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Is My Starter Fermenting?

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WeaselEstateBrewery

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Variation on "is my brew fermenting yet" :huh:

I have only just got into splitting yeast into vials and then creating starters. Have been speaking with other brewers, and referencing Wolfy's guide which is very good.

I created a lager starter recently, which when pitched didn't kick off and the brew became infected and I dont want this to occur again. I am using Munich Lager yeast from a vial (originally split 1 x Wyeast pack over 4 vials). I think the Wyeast pack was in my fridge for about a month.

I created a 500ml starter from DME, OG was roughly 1.040. Let it cool to room temp, pitched yeast and put it on the stirplate overnight. 17 hours later and the gravity is about 1.039 and there is very little bubbling; the gravity difference could even be from the different wort temps in my refractometer. I have seen pics from others that show crazy frothing activity, and was wondering if by now (17 hours later) I should see more vigorous activity? I was expecting that tonight I would be adding another 1.5L DME and stepping up the starter to 2L but it doesn't seem like it will be ready.

From your experience, how long do starters take to kick off? I have created about 5 starters from ale yeasts which have taken off nicely (using the entire Wyeast pack). Contemplating adding another vial, or starting over again with 2 vials. OR should I be patient and wait longer?
 

JDW81

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Variation on "is my brew fermenting yet" :huh:

I have only just got into splitting yeast into vials and then creating starters. Have been speaking with other brewers, and referencing Wolfy's guide which is very good.

I created a lager starter recently, which when pitched didn't kick off and the brew became infected and I dont want this to occur again. I am using Munich Lager yeast from a vial (originally split 1 x Wyeast pack over 4 vials). I think the Wyeast pack was in my fridge for about a month.

I created a 500ml starter from DME, OG was roughly 1.040. Let it cool to room temp, pitched yeast and put it on the stirplate overnight. 17 hours later and the gravity is about 1.039 and there is very little bubbling; the gravity difference could even be from the different wort temps in my refractometer. I have seen pics from others that show crazy frothing activity, and was wondering if by now (17 hours later) I should see more vigorous activity? I was expecting that tonight I would be adding another 1.5L DME and stepping up the starter to 2L but it doesn't seem like it will be ready.

From your experience, how long do starters take to kick off? I have created about 5 starters from ale yeasts which have taken off nicely (using the entire Wyeast pack). Contemplating adding another vial, or starting over again with 2 vials. OR should I be patient and wait longer?
It depends on how viable the yeast in the vial is, and the size of the sample in the vial.

IMHO if pitching a vial of yeast, especially if the viability is unknown you're better of starting at a volume much smaller than 500mL. It means the yeast don't get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of sugars there. Last time I re-cultured yeast from a bottle I originally pitched into 100mL and then stepped up over a few days.

If the yeast was nice and healthy, I would think you should have a much bigger gravity drop than you have. Also at risk of asking a stupid question, are you sure you measured the sample accurately?

Next questions, how does it smell, and how does it taste? I know these aren't always a great indicator of things (Kolsch yeast smells/tastes like vomit), but they can give you an idea of how it is progressing or if you have an infection.

If your sanitation was good then you're probably safe to leave it for another 12 hours to see how it progresses. If there is still nothing doing, I'd ditch it and start again with 2 vials in a wort no larger than 100mL. Once that is going nicely then step to 200, 500, 1000 and then 2000*.

As far as starter action goes, mine don't ever seem to foam like a rabid dog. They just ferment away without any noticeable action (if I listen closely I can hear the CO2 bubbling out of the solution). I've never had a massive krausen on any of my starters.

Good luck with it.

JD

*Disclaimer: this stepping regime is what I use when I re-culture, and by no means the definitive method.

Edit: Spelling.
 

Guysmiley54

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I agree that 100ml is an appropriate step for a small vial with unknown viability. I have ruined several batches due to splitting yeast packs and I would recommend putting yeast health ahead of numbers and being conservative with your expectations of your yeasts viability.

MY2C :)
 

WeaselEstateBrewery

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Thanks for the detailed reply. Your statement about having too large a starting volume might be the key! I was wondering this; previously i have created starters from full smack packs with 300 - 500ml wort and these worked fine.

Re: your "stupid question" - what measurement do you mean, the volume of the yeast or the gravity of the wort?

Smells and tastes fine, have been pretty tight with sanitation. Definitely can't smell an infection yet but if by this arvo it hasnt taken off, will will try again with a smaller starter volume.

All part of education and training :)
 

WeaselEstateBrewery

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I agree that 100ml is an appropriate step for a small vial with unknown viability. I have ruined several batches due to splitting yeast packs and I would recommend putting yeast health ahead of numbers and being conservative with your expectations of your yeasts viability.

MY2C :)
Thanks - do you think splitting into 4 is too aggressive? I know some people create a wort, feed that, then split that into 5 - 10 vials.
 

JDW81

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Thanks for the detailed reply. Your statement about having too large a starting volume might be the key! I was wondering this; previously i have created starters from full smack packs with 300 - 500ml wort and these worked fine.

Re: your "stupid question" - what measurement do you mean, the volume of the yeast or the gravity of the wort?
Gravity after 17 hours of fermentation, sorry wasn't too clear there, sitting in physiology lectures whilst trying to reply to AHB posts so only half concentrating.

Splitting it into 4 vials is fine. In theory you could split it into 10 vials, you just need to step it up in appropriately sized starters.
 

WeaselEstateBrewery

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Gravity after 17 hours of fermentation, sorry wasn't too clear there, sitting in physiology lectures whilst trying to reply to AHB posts so only half concentrating.

Splitting it into 4 vials is fine. In theory you could split it into 10 vials, you just need to step it up in appropriately sized starters.
Yeah gravity is definitely accurate, took a refracto reading this morning and this arvo and there wasn't a change.

I have 100ml spinning away wildly now with a fresh injection of work, then tomorrow morning i'll step up the starter a bit (or late tonight?).

Thanks, you can return to your lectures now if they are still running :beer:
 

JDW81

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I have 100ml spinning away wildly now with a fresh injection of work, then tomorrow morning i'll step up the starter a bit (or late tonight?).

Thanks, you can return to your lectures now if they are still running :beer:
If the smaller starter has fermented out in 8-10 hours then step up tonight, if not, wait till tomorrow. Your gravity reading will tell you.

Lectures are still going <_<
 

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