Yeast Starter v. 2 packs

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by broodog, Mar 20, 2013.

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  1. broodog

    broodog Aspirant (222) Jul 18, 2009 Illinois


    I'm wondering what are the differences between creating a yeast starter, or just pitching 2 packs of yeast into a 5 gallon batch for a high gravity beer? Anyone have experience with this?

  2. mikehartigan

    mikehartigan Disciple (304) Apr 9, 2007 Illinois

    With a starter, the yeast will already be toiling away before pitching, resulting is a shorter lag time. You can also control the size of the pitch - build a starter that's bigger than 2 packs, for example. Also, you get some peace of mind knowing that it's healthy (not that that's frequently an issue).

    That said, just flip a coin! :wink:
  3. JebediahScooter

    JebediahScooter Initiate (0) Sep 5, 2010 Vermont

    $6.50 vs $13
    Proper pitch rate vs. not enough cells
  4. inchrisin

    inchrisin Defender (654) Sep 25, 2008 Indiana

    I think a lot of us fall into a category of trying to repitch healthy yeast and save a few bucks along the way. A starter wins on cost but you have to put some time into it.
  5. premierpro

    premierpro Aspirant (278) Mar 21, 2009 Michigan

    When I make strong beer I pitch 2 packs of yeast. There is nothing wrong with making a starter I am just too lazy.
  6. JebediahScooter

    JebediahScooter Initiate (0) Sep 5, 2010 Vermont

    Note that a Wyeast smackpack's count of viable yeast decreases over time. So you're not really pitching 200 billion cells, which is already low for a big beer, from the packs that were manufactured last month. Making starters isn't really all that difficult or time consuming...actually kind of fun, it gets me pumped up for the brew day. Learning how to do them and learning about why to do them has taught me a lot about yeast, which at the end of the day is one of the most crucial components of the finished product. I made tasty beers before I started making starters, but my beers have definitely improved since.

    For all the time we spend zeroing in on malt bills and tweaking hop schedules, I find it strange that some folks seem to treat the yeast as an afterthought. If I'm going to spend hours and hours prepping, brewing, and cleaning, then I'm totally fine with spending a little extra time a couple of days in advance to make sure that I have the right amount of healthy yeast so that the beer that I'm putting all that effort into has a clean, healthy fermentation (at proper temperatures).
    broodog likes this.
  7. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,353) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    The first thing you need to figure out is how many estimated cells you want to pitch in your wort of a given gravity and volume. After that, if the amount of estimated cells (affected by age of the yeast) in two packages is enough, then pitching two packs instead of making a starter is a viable option. I have done it a couple times.

    The Mr. Malty and YeastCalc calculators can help with this.
  8. mikehartigan

    mikehartigan Disciple (304) Apr 9, 2007 Illinois

    The reason for that is likely that malt needs preparation (mash, etc) and the malt bill and hop schedule are perceived to have a far more profound impact on the finished beer than yeast. Contrast that with yeast which, it can be argued, comes ready to go (I'm not saying that's the best way to use it, only that, in a pinch, it will work without a starter and you'll likely get something drinkable).
  9. JebediahScooter

    JebediahScooter Initiate (0) Sep 5, 2010 Vermont

    Oh, I get I said, I made plenty of good beers before I started making yeast starters, and I'm not suggesting that everybody has to make starters in order to make good beers (even better than drinkable beers). In my experience, my beers have gotten better, though, with a little extra effort. My post was more of an observation that it seems interesting to me that AG brewers, who seem by nature to be a very detail oriented crowd, are willing to go through all that effort only to pitch yeast that in all likelihood will not be ready for optimal fermentation conditions. You can get good without getting optimal, sure, but I'm trying to create optimal conditions for all aspects of my process. Otherwise, I'd just buy 100% of my beer from pros who do strive to create optimal conditions.
  10. broodog

    broodog Aspirant (222) Jul 18, 2009 Illinois

    Thanks guys. It's more of a time issue for me lately. I have a 10 month old and a 2 year old that keep me quite busy. I'll definitely check out the yeast calculators. I'd love to do a starter every time. I do have a starter kit, and have used it in the past with good success. But like I said above, my time is short these days.
  11. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior Poo-Bah (2,077) May 21, 2010 Texas

    Yeast starters allow you to use less $ worth of yeast than two packs would, even at (local) dry verses liquid costs. Liquid yeast also comes in far more varieties. I always make a starter with liquid yeast, FWIW. Sometimes I just rehydrate with dry.
  12. Reneejane

    Reneejane Devotee (440) Jan 15, 2004 Illinois

    I *know* the wyeast smack packs come with yeast nutrient, but, I find for high gravity worts, throwing some yeast nutrient in in the last 15 minutes of your boil is helpful.
  13. wspscott

    wspscott Savant (979) May 25, 2006 Kentucky

    I have a 4 year old and a 2 year old with a 3rd showing up any day now. Even with that chaos, I still do starters. The easiest is to plan a series of beers that you can use the same yeast for and then just pitch onto the cake of the previous beer. That way you only make one starter and get 3 - 5 beers. You also get the benefit of knowing your yeast is alive and kicking and you save some coin.
  14. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior Poo-Bah (2,077) May 21, 2010 Texas

    I just toss in a little yeast nutrient to every boil to be sure. Yeast nutrient is cheep.
  15. pointyskull

    pointyskull Disciple (310) Mar 17, 2010 Illinois

    Get a stir plate and making starters becomes the lazyman's no-brainer way to go to kickstarting your yeast.

