Yeast Starter

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Yeast Starter

Postby FreeMountainHermit » Wed Sep 14, 2011 7:45 am

Would someone please be kind enough to explain what exactly a yeast starter is and how go about it as well as the benefits of using a starter. Some guys use them and some do not.

Another quick question is why there seems to be a disparity in the amount of yeast pitched in some of the recipes I've read here when the volumes of the mashes are the same.


Thank you, FMH.
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Re: Yeast Starter

Postby Dnderhead » Wed Sep 14, 2011 8:34 am

several ways to make it, dilute some mash/wash add yeast , use something like go-ferm and sugar,,
or use DME /water. basically your making a minny ferment and giving the yeast a head start,this
"wakes" the yeast,the yeast gits used to new environment. doing this there is less shock on yeast,
more yeast to pitch and less lag time.
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Re: Yeast Starter

Postby Dnderhead » Wed Sep 14, 2011 8:45 am

these are often done with open ferments/liquid yeast /old yeast and can be done with large ferments using one pack of yeast.
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Re: Yeast Starter

Postby Prairiepiss » Wed Sep 14, 2011 9:11 am

FreeMountainHermit wrote:Another quick question is why there seems to be a disparity in the amount of yeast pitched in some of the recipes I've read here when the volumes of the mashes are the same.


Thank you, FMH.


Most have a certain way they think pitching yeast should be done. Amounts, starters, no starter all these are person to person. It just comes around to what that person is comfortable doing. It has worked for them this long why change it. So when they try a new recipe they bring that comfort zone with them.

And some times its for experimental exploration. Start with a bunch for the first time and over time change the amounts to se what the outcomes are. And hopefully find the optimum amount that works for them. You and I could start the same wash today following the same exact recipe to the T. And both have different outcomes. Environment has an impact so the comfort zone kinda works around your environment also.

Hope that made since? I was kinda blabbing a little. :wtf:
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Re: Yeast Starter

Postby mash rookie » Wed Sep 14, 2011 11:54 am

Making a “yeast starter” is putting some of your wash mix in yeast and letting it grow before pitching. You can use much less yeast if you grow it.

Generally, it is better to have too much yeast than too little. Too little may not overcome any bacteria before becoming established. Over pitching is usually not a problem unless you are doing a high ABV wash where excessive yeast and nutrients are used and will cause off flavors.

“Waking yeast” is the process of adding warm water to it 30 minutes or so before you pitch it rather than just sprinkling it on top.

When I start a new batch or wash I wake my yeast an hour or so before pitching. I pitch one half of it and add a cup of the wash to the other half. After letting it grow overnight I pitch the remainder.

A yeast bomb is for nutrient value only. The yeast has been killed by boiling.

Like PP says, find your comfort zone of what works for you.

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Re: Yeast Starter

Postby rad14701 » Wed Sep 14, 2011 12:03 pm

Pitching a larger volume of yeast, whether dry-pitched or as as a starter solution, reduces initial lag time but can also cause off tastes and smells... Finding what works best for each individual type of wash is what's most important... For example. turbo yeast packets contain a lot of yeast and a lot of supporting nutrients... For other yeasts the most common volume is 5 grams per packet, which should be enough for a 5 - 6 gallon (20 - 25 liters) of wash but may result in 12 - 48 hours of lag time... Increasing the amount of yeast pitched, to an extent, simply reduces the amount of lag time required for the yeast colony to reach a density that will cause them to switch from the aerobic to the anaerobic phase, whether oxygen is still present or not... If a too small of an amount of yeast is pitched and all oxygen is depleted the yeast will switch to anaerobic mode whether the colony has reach its pre-programmed density or not and the fermentation will simply take longer to complete... They will slog along either until the fermentation is complete or all nutrients have been consumed and they revert to autolysis (cannibalism) and the colony dies...
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Re: Yeast Starter

Postby oldnbroke » Wed Sep 14, 2011 7:17 pm

One thing to keep in mind with yeast is that in a good nutrient & oxygen rich environment the colony will double in size every 2 hours until it approaches saturation (around 70,000,000 cells/ml). Ergo, under ideal conditions, if you start your wash with 4 times as much yeast as I start my identical wash your wash will only be about 4 hrs ahead of mine. This why people have good results with widely varying amounts of pitched yeast. In general the preparation of a good medium for yeast to grow in is more important than how much yeast you pitch in it.
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Re: Yeast Starter

