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Brews & Views Bulletin Board Service * Brews and Views Archive 2011 * Archive through March 01, 2011 * Help with Starters & Decanting < Previous Next >

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Tim Polster
Intermediate Member
Username: Bassman

Post Number: 376
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 201.122.72.113
Posted on Thursday, January 13, 2011 - 02:13 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Hello,

I am gearing up to make starters again after a while of just pitching from the vials. I am looking into canning and will be happy to know the yeast going into the beer will be of proper number & health.

But in my recent research it seems the best time to pitch a starter is while it is active, not after it is finshed. I have noticed a lot of people like to cool and decant the starter wort.

Since it would be counter productive to decant the active starter, which way to go?

For my ales I plan on a 2 liter starter. For lagers a 4-6 liter starter from one vial.

I found some threads on the board here from 5-7 years ago. Just wondering if any thinking or practice has changed in that time?

Also with the decanting process, how well does it work? If cooled down does the yeast really stay on the bottom and you actually only pour off the fermented wort? It seems I did not have luck with this the few times I tried it in the past.

Thanks for your input.
 

Martin Brungard
New Member
Username: Mabrungard

Post Number: 20
Registered: 04-2010
Posted From: 173.210.100.130
Posted on Thursday, January 13, 2011 - 02:27 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Decanting requires pre-planning. The starter must have completed its activity and growth and hopefully the brewer has supplied oxygen throughout the starter growth so that the yeast have high sterol content.

Chilling the starter after its complete will drop the yeast out of suspension. I find that between a half day and a day is required to drop the yeast. The spent wort can then be decanted off the yeast cake. I find that its best to siphon off the spent wort since it provides the least disturbance of the yeast cake.

As long as you use that fresh yeast cake within a few days, you will gain all the benefits of the active yeast starter without adding that spent wort to your beer.
 

Tim Polster
Intermediate Member
Username: Bassman

Post Number: 377
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 201.122.72.113
Posted on Thursday, January 13, 2011 - 02:38 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Thanks for your quick reply.

What do you think of keeping a small sanitized hose in the starter from the beginning so it will be there for the siphon at the end? Sort of rubberbanding it to the starter vessel and clamping the open end.
 

Graham Cox
Senior Member
Username: T2driver

Post Number: 2625
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 72.15.105.173
Posted on Thursday, January 13, 2011 - 04:28 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Tim, the primary benefit of decanting is, as Martin says, keeping all that spent wort from adulterating the beer. Let's say, for example, that I am making a 4L starter for a Bohemian Pilsner. I will do that at room temperature, because I am interested in growing yeast, not making drinkable beer. Lager yeast at room temperature does not good beer make, so I want to get rid of that "beer" before pitching the yeast so as to not have those esters and such in my nice, clean lager.

Conversely, let's say I am making a Dunkelweizen. First off, as an ale, the starter will be smaller and will thus have less of an impact on the color and flavor of the finished beer if I just pitch the whole thing. Secondly, if the starter is estery, who cares? So is the beer style. So you see, I believe it is situationally dependent.

As to pre-siting a siphon hose, why? Why not just sanitize it and submerge it when ready for use? I just have a plain 3', 1/4" hose that I use. After refrigerating the starter for a couple of days, I'll carry it to the edge of the sink and just start the siphon with my mouth, carefully monitoring the position of the intake end so as not to vacuum the yeast. Works great.

As to pitching the starter while active, I don't like doing this because the yeast are in a mid-fermentation cycle and you're asking them to suddenly start over when they're not in the best biochemical position to do so. It works fine, I just don't think it's optimal.
 

Graham Cox
Senior Member
Username: T2driver

Post Number: 2626
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 72.15.105.173
Posted on Thursday, January 13, 2011 - 04:39 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Tim, here's a link to a discussion on this topic by some eggheaded windbag: http://hbd.org/discus/messages/43688/46554.html
 

Martin Brungard
New Member
Username: Mabrungard

Post Number: 21
Registered: 04-2010
Posted From: 173.210.100.130
Posted on Thursday, January 13, 2011 - 04:39 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I use 0.45 micron filtered air from an aquarium pump to flood the headspace above my starter wort with oxygenated air during growth. I do leave that tube in place after I've completed the starter and chill it. It is a small tube, but it only takes a couple of minutes to siphon off a liter or two of spent wort (its not beer since I use really low starter wort gravity).
 

Tim Polster
Intermediate Member
Username: Bassman

Post Number: 378
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 201.122.72.113
Posted on Thursday, January 13, 2011 - 06:13 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Thanks for your replies.

I am busy so I thought if I sanitized the vessel and the hose at the same time I would not have to break out the Star-San again when I decant.

