Yeast Starters and Beyond

I have been trying to find a step by step guide to give me a clear understanding of the yeast starter process. Making the starter seems straightforward, but my questions come after that initial process:

  1. I have heard that you should begin the starter anywhere from 3 days to 12 hours before pitching the yeast, which is it?

  2. When using the stir plate, how exactly is it used? Do I make the starter, place it on the stir plate and just leave it on for a few days or just a few hours before pitching it?

  3. The little pill shaped piece you drop into the beaker for the oxygen, how do you get that out? Do you just pour it into the wort with the yeast and retrieve it later?

I think that’s it for now. Thanks for your help. Going to be brewing a barleywine next week so this is my first starter for a high OG beer.

  1. Ideally 3 days, time to let it grow, chill, then decant. 12 hours you just let it grow and pitch it all.
  2. Leave it on the stir plate at the beginning, while the yeast reproduces.
  3. I’m not sure, but I don’t see why that would be an issue. I haven’t figured out a stir plate for my system yet.
  1. I begin at least 5 days before I want to use the starter. 48-72 hours on the atir platw to make aure it’s fermented out and has a chance to build glycogen reserves. Then into the fridge for a couple days to drop the yeast ao I can decant. The beauty part is that if I’m not ready to brew I canleave the starter in the fridge and pull it out and decant when I brew.

  2. see above. And you don’t have to have a stir plate to make a starter. I made them for years without. A stir plate just speeds up the process.

  3. I use a magnet to grab it and move it up the side of my starter container. When it gets to the top I pull it out.

BTW, it’s called a stir bar. And its main purpose isn’t for oxygen…that’s a side benefit. The main purpose of a stir plate is to keep the yeast in contact with the starter wort.

Sorry to jump in. I did my first yeast starter about 20 hours ago and it looks fermented out. My timing was bad, because I cant start a new batch until tomorrow. If I put my starter in the fridge since I am not ready to use it immediately, would I need to start another mini wort on brew day to get the yeast back into suspension to pitch? Thanks

No you can just decant and pitch the yeast right from the fridge.

No you can just decant and pitch the yeast right from the fridge.[/quote]

Thanks. I’ve read that the starter yeast should be around the same temp (within 10 deg F) of the wort you are pitching into. Thoughts?

Where did you read that, just out of curiousity? I don’t think there are any issues with pitching colder yeast into warmer beer, the other way around can be problematic. Perhaps there’s some technical reason I’m not aware of but in practice there’s certainly no issues that I’ve seen with the first scenario.

You’re correct. In fact, it can be beneficial to pitch colder yeast intao warmer beer. Once the yeast warms up, it comes out of dormancy and starts consuming its nutrient reserves. You want that to happen in the wort, not the starter.

You’re correct. In fact, it can be beneficial to pitch colder yeast intao warmer beer. Once the yeast warms up, it comes out of dormancy and starts consuming its nutrient reserves. You want that to happen in the wort, not the starter.[/quote]

Thank you for asking where I read that, because it made me look twice. I found that from the book I got today, “Yeast, The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation.” Needless to say the ‘starter’ section mentioned keeping it within 10 degrees of wort, but that is if you are pitching at high kraeusen. (pg138). It was also mentioned in the NB video on How to Make a Yeast Starter.

There is no mention of what to do after storing your starter.

[quote=“Denny”]1. I begin at least 5 days before I want to use the starter. 48-72 hours on the atir platw to make aure it’s fermented out and has a chance to build glycogen reserves. Then into the fridge for a couple days to drop the yeast ao I can decant. The beauty part is that if I’m not ready to brew I canleave the starter in the fridge and pull it out and decant when I brew.quote]

Denny, I will be making a barleywine so I will need to propagate the yeast more than once. Do you usually make a starter, then cool it in the fridge, decant most of the liquid and then propagate a second time? or do you not cool the yeast starter in the fridge after the first yeast propagation and just wait until the second yeast propagation?

Because this is a barleywine, do you suggest I propagate the yeast more than two times or should that be sufficient?

I am brewing on friday, weather permitting, and will begin the starter tonight.

[quote=“lmarkis”][quote=“Denny”]1. I begin at least 5 days before I want to use the starter. 48-72 hours on the atir platw to make aure it’s fermented out and has a chance to build glycogen reserves. Then into the fridge for a couple days to drop the yeast ao I can decant. The beauty part is that if I’m not ready to brew I canleave the starter in the fridge and pull it out and decant when I brew.quote]

Denny, I will be making a barleywine so I will need to propagate the yeast more than once. Do you usually make a starter, then cool it in the fridge, decant most of the liquid and then propagate a second time? or do you not cool the yeast starter in the fridge after the first yeast propagation and just wait until the second yeast propagation?

Because this is a barleywine, do you suggest I propagate the yeast more than two times or should that be sufficient?

I am brewing on friday, weather permitting, and will begin the starter tonight.[/quote][/quote]

Yeah, that’s my technique for a stepped starter. For a BW, I brew a 1.050ish pale ale first and use the slurry for the BW. If you’re not going to do that, consult mrmalty.com or yeastcalc.com for the proper starter size.

I did just that with a three gallon batch of 1.082 barleywine; chilled the wort down to 62 and pitched the S-04 straight from the fridge at 46. I had signs of fermentation in less than three hours.

