Dismiss Notice
We're celebrating 10 years of BeerAdvocate magazine with $10 print subscriptions for US residents.

Subscribe now!

Yeast Starter Timing

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by JimSmetana, Mar 1, 2013.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. JimSmetana

    JimSmetana May 11, 2012 Illinois

    How long before pitching do you need to make your yeast starter? Is 12 hours enough?

    Also, if your brew day gets screwed up and you need to wait a week or three can you put your starter in the fridge for a couple of weeks?

  2. OddNotion

    OddNotion Nov 1, 2009 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    I make mine about 5 days before with the last day spent cold crashing. I decant then pitch
    barfdiggs and NiceFly like this.
  3. VikeMan

    VikeMan Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    I cold crash and decant my starters before pitching. I start them (on a stirplate) more or less according to this...
    Slow Floccing Strains: 4 evenings before Brew Day
    Medium Floccing Strains: 3 evenings before Brew Day
    Fast Floccing Strains: 2 evenings before Brew Day

    After about 24 hours, or whenever I thing they are done, I start the cold crash.

    Sure. I'd do a week. Not sure I'd do three though without making a new starter. YMMV.
    CASK1 likes this.
  4. cracker

    cracker May 2, 2004 Pennsylvania

    I usually make mine 5 days or so before brew day that way I can cold crash it 2 days before brew day and decant off the oxidized starter beer and pitch mainly the slurry. If I'm brewing a big strong beer or a lager I do it at least a week in advance so I can step up the starter.

    IMO, 12 hours is not enough to answer your question. Starters need about 24 hours to finish. If you only waited 12 hours you could certainly use it but you would not have produced the intended quantity of yeast. And yes you can store a starter in the fridge for a week or two. For anything longer than 2 weeks you're best off making a mini starter to get them going again.
    NiceFly likes this.
  5. axeman9182

    axeman9182 Aug 5, 2009 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    My ideal schedule is to make a starter a full 72 hours before I'm going to be pitching. That time gets split half and half between fermenting on my stir plate, and cold crashing in my fridge.
    NiceFly likes this.
  6. JimSmetana

    JimSmetana May 11, 2012 Illinois

    All sounds good. Thanks for the input!
  7. sergeantstogie

    sergeantstogie Nov 16, 2010 Washington

    Maybe I need to read YEAST but curious why you use flocculation as a determining factor in your starters? Most yeast are still in their growth/reproduction phase the time you mentioned, no?
  8. VikeMan

    VikeMan Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    The difference in time is in how long I cold crash. Some of the fast floccers are already starting to drop when I take the flask off the stirplate. Slower floccers need more time, gravity, and cold.

    In a starter, the whole thing happens faster than in a batch of wort/beer. And a stirplate starter is faster than other starters.
    sergeantstogie likes this.
  9. sergeantstogie

    sergeantstogie Nov 16, 2010 Washington

    I've always given 24-36 hours on the stir plate unless I am stepping up for a big 2L starter or from questionable yeast and pitch the whole shebang. Wrong?
  10. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    If making a low-tech starter (no stir-plate) and not decanting, 18-36 hrs seems to be the sweet spot.
  11. HopNuggets

    HopNuggets Oct 8, 2009 Connecticut

    Brew Saturday - 2L Starter Make Wednesday night and let ferment for Thursday and Friday. Fridge Friday night so you can decant and pitch on Saturday brew day.

