Author Topic: First Time Yeast Starter....problems  (Read 15313 times)

Offline GoodisBeer

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First Time Yeast Starter....problems
« on: October 30, 2012, 12:15:20 PM »
Prepared my first 2L yeast starter yesterday afternoon with 200g DME, 2 L water, 1/4 tsp yeast nutrient. Boiled 15m and cooled. Now the possible problem. I activated and set 1 pk of Wyeast 1010 smackpack on the counter for an hour with NO ballooning of the package. Well I pitched it anyways figuring all the nutrients it needs is in the starter and swirled every so often to aerate. The following picture is 12hrs post pitching.   All the yeast has settled to bottom and I have never saw an active krausen. (Maybe sm). Do I have a good starter? I didn't take any gravity readings. What's your thoughts. Tomorrow brew day!
« Last Edit: October 30, 2012, 12:31:42 PM by GoodisBeer »

Offline bperetto

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Re: First Time Yeast Starter....problems
« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2012, 12:41:00 PM »
1 hour for a the packet to swell is minimum even for the freshest pack.  I smacked one recently that was about a week or two old max and it took a few hours to swell.   The older, the longer it'll take.

But, that's not to mean there isn't something wrong. It could have been shipped and/or stored improperly- killing most of the yeast.  It's possible.

I had that happen a month ago. I went out and got another smack pack to be safe.  The other option will be to decant (pour off) the beer off of the yeast slurry (what settles to the bottom) and then make another starter.   You can also taste some of that decanted beer to see if it's sweet or not.  If it is, it didn't ferment, and the yeast is probably dead.

2L is a huge starter, by the way- 'For an ale at least.   Are you using the starter calulator in beersmith?  I usually make 0.8L starters and that's just fine.
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Offline GoodisBeer

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Re: First Time Yeast Starter....problems
« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2012, 12:56:31 PM »
Yes...i figured the smack pack could of used at least 2-3 hours to wake up. Decanting and repitching is a good idea if i had the time to do it. I'm brewing American Rye, pg 101, of "Brewing Classic Styles" (Zainasheff and Palmer). The recipe calls for 2 liquid yeast packets or make a starter and according to Table 5 onpm pg 290, 1 yeast pack in 2L = 2 yeast packs.
Tasting it is good idea before i decide to dump it and us two US05 packs.

Offline bperetto

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Re: First Time Yeast Starter....problems
« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2012, 01:00:12 PM »
ah, I was guessing Zainasheff when I saw that rediculous size starter  ::)

I understand the rush- that's why I pitched the second pack instead of hoping to build my quetionable starter.  Give it a taste, and then pitch the S05. (you'll only need one pack, though).
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Offline bentrider1957

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Re: First Time Yeast Starter....problems
« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2012, 02:06:43 PM »
Prepared my first 2L yeast starter yesterday afternoon with 200g DME, 2 L water, 1/4 tsp yeast nutrient. Boiled 15m and cooled. Now the possible problem. I activated and set 1 pk of Wyeast 1010 smackpack on the counter for an hour with NO ballooning of the package. Well I pitched it anyways figuring all the nutrients it needs is in the starter and swirled every so often to aerate. The following picture is 12hrs post pitching.   All the yeast has settled to bottom and I have never saw an active krausen. (Maybe sm). Do I have a good starter? I didn't take any gravity readings. What's your thoughts. Tomorrow brew day!

Since you didn't take a gravity reading, it isn't too late to do so.  You can calculate the expected SG by entering all the ingredients to BeerSmith.  Once you have that value, you can now take a reading of your wort and use an estimate of the Final Gravity reading.  So, let's say you calculated a 1.070 and your sample is 1.050-1.060.  I would then say that you probably had minimal activity and it's time to pitch again.  Also not mentioned in your problem is the current wort temperature.  The initial temperature should be close to 70F/21C or maybe even a few degrees higher. 

If you decide to re-pitch, you should inject a little O2 or stir the wort vigorously, make sure the wort is at least 70F/21C and then pitch some US-05 dry yeast.  This should start a stuck fermentation.  If you can get the wort to 73-74 just to start the process, that is good too.  You can then gradually cool to 68-70F.  I would not expect a load of esters if you cool down from 73-74 and I think it's worth it to get a wort restarted.

If the FG is lower than about 75-80% of the SG, I would say you have a good fermentation.  You can also do a taste-test and if it's super sweet, it probably got stuck.  If it tastes like normal wort, you are probably okay.  Of course, my values here are for illustrative purposes only.  YMMV.


Offline bentrider1957

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Re: First Time Yeast Starter....problems
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2012, 02:13:53 PM »
I thought I would mention that I rarely make a starter for beers under 1.050 SG.  I just pitch directly into the wort.  For high gravity beers I do a 1 liter starter but no more than that.  Too much yeast can also be a problem if you have enough already.  I suggest you consult Jamil's Yeast Calculator at mrmalty.com

Offline dak0415

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Re: First Time Yeast Starter....problems
« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2012, 03:02:00 PM »
Too late for this one but check out www.yeastcalc.com also.  Way easier to use than mr malty

Offline GoodisBeer

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Re: First Time Yeast Starter....problems
« Reply #7 on: October 30, 2012, 06:40:05 PM »
Just spoke with Brewmaster at Blackdragon Brewery and Homebrew in Woodland CA and he is big fan of White Labs and is adamant that I do not need a starter. So, i'm still going to give my starter a taste, but I'm fairly sure it's no good. Just picked up WL 320 and will pitch it directly to my wort tomorrow.  Thanks all.

