am looking to get 2000 ML flask, skipping the 1000ML since many reviews say it was not quite large enough

My ROT is that every beer over 1.040 OG gets a starter of the approriate size. mrmalty.com, yeastcalc.com, and brewersfriend.com all are excellent calculators for figuring out how big to make it. My average starter size is 2-3 qt. I use a gal. glass jug rather than a flask.

I’m a little more sparing with my starters (or lazy, perhaps). I always use a starter if OG is expected to be over 1.060. But, I also oxygenate well with tanked O2 which helps get the yeast off to a good start, perhaps offsetting the need for a starter at lower OGs. (Ladies and gentlemen of the forum, is that a reasonable statement?)

The 1.055 OG blonde ale I brewed 2 weeks ago was ready to boil out of the carboy within 24 hours after pitching a single Wyeast smack-pack (after oxygenating) without a starter.

Now here’s a statement - I’ve always had very good luck with yeast. Yeast like me and my basement. My fermentations are generally strong and vigorous no matter what else I screw-up brewing. If you experience problems with your fermentation, adjust your personal brewing guidelines accordingly and make a starter more frequently.

Oh, when I do a starter, I make a big one - about 1500 ml in a 2 l flask with stir plate.

The other thing to factor in is the date on the yeast. I wouldn’t use a vial of yeast that was near expiration, even on a 1.040 beer.

I have always been ‘lucky’ I guess with yeast as well. Or think I have. I basically always use the wyeast packs, and almost always brew within a week or two or ordering (in other words, they are not sitting around in fridge for 4 + months). I have not had issues per say, that wasn’t really what started me down this path. But what happened is I was thinking about ordering the Dead Ringer extract, and it mentioned it recommended a yeast starter.

That kicked off me reading about it (briefly) and watched the video NB has. I ended up wondering if it is perhaps the next step to think about in expanding my abilities and results. thus it lead me to asking you fine folks what you thought.

Is it a case of if I do one most of the time, it will possibly usually help and really isn’t (assuming I do it right) going to hurt? Like I said above, I am very willing to keep learning new things and invest time and $ if it makes a substantial difference.

Plus I do like buying new toys (smile…)

Not IMO. While you’re helping the yeast grow, you’re still starting with a substandard population. The best thing to do would be to pitch the proper amount AND use O2.

Yep, you’re correct, Denny. O2 helps but is no replacement for lots of hungry, healthy yeast. I just get lazy about it.

One thing did make it easier for me to make starters, though, and that was preparing a 2-gallon batch of starter wort and canning it in 1-quart mason jars. I keep them in the closet and when I want a starter, I grab a couple, sanitize the flask and foam stopper, pour and go.

you guys are being super helpful. But I need you to be more clear and state in a definitive tone “You must go buy a yeast starter kit”. Thus I can print that out and go show my wife for proper approval :smiley:

ps just kidding. but this has been helpful. I am leaning towards it. it is not like it is tons of $. it is less that and more about, again, continuing to learn

so denny - I checked those sites out. in general the key is that lists for you, if you put in the right estimated OG, the actual size of the starter you need to make correct?

[quote=“Tom_B”]Yep, you’re correct, Denny. O2 helps but is no replacement for lots of hungry, healthy yeast. I just get lazy about it.

One thing did make it easier for me to make starters, though, and that was preparing a 2-gallon batch of starter wort and canning it in 1-quart mason jars. I keep them in the closet and when I want a starter, I grab a couple, sanitize the flask and foam stopper, pour and go.[/quote]

Hopefully you pressure canned it. I’ve thought about that, but I’m too lazy to make things easy! :wink:

[quote=“fullhousebrew”]you guys are being super helpful. But I need you to be more clear and state in a definitive tone “You must go buy a yeast starter kit”. Thus I can print that out and go show my wife for proper approval :smiley:

ps just kidding. but this has been helpful. I am leaning towards it. it is not like it is tons of $. it is less that and more about, again, continuing to learn

so denny - I checked those sites out. in general the key is that lists for you, if you put in the right estimated OG, the actual size of the starter you need to make correct?[/quote]

Yeah, you need the OG and the age of your yeast. And sorry, but you don’t have to buy a starter kit. For many years I just used a gal. glass jug and shook the starter every time I walked by it. Worked great. Someone gave me a stir plate and while it makes it faster, it doesn’t make it any better. I still boil in a pot and then xfer the wort to the jug when it’s cooled.

[quote=“Denny”][quote=“Tom_B”]Yep, you’re correct, Denny. O2 helps but is no replacement for lots of hungry, healthy yeast. I just get lazy about it.