    Step up plan: 2L Starter Sunday night, let ferment Monday and Tuesday, fridge Wednesday AM. Decant and step up w/ another 2L starter Wednesday night. Ferment Thursday and Friday. Fridge Friday night so you can decant and pitch Saturday brew day.
    HOPSareKey likes this.
  12. VikeMan

    VikeMan Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Well, 24-36 should generally be enough time on a stirplate. As I said, I do 24 hours, or until I think it's done. I have let some go longer, depending on what the yeast have decided for me.
  13. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    A week or more before brewday. Takes a while to step those lager yeasts up for a 11 gallon batch and crash. Had to say that.
  14. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    The timeframe of 24-36 hours is sufficient time but you state “on the stir plate”. In my opinion a starter that is produced using a stir plate has highly oxidized beer in it. I personally would not pitch the “whole shebang” of oxidized beer; I would cold crash and decant the oxidized beer. Read below what Jamil Zainasheff discusses about this in his article Making a Starter:

    “I like to pitch starters while they're still very active and as soon as the bulk of reproduction is finished, usually within 12 to 18 hours. This is really convenient, because I can make a starter the morning of the brew day or the night before and it is ready to go by the time the batch of wort is ready.

    Of course, if you have a large starter volume in relation to your batch of beer or a starter that was continuously aerated, then you probably don’t want to pitch the entire starter into your wort. Adding a large starter or a heavily oxidized starter to your wort can alter the flavor of the finished beer.”

  15. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    "a starter that was continuously aerated, then you probably don’t want to pitch the entire starter into your wort. Adding a large starter or a heavily oxidized starter to your wort can alter the flavor of the finished beer.”

    I realize you are talking about stir plate starters, but for normal starters...they shouldn't be any more oxidized than a beer at that beginning time frame. If your starter is oxidized...time to turn the stir plate off (if you see the need to use one in the first place). Aeration and oxidation are not the same things...as you well know I am sure. Stir plates speed things up, but really are overkill for homebrewed med/small ales and can potentially do harm if not properly utilized in conjunction with decanting...IMHO Cheers
  16. yinzer

    yinzer Nov 24, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Stirplates are used to knock the CO2 off of the yeast cells. If ones does the common practice of using tin foil, then I think that the beer would be oxidized. Then again the WL presentation at NHC last year said that air-locks are okay. I use tin-foil. I also when decanted taste my starter, not fowl of anything - but not that good either.
  17. JimSmetana

    JimSmetana May 11, 2012 Illinois

    I re-read what Palmer has to say last night. I am confident I can make the starter ahead of time and keep in the fridge once its done with primary fermenting. Decant and pitch.

    Now I just need to find a 2qt jar. I have MANY 1qt mason jars. Can I split this in 2 or should I just go to my LHBS and get an Ehrlenmeyer 2L and get it over with? Probably... I will eventually want a stir plate.
  18. JimSmetana

    JimSmetana May 11, 2012 Illinois

    WAIT. I have a few growlers. I can use that no? Won't be able to see whats happening but I can assume 48 hours of occasional shaking should get it going.
  19. PortLargo

    PortLargo Oct 19, 2012 Florida

    I would not recommend this technique. Here is where you really want to see (and smell) what's going on. Nothing is better than a 2L flask, but all brewers improvise when required:


    The two jars are from spaghetti sauce and instant coffee and contain the same yeast (lids are not tight). The combined quantity is the same as the flask (with another strain).

    You really want to see the krausen and the yeast cake growing on the bottom (barely visible above). One of the benefits of the starter is you know the yeast is good, but you have to see what's going on. I also like to smell the starter after a good swirl, there should be aroma similar to your primary airlock. Gravity reading will better tell you what's going on. You will be starting around 1.040 and ideally drive it down close to 1.000.

    Palmer advises to add wort after the krausen drops, roughly 24-36 hours (here's where you need clear glass). Typically each addition is about 0.5L and can be repeated a couple of times. This is what is referred to as pitching a 1.0L or 1.5L starter. The "mr malty" calculator will give you some parameters to shoot for.

    Most of the yeast above is suspended in the liquid. Some people pitch the entire starter, some recommend chilling, letting the yeast fall, and de-canting the liquid. At best the liquid is bland, at worst it will be oxidized. I've done it both ways but am leaning to the de-cant method.

    I place starters on my water heater which is a constant 80F. If you have oxygen, here's the time to use it. Sanitation is as critical as any part of your brew process.