Cooling & decanting sounds fine to me. How do my sizes look:

2 quart starter for 5.5 gallons of ale. Pitch once WL vial into 2 quarts of wort, decant then pitch this amount in my beer.

4 quart starter for 5.5 gallons of Lager. Pitch the WL vial into 2 quarts of wort, then add two more quarts of wort, decant then pitch into my beer.

Should I go to 6 quarts for the lager starter?
 

Graham Cox
Senior Member
Username: T2driver

Post Number: 2627
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 72.15.105.173
Posted on Thursday, January 13, 2011 - 10:05 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Tim, the size of the starter isn't quite as important as the health and vitality of your yeast. If the vial is fresh, your plan sounds good. Do pay attention to the date on it. I haven't used White Labs in about 3 years now - I think they've gone to a 4-month "best by" date? The vitality of the yeast drops more quickly than the viability, but both really start to suffer after just a few weeks. Any longer than say, two months (i.e. two months prior to the expiration date stamped on the label) and you really should start it out in maybe a 500ml starter and then step it up for best results.
 

Tim Polster
Intermediate Member
Username: Bassman

Post Number: 379
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 201.122.72.113
Posted on Thursday, January 13, 2011 - 10:23 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I am going to start canning starter wort so if it is a safer bet to step up all of the time then how about:

1 vial into a pint of wort, step up with a quart of wort, decant then pitch into an ale.

1 vial into a pint of wort, step up with a quart of wort, step up again with two quarts of wort, decant then pitch into a lager.

Thanks
 

Graham Cox
Senior Member
Username: T2driver

Post Number: 2628
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 72.15.105.173
Posted on Thursday, January 13, 2011 - 10:45 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I wouldn't say "it's a safer bet to step up all the time", because every time you handle or transfer something, you're increasing the chances of contamination. Your time and effort are worth something, so that is another consideration. If the yeast is old, then yes, and if you're making a lager starter with only a small quantity of yeast, then yes as well.

Regarding lager starters, if you're only going to purchase one vial, and assuming that vial is fresh, I'd start it in a quart and then go to a gallon. Even a stepped up two-quart starter is not going to be optimal for a normal gravity lager, let alone something like a 1.070 Bock.
 

Tim Polster
Intermediate Member
Username: Bassman

Post Number: 380
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 201.122.72.113
Posted on Thursday, January 13, 2011 - 11:08 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I agree, but in the case of having canned starter wort stepping up is a matter of just pouring in another jar or so into the starter.

Unless decanting is for every step along the way.

I will increase the lager starter size. I had read 4-6 quarts for a 1.050 lager from Mr. Malty.

All of my beers are around 1.050. I just kind of want one simple method that I can repeat and covers all situations.

Thanks for your input.
 

Vance Barnes
Senior Member
Username: Vancebarnes

Post Number: 4082
Registered: 03-2003
Posted From: 24.99.147.250
Posted on Friday, January 14, 2011 - 01:59 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I've been suprised nobody mentioned Mr. Malty before now. Good resource but usually tells me by how much I'm underpitching even with starters.
 

Jeff Dieterle
Junior Member
Username: Dietejr

Post Number: 80
Registered: 03-2004
Posted From: 67.143.34.63
Posted on Friday, January 14, 2011 - 12:24 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Tim, I brew 13 gallon batches so for an ale starter I hit the smack-pak with a quart of canned 1.030 wort, then 1 gallon( two .5gal canning jars), cool to mid 30's and decant. My starter vessel is a 1.75gal. canning jar with a drilled stopper sitting on a stir plate. I keep a micro-filter supply of air running constantly via an aquarium pump though a ss tube to the bottom of the container and have a second ss tube installed to the correct decanting depth to siphon.
Time this so on brew day the starter has warmed back to room temp and hit it with another quart of wort which gets the yeast back in suspension prior to pitching.
Not done lagers at this volume but would probably have to start the process with 2 smack-paks.
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 12454
Registered: 01-2002
Posted From: 24.150.49.181
Posted on Friday, January 14, 2011 - 01:27 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I'm cheap...er, thrifty , so I've never seen the sense of buying two vials or smack packs of yeast. In general, again depending on the age, you can safety make a 2-3 liter starter with one vial or smack pack, which results in enough yeast to pitch into 5 gallons of a normal gravity ale or even 10 gallons of a low gravity ale. For lagers and high gravity ales, step up one more time to 1-2 gallons or even more. Once the yeast is healthy, the volume can be stepped up as much as 8-10 times.
 

