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I have made around 5 homebrews and have heard of yeast starters but have never used one. I have always used smack packs or dry yeast and just pitched that directly into the fermentation. They have all turned out fine, so now I am curious why I would use a yeast starter? Does it make for a better or faster brew? Do I only need it in certain situations? What other advantages could I be missing to using a yeast starter instead of not.

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duplicate of homebrew.stackexchange.com/questions/7483/… –  mdma Aug 27 '13 at 22:32
    
Simple answer is no you don't "need" to make one but as per the linked question above, depending on what size batch you are making, of what type of beer with what type of yeast you are pitching from what source, you could be underpitching, which is not normally desirable –  Anigel Aug 28 '13 at 15:21
    
My lag times have dropped to 12 hours, from 24 hours, since I started using yeast starters. I would highly suggest it based on that alone. It is also not difficult. I made a homemade stirplate and use a flask, but I have simply used a gallon water jug and put a foam filter in that, which works. –  Matthew Moisen Aug 29 '13 at 4:54
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Plain and simple is that you don't NEED one if you just rehydrate the yeast and pitch you'll be fine.

The scenario where you would need to make a yeast starter is when brewing a high gravity beer and you are concerned that your yeast will not be as efficient as you would like, so you make a yeast starter to raise the cell count.

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I wouldn't say it was just about efficiency of yeast, under pitching can have definate effects on flavour profile amongst other effects. Take a look at wyeastlab.com/com-pitch-rates.cfm and the section titled "Effect of Pitch Rate on Beer Flavor" Even when making a high gravity beer, a yeast starter is not the only solution. it's a much bigger subject than you make it seem. –  Anigel Aug 28 '13 at 16:00
    
That's true I was giving an answer based on the question –  Kobi Aug 28 '13 at 16:48
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