Yeast Starter

Making a yeast starter is a simple way of improving your beer’s flavor and decreasing any lags in fermentation time. In the shop, when I ask customers why they don’t make a yeast starter I get similar excuses every time:

  1. I don’t know how.
  2. The equipment is too expensive.
  3. It takes too much time.
  4. My beers turn out fine without it.

My answers to each are as follows:

  1. Making a yeast starter is not only easy, it’s easy to learn! 
  2. You can start making a yeast starter with only $10 worth of equipment and then for $2.50  for each batch. You can always upgrade in the future, but a simple glass jug with a piece of aluminum foil will do the trick.
  3. Making a yeast starter should only take a half hour. The ideal time to let a yeast starter run is only 16-24 hours, so you can make a yeast starter the day before you plan to brew.
  4. Your beer may be good now, but with a yeast starter it could be great!

So with all that being said, how do you actually make a yeast starter? I’ve outlined the process below and have created a handout to make brew day a lot easier.


Steps of Making a Yeast Starter

  • Step 1: In a small sauce pot bring 2L of water up to approximately 120° F.
  • Step 2: When the water has reached the desired temperature add 200 g of DME and stir, making sure to stir out any clumps that may have formed
  • Step 3: Bring the entire mixture to a boil and keep at a rolling boil for approximately 10 minutes
  • Step 4: Take the mix off of the heat and cover, allowing to cool till it reaches 70° F.
  • Step 5: Transfer this mix to a sanitized vessel (Glass Jug or Erlenmeyer Flask)
  • Step 6: Pitch the Yeast and Cover (Bung and Airlock or Aluminum Foil)
  • Step 7: If possible put the yeast on a stir plate and set to a gentle spin, if not keep the yeast in an easily accessible area and swirl the container whenever possible
  • Step 8: Either Cold Crash the yeast  and Decant or Pitch Directly into the Wort

 

Yeast Starter Guide: Making a Yeast Starter

Gratzer

When I first heard of an all Polish beer, I was like… I have to make this. Since that time, I’ve done a fair amount of research and have crafted 2 versions of this classic brew. Each time I brewed it, I felt a bit closer to my Polish ancestors. With the smokey smells filling my apartment on brew day, I could almost imagine myself going back in time to visit those ancient Polish brewers.

Gratzer is an “ancient” style of beer, originally brewed in Poland in the 15th century. It consists of a grain bill of 100% oak smoked wheat, giving it a totally unique flavor, and a middle of the road hop bitterness, lending some aggression to balance out the softer wheat profile. This style of beer was almost lost during the turn of the century when the last commercial gratzer brewery closed its doors. Thankfully, this fantastic and unique beer has recently begun a revival in the craft beer industry

My first time making this beer taught me a lot of things. First, a 100% wheat beer needs rice hulls or you will get a stuck sparge. Also, unless you treat it right, wheat has a very low diastatic power, so you will not be able to get as much bang for your buck pound wise compared to 2-row or Pilsner malts. Finally, smoke flavor is very variable in how it presents in beer. In some styles a little can go a long way, but in others even a huge grist of smoked malt can give a subtle flavor.

That being said, gratzer is a a fun and reasonably easy style that can be brewed both as a full strength or a session beer. For my first gratzer, I went with a 50-50 ratio of smoked malt to wheat malt, but I thought that the smoke was just a bit too subtle. On this second round, I tried a 100% Oak Smoked Malt Grain bill. The result is a slap your face silly smokey oaky aroma and a pungent yet satisfying smoked taste. Despite the very low gravity of this beer the wheat gives this beer a good backbone.

OG: 1.024 — FG: 1.004 — ABV: 2.5%

Recipe:

  • 7 lb Oaked Smoked Wheat
  • 1.5 oz Hallertauer at 90 minutes
  • .5 oz Hallertauer at 15 minutes

Yeast: Wyeast 1007  (German Ale)

Mashed at 150 for 90 minutes; Boil was approximately 2.5 hours

Fermented at 64 for 3 weeks


References

Bottle Cap Magnets

Keezer with MagnetsNeed a little flare for your keezer? Refrigerator looking a bit plane? Drunk, Bored, and need something to do with all of the bottle caps you just liberated from that delicious beer? If so, these Bottle Cap Magnets are a really fun project that is easy to do and a great/cheap/reversible way to decorate any magnetic surface. I think that each of these little beauties took about 1 minute and they are almost instantly ready to put on your fridge. One quick tip is to place a quarter on top of your cap while prying it open. This will give you a perfectly flat faced cap and it will look practically brand new.. You will probably be fine opening it the normal way, but why not take an extra minute and make your project look even better.

