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Do you cold crash and decant your yeast starters?

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by VikeMan, Mar 26, 2012.


Do you cold crash and decant your yeast starters?

  1. Always

  2. Never

  3. Sometimes, depending on size.

  4. Sometimes, but for reasons other than size.

  5. I don't make starters.

  1. VikeMan

    VikeMan Champion (930) Pennsylvania Jul 12, 2009 Beer Trader

    GreenKrusty101 wondered, and so do I...
  2. mnstorm99

    mnstorm99 Advocate (535) Minnesota May 11, 2007

    If I need a big starter, I make a small beer...so is that decanting? o_O

    I typically only decant when the starter was made a week or more in advance. I often pitch while the starter is still active with great results, since I usually remember to make the started Friday for a Saturday brew.

    ACESFULL Aficionado (145) Illinois Sep 13, 2011 Beer Trader

    I do for styles that the starter wort will make an impact on appearance & sometimes flavor. For things like stouts, browns and big beers I wont as it typically wont matter. Now for light lagers (Helles, Bock) or Kolch I will so they dont darken the final product.
  4. bwiechmann

    bwiechmann Savant (340) Minnesota Nov 30, 2009

    I tend to make smaller batches for higher ABV beers (~2-2.5 gallons). So adding a starter to the brew has a bigger impact than if it was a bigger batch- for that reason I decant. For 5+ gallon batches I just dump it all in.
  5. mnstorm99

    mnstorm99 Advocate (535) Minnesota May 11, 2007

    Wouldn't the ratio be the same?
    NiceFly likes this.
  6. NiceFly

    NiceFly Savant (405) Tajikistan Dec 22, 2011

    My system is to batch sparge with 1-2 gal after I get all the wort for the brew. Boil, pour in flasks and refridgerate so now I have starter wort.

    Get a starter going Tues, Wed, whatever. Wort is already ready already and same temp as the yeast so I just pitch them in cold and put it on a stirplate for about 36hrs or just as it is calming down, turning to eggdrop soup, whatever.

    Crash until brewday then spent starter during the boil. Getting that volume off also lets it warm up faster. By the time the wort is chilled I am ready to go.

    Talk about cheap. Oh, I do not smack my smackpacks. I split them up into 4 different jars and use one jar per starter. Of course, depends on how much yeast I need if I start small and step up.
  7. bum732

    bum732 Advocate (650) Lesotho Feb 18, 2008

    I don't cold crash, but i do try and decant most of the starter. So i guess yes?
    skivtjerry likes this.
  8. mnstorm99

    mnstorm99 Advocate (535) Minnesota May 11, 2007

    I will also say I have done all of 1 starter in the past year. I brew mostly session beers, and will sometimes just pitch the bigger beers on the cake.
  9. I never decant my starters. I prefer to pitch my yeast starters while they are still in their active phase.

  10. jbakajust1

    jbakajust1 Moderator (685) Oregon Aug 25, 2009 Staff Member

    Yes and no I guess. The best results I have ever gotten from a starter was when I made it a few days in advance, crashed, decanted, pulled a 1/2 cup of wort from the boil, crash cooled that, then added it to the starter and put it back on the stir plate, fermenting with in a couple hours. I have only done this once, and it worked great. If not, I decant most and then swirl up the rest to pitch in. I don't make color sensitive beers so that issue is voided for me.
  11. bwiechmann

    bwiechmann Savant (340) Minnesota Nov 30, 2009

    Because stronger beers require more yeast for a healthy fermentation, thus I typically make a proportionately larger starter for those beers.