    Finally, if you really do sleep with your yeast pack it may be best to keep that private to your non-brew friends.
  20. JimSmetana

    JimSmetana May 11, 2012 Illinois

    So I am planning on brewing this saturday so I made a starter last night (Tuesday). This morning I gave it a couple of swirls and it foamed right out the top of the growler I was using. Did I lose my yeast?
  21. VikeMan

    VikeMan Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    You probably lost a little yeast, but you probably mostly lost CO2 foamage. I wouldn't sweat it unless there's a significantly lower amount of liquid than you started with.
  22. PortLargo

    PortLargo Oct 19, 2012 Florida

    Here is how a typical starter will expand with foam with a good shake:


    This was the result of a good shake to a 1/2" krausen. This is the sign of a healthy starter, the yeast are alive and growing and should give a pleasant aroma. Don't worry about any foam that overfloweth, you will just make some more yeast. After about a day, you will start to lose the krausen and shaking will produce little to no foam. That means the yeast have consumed all they can and are ready for more. Add another ~.5L of wort and they will take off again. These cycles are about 24-36 hours but can vary depending on temp, strength of wort, stirring or shaking, and I suppose how much love the yeasties feel (did you sleep with your yeast pack?).

    You will start to notice the mini-yeast cake on the bottom is getting bigger (now don't you wish you had used clear glass?). If not sure where you are in the cycle, take a gravity reading (less is more). Your yeast calculator will tell you how far to go with this process.

    If you chill and decant, I would budget at least 48 hours for the yeast to settle. Of course you will want the yeast to rise back up to pitch temp, I would allow several hours (12?) for this, If Vikeman has more experience here, please jump in.
  23. VikeMan

    VikeMan Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Assuming OP made a proper sized starter, i.e. one that matched his assumptions and expectations for growth, I wouldn't recommend adding more wort. Once the estimated cell count is where he wants it, I don't see any advantage in feeding the yeast relatively small amounts of sugar in a diluted solution. Adding a half liter of wort to a spent 2L starter won't result in much more growth, because the innoculation rate will be so high and the effective gravity so low. (The gravity of the second wort addition will be very diluted when mixed with the original spent wort). If you really want to step up a starter, I'd recommend crashing, decanting, and pitching into a proper sized fresh starter wort.
  24. yinzer

    yinzer Nov 24, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Why did you split things up when you had so much room in the flask?If it's a foaming issue then a stir plate will help.

    I'd had to see where you got that info, but if you keep adding .5L you will soon only be feeding the yeast and not propagating cells. I'd suggest this yeast calculator. It's best to stay at an inoculation rate of 50-100(mil/mL). A low rate means that you'll get more cell divisions than what's ideal, but fresh yeast out of a pack/vial can handle that with no problem. Too high an inoculation rate and you just feed the cells.

  25. OddNotion

    OddNotion Nov 1, 2009 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    Looks like the larger flask had a different strain per his post.
  26. PortLargo

    PortLargo Oct 19, 2012 Florida

    Different strains

    My source:
  27. WickedSluggy

    WickedSluggy Nov 21, 2008 Texas
    Beer Trader

    If you are pitching 2 litres of starter into a 5 gallon batch, I would say most brewers would say that it is a bit wrong. 10% of the volume of your beer is now starter liquid. Yuk. The rule of thumb is that if you want to pitch a highly active starter, dont pitch more than 5% of the volume of your wort. Otherwise settle the yeast and decant the excess fluid.

    I don't see a real advantage of the "active pitch" technique. You have to remember that you are pitching yeast that is just a few days old into an well oxygentated wort. If you are "repiching", that's another thing alltogether. In that case you should think about using highly active yeast because it is being thrown into a much more hostile environment.
  28. yinzer

    yinzer Nov 24, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Thanks, only the first sentence registered.