One thing did make it easier for me to make starters, though, and that was preparing a 2-gallon batch of starter wort and canning it in 1-quart mason jars. I keep them in the closet and when I want a starter, I grab a couple, sanitize the flask and foam stopper, pour and go.[/quote]

Hopefully you pressure canned it. I’ve thought about that, but I’m too lazy to make things easy! :wink: [/quote]

Absolutely. After boiling the starter wort and transferring it to the mason jars, I process the jars like preserves. They all get a 20 minute boil in the canning pot. More work at the front end; less work a few days before brew day.

Stir plates are really fun toys, and they only work with erlenmeyer flasks (or something with a flat/non-concave bottom).

Today’s vials and smack packs are designed for 5g of 1.040 ale. If bigger (in gravity or volume), you need more vials/packs. Plus, with a nice starter setup, you can reuse yeast. Think of how much money you will save as opposed to spending $6.95 on every pack/vial! “Honey, this really makes financial sense for us”…is a good way to get the death-lazer look…at least from my wife :mrgreen:

I bought an e-flask because they look cool, and because it gave me an excuse to build my own stir plate. I think I want to build the stir plate more than I want to actually have the stir plate, 'cuz I’m that kind of weirdo. Before that I was using a water ewer or a Mason jar, whatever wasn’t currently in use for some other purpose at the time.

If you don’t already have a suitable glass container and want to be more sensible with your money than I am ( :smiley: ), you can get a 6-pack of 64oz canning jars for a fraction of what a single e-flask costs. If you already own a pressure canner that’s a particularly nice option for reasons already mentioned.

So NB sells 1 gal glass jugs for $4.99. This is a lot less than what i think I was going to get (a $26 2000ML flask from amazon based on much better reviews then the flasks on here). What do you use as a stopper? just a foam stopper like I would (I think) of used in the flask?

I like the idea of what you are suggesting. I really don’t see me getting a stir plate, so now I am thinking of a $5.00 jug vs a $26 flask, and will just give it a swirl or two whenever I wonder by it for a few days.

or as bunder said, maybe a few larger mason jars

I will admit the flasks look cool, but I can get over that

am I on the right track?

if I go the mason jar way - do I scew the metal cap on as well or will that prevent oxygen from getting to the wort? I don’t mean long term storage of wort for quick use a few days before brew day. I mean if I pitched the yeast can I cap/seal it with just the normal sanitized lid? I am trying to picture how gas gets out and/or oxygen gets in if needed.

[quote=“Pietro”]Stir plates are really fun toys, and they only work with erlenmeyer flasks (or something with a flat/non-concave bottom).

Today’s vials and smack packs are designed for 5g of 1.040 ale. If bigger (in gravity or volume), you need more vials/packs. Plus, with a nice starter setup, you can reuse yeast. Think of how much money you will save as opposed to spending $6.95 on every pack/vial! “Honey, this really makes financial sense for us”…is a good way to get the death-lazer look…at least from my wife :mrgreen: [/quote]

FWIW, I have 3 gal. glass jugs and they all work with a stir plate. I choose them for their relatively flat bottoms and I’ve found that a longer than average stir bar helps.

So NB sells 1 gal glass jugs for $4.99. This is a lot less than what i think I was going to get (a $26 2000ML flask from amazon based on much better reviews then the flasks on here). What do you use as a stopper? just a foam stopper like I would (I think) of used in the flask?

I like the idea of what you are suggesting. I really don’t see me getting a stir plate, so now I am thinking of a $5.00 jug vs a $26 flask, and will just give it a swirl or two whenever I wonder by it for a few days.

or as bunder said, maybe a few larger mason jars

I will admit the flasks look cool, but I can get over that

am I on the right track?[/quote]

No stopper at all. Just some foil loosely over the top.

I’ve used mason jars, growlers and gallon jugs for starters. With the mason jar I put the top on loosely so co2 can escape. With a growler or gallon jug I put a piece of sanitized aluminum foil over the top. I agitate manually as often as possible.

I’ve gotten in the habit of mmaking a starter for each brew I do. A cup of DME in a quart or so off water, boiled for 15 minutes. Roughlly 1/8 teaspoon of nutrient about halfway through. Cool and dump into a clean / sanitized Growler with bung and airlock. Pitch yeast and leave be. I do this about 48 hours before brew. I don’t oxygenate or stir bar, but I give it a good swirl /shake whenever I pass by.
It may not be ideal but I haven’t had a batch go bad because of yeast since I started this routine.

[quote=“Tom_B”]
Absolutely. After boiling the starter wort and transferring it to the mason jars, I process the jars like preserves. They all get a 20 minute boil in the canning pot. More work at the front end; less work a few days before brew day.[/quote]

Wort is not acidic enough for water batch canning. It needs to be pressure canned.

I also use a 1g jug. Homemade stir plate and 1.5" stir bar.

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