    Edit- I see my mistake: I meant I dump in the starter on lower ABV brews that I make larger batches of.
  12. mnstorm99

    mnstorm99 Advocate (535) Minnesota May 11, 2007

    Gotcha, that makes more sense to me.
  13. jokelahoma

    jokelahoma Savant (460) Missouri May 9, 2004

    For me it's all about volume. I can't see spending time coming up with a recipe to make my beer taste exactly like I want it to, then diluting that with some crap I just threw together to grow yeast. I'm not going to add a gallon of oxidized wort off a stir plate that didn't match my lager recipe anyway. That's 18-20% of the batch size! When it gets down to a two liter volume for higher gravity ales, I usually still crash and decant, since that's still roughly 10% of a batch. If it's a smaller 1 liter starter for a lower gravity ale, I'll usually toss in the whole thing unless it's a lighter beer with more delicate flavors.
  14. MLucky

    MLucky Savant (400) California Jul 31, 2010

    Always. Why wouldn't I? All it takes is the ability to remember to make the starter an extra day and early and little space in the 'fridge. I'm sure it's not completely necessary for all beer styles, but it always seemed like to me that 1L or more of unhopped DME beer that was brewed without temp controls is not going to taste all that great, so why toss it in my beer?
    ssam and palmdalethriller like this.
  15. axeman9182

    axeman9182 Advocate (580) New Jersey Aug 5, 2009 Beer Trader

    I always aim to make my starter, let it sit on the stir plate for 24-36 hours, and then cold crash it for 24 hours right before brew day. I take it out of the fridge when I'm starting the brewing process, and it's warmed up a bit and ready for pitching by the time I am.
  16. Agold

    Agold Advocate (520) Pennsylvania Mar 13, 2010

    I usually crash and decant, but sometimes if I am doing something big I would rather pitch when the yeast are active than decant. For most beers, however, I decant.
  17. I decant. Ever taste the starter liquid?
  18. VikeMan

    VikeMan Champion (930) Pennsylvania Jul 12, 2009 Beer Trader

    Yes. That's why I decant also.
    skivtjerry likes this.
  19. USCMcG

    USCMcG Aficionado (150) Arizona Nov 20, 2009

    For those of us who are still figuring out how to use a yeast starter, could you go through the decanting process? How do you do this and what is the product you are left with post cold-crashing? Thanks in advance.
  20. jokelahoma

    jokelahoma Savant (460) Missouri May 9, 2004

    Brutally simple, USCMcG.

    Once your starter is done (which rarely takes more than a day, unless you're stepping it up), you simply put the whole thing in the fridge. This will cause the yeast to settle to the bottom of the starter vessel. Once that occurs (usually overnight) you simply gently pour off the liquid, leaving the yeast cake on the bottom. Leave just enough liquid to swirl the yeast cake back into suspension, and voila. A tiny bit of liquid with a much higher cell count than your original yeast package, and with all the nasty starter wort poured off.
  21. NiceFly

    NiceFly Savant (405) Tajikistan Dec 22, 2011

    I agree, but once I dumped the majority of a starter of Orval dregs before I tasted it.
    Then I cried.
    skivtjerry likes this.
  22. Could I have some assistance?
    I assume a cold crash is to refridgerate to force floculation, and that a stirplate is a burner to heat up, and that a cake would mean trub? Am I tracking, or could someone educate me?
  23. axeman9182

    axeman9182 Advocate (580) New Jersey Aug 5, 2009 Beer Trader

    Pretty much right except for stir plate. A stir plate is something you put the container in which you make your starter on, and you add a small magnetic bar into the starter. When you turn the stir plate on, the bar spins, creating a little vortex and pulling oxygen into the starter. The increased oxygen leads to better/healthier cell growth and the result is you have to make smaller starter for a given beer.
  24. jbakajust1

    jbakajust1 Moderator (685) Oregon Aug 25, 2009 Staff Member

    For all the decanters... do yall flame the lip, or just pour it off and add the foil back to the top? Do you spray the inside of the foil w/ sanitizer or just put it back on? Thanks.
  25. WickedSluggy

    WickedSluggy Advocate (530) Texas Nov 21, 2008 Verified

    I don't go so far as to cold crash the starter, but I do give it time to significantly settle at about 60 degrees and decant the starter liquid. I do 5 or 10 gallon batches in 6 gallon carboys. I'm not going to dump liters of of starter wort into the fermentor.
    HerbMeowing likes this.
  26. The foil never makes it back on for me. I decant, swirl, and pitch, all in one graceful synchronized ballet.
  27. ^^ With the music from 2001: A Space Odyssey blasting. :D
  28. telejunkie

    telejunkie Savant (400) Vermont Sep 14, 2007

    i'll decant for the big boys, kolsch, german ale & lagers. Most commonly brew ales with starters representing less than 5% of the total volume of the beer, so I'll just pitch those direct.
  29. jbakajust1

    jbakajust1 Moderator (685) Oregon Aug 25, 2009 Staff Member

    So then I assume you remove the flask from the fridge morning of, allow entire starter to come to room temp while brewing, after chilling wort, racking, aerating, you remove foil, decant, swirl, pitch, close up fermenter, and then move to where it ferments... does that pretty much cover it?
  30. VikeMan

