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What's the proper method of pitching a starter? Do I just pour the whole thing in or do I need to "harvest" a certain portion of it?

I just started using starters (.25-.5 Gallons water + 2-4 cups Pale LME + 1 White Labs vial). I've been just dumping the whole contents of the starter (after a vigorous shake) into the primary. Is there a better / more correct way of pitching a starter? Am I risking adding off-flavors?

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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

You're using the proper method.

Some people pour off the flat beer and only pitch the solid yeast, but it's overkill, especially if you're making a starter with Pale LME.

If you're making a starter from wort you saved from your last imperial black-patent malt bomb, and you're pitching into a one gallon batch of wife lager, then definitely pour off the wort, otherwise you should be all good pouring in the whole starter.

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Everything I've read says to just toss the whole thing in there. The health and cell count of the yeast as well as the temperature of the wort is all that really matters. The off flavors come from those factors being "off" from where they should be for the style.

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Whether to just pitch the whole thing, or chilling (to drop the yeast if necessary) and decanting the liquid depends on your beer and batch size.

For example, to make a Russian imperial stout, I might make a large 2 liter starter (maybe even larger). Generally, starters should be minimally hopped and have an OG of about 1.040-1.050. If I were to pitch this whole thing into a 5 gallon batch, I'd be adding roughly 1/2 gallon, bringing the total to 5.5 gallons. My starter would represent roughly 9% of the total wort. I for one wouldn't want to have a weak starter 'diluting' 9% of the overall much heavier, maltier beer.

If however, I were pitching a lightly hopped 1 liter starter into a mild belgian pale ale or hefeweizen, I wouldn't care all that much and skip the chilling and decanting step.

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