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I typically bought Yeast Nutrients from Northern Brewer for my yeast starters and extracts.

I went to my LHBS today to purchase some DME for an extract and asked for nutrients for the beers that I was to be brewing this weekend. He told me that for the overwhelming number of beers that I was to make, the mash bill, given the high percentage of barely, would have enough nutrition for the yeast and any addition would be completely unnecessary.

However at another LHBS I was told to use it in my starters and carboys.

Is there any truth to this notion that yeast starters are unecessary for brewing beers due to the fact that most grains used in the mash bill contain more than enough nutrients for yeast?

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I can't really answer WRT the grains containing nutrient, but I've never used extra nutrient and I've never had a problem. –  CDspace Jul 22 at 22:53
    
I have made hundreds of batches of beer over the past 20+ years without yeast nutrient and without fermentation problems. I'm a bit skeptical when the supplier telling you that you need it is making a profit from it. It probably doesn't do any harm, but IMHO it is definitely not necessary. Perhaps it would help to dry out a very high gravity beer. –  jalynn2 Jul 23 at 12:41
    
I just add my 0.1g of yeast nutrient to my rehydrating yeast as part of the process. These little buggers are going to be my little beer makers, so I treat them well. –  Atron Seige Aug 4 at 15:04

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

BYO has a pretty good, brief article on what yeast nutrient provides for your beer, as well as whether or not it's necessary. To summarize for you, wort by itself is pretty rich in nutrient, and may not need yeast nutrient, especially if you re-pitch yeast from a previous batch (proper amounts of slurry, of course). The one nutrient that is not present in wort, but is in yeast nutrient is zinc, which is necessary for cell growth, in small amounts, between 0.10–0.15 ppm. In ye' olden days when brewers used copper for brewing, the copper leached sufficient amounts of zinc into their brew to allow for yeast to ferment healthily.

According to the author of the post, a lack of zinc results in a prolonged lag phase in fermentation (that time in fermentation between when you pitch your yeast, and the krausen forms), with potential for stuck fermentations.

The question of yeast starters is a slightly separate conversation, as it has little to do with nutrient generation. Yeast starters aren't made to provide nutrition for yeast, they are done to increase the cell count of your yeast so that you are pitching a sufficient quantity of new, healthy, stress-free yeast. Since a starter involves fermentation, it will require zinc for healthy cell growth, so yeast nutrient would be a necessary addition for your starter, as it would be for your primary fermentation.

In short, yes, starters serve a purpose. Yes, yeast nutrient (specifically the zinc component) serve a purpose. Yes, there may be consequences to not using it in your beer, but no, you may be able to get away with not using it, just don't be alarmed if your fermentation is a little slow to kick off, and doesn't dry out as much as you might expect if you don't use it. I would recommend using it in both your starter, and your wort.

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I'd like to add that yeast nutrient can be fairly inexpensive. 1.5 oz. (45g) of Wyeast yeast nutrient is US$2.29 at my LHBS. I use it at a rate of about 0.8g per gallon, costing me about $0.23 per five-gallon batch. –  Chino Brews Jul 27 at 16:01
    
In a pinch, you can also use yeast hulls in reasonable amounts (basically bread yeast that you have boiled for a few minutes to kill them, and then dumped the slurry into your batch). Your brewer's yeast will scavenge protein, nitrogen and zinc form the cell walls of the yeast hulls. –  Chino Brews Jul 27 at 16:05

I was told by my LHBS to only really worry about nutrients if you have a high gravity beer (above 1.060). I believe it has something to do with helping the count of yeast increase (might have been because of the zinc like a previous answer said). However if you use say 2 packets of yeast for 1.060 beer at 23L I don't think you have to worry about a nutrient as much. It's more needed when the count if yeast is low (1 packet kind of situation).

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