How to Make a Yeast Starter

Yeast starters are for every brewer, not just advanced brewers.  A yeast starter is nothing more than a mini extract brew, so any level of brewer can make one.  Building a yeast starter will have numerous benefits for your upcoming brew.  So many so that we cannot list them all, but here are the key points:

-Ensures the yeast is alive and viable before you pitch.  After you’ve just spent 5 hours brewing you don’t want to risk pitching a non-viable batch, no matter how small the risk. 

-Accelerated fermentation.  The quicker your fermentation starts the quicker you eliminate any chance of bacterial infection taking over the wort, thus preventing an infected beer or wine.

-Starters promote yeast growth and multiplication, this helps prevent stuck fermentations and promotes a lower final gravity. 

-Yeast starters also make it easier to ferment at cooler temperatures for a cleaner tasting final product.

To make a yeast starter you will need the same items that you would brew with plus a 2000 ml flask or similar vessel in which the yeast can grow before pitching.  The items you will need are as follows:

-Liquid Yeast 

-Thermometer (lab thermometer is recommended)

-1/3 to 1/2 lb of DME (If you use LME then add 20% to these figures) and 1/3 to 1/2 gallons of water  

-1/2 to 1 gallon fermenter (2000 ml flask works perfectly), sanitized of course

-Stopper and airlock for your fermenter

-Hydrometer and Test Jar for measuring the gravity of your mini wort before pitching

Important Note: If  you are using 1/3LB DME then you will use 1/3 Gallon Water - If you are using 1/2LB DME then use 1/2 Gallon Water. You want a starting gravity of 1.040-45.

Now you will bring the water to 170°F in your kettle then remove from heat and add your malt extract.  Make sure to add slowly and stir well, so that the malt is fully dissolved.  Then bring back to heat and slow bring the mixture to a boil.  Once you’re at a boil, hold for 10 minutes.  Make sure to stir to avoid any scorching and or burning of the sugars.  After 10 minutes cool your wort as quickly as possible to get the mixture below 90°F (this is warm, but the goal is to generate yeast right now, not ferment beer).  Pitch the yeast and wort into your sanitized container (2000 ml flask) and top with a sanitized airlock and stopper.  Ferment for 12-72 hours before your big brew day.  

Brew Day:  When you’re ready to pitch take out your yeast starter, gently swirl to get all the yeast back into suspension and pitch into your brew. 

Important Notes: 

-The extra wort will not affect your OG to a significant degree.  Even with a ½ gallon starter you will only drop a 5 gallon batch at 1.060 to 1.058.  If you are concerned about this please contact us and we will discuss alternatives.

-IBU’s are also unlikely to be significantly impacted.  If you are concerned, you can add a 1-3 hop pellets to your starter boil.

-Yeast starters are not recommended for all beers.  Wheat beers or beers with an starting gravity below 1.040 are examples of beers that do need a yeast starter

-Many of the older homebrew books suggest much smaller yeast starters.  They are not accounting for the increase in cell count to the new White labs and Wyeast packets.  Go big or go home, yeast starters make for better beer!