    I use mine all the time and get short lag/crazy fermentation with one smack pack....
  16. messyhair42

    messyhair42 Initiate (0) Dec 30, 2010 Colorado

    I use two wyeast packs for nearly every brew, and I also make starters for nearly every beer. I use yeastcalc for required cell counts and viability, and I still make starters. I do have a problem with never making session beers, everything starts above 1.060. two days and a litre of starter wort, I've been happier with my results since paying a lot of attention to my yeast that ever before.
  17. mikehartigan

    mikehartigan Disciple (304) Apr 9, 2007 Illinois

    While it clearly works for you (and why wouldn't it? :slight_smile:), two packs and a starter is redundant. Why would you choose to do this instead of just making a bigger starter with one pack? The end result should be virtually identical.
  18. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,353) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    I wouldn't recommend it for every starter, but sometimes, by using two packs, you can do single step starter, instead of a stepped-up starter with a single pack. IOW, it can save some time if you are pressed for it. And there are limits to how big you can go with that single pack in a single step.
  19. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,318) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    If you start doing lagers, you would need 4 packs for a 1.050 OG 5 gallon batch (well, 3.5 packs). Starters on a stir plate are a big savings for this case.
  20. mikehartigan

    mikehartigan Disciple (304) Apr 9, 2007 Illinois

    (no comment! :confused:)
  21. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,122) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    A few comments on the information presented on the Brewer’s Friend website:

    Pitching Rate

    The website quotes the famous (or infamous?) George Fix assumption of “0.75 million cells / ml / degree Plato is appropriate for ales”. The website also provided the necessary caveat of “the 0.75 rate really applies to pro brewers – who repitch. That re-pitched yeast contains some trub, dead yeast, and other junk, so the 0.75 rate is not as pure as the 0.35 manufacturer’s rate. Repithched yeast can’t be 50% gunk, probably closer to just 10% after washing.”

    So, if you are repitching your yeast the assumption of 0.75 million cells / ml / degree Plato is probably appropriate for ales. If you are using fresh yeast this value is very conservative. A value of 0.35 million cells per milliliter per degree plato is appropriate for fresh yeast.

    Yeast Viablility

    The yeast calculators have an assumption for yeast viability with age. The Brewer’s Friend website states: “Liquid yeast viability drops 21% each month, or 0.7% each day, from the date of manufacture.” This assumption is incorporated in the yeast calculator on the Mr. Malty website. Does anybody have a scientific paper which documents this value? In my opinion a viability drop of 0.7% per day for every day after the date of manufacturer is an extremely conservative estimate and to my knowledge there is no scientific study that documents this over a time period of 5-6 months.

    So, in my personal opinion a pitching rate of 0.35 million cells per milliliter per degree plato is appropriate for an ale and while yeast viability does decrease over time I do not believe it decreases at a rate of 0.7% for each day after manufacture.

    I have posted on numerous occasions that making a yeast starter as per the values suggested by yeast calculators such as the one on the Mr. Malty website is certainly not a bad idea but the values are very conservative. A very good beer can be made by pitching per the recommendations by the yeast vendors (Wyeast, White Labs, etc.).

  22. messyhair42

    messyhair42 Initiate (0) Dec 30, 2010 Colorado

    yup, I don't have to step anything up unless I'm making a lager or using very old yeast, it makes things more predictable and eliminates an otherwise necessary step.
  23. JebediahScooter

    JebediahScooter Initiate (0) Sep 5, 2010 Vermont

    You probably (definitely) have a stronger knowledge of the science of yeast than I do, as I am trying to learn more all of the time. I posted the two links after a quick search as an example of the reasoning behind yeast starters, not as empirical scientific evidence.

    That said, do you have a research that the .7% per day loss of viability is not accurate? Not to be snarky, but to seek more information for my own understanding.
  24. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,353) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Assuming White Labs does research before they publish numbers, here are numbers from them that support the .7% per day estimate...

    "After 30 days in the vial, the viability of our yeast is 75-85%, which is very high for liquid yeast."

    Mr. Malty's estimate at 30 days is 76% viability, which is within White Labs' own stated range.

    Assuming White Labs believes their own numbers, their usage instructions are disingenuous and silly, pretending that a fresh vial and a 4 month old vial are equivalent.
  25. Reneejane

    Reneejane Devotee (440) Jan 15, 2004 Illinois

    Another thing that works well and does, indeed save a LOT of money AND time, but requires a LOT of planning is pitching on top of an existing cake.

    If you're going to brew a high gravity beastly beer, this is a good way to go. You brew 5 gallons of something a bit lower gravity, and then siphon that off on your brew day, and pour the cooled wort right on top of it.

    So, I brewed an oatmeal stout on Irish Ale yeast, and then dumped a wee heavy on top of it. You could brew an APA and then dump a DIPA on top of it. You have PLENTY of yeast that way, and save yourself 7 bucks at the same time, and... for that matter... ;-) save yourself cleaning.

    Plus, with some high gravity beers, it's best to baby the yeast.
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