Friday, January 9, 2009

Starter Time

I made a starter for my maibock tonight. I actually made two starters, a 1.5 gallon one for the maibock at about 1.080, and a .5 gallon starter at about 1.040 just to grow some yeast for my next lager. I often reuse the yeast cake from one batch to the next, but I have read that it's not good practice to use it from strong batches as the yeast are stressed. The maibock is supposed to have an O.G. of about 1.075, so I won't be reusing that yeast cake. I'll split the big starter into two carboys and fill them the rest of the way with the maibock wort.

A lot of homebrewers will decant the liquid from the starter and just use the yeast slurry, but I figure this is a waste. They will usually grow the starter at very warm fermentation temperatures to promote as much yeast growth as possible. This leads to fuesels and off flavors in the starter, but since they're disposing of the liquid, these don't carry into the finished beer. What I usually do instead is make the starter close in O.G. and color to the beer I'm making, fermenting it at regular temps (low 50s for lagers, low 60s for ales), and then just add the beer wort to the starter wort. For example, I steeped some carafa in the starter for my Superbowl Stout. This way I don't waste, and no bad flavors are carried on the finished beer. I know I don't get optimal yeast growth this way, but using this method I've made award winning beers. I don't hop the starters, so I adjust for the dilution of hops when formulating my recipe for the finished beer.

It has been about 6 hours since I pitched the yeast. No activity on the airlock of the small. I'm too tired to head down to the basement to check the main starter. I'm sure they'll both be going fine when I get up tomorrow. Then it's off to the LHBS for the ingredients for the maibock so I'm ready to brew on Sunday.


  1. Did you make the gravity of your big starter at 1.080? I have read and heard that big starters actually stress the yeast out and you would be better served making a low gravity starter ~ 1.040. If you are into podcasts, there is a good one on starters. Check out BrewStrong on Here is the link to the Brew Strong podcast:

    Nice blog by the way, I will follow it.

  2. Yeah, the O.G. is at 1.080. I know this isn't a great practice, but I wanted to replicate what I did on this beer last year. I figure it will fine, because it's practically a whole smack pack in 1.5 gallons of 1.080 wort. I used yeast nutrient as well. It's fermenting nicely already. Thanks for the tip and link though.