How To Make A Yeast Starter

Question:

I’m looking for an economical method for creating a yeast starter. Would you have any tips that would help?  Most of what I’ve read involves a stir plate and spending more money..  Thanks

Answer:

Try this method…

Equipment List:

Wine Bottle
Wine Bottle Stopper
Airlock
2 Cup Measuring Cup
2 spoons or 1 spoon and a sharp knife
1 gallon pot or bowl for sanitizing
2-3 quart sauce pan
baggie
rubber band
tablespoon (metal)
Sanitizer (One Step is preferred)
Wyeast packet
1 hop pellet
¾ cup dry malt extract
Ice (optional)
A cold beer (preferrable a home brew, but anything good will do : )
1. 3 to 4 days before you plan to brew, pop the wyeast packet. a sharp smack with the bottom of your clenched fist ought to do it. It helps to have the packet on a hard surface, like the kitchen counter.

2. Let the packet ferment at room temp at least 24 hours. It should get puffy.

3. 2 to 3 days before you brew, brew up a “starter”. it is actually a mini brew. Here’s what to do.

Before you do anything else, make sure that your kitchen sink is empty and clean. You’ll also need a clean work surface for your sanitizing solution and some other stuff. I usually end up cleaning the kitchen twice for each brew session, once before I brew, and definitely once when I’m done.

Now, pop open your brew and take a drink. Relax, have your brew, and enjoy the process.

1. Get a 1 gallon pot about half full a sanitizing solution. It’s best to use a no rinse variety, like one step.

2. Put your wine bottle’s rubber stopper, airlock and its cap, and a 2 cup measuring cup in the sanitizing solution. Use the measuring cup to fill the wine bottle, let it sit for a couple of minutes, then drain back into the sanitizing pot. I like to put a baggy over the top of the sanitized wine bottle to help keep out airborne pests.

3. Put 20 oz of water in a half gallon pot and bring to a boil uncovered over high heat.

4. Remove from heat and add 1/2 cup of dry malt extract and 1 hop pellet. Be sure to reseal the dme in an airtight container or else it will become bricklike. Also be sure to return the hops to the freezer, preferably in a zip lock baggy.

5. Stir the dme/hop pellet into the hot water until dissolved, then return to the stove, this time over medium heat. The goal is to boil for 15 minutes but there’s a catch. With the dme in the water, it may “boilover” making a sticky mess of your stove. So, you should now just partially cover the pot. This allows you to monitor for boilovers and lets some steam recondense on the lid and drip back into the pot. Should you detect a buildup of foam that is growing on the surface of your wort, just lift the pot off the heat for a moment and stir with a metal spoon (wood is harder to sanitize. technically, you can use wood to stir boiling wort since the boiling will kill any germs, I just prefer the more easily sanitized metal).

6. After the 15 minute boil, turn off the heat and cover the boiled wort completely with the lid. Put the pot into your sink and fill with cold water just until the pot starts to float. I’ve noticed that it takes about 10 minutes for the wort to cool when I add some of those blue ice things that go into coolers. You may want to add these or ice to the water to speed up the cooling process. If you had no boilovers to clean up, you can just relax for a few minutes.

7. Once the pot feels cool or at least not more than lukewarm, you’re ready to transfer it to the sanitized wine bottle. Keeping the lid on, take the pot out of the sink and towel it dry. Now, take the baggy off the top of the wine bottle and turn it upside down to drain the rest of the sanitizing solution out. Pour the wort from the pot into the santized two-cup measuring cup, then into the sanitized wine bottle. Put the baggy back on top and seal with a rubber band.

8. Put the sealed puffy wyeast bag into the sanitizing solution. I also like to sanitize a pair of scissors is use to cut open the yeast bag. I suppose you could just sanitize a sharp knife instead.

9. Shake the wine bottle for a minute or so to aerate the wort. Notice that your shaking while the yeast packet is sanitizing. This is the principle of parallel processing.

10. Take the yeast out of the sanitizing solution and using your ;sanitized cutting tool, cut off a top corner; the diagonal cut should be no more than 3/4 of an inch or so. If the cut is too big, a plastic pouch may start to come out of the hole, which would really goober things up.

11. Take the baggy back off the wine bottle, and carefully pour the yeast into the wine bottle. try to get every last drop. put the baggy back on the wine bottle, no need to seal with rubber band, that was just for the aerating part. Set the yeast packet aside, but don’t throw it away just yet.

12. In a separate bowl, prepare a solution to fill the airlock. I use about 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 of a campden tablet. Crush the half tablet between two spoons or shave with a sharp knife and add to the water. Stir it. Use a spoon to fill the sanitzed airlock with the SO_2 solution. Fill only to the marks indicated on the airlock, or about half way if there are no marks.

13. Put the cap on the airlock.

14. Put the rubber stopper onto the airlock

15. Put the airlock arrangement into the wine bottle.

16. Put the wort into a room temperature, dark place. I had to look carefully for a place that was safe from kids, pets, etc. and that had relatively steady and proper temperature.

( Now, if you saved the yeast packet, smell it carefully and taste a drop of you can. This is to show you how much the yeast affects the final flavor of your beer. You’ll be able to detect the same smell/taste in your finished beer)

17. In 12-24 hours, you should be able to observe signs of fermentation: foam (krausen, pronounced, “kroy-z’n”, german for crown) and bubbles coming through the airlock. You’ll probably also notice some sediment on the bottom of the wine bottle. This is mostly the hops and some proteins that settle.

18. The starter fermentation is growing up the number of yeast cells. This helps to get your big batch off to a faster start. Faster starts are desirable because alcohol is a germ inhibitor. The sweet, warm wort is a perfect place for germs to grow. The goal of sanitizing is to limit the number of unwanted organisms in your beer since they can lead to unwanted flavors (as we all know 🙁

19. Clean up the kitchen. I found this to be the most important part of the brewing process as it helps maintain house tranquility.

20. The whole process excluding the initial cleaning of the kitchen takes about an hour.

21. Your real brew is basically the same things, but with a lot more water, malt, and hops involved. A big brew session takes me about four hours from start to finished clean kitchen.

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