Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Yeast Starters

Good pitch rates with healthy yeast is one of the biggest steps anyone can take to making better beer.  The Mr. Malty site has a pitch rate calculator and tons of information on using yeast well.  This post will  cover making a starter for a batch done a few weeks ago from an old smack pack of yeast.

1.  Prepare some wort, I use dried malt extract (DME) in a concentration that will come pretty close to matching the design of the beer, 1.040 in this case.  Simply measure (by weight if you can, and you should be) your DME for the volume of the starter you plan on making and bring it to a boil  on the stove for a few minutes.  Hops are not needed here.

2.  Cool your wort down to pitching temperatures, I aim for below 70 °F for ales.  Just like your actual batch of beer make sure everything that touches the wort or yeast from here on out is sanitized.

Cooling the Wort in a Small Ice Bath
Flask Full of Start-San

3.  After the wort has cooled pour the sanitizer out of the flask (and rinse properly if using anything but a no rinse sanitizer) and fill with your wort.  You'll want to be sure there is enough head room for the mini-fermentation that will take place.  After that pitch your yeast into the flask and place on a stir plate.  I cover the top with foil to allow a little air to get in while it's on the stir plate and haven't had any infection issues.  If you don't have a stir plate you can just sit it on the counter and swirl it as often as you can, but you won't get as much yeast production this way and will need a bigger starter.

On the Stir Plate Just Before Turning it On

Of note is how small that starter is compared to the standard 1L for a 5 gallon batch that is usually the norm.  This was such an old pack of yeast (>1 year) that I elected to step it up a couple of times to avoid stressing the yeast.

4.  Let it go for 24-48 hours then pitch into your beer just like it is on brew day.  You can also put it in the fridge for a few hours and pour off most of the liquid if you like.

Settled Yeast After Stepping Up to 1L and Running for 48 More Hours


Be sure to record the yeast strain and manufacture date.

Manufacture Date on a Smack Pack

Strain on a Smack Pack
Beer Fermenting Away With the Yeast From the Starter


  1. Has it finished brewing? If so, how did it taste?

    1. Hasn't finished quite yet, bottling in another week or so then a minimum of two weeks in the bottles.