    VikeMan Champion (930) Pennsylvania Jul 12, 2009 Beer Trader

    Personally, I decant while still cold (straight out of fridge), and pitch cold. I have noticed no difference in lag time or final result.
    jbakajust1 likes this.
  31. Actually, it's not necessary to let the starter warm up before pitching, and I've read in some places that it's better not to.
    jbakajust1 likes this.
  32. cracker

    cracker Savant (405) Pennsylvania May 2, 2004

    I also don't warm my starter up. Pitch it right after pulling it out from the frig and decanting. Think about it: ~200 cc of cold yeast slurry into 5 gallons of wort won't do squat to the overall temperature.
  33. dougofthefuture

    dougofthefuture Savant (445) Minnesota Oct 15, 2009 Beer Trader

    I thought I read somewhere that it is helpful to have the starter yeast actively growing when you pitch? This is the reason I prefer not to cold crash when possible...
  34. jbakajust1

    jbakajust1 Moderator (685) Oregon Aug 25, 2009 Staff Member

    Good to know.
  35. Thorpe429

    Thorpe429 Champion (905) Illinois Aug 18, 2008

    I believe the concern here is shocking the yeast, not affecting the overall temperature of the liquid.
    NiceFly, EdH and jbakajust1 like this.
  36. VikeMan

    VikeMan Champion (930) Pennsylvania Jul 12, 2009 Beer Trader

    If anyone has information showing damage from heat shock for yeast going from about 40F to about 65F, I'd like to see it. I use to believe this until I was convinced to try cold pitching. Once I tried it, I never went back. It's just too convenient, and seems to make no difference in the results. But if there's data to the contrary, I'd certainly reconsider.
    originalgoat likes this.
  37. I too go straight from fridge to fermenter. I have zero worries about shocking the yeast, since it's going from cold to warm and not the other way around. Warming the yeast merely wakes it up, and if you cold crashed it at the peak of fermentation (of the starter) then those beeatches are hungry and it's muthafukkin BREAKFAST time!
    TickleMeTony likes this.
  38. Thorpe429

    Thorpe429 Champion (905) Illinois Aug 18, 2008

    I have no real information on this, it's just what I had heard as well. I don't have an issue with it, as I normally cold crash the night before brewday, decant the liquid in the morning, and then let it warm at room temperature while I'm brewing. I suppose I could experiment with that at some point.
  39. herrburgess

    herrburgess Champion (935) South Carolina Nov 4, 2009 Beer Trader

    I always cold-crash and decant. First starter I ever made I tasted the liquid...tasted similar to Olde English 800 IMO.
  40. NiceFly

    NiceFly Savant (405) Tajikistan Dec 22, 2011

    This is the best I can do and it does not debunk your method. It does provide the rationale behind avoiding heat shock.

    Heat shock makes cell walls/membranes more permeable. It is a commonly used technique for introducing DNA into bacteria. Yeast are not bacteria and have tougher cell walls but the concept applies. See page 2 steps 6-8 for the link below.

    Now, in that procedure they go from 32F to 107F and back to 32F rapidly. This swells the membrane, they suck stuff in and close back up. Do they live? Of course because they are selected for. Do some die? Who fucking cares some of them lived.

    Now lets apply the temperature swing and duration to pitching cold yeast into warm wort. It is much less of a temperature swing but a longer duration of change. Will they swell? Yes. As much as those bacteria? Probably not. Do they live? Of course.
    Do some die? Well, this is the heart of the matter and I do not know. But that is the rationale behind pitching yeast and wort of the same temperature. It is to avoid a compromised cell membrane. Alot like the rehydrating dry yeast debate.

    Thorpe429 likes this.