Materials

  • Hot Glue & Hot Glue Gun: $0.05 Per Squeeze
  • 1/2 inch Round Magnets: $0.20 Each
  • Bottle Caps: Free or $1.50 if you think of your beer as free, totally your choice
  • Total Cost: $0.25 Each

Process: Simply put a drip of hot glue on the back of the bottle cap, add magnet, put on metallic surface of your choice.

Cap & Magnet        Cap + Magnet

Credit goes to Vernon Wells for this Idea

Weizen/Hefeweizen

HefeweizenThis beer was a total comedy of errors, but at the same time possibly a collection of fortuitous disasters. I truly underestimated how large of a krausen that this beer would have! I had a blow out in not one but two different fermentors. Overall i was very grateful not to have developed an infection, but at the same time I am very curious how this beer would have turned out with more of a “traditional” fermentation. As this is kegged, I feel like I can not call this a true hefeweizen, but at the very least it is an unfiltered German wheat beer.

OG: 1.050 —- FG: 1.007 —- ABV: 5.6%

Recipe:

  • 5.3 Lb German Pilsner Malt
  • 5.3 Lb German Wheat Malt
  • 1 oz Hallertau at 60 min

Yeast: White Labs 300 (Hefeweizen)

Mashed at 152 for 60 min

Brewed at highly fluctuating temperature (62-ish for the first 3 weeks)

Notes: The body of this beer is a bit thin, so the addition of cara malt would be great to add a bit more backbone to this beer. Im thinking a cara-wheat or the very generic carapils for the next version of this beer. The head retention is also very poor, so hopefully more dextrine malt will also improve this problem as well.

Equinox Pale Ale

Equinox Pale AleI really like the idea of a SMASH (Single Malt and Single Hop) beer, but I often find them to leave you wanting a bit more complexity. For me the best way around this is either a single malt OR single hop beer. For this beer I chose to use a reasonably complex malt bill but only use a single hop all through the brew.

I chose equinox because I found the description to be fascinating. The good people at hop union describe it to have “a pronounced aroma profile with citrus, tropical fruit, floral and herbal characteristics. Specific descriptors include lemon, lime, papaya, apple, and green pepper.” I was curious what this hop could do to a beer when it was left on its own. At about 15% alpha acid, it’s not what some would consider a dual purpose hop, but I’ve seen a growing trend in the home-brew community of ignoring alpha acids and focusing on flavor.

During fermentation this beer had a bouquet of tropical fruit, with a potent aroma of mango and papaya coming from the airlock. When I first sampled this beer right after fermentation, I was shocked that the aroma and flavor were strongly reminiscent of green bell pepper! Now don’t get me wrong, this was not at all unpleasant, just unusual. As it has mellowed in the keg, the aroma is now lime and papaya with the flavor bringing forth soft lemon, pineapple, and still a hint of green pepper. I can definitely classify this beer as a success, although I am not sure if I would brew with 100% equinox again.

OG: 1.057 — FG: ?.??? — ABV: ?.?%

Recipe

  • 8 Lb 11 oz American 2-Row
  • 3 oz Crystal 10
  • 4 oz Crystal 40
  • 3 oz Crystal 120
  • 1/2 Lb Carapils
  • .5 oz Equinox – 60 min
  • 1 oz Equinox – 15 min
  • 1.5 oz Equinox – 5 min
  • 2 oz Equinox – Flame out
  • 2 oz Equinox – Dry Hop for 5 Days with 3 Days Cold Crash

Yeast: Wyeast 1217 American II

As a final note, this beer definitely pushes the boundaries between American Amber and American Pale Ale, but I think I would be safe putting it in the latter category