Bierview
Advanced Member
Username: Bierview

Post Number: 813
Registered: 03-2003
Posted From: 67.82.202.67
Posted on Friday, January 14, 2011 - 02:10 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Tim,
You mentioned canned wort. To me that is time consuming. My practice is to collect what's left in my brew pot on brew day and refrigerate until the hops and sludge drop out. Then I pour off the clear wort from the top (sometimes several times) and freeze in pint and quart containers. This wort is usually stronger than needed for a starter. When I need to make a starter I reboil and add yeast nutrient and water to dilute. Cool and pour into my vessel. IMHO I feel there is less risk of contamination than using a canned product. I will say I have canned before and had no problems but there is always the slightest doubt in the back of my mind while I am mixing canned wort and fresh yeast.
 

Tim Polster
Intermediate Member
Username: Bassman

Post Number: 381
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 201.122.72.113
Posted on Friday, January 14, 2011 - 02:24 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Thanks for your input.

Looking at how much starter wort I would want to can, it looks like a pint + 2 quarts for every ale and 5 quarts for every lager.

I am looking at an electric canner which is a bit smaller but can also be easily used for food prep. I have read it can reach 15 psi. Waiting for an e-mail to be returned from a canning website which sells all types of pressure cookers. Making the wort ahead of time on one day is the only way I can convince myself to make starters. I hope it goes as smoothly as it is said to be.
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 12457
Registered: 01-2002
Posted From: 24.150.49.181
Posted on Friday, January 14, 2011 - 02:50 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

If you clean the jars well and use a pressure canner, wort canning is very sanitary and safe. This lets you make up the wort beforehand, but with the extra time and effort for canning. Bierview has a good point about making strong wort (say, 1.080) and diluting it when you make the starter.

I have canned wort in the past, but decided there was no overall time savings in it. The ultimate quick source of starter wort is malta, which also can be diluted 50 percent. The downside is the cost, which is more expensive than extract. I almost always use malta for making small starters (500 ml or less), such as the first step in reviving very old (more than 6 months) yeast sediment I store in my lagering fridge.

And I will mention one more time my practice of hopping large starters (a gallon or more) to about 15 IBUs. The result is quite drinkable table beer when I decant the starter liquid, add a little priming solution and bottle in 2 liter or 20 oz. plastic soda bottles. I even did this with my last 2 gallon lager starter, although I had to prepare both steps (from a smack pack) well in advance of brew day because they were fermented at 50 F. It suits my "thrifty" nature.
 

Tim Polster
Intermediate Member
Username: Bassman

Post Number: 382
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 201.122.72.113
Posted on Friday, January 14, 2011 - 03:15 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Hey Bill, thanks for the tips.

If I did use 1.080 wort for the starter, would you think I could just pour in bottled spring water from the store to dilute and keep sanitation? That would be easiest.

For me, the canning approach will allow me to make my years worth of starter wort at one time. I only brew 5-7 times a year.
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 12458
Registered: 01-2002
Posted From: 24.150.49.181
Posted on Friday, January 14, 2011 - 03:40 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I dilute malta for starters with carbon filtered tap water (to remove the chlorine). If it's safe for drinking it's safe for yeast. I do use boiled and cooled distilled water for storing yeast sediment, distilled so that it has no dissolved minerals, and boiled to remove almost all the dissolved O2 and because I'm more concerned about strict sanitation for long term storage, the same as I am about canned wort.
 

Tim Polster
Intermediate Member
Username: Bassman

Post Number: 383
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 201.122.72.113
Posted on Friday, January 14, 2011 - 03:49 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Thanks Bill. Wal-Mart has gallon jugs of spring water pretty cheap and would make the process quite easy.
 

Ric Heinz
Intermediate Member
Username: Rheinz

Post Number: 493
Registered: 01-2004
Posted From: 34.254.247.222
Posted on Friday, January 14, 2011 - 07:02 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

After knocking out the yeast by chilling, I found that trying to syphon the "spent liquor" off of the yeast cake wasn't very easy to do without disturbing it.

So now, I use my shop vac (ah...brewery vac) to decant the spent liquor off of the yeast cake. I do use an intermediate vessel (so the vac doesn't end up with beer in it) and a 1/2" SS tube to vacuum the fluid off.

Works well.
 

Greg Brewer
Intermediate Member
Username: Greg_r

Post Number: 293
Registered: 03-2005
Posted From: 64.124.83.190
Posted on Friday, January 14, 2011 - 07:31 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I'll second Bierview's process of collecting kettle bottoms, which is practically zero incremental effort for a ready supply of starter wort. In fact, I calculate my recipes to end up with an extra couple quarts of wort each time I brew.
 

