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Building up a starter: how fast can you go?

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by atomeyes, Dec 11, 2012.

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  1. atomeyes

    atomeyes Disciple (383) Jul 13, 2011 Ontario (Canada)
    Beer Trader

    Just wondering how fast one can build up a starter.

    i started w/liquid yeast. put it in 1/2 quart (500 mL) of starter.

    i assume you double it each time you want to build up the volume. how often can you double the volume?

    my goal is close to 5 L of starter (5 quarts for you Americanos). it will take me quite a while if I'm doubling it like i currently am.
  2. inchrisin

    inchrisin Defender (654) Sep 25, 2008 Indiana

    There's a peak with how much you want to feed a certain amount of yeast. I didn't quite follow this seciton with Chris White and Jamil Z. in Yeast. You'll eventually want to split the batch of yeast and feed both batches. I haven't even steped near asking you WHY you want that much yeast when it's best used within a few weeks.

    Edit: Each step would take a couple of days. Decanting would cut back the volume dramatically between each step and I'd add a couple more days for this. It is also significantly less work with a stir plate.
  3. atomeyes

    atomeyes Disciple (383) Jul 13, 2011 Ontario (Canada)
    Beer Trader

    1.100 OG wort.
    mrmalty.com tells me what to do.
  4. kjyost

    kjyost Initiate (0) May 4, 2008 Manitoba (Canada)

    Go to yeastcalc.com way better for stepped starters...

    I would suggest 24-36 hours to ferment on a strip late followed by 12-24 hours to cold crash (unless you add concentrated wort - you could cut this potentially, but then you are fermenting in a slightly alcoholic environment)
  5. atomeyes

    atomeyes Disciple (383) Jul 13, 2011 Ontario (Canada)
    Beer Trader

    you lost me with the last bit.
    cold crash and then what? pour off the top wort and add the sediment?
  6. ericj551

    ericj551 Initiate (0) Apr 29, 2004 Alberta (Canada)

    Honestly I think Mr. Malty is overkill in this situation. I brewed up a barleywine this weekend (7 gallons of 1.108) and pitched an active 2 liter starter made the night before. The beer took off like a rocket, 6+ inches of krusen, if I wasn't fermenting in a huge bucket I would have blown off a ton. I used a smack pack of 1084 (Irish Ale) that was about a month old.
  7. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,334) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    That's exactly what he meant. If you just keep adding the old starter (including spent wort/alcohol) to the new wort batches, you'll build up alcohol, and also the gravity of the starter wort won't be right (unless you adjust for it).
  8. ventura78

    ventura78 Aspirant (267) Nov 22, 2003 Massachusetts

    Most of the beers I brew are high gravity. More than once I've done a one gallon starter with an 18 hour turnaround. ( for 6 gallons ) It may not be ideal, but it worked every time. Most of my brews are 18 gallon, for those I make a second stage starter in addition to the one gallon. The second stage is 2 gallons, for a total of 3. When I'm in a hurry there is only 18 to 24 hours between those two.

    I think you would be fine doing the whole 5 L at once.
  9. atomeyes

    atomeyes Disciple (383) Jul 13, 2011 Ontario (Canada)
    Beer Trader

    except that it is a 24 hr fermentation of a 1.040 wort. and if we're talking about a 1 litre starter, we're talking about 3ish% alcohol in 1 litre going into 20 litres of wort.
    so 30 mL of alcohol going into 5 gallons. or one ounce, for you imperial people. so, basically, a shot of beer-flavoured JD (volume-wise).
  10. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,334) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Huh? You were talking about repeatedly doubling your starter volume. If you don't crash/decant, you'll (comparatively) build up the alcohol concentration in the starter volume (not in 20 liters of wort). And each time you add more 1.040 starter wort, the actual fermentable gravity of the accumulated starter volume will get lower.
    kjyost likes this.
  11. kjyost

    kjyost Initiate (0) May 4, 2008 Manitoba (Canada)

    You said you wanted to build it up to 5 litres, so I am assuming that you will do one of the following:
    1 - Add more 1.040 starter wort to your starter that has fermented out, this causes two issues: The overall gravity is lower as it average between the gravity of the fermented stuff & the wort and you now have a somewhat alcoholic environment for the starter to work in (an average between the 4-5% & the 0% of the wort)
    *note both are weighted averages.
    2 - You add concentrated wort so the overall becomes around 1.040. Assume the first litre ferments to 1.010, you need 1 litre of 1.070 to get to 1.040...
    3 - You dump off the spent wort and add more 1.040 wort.