Postby brewit2it » Thu Sep 15, 2011 12:53 am

Here is a really nice yeast / yeast starter calculator that is popular in the brewing world. It is very useful and accounts for liquid yeast, dry yeast packets, or even re-pitching from the slurry from the bottom of your fermenter. It also accounts for how different people might grow your starter, like on a stir-plate, or just by shaking or not. It will even just tell you how many liquid vials or dry packets you need if you don't use a starter. For the "Fermentation Type" selection, I would use "Hybrid" for our purposes.

http://www.mrmalty.com/calc/calc.html

And some general info about starters...

http://www.mrmalty.com/pitching.php
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Re: Yeast Starter

Postby rtalbigr » Fri Sep 16, 2011 1:54 am

I guess I'm a little bit anal when it comes to how I use my yeast compared to a lot of forum members.

5 gm of active dry yeast generally has a colony size of 120-150 billion cells which is more than adequate to ferment 5-6 gal of wort. It is very important to re-hydrate the yeast properly. In the initial microseconds of re-hydration yeast cannot control what enters their cell walls so it is important to use only sterile water or sterile water and a product like Go Ferm Protect, which is designed for yeast re-hydration. Re-hydrating with wort can result in the immediate death of up to half the cells in the colony which results in a longer lag phase and longer fermentations. Also re-hydration time should be limited to 15-25 minutes, that is, only enough time for the water to be absorbed and the yeast colony to become a nice smooth slurry. Don't stir for at least the first 10 minutes. Water temps should be 85-105 F depending on the specific yeast. Also, water quantity should be 10-15ml/gm of yeast.

With active dry yeast, starters should only be employed to acclimate the yeast to the specific wort since colony size is already adequate. The wort employed should be at a SG of 1.020, no more that 1.030 so that the yeast is not shocked. It is also very important that the yeast be properly re-hydrated before adding to the starter. Personally, I very seldom use starters. I re-hydrate and then pitch directly in my wort. I have never had a problem ferment, knock on wood.

Over pitching, using more yeast than necessary, is generally unproductive because, as oldnbroke says, once saturation is reached you have lost all benefit of the extra yeast. More importantly over-pitching can result in the production of undesireable components that will give the wort undesireable characteristics and flavors than can carry over in the distillate. If you feel the need to over-pitch, for what ever reason, it should be in conservative amounts.

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Re: Yeast Starter

Postby oldnbroke » Fri Sep 16, 2011 7:46 pm

rtalbigr wrote:
It is very important to re-hydrate the yeast properly. In the initial microseconds of re-hydration yeast cannot control what enters their cell walls so it is important to use only sterile water or sterile water and a product like Go Ferm Protect, which is designed for yeast re-hydration. Re-hydrating with wort can result in the immediate death of up to half the cells in the colony which results in a longer lag phase and longer fermentations. Also re-hydration time should be limited to 15-25 minutes, that is, only enough time for the water to be absorbed and the yeast colony to become a nice smooth slurry. Don't stir for at least the first 10 minutes. Water temps should be 85-105 F depending on the specific yeast. Also, water quantity should be 10-15ml/gm of yeast.


Big R



I didn't know this. It will change the way I pitch. Thanks Big R
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Re: Yeast Starter

Postby Pop Skull » Sat Sep 17, 2011 8:48 am

rad14701 wrote:Pitching a larger volume of yeast, whether dry-pitched or as as a starter solution, reduces initial lag time but can also cause off tastes and smells... Finding what works best for each individual type of wash is what's most important... For example. turbo yeast packets contain a lot of yeast and a lot of supporting nutrients... For other yeasts the most common volume is 5 grams per packet, which should be enough for a 5 - 6 gallon (20 - 25 liters) of wash but may result in 12 - 48 hours of lag time... Increasing the amount of yeast pitched, to an extent, simply reduces the amount of lag time required for the yeast colony to reach a density that will cause them to switch from the aerobic to the anaerobic phase, whether oxygen is still present or not... If a too small of an amount of yeast is pitched and all oxygen is depleted the yeast will switch to anaerobic mode whether the colony has reach its pre-programmed density or not and the fermentation will simply take longer to complete... They will slog along either until the fermentation is complete or all nutrients have been consumed and they revert to autolysis (cannibalism) and the colony dies...


This is a good point - I have a wine making background, and I know from talking to the winemakers I've worked with / for that most just use the recommended quantities listed on the yeast packets. (When they don't let the grape must do a "native" inoculation)

If you do use a starter if the yeast population gets too high, you can have this yeast population exhausting the nutrients in the must. When nutrients aren't available for yeast, they tend to make byproducts that you defnitely would think twice about drinking in a wine. Sulphides, acetic acid and such as well as other off flavors.

