Take the 2-minute tour ×
Homebrewing Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for dedicated home brewers and serious enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

If a recipe does not call for a yeast starter, would it help or be harmful for me to add a yeast starter? The current brew I have going has a O.G. of 1.070.

share|improve this question
    
come on posters, if you post an answer, upvote the question! -1 for all of you :-) –  mdma Apr 21 at 0:44
    
duplicate? homebrew.stackexchange.com/questions/7483/… –  mdma Apr 21 at 0:48
    
@mdma: nag, nag... (on it, done it :-) –  Glasseyed Apr 21 at 1:14
    
Are you talking about liquid or dry yeast? It's generally unnecessary with dry yeast. –  paul Apr 23 at 16:11
    
I have only made one batch thus far and used liquid yeast. –  user6684 Apr 24 at 13:44

4 Answers 4

It's almost always a good idea. Pitching the right amount of healthy, active yeast is one of the easiest and most important things you can do. This is especially true for high-gravity beer, which is harder for the yeast to grow in. There's a great and fairly concise discussion of these issues on Mr. Malty, as well as a calculator that tells you how many yeast cells you'd ideally want for a given starting gravity, volume, and whether it's an ale or lager strain.

The calculator says that for 5 gals of 1.070 OG, you'd need about 250 billion viable cells. A single vial/smack pack only has about 100 billion viable yeast cells at most (less if its old). You could pitch two packs, but that gets expensive. Alternatively, you could make a two-liter starter (2000ml of water + 200g of DME), pitch the yeast in that, and shake intermittently to grow 250 billion cells.

share|improve this answer
2  
The only caveat I would add is that sometimes it is desirable to underpitch in order to force ester production from the yeast. This is done in some Belgian and German styles such as hefeweizen, dubbel, triple, quad. –  Conman27 Apr 21 at 16:26
    
For 2000ml water and 200g DME I get a resulting gravity of 1.026 SG. That's a bit low for a starter. You would be better reducing the volume to 1.5 liters, which will get you to 1.035 SG. Also be sure to add yeast nutrients! –  mdma Apr 22 at 9:28
    
Huh. 100ml:10g water:DME ratio should be ~1.040 regardless of the volume. How are you computing that SG, mdma? –  jsled Apr 23 at 0:13

AFAIAC, any brew over 1.040 OG will benefit from a yeast starter.

share|improve this answer
    
I don't know of any reason not to use a starter... –  Glasseyed Apr 20 at 18:28
1  
If the beer us under 1.040 and your liquid yeast is reasonably fresh, a starter isn't needed. You would likely be overpitching, which despite the old adages, does have consequences like increased esters. Maybe not terrible consequences, but possibly bad enough that you'd end up with different flavors than intended. –  Denny Conn Apr 20 at 18:51
    
I'll be darned. Thanks for the info! –  Glasseyed Apr 20 at 19:13

The conventional wisdom is to use starters, per the other answers here. I won't argue with that--there's certainly no harm in pitching a lot of healthy yeast.

That said, I've gotten very good attenuation at times just pitching dry yeast. My last brew was 1.077 and I pitched one packet of US-05 (5 gallon batch). So far it has fermented to 1.006. Pretty good. I wouldn't necessarily recommend doing this (I did it because that's all the yeast I had on hand) but if the rest of your technique is on point you don't necessarily need to worry too much.

Instead of going to the trouble of starters, I personally prefer to re-use yeast cakes. Ideally, immediately after siphoning off a batch I pitch fresh wort right on top of the cake. Alternately, I save 1 liter or so of the yeast and refrigerate until the next brew day.

share|improve this answer
1  
Note that dried yeast packets have sufficiently-high cell counts that even if you pitch them directly on the wort without rehydrating (and thus killing about half the cells straight away!), you still have sufficent cell count to approach accepted commercial pitch rates of around 1m-cells/mL/degrees-plato. Starters are really mostly useful for liquid yeast. –  jsled Apr 23 at 0:15

This depends on liquid vs. dry yeast. As several other answers have said, with liquid yeast, yes you're better off using a starter if you don't want to buy 2-3 vials/smack packs. But dry yeast has a lot more viable cells than liquid. You could use a single dry yeast packet (e.g. US-05) for a 1.070 batch - it will get you near the 250 billion cells you need. It's definitely worth trying dry yeast to see if you like the results, because it's cheaper than liquid and easier than making a starter. This is especially true if you're using common strains like Chico/California. With good wort, sanitation and fermentation temp control, the results will be very similar and very good.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.