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.

  • come on posters, if you post an answer, upvote the question! -1 for all of you :-)
    – mdma
    Apr 21, 2014 at 0:44
  • duplicate? homebrew.stackexchange.com/questions/7483/…
    – mdma
    Apr 21, 2014 at 0:48
  • @mdma: nag, nag... (on it, done it :-)
    – Glasseyed
    Apr 21, 2014 at 1:14
  • Are you talking about liquid or dry yeast? It's generally unnecessary with dry yeast.
    – paul
    Apr 23, 2014 at 16:11
  • I have only made one batch thus far and used liquid yeast.
    – user6684
    Apr 24, 2014 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.

  • 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, 2014 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, 2014 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, 2014 at 0:13

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

  • I don't know of any reason not to use a starter...
    – Glasseyed
    Apr 20, 2014 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, 2014 at 18:51

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.

  • 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, 2014 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.

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