    While Palmers site is a good general reference, it's a bit old. But I looked at the page, I don't see where he says to step up @50ml multiple times. Sorry if I'm missing it. Also 1.040 is the high side, 1.030-1.040 is a good range.

    The book "Yeast" is pretty up to date. White Labs also has a good presentation on the NHC/AHA website.
  29. JimSmetana

    JimSmetana May 11, 2012 Illinois

    I made the starter about 5pm yesterday. 1.5 L starter per Mr. Malty.
    Gave it a swirl every 5-10 minutes or so while watching the Blackhawks game.
    Set it on top of the fridge and went to bed.
    Got up this morning and gave it a swirl. Thats when it foamed up and over. All foam and no liquid.
    Seems like I should be OK. Yes, I wish I had a clear glass vessel. Yes, 1.5 L starter is probably too big for a 2qt growler. I will make amends next time...;)
  30. sergeantstogie

    sergeantstogie Nov 16, 2010 Washington

    You have a link? All I found was the one by Jamil.
  31. yinzer

    yinzer Nov 24, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Link for what? 1.030-1.040? "Yeast , The ....." p.133

    Waxing on about number of doubling? Around p.140.

    Inoc Rate(mill cells/mL) *** Number of Doubllings **** Yield Factor

    200 *************** .1 **************************** 3.4
    50 *********** 1.1 ****************************** 7.6
    25 ***************1.8 ***************************** 6.3
    13 ****************** 3.0 **************************** 5.3

    I don't want to post the whole chart because it's copy-written, and frankly people pretty much do what they want to anyway. But as you can see @200 you don't get much reproduction. From what I'm told you also don't want many doublings- bad for yeast health. But listings to a WL presentation it was said that since the fresh yeast the we is super feed yeast with extremely healthy cell walls, at that isn't a concern. And actually I should post of formula for yield factor, it's might not be what first comes to mind.

    But in closing if you want to best beer, it's all about fermentation and yeast. I advise that everyone who is serious about brewing get this book, do some research and find your own comfort zone.
  32. yinzer

    yinzer Nov 24, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Bigger than a 2L PET bottle.

    Works great. Don't overfill. Put sanitized over the cap. With a 1/3 turn it will fall off. The time foil will keep it in place.

    Just make sure it's Giant Eagle. No Kroger's or Weigman's. ;)

  33. sergeantstogie

    sergeantstogie Nov 16, 2010 Washington

    The white labs presentation on the AHA site. Like I said, all I found was the one from Jamil.
  34. PortLargo

    PortLargo Oct 19, 2012 Florida

    From my link, paragraphs 3 and 6 (bottom of page). I admit, the Palmer website is old. But it's still one of my go-to sites for info.

    You are the second person to recommend Yeast to me, so I guess it's time to check it out. I did like your link to the yeastcalc calculator.

    For Jim (the OP): When's brew day and what style?
  35. VikeMan

    VikeMan Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Yeah, the online version of How to Brew is dated. I would imagine the print version has a more modern treatment of yeast propagation, but I can't find my copy, which is kind of annoying. Maybe someone who has it handy can comment. There's lots of information on the Mr. Malty Site and the YeastCalc site, but you have to hunt for it a little.

    If I wasn't one of those two, I'll be the third. It's a worthwhile investment.
  36. yinzer

    yinzer Nov 24, 2006 Pennsylvania

    I'm on the road and don't have all of my secret passwords. I think that it's a few years ago. I think it was the same year with Chad Y's Brett.
  37. JimSmetana

    JimSmetana May 11, 2012 Illinois

    I guess my starter came out fine. Pitched last night about 10:30.
    This morning at 6:30 its bubbling like there is no tomorrow!
    After 8 hours only.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • Extreme Beer Fest® Cometh

    February 3-4, 2017. Boston, Mass. Limited tickets available. Prepare for epicness.

    Learn More
  • 10 Years of BeerAdvocate Magazine

    We're celebrating 10 years of BA mag with $10 print subscriptions for US residents!