Tex Brewer
Advanced Member
Username: Texbrewer

Post Number: 636
Registered: 03-2004
Posted From: 216.203.59.252
Posted on Wednesday, January 19, 2011 - 07:27 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

When stepping up multiple times, shoould you crash cool after each step, decant, and then add the new wort for the next step? Or should you simply add more wort, resulting in a larger volume of starter (requires a large container, or multiple smaller ones)?
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 12474
Registered: 01-2002
Posted From: 24.150.49.181
Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2011 - 02:16 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I don't bother to crash cool and decant the liquid portion between steps; I merely add the additional wort for the next step. I have a great variety of vessels for fermenting starters: everything from a 250 ml flask to a 3 gallon carboy.

(Message edited by BillPierce on January 20, 2011)
 

Tex Brewer
Advanced Member
Username: Texbrewer

Post Number: 637
Registered: 03-2004
Posted From: 216.203.59.252
Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2011 - 06:03 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Is there any benefit or detriment to cooling/decanting between step-ups? I have a 2L flask I normally use, but no gallon container. The flask fits fine on my magnetic stirrer. So using mulitple containers doesn't work, and 2L is about as big as I can reasonably handle. Does a cool/decant/step-up achieve roughly the same yeast population as simply increasing the container size?

I normally make a 2L starter for every batch as a matter of course, regardless of strength. I typically do 5-7 gal batches, with OGs in the 1.050-1.090 range.

(Message edited by texbrewer on January 20, 2011)
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 12476
Registered: 01-2002
Posted From: 24.150.49.181
Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2011 - 06:37 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I see no reason to chill and decant the starter between steps (it takes quite a bit more time) unless you lack a vessel of sufficient size for the combined volume. Even in that case I'd recommend finding a large enough vessel.
 

Andy Hancock
Intermediate Member
Username: Ahancbrew1

Post Number: 300
Registered: 03-2003
Posted From: 134.134.139.70
Posted on Friday, January 21, 2011 - 09:18 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Can a vessel be too large? How about a 6 gallon bucket for a 1 or 2 gallon starter.

Andy
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 12478
Registered: 01-2002
Posted From: 24.150.49.181
Posted on Friday, January 21, 2011 - 02:07 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Andy, I suppose you are asking if you can ferment your last starter step in the same vessel as your main batch. You would then siphon off the liquid and add the chilled wort to the yeast cake. The answer is yes, although it might be difficult to crash cool the starter if you don't have a large enough fridge. However, crash cooling (it encourages flocculation) isn't strictly necessary.
 

Graham Cox
Senior Member
Username: T2driver

Post Number: 2635
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 72.15.105.173
Posted on Friday, January 21, 2011 - 02:27 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

One thing to consider when decanting is that liquid that is perfectly clear to the human eye can contain up to 10^5 (100,000) organisms per milliliter. Average yeast cells are roughly 10 times the size of average bacteria, so it is safe to assume that conservatively, clear liquid could still contain at least 10^4, or 10,000, cells per ml.

By decanting, you are discarding the less-flocculent yeast and keeping only the most-flocculent. Over time, this could lead to fermentation problems, i.e. the yeast flocculating too early, resulting in underattenuation. This probabably isn't much of a concern over just a couple of steps, but if you are reusing yeast repeatedly, it certainly could be.

Andy, one thing to consider with a very large vessel relative to your starter volume is that the air in the headspace is full of, well, air. That air is not a vacuum - there are things floating around in it, and there are microbes hitching a ride on those things.
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 12479
Registered: 01-2002
Posted From: 24.150.49.181
Posted on Friday, January 21, 2011 - 03:14 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Of course Graham is right that the starter liquid contains quite a bit of yeast. I've mentioned before that when I was at Siebel we filtered recently fermented beer with a 5 micron coarse wine filter. At that point it was very clear to the eye, yet when we examined it under the microscope there was a considerable amount of yeast still present.

I don't always crash cool and decant the starter liquid, only when the starter is large (for example, 2 gallons for a 10 gallon batch of high gravity lager or Belgian strong ale) or considerately different in color than the beer. In other cases I'll pitch the entire starter or pour off only a portion of the liquid.
 

Andy Hancock
Intermediate Member
Username: Ahancbrew1

Post Number: 301
Registered: 03-2003
Posted From: 192.55.54.42
Posted on Sunday, January 23, 2011 - 04:15 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Thanks Guys,

I donít think making a very large starter is something Iíll do very often, but I thought Iíd ask any way. You can never have too much knowledge.

I typically make 5 gallons of ale and I just factor the 3 ounces of dry extract, for the 1 quart starter, into my recipe. I donít decant for ales, I just pour the whole thing in.

Andy