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Making a yeast starter
If you're using liquid yeast, it's always a good idea to make up a starter. If you're brewing a lager, a starter is necessary to propagate enough yeast to have enough yeast cells to insure a good fermentation.
A starter is simply a small amount of wort into which you pitch your yeast and give it a few days to propagate. This will verify that you have healthy yeast as well as grow your yeast colony. It helps you get a strong fermentation that starts quickly. It's easy to do and well worth the small effort. Here is how I do mine.
- If using a Wyeast smack pack, smack it and give it a few hours. It may or may not swell up. Do not fret if it doesn't.
- Boil 1 quart (32oz) of water.
- Whisk/stir in 4oz of Dried Malt Extract (1oz DME/cup of water - we're making a 1.040 gravity beer). The type of DME doesn't matter, but the lighter in color it is the less chance of it affecting the overall color of your brew.
- Boil 10 minutes being watchful of a boilover for the first minute or so.
- Cool to 75 degrees F.
- Pour into a clean and sanitized container. I use a 1/2 gallon growler.
- Pitch yeast into container.
- Cover the container's neck with sanitized aluminum foil and shake/swirl well to aerate.
- Wait a few days for it to ferment, swirling it a few times a day. 2-5 days is normal, and I've waited up to 7 to use the starter. Note that you may not see any outward signs of fermentation like a kraeusen on top (see the first picture). If you swirl it and the wort foams up and gas puffs out from under the foil, you know the yeast are making CO2.
- If you're making a starter for lager yeast, you can make up another batch of the same wort from above and add it to your existing starter. You can repeat this step until you have the required starter size. See beer page for links to calculators that will tell you how large you need.
- Put in the fridge the night before brewing. The yeast should settle to the bottom as in the second picture. It'll also be fine a few days in the fridge if you can't brew right away.
- When ready to pitch, pour off most of the liquid on top, shake well, pour into fermenter.