Is it possible to over pitch or add too much yeast to a beer? Will it impart off flavors or just flocculate?

In addition to my post above, I guess I am still confused. I’m still not sure how to determine if my starter is big enough. I don’t want to under pitch or over pitch.

I am shooting for an OG of 1.100 for my barleywine. I am brewing on Friday so last night I began my starter. I used 1300ml of water with 1 cup DME. I used White Labs London Ale yeast. I know the typical cell count for a vial of White Labs yeast is 100 million, but for a barleywine with an OG of 1.100 I would need a starter at about 353-375billion yeast cells.

I know the numbers will never be exact unless we had cell counters (no thank you), but how do I roughly estimate the increase in yeast cells? How many yeast cells would I have now that I added one vial of White Labs yeast to a wort comprised of 1300ml of water and 1 cup DME?

Thanks again for your help.

[quote=“lmarkis”]In addition to my post above, I guess I am still confused. I’m still not sure how to determine if my starter is big enough. I don’t want to under pitch or over pitch.

I am shooting for an OG of 1.100 for my barleywine. I am brewing on Friday so last night I began my starter. I used 1300ml of water with 1 cup DME. I used White Labs London Ale yeast. I know the typical cell count for a vial of White Labs yeast is 100 million, but for a barleywine with an OG of 1.100 I would need a starter at about 353-375billion yeast cells.

I know the numbers will never be exact unless we had cell counters (no thank you), but how do I roughly estimate the increase in yeast cells? How many yeast cells would I have now that I added one vial of White Labs yeast to a wort comprised of 1300ml of water and 1 cup DME?

Thanks again for your help.[/quote]

Check out the links Denny mentioned in his earlier post, Mrmalty.com and Yeastcalc.com, they have calculators to help you figure out how big a starter you need and approx. how many cells you would have after a given sized starter. As far as overpitching I think you’d need to significantly overpitch to see any noticeable effect on a homebrew scale, at least that’s what I’ve been told. I generally would err on the side of slightly overpitching as opposed to slightly underpitching as I think homebrewers in general see many more problems arise from the latter. Just use one of those calculators and when in doubt go a bit bigger as opposed to smaller with the starter and RDWHAHB.

Yes, it’s possible, although you have to work at it! According to Dr. Clayton Con of Lallemand and Neva Parker of White Labs, overpiching can lead to more esters in the beers. That’s becasue the same enzyme, acetyl coA, is used for both cell growth and ester production. When it’s doing one, it won’t do the other. So, by overpitching you don’t get cell growth and the enzyme goes to ester production.

Yes, it’s possible, although you have to work at it! According to Dr. Clayton Con of Lallemand and Neva Parker of White Labs, overpiching can lead to more esters in the beers. That’s becasue the same enzyme, acetyl coA, is used for both cell growth and ester production. When it’s doing one, it won’t do the other. So, by overpitching you don’t get cell growth and the enzyme goes to ester production.[/quote]

Denny, I purchased the Northern Brewer Vortex stir plate. The instructions stated that for 5 gallon batches with a gravity up to 1.080 I should used 650ml per 1/2 cup DME. It the ale is over 1.080 I should use the 2000ml flask, 1300ml of water and 1 cup DME.

So I followed the 2000ml flask instructions with 1300ml/1 cup DME on a stir plate. Should I step that up by 1.5 or do you think what I have done so far is sufficient? My desired OG is 1.100.

Yes, it’s possible, although you have to work at it! According to Dr. Clayton Con of Lallemand and Neva Parker of White Labs, overpiching can lead to more esters in the beers. That’s becasue the same enzyme, acetyl coA, is used for both cell growth and ester production. When it’s doing one, it won’t do the other. So, by overpitching you don’t get cell growth and the enzyme goes to ester production.[/quote]

Denny, I purchased the Northern Brewer Vortex stir plate. The instructions stated that for 5 gallon batches with a gravity up to 1.080 I should used 650ml per 1/2 cup DME. It the ale is over 1.080 I should use the 2000ml flask, 1300ml of water and 1 cup DME.

So I followed the 2000ml flask instructions with 1300ml/1 cup DME on a stir plate. Should I step that up by 1.5 or do you think what I have done so far is sufficient? My desired OG is 1.100.[/quote]

Too many unknowns…how much does a cup of DME weigh? What was the date on the yeast? As a WAG, I’d say you aren’t even the ballpark of having enough yeast, but check mrmalty.com or yeastcalc.com and decide for yourself.

Mr. Malty says I need 2 vials of yeast in a 1.11L starter if using a stir plate. I used one vile, so I’m thinking I need to step it up one more time. This time with 1950ml of water and 1.5 cups of DME to allow the cells to populate.

If I really have to try to over pitch, then I should be safe. This way I will exceed what Mr. Malty recommends, but not by much. That’s at least how I’m interpreting it.

[quote=“lmarkis”]Mr. Malty says I need 2 vials of yeast in a 1.11L starter if using a stir plate. I used one vile, so I’m thinking I need to step it up one more time. This time with 1950ml of water and 1.5 cups of DME to allow the cells to populate.

If I really have to try to over pitch, then I should be safe. This way I will exceed what Mr. Malty recommends, but not by much. That’s at least how I’m interpreting it.[/quote]

Sounds like a good plan.