Do you take the time to make yeast starters when you make Homebrew?
I was thumbing through some Homebrewing forums lately and read about a person who’d pitched a vial of yeast into 19L of wort. Yes, after 72 hours he did not see action in the airlock. So I asked him if he performed the usual things like Aerate, did he make a yeast starter, and the temp of the wort when he pitched the yeast? The only thing he did not do was make a yeast starter. One would think, after 72 hours there should be a little activity, so I asked him to do two things: 1. check the expiration date on the packaging, and 2. Take a gravity reading. The vial was only about a month out of date, and he told me he got it on sale (clue!). The gravity reading had come down about .008 points.
So I explained to him the reason why he should have made a yeast starter for his homebrew, and that there probably was viable yeast, just not very many. The simple explanation for why you need a yeast starter is this: The more viable yeast cells you start with, the less lag time before your wort turns into beer. There are very technical reasons for this also and don’t get me wrong, good yeast management while homebrewing is vital to Good Beer! It’s just the simple answer, nothing more.
For me, I usually brew on a Sunday, so I make a yeast starter on Thursday evening (48 to 72 hours before) when I get home from work. It is very simple to do and only takes a small amount of time. The process I follow is 4.oz of Extra Light Malt Extract and 2 quarts of water. Boil for 20 min then cool the mini wort down to pitching temp, aerate, add the yeast. Sometimes I will add .2oz of the same hops that I plan on using in the beer if the starter needs to wait for more than a week, but only then. It’s usually ready within two days as long as the yeast was alive. Once I’m ready to pitch the yeast, I pour in the starter that has been going for two-three days and I usually have a vigorous fermentation within 4-6 hours.
If you have any questions about homebrewing or would like more information please leave me a comment below, and I will help in any way I can. You can also stop in for a homebrew at The Grain Cellar. We offer free homebrew classes in Humble, TX!