    What did you mean you were planning on doing?
  12. atomeyes

    atomeyes Disciple (383) Jul 13, 2011 Ontario (Canada)
    Beer Trader

    sorry...trying to address the multiple conversations at once.
    there were also quotes talking about my quantity being excessive
  13. mattbk

    mattbk Devotee (467) Dec 12, 2011 New York

  14. kjyost

    kjyost Initiate (0) May 4, 2008 Manitoba (Canada)

    Off hand, without quick calculations, I think you're wrong. Thought experiment:

    1.040 ferments to 4%. That then gets diluted by half by 1.080 wort making new 1.040 wort. The dilution is 2%, and can ferment 4% more... Is this not correct?

    Even more extreme example: stepping up a 2L starter with another 2L starter. All you do is add DME, more alcoholic now, non?
  15. yinzer

    yinzer Initiate (0) Nov 24, 2006 Pennsylvania

    yeah, after I posted that I saw my error and deleted my post because you need to add a stronger wort to get to 1.040
  16. atomeyes

    atomeyes Disciple (383) Jul 13, 2011 Ontario (Canada)
    Beer Trader

    think you're off with the calculations.

    Day 0. wort OG = 1.040. pitch yeast
    Day 1. wort will not fully ferment through. you are in growth phase. I'd argue the gravity's still damn close to 1.040 (so 1.035ish?). then you are adding more wort (1.040). so average wort is still close to 1.040.
    Day 2. yeast growth is accelerating and you're probably getting to the point where the yeast's growth is fast enough to rapidly drop the wort. so i'd guess that we're at 1.25ish? so adding an equal amount of fresh wort would bring the average wort concentration to 1.033 ish?
    so by Day 3 or 4, there is probably no point in diluting the starter because of the high yeast growth rate. so the longer you go from day 1, the lower the gravity is.

  17. kjyost

    kjyost Initiate (0) May 4, 2008 Manitoba (Canada)

    I always assume full fermentation for a starter, and I think everyone else does too. Can you find a source that tells you to feed it before fermentation begins? Fermentation happens quickly in situations of high cell density.
  18. NiceFly

    NiceFly Aspirant (275) Dec 22, 2011 Tajikistan

    Why would you only double it?

    If you have a 500ml starter that is finished, just step up to 2500-3000ml from there. You could step up to 5L, it will just take a bit longer.

    A good rule of thumb is 1:5 step up. Negates alot of the posts about alcohol and waste buildup too.

    I almost always start with 500ml with a wyeast propagator, then the next day add more wort to 3000 or so.
  19. NiceFly

    NiceFly Aspirant (275) Dec 22, 2011 Tajikistan

    I also have a stirplate.
  20. jlordi12

    jlordi12 Devotee (408) Jun 8, 2011 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    How important is the 70 t0 75 degrees they recommend(for fermenting the starter)? Not going to happen during a cold NE winter
  21. atomeyes

    atomeyes Disciple (383) Jul 13, 2011 Ontario (Canada)
    Beer Trader

    using educated guesswork, i guess.

    when I've used a 2 litre starter before and put that in 5 gallons, i've had fermentation (airlock activity) in 15 hours. the only way to verify what any of us have said is by doing an experiment involving a starter and taking the gravity at different stages AND taking cell counts at each stage.

    this graph shows the growth, which brings into question why we would wait 24 hrs.

  22. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,334) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    edit: nevermind. I re-read the thread and am not sure what this sentence meant now. So I won't reply.
  23. yinzer

    yinzer Initiate (0) Nov 24, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Just curious, don't large breweries have continuous propagation systems? I know that there are continuous fermentation breweries. I thought that Dan Gordon talked about one.
  24. atomeyes

    atomeyes Disciple (383) Jul 13, 2011 Ontario (Canada)
    Beer Trader

    if my posts ever seem choppy, it is usually because i'm at work and don't have the luxury of alwasys taking a moment to read what i write :slight_smile:

    someone posted that each step should take a couple of days. according to that possibly unreliable graph, we hit the growth plateau in 12-15 hrs. we are after growth, not conversion of sugar to alcohol. therefore, a starter only needs 15 hrs max (in theory) and even 6-7 hrs gives you growth (i.e. the desired result is to have more yeast for your wort)
  25. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,334) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Ah. I think the reason it's standard practice (for some) to let the starter ferment out is so that the newly propagated yeast can feed before being thrown back into propagation mode, which is more stressful. Plus, for those who crash/decant their starters (to minimize starter flavors in their beer), yeast flocculate a lot faster if there is nothing left to eat.
  26. atomeyes

    atomeyes Disciple (383) Jul 13, 2011 Ontario (Canada)
    Beer Trader

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