Offline tom_hampton

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Re: First Time Yeast Starter....problems
« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2012, 08:40:35 PM »
Prepared my first 2L yeast starter yesterday afternoon with 200g DME, 2 L water, 1/4 tsp yeast nutrient. Boiled 15m and cooled. Now the possible problem. I activated and set 1 pk of Wyeast 1010 smackpack on the counter for an hour with NO ballooning of the package. Well I pitched it anyways figuring all the nutrients it needs is in the starter and swirled every so often to aerate. The following picture is 12hrs post pitching.   All the yeast has settled to bottom and I have never saw an active krausen. (Maybe sm). Do I have a good starter? I didn't take any gravity readings. What's your thoughts. Tomorrow brew day!

That starter looks fine to me.  The smack packs don't always balloon...it doesn't mean anything.  Looking at the picture there is a lot of yeast down in the bottom of that jug.  I see a fair amount of hot break, as well.  But, there's probably some yeast mixed in with the hot break. 

When you aerate a starter you promote AEROBIC growth.  Aerobic metabolism doesn't produce a kraussen the way a standard (anaerobic) fermentation does.  Most of my starters never produce any foam whatsoever. 

I would crash and decant that starter and pitch that.  Its more likely to make a better beer, than the single vial.


Just spoke with Brewmaster at Blackdragon Brewery and Homebrew in Woodland CA and he is big fan of White Labs and is adamant that I do not need a starter. So, i'm still going to give my starter a taste, but I'm fairly sure it's no good. Just picked up WL 320 and will pitch it directly to my wort tomorrow.  Thanks all.

"Need" is a funny word.  Its not a question of "need"...you can pitch 1/4th of a vial, and it WILL make beer.  You can pitch 10 vials and it will make beer.  So, "need" isn't the right question to ask. The question is what pitching rate results in the BEST flavored beer.

I don't really think at this point that there is even an argument to have about pitching rates, anymore.  Its so well established at this point.  How many NHC gold medals were won last year by pitching a single vial into 5 gallons of anything.  Even at 1.035 a single vial is underpitching by 50% according to the 75 million cells / plato / ml rate. 

Would that brewmaster consider reducing his profession beer pitch by a factor of 2.6?  I doubt it.  His beer flavor would definitely change.  Why tell a homebrewer something different?  Do we somehow have different flavor requirements? 

Definately taste the starter....but, you have to have the right expectations.  Starters don't taste like beer.  You shouldn't expect it to be "yummy".  Mostly you are tasting for the absence of sweetness.  There shouldn't be a massive amount of alcohol.  A starter is pretty low on OG, and don't have much body...A 1036 beer is low on body anyway...then you grow the yeast with O2...and you end up with something low on flavor, and thin and watery.  With enough O2, it may even get oxidized.  Again, you are mostly tasting for a lack of sweetness which tells you that the yeast used it up. 


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Offline GoodisBeer

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Re: First Time Yeast Starter....problems
« Reply #9 on: October 30, 2012, 08:59:31 PM »
Definitely confused right now. After my taste test for lack of sweetness and gravity reading I can decant and pitch without to much worry (yeah right). However, if doesn't take off or I get a stuck fermentation I can repitch with the WL 320?  Right?

Offline tom_hampton

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Re: First Time Yeast Starter....problems
« Reply #10 on: October 30, 2012, 09:13:27 PM »
Definitely confused right now. After my taste test for lack of sweetness and gravity reading I can decant and pitch without to much worry (yeah right). However, if doesn't take off or I get a stuck fermentation I can repitch with the WL 320?  Right?

Your first starter is always  a bit nervous...kinda like other firsts  8)  Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and go for it.  It will be fine.   When you look at the layer of yeast in the bottom of your half-gallon jug remember that you pitched about 2 tablespoons of yeast into that wort originally.  Now you can see a thick layer across the breadth of the bottom of the jug.  It looks like 3/16th inch layer (the creamy white layer).  That's probably 100-150ml of pure yeast. 

Yes, if it doesn't start after 48 hours, you can pitch the WLP320. 

If it ferments partially, and then gets stuck...you have to follow a different procedure.  Once there is significant alcohol present you have to do something different.  I've posted a couple of times about that in the last week.  Basically, you create a starter with no aeration (a small beer).  Then you let the yeast ferment to high Kraussen, and pitch the whole thing into the stuck beer.



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Offline tom_hampton

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Re: First Time Yeast Starter....problems
« Reply #11 on: October 30, 2012, 09:16:49 PM »
PS...be sure to crash cool it overnight.  There's still a bunch of yeast in suspension.  Decant it in the morning on brew day...and let it warm up during the brew.  Add some sterile wort from your brew, and swirl it with the yeast to make the slurry pour able.

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Fermenting: Maggie's Altbier
Next Up: PtE(1.1), Belgian Dubbel?

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Offline GoodisBeer

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Re: First Time Yeast Starter....problems
« Reply #12 on: October 30, 2012, 11:33:45 PM »
Ok...more activity in starter 24 hours later.  Going to swirl and cold crash for decanting and pitching tomorrow.

Offline GoodisBeer

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Re: First Time Yeast Starter....problems
« Reply #13 on: November 01, 2012, 03:58:19 PM »
In regards to tasting the starter, it was sharp/tart, bland and without sweetness. So, I chose to use it. Decanted only about 500ml off though, I was scared of disturbing the yeast cake, so I pitched 1.5L into the fermenter. Active and vigorous  fermentation within 12hrs.
Photos below are of primary fermentation and Forced Fermentation Test jar.

Offline GoodisBeer

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Re: First Time Yeast Starter....problems
« Reply #14 on: November 01, 2012, 04:03:44 PM »
File to large. Here is photo of forced fermentation test.

 

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