March 03, 2017

What is a yeast starter, and why should I use it?

A yeast starter is used to maximize the consistency, viability, and volume of your yeast cultures for fermentation. We create the starter by mimicking the initial steps of the brewing process. First we create a micro batch of beer then harvest the desired yeast cultures after a short fermentation period.

We suggest using an Erlenmeyer flask, as it is made with Borosilicate glass and will not be affected by rapid changes in temperature. To heat the flask, we use the double boiler method. In this method, fill a pot with 2 inches of water and place on the burner. Then, add 1 liter of water to the flask and place the flask in the pot. The boiling water in the pot will heat the contents of the flask without them being directly exposed to the heat source. Then, quickly Remove the flask from the heat once the water reaches a boil.

Erlenmeyer Flask

The Next Step

Measure out about 1/2 a cup (approximately 4 oz.) of Dry Male Extract and add it to the flask, followed by the suggested amount of yeast nutrient as recommended by the manufacturer. Carefully and firmly swirl the flask before returning it to the pot. This should produce a starter with a specific gravity of 1.040.

Stir Plate

Lastly, Set a timer and boil your wort for 10 minutes. Use this time to prepare an ice bath for the next step. At the conclusion of the 10-minute boil, cover the spout of the flask with aluminum foil to keep out unwanted organisms. Then, place the flask in the ice bath to cool until it reaches ~75°. At this point, it is time to place the flask on a stir plate so that the wort can be continually stirred. Use the sanitized scissors to cut open the yeast packet and pitch it to your flask. Stirring will keep the yeast in suspension and in constant contact with nutrients while ridding carbon dioxide which inhibits yeast growth.

There are two common options for completing your starter.

Pitch Yeast Starter

Method 1 (12-18 hours fermentation)

In this method, once the fermentation process is complete, simply stir and pitch the entire contents of the flask into your fermenter.

Wait To Pitch Yeast Starter

Method 2 (18-36 hours fermentation)

This involves a bit more finesse and is used when you would want your beer to turn out cleaner. In this method, cold crash the flask for 18-36 hours, watching for distinct separation to occur and a large "yeast cake" to appear at the bottom of the flask. When the process is complete, use a sanitized siphon to remove the majority of the wort from your flask. Then use the remaining wort above the cake to stir and mix the contents before pitching to your fermenter. This method cuts down on excess/different wort being added to your brew, while maximizing the yeast cultures gathered.Pick up some yeast here!

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The overwhelming majority of sources support the claim that using a yeast starter adds an invaluable step to your process. We've also had similar results and expect you will too. Cheers!


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