Budding Yeast CellsYeast. Do you have enough and does it make your beer taste great?

In a previous blog, we discussed yeast happiness, so now you have a grasp on keeping yeast in their happy temperature range. But what’s next? Perhaps you’ve tried a few yeast brands with similar flavors, but it’s not quite what you want? Are you ready to branch out into liquid yeasts to expand your variety? Well, then you need to get familiar with something new: Yeast Starters!

Dry yeast is great, but it can be limited. Whereas liquid yeasts give a broader variety of flavors, but can take a little more effort on your part to get the yeast happy enough for a healthy fermentation. If you brew beers with a starting or original gravity above 1.050 (12.5 Plato) and want to use the Wyeast brand liquid yeasts carried by Texas Brewing Inc., then you will very likely need to make a starter to get the proper amount of yeast cells to pitch into your wort. But don’t worry, it’s easy!

Making a starter is basically like making a small batch of beer. You’re creating a medium to which you’ll add your activated yeast pack so that they yeast wake up, start reproducing, and are ready to play hard when they go to the big show. An activated smack pack is designed to support fermentation of wort with a gravity of 1.050 or less, depending on the viability of the pack (the packaged date—viability drops by the month). If your beer is of a gravity higher than that or you have an older pack of yeast, you’ll definitely need to make a starter. Click here to calculate the proper amount of starter based on your gravity.   So, smack your chosen pack, let it sit for several hours at room temperature, then prep your starter wort and pitch the pack. You can use any sanitized container that’ll hold the wort and shake the container by hand to oxygenate, but the most preferred method is usually using an Erlenmeyer flask and a stir plate. Why? Because the flasks can take direct flame and the stir plate allows for constant movement and oxygenation due to the yeast remaining in suspension.
Next, give your starter 12-24 hours or basically make it the night before your brewday (depending on viability) and it’ll be ready to pitch when you finish brewing. If it’s an older pack, you’ll have to build it up over a week or so with small additions of fresh wort, but it’ll still save you money and only cost a bit more effort to achieve that specific flavor.

Starters are simple and effective tool. Just determine how much you need and make it happen! All you need to do is plan ahead to have one ready that’ll give you better attenuation and the specific flavors you desire. And afterward, it’ll be more experience with another tiny batch of beer under your belt. Hint: Pitching rate calculators are widely available online and as apps for mobile devices. We suggest Mr. Malty. You may even recognize the developer.
Brew Better Beer: Check out the Wyeast website or one of their charts that list all the varieties of their liquid yeast. There are a vast variety of flavors. Some even based on the same yeast used by your favorite breweries (Pacman, Chico, Weihenstephan, and others). Take a chance and try something new and slightly more complicated. Dry yeasts are great and reliable, but they all end up in liquid form. And if you learn to wash and store yeast, you could end up with another new hobby: yeast farmer.