My experience with this in distillation is limited - but for the washes I've done thus far I have been treating the inoculation like I would for a wine. So far so good.
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Re: Yeast Starter

Postby brewit2it » Sat Sep 17, 2011 9:20 pm

There is so much info out there on proper pitching rates, use of starters and nutrients that I think it gets pretty confusing.
Big R - I see that you have done a fair amount of research about this subject and that is awesome, and if it is working for you then so be it. I would also call your method pretty anal, but there is certainly nothing wrong with that. :ebiggrin: So where to start.... I assume that a lot of people are using EC-1118 so I'll use that as the basis for referring to dry yeast, but this info is great for pretty much all dry yeast. Your average dry yeast packet has about 20 billion cells/gram. So a 5g packet has about 100 billion cells. For an average distillers(meaning it has a higher proportion of adjuncts) all grain wort/wash you want to pitch around 1 million live cells per milliliter per plato. So for 5gal of 1.050sg(12.5P) wash you would want around 237 billion total cells. So one packet is actually way under pitching... although it obviously ferments out just fine, and usually with just a higher ester production. You do never want/need to make a starter with dry yeast as it is unnecessary. Re-hydration is incredibly important. You actually only need just enough water warm water(104F-40C) to submerge the yeast(5x's weight of water/yeast), but more won't hurt it and makes it easier to pour. The water that you use isn't that important either, tap water is just fine. Go-ferm would just be a waste of money at our scale. If you can drink it - it will work, though make sure your container is very clean. Re-hydration time should be at least 20min but never exceed 45min. at which point you can stir gently just to break up clumps and then add directly to the wash.

As for over pitching... when it comes to deciding how much yeast you'd like to add, liquid or dry, you always would rather over-pitch than under. The off-flavors that people seem to be talking about really only start to appear if you you start to way-way-way over pitch, and also are more common if you leave the wort/wash on top of the lees/trub for a long period of time(autolysis), something that distillers tend not to do. Think of it this way, knowing the proper pitch rates think of every recipe that involves dumping fermentables back on top of the yeast that was involved in the previous fermentation. If you were making another 5gal batch of 12 P wash then you would only need about 1 L of yeast slurry, but the yeast cake is probably at least 4 times that amount.... yet no major over-pitch off flavors. In beer production over-pitching becomes a problem because ester production suffers and it drys out a beer and leaves it thin and without body. This is something that distillers don't need to worry about because we aren't drinking the wash(most of the time :ebiggrin: ). The major benefits of over pitching compared to under are that there is much shorter lag time, faster fermentations and an increase in attenuation. All things that are great for distillers because we want to ferment out as much of the sugar as possible and since most washes aren't boiled lag time is a major factor, as well as the faster the ferment then the less time there is for other micro-organisms to take hold.

Pop Skull wrote:If you do use a starter if the yeast population gets too high, you can have this yeast population exhausting the nutrients in the must. When nutrients aren't available for yeast, they tend to make byproducts that you defnitely would think twice about drinking in a wine. Sulphides, acetic acid and such as well as other off flavors.
This is very true... luckily all-grain worts/washes have a much higher and diverse nutrient load than must. Also, your starter yeast population can only grow in proportion to the size of the starter itself. So if you make the initial starter the right size then that is not a problem.

This thread is starting to get way too long, so for liquid starter info I suggest the link I posted, and play around the the pitching rate calculator to get a good idea of what is going on with the numbers. I'm really sorry to have posted such a large book sized message on here but knowledge is power.... right? :crazy:
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Re: Yeast Starter

Postby rtalbigr » Sun Sep 18, 2011 2:54 am

Brewit2it - Looks like we've both done about the same research concerning yeasts, and I still feel like I don't know way enough. I think we are just looking at things a little different. I'm not opposed to over-pitching in moderate amounts nor to starters and will use both with some worts/musts (I occasionally make mead). My main point is that, in my experience, in most cases neither is actually necessary. For my AGs I primarily use Crosby&Bakers DADY and with excellent results. The lag phase is reasonably short (usually about 2 hrs), aerobic phase is generally 2 days, and most ferments are 6 days. I get good attenuation and nice compact lees, although flocculation is somewhat low and it can take several day to clear but that's not a problem for me.

I am firm believer in the use of Go Ferm Protect as it provides the vast majority of micro-nutrients the yeast require, the only other thing I add is zinc. I also believe it is important in reduced lag phase because it is good insurance in a healthy yeast colony. The expence is small and well worth it in my opinion.

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