Yeast Starters: Pitch it all, or pour off liquid?

I tried searching, but got lost in a sea of irrelevant info…

I normally let my yeast starter die down, settle out, then pour off excess liquid, and then pitch. However, tonight, I have a great opportunity to get a brew done, but my starter isn’t quite “finished” - i.e. still bubbling slightly, with some yeast still suspended.

It is too cloudy to “pour off” excess liquid (I’ll be dumping a bunch of yeast), so my question is - what is everyone’s opinion on pitching the entire starter?

I know there are folks that do both methods, I’m curious as to a discussion of the differences in each. …can I brew now and pitch it all with little worries, or is there a benefit to waiting?


(FYI - posting this to the General Forum as well for others to see that may not check this forum)

I’ve never done it - I use mostly dry yeast - but you can pitch the starter while it is active and it should work well. The biggest question is the number of cells you have produced. I’d recommend using a pitch calculator to answer that question first. If you have enough cells there is one other consideration.

You’ve implied that you’re aware that many (maybe most) brewers prefer to let the starter complete its fermentation, let the yeast go dormant and settle out, pour off almost all of the liquid, then pitch the slurry. The usual reason stated for discarding the liquid is that the liquid portion (beer) has been fermented at optimum yeast growth conditions, not optimum conditions for producing beer. The concern is that the liquid will cause some off-flavors in the finished batch of beer.

If your starter is fermenting actively, it has completed most of the growth phase, so you’ll get about as many cells out of your starter as if you had let it complete fermentation and settle out. It may start active fermentation faster because the cells have not gone dormant and don’t have to “wake up” before they can begin.

You get to choose whether you’re willing to take a chance on a tiny bit of off-flavor. Much of that decision will depend on the beer you’re making. A light, delicate beer may be more susceptible to being influenced by the liquid most pour off, but an industrial-strength stout or highly-hopped IPA might have enough other flavors going on to mask the very minor flavor contribution of the starter liquid.

Let us know what you do and how it works.

I answered in your other post. For me it depends on the size of the starter and the beer you’re pitching it to.

If it’s a 2L starter or smaller I’d probably pitch it depending on the beer you’re pitching it to.

Awesome info - thanks guys. …and yes, my starter is 1,600ml, so it isn’t a “huge” starter to begin with, and it’s going into a 5 gal batch. …I’ll stir, pitch, and see how it goes. …going in another “2007 Great Bavarian Weissbier” Hefe.

I always make 2-3 qt. starters and crash and decant them.

FYI for others reading this… most discussion is over on the General Forum.