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Quick & Easy Yeast Starter

Leading up to my first All Grain batch of beer, I needed to create my first yeast starter.  Up to this point I’d only used dry yeast from the various kits I’d made, so everything about using liquid yeast was new to me.  In theory, you’re supposed to be able to pitch liquid yeast directly in to your wort, but most of the information I’ve read suggests creating a starter to build the yeast population first.  Also, it just sounded like a cool project.

I read several websites to gather the information I used to create my yeast starter.  I’ll link to a few at the bottom of this post.  You’ll get different information from every source you find, so I opted to work with the timeline that was easiest for me, using the equipment I had available.

Keep in mind this was my first attempt, and it worked, but by no means do I really know what I’m talking about!

Equipment & Materials

  • Liquid Yeast – Wyeast “smack pack”
  • Water – .5 qt. / 1 pt. / 16 oz.  (choose your favorite measurement)
  • 1/2 cup Dry Malt Extract (DME)
  • Glass Growler
  • Tin Foil

Making a Yeast Starter

First thing you need to do is have a rough idea when you’re going to brew your beer.  There are steps that need to take place days in advance of your brew day.  Once you know this info, you can decide when to smack the pack & create your starter wort.

First up, activate your yeast package by “smacking” the internal yeast nutrient.  Once you break open the yeast nutrient inside of the package, it’ll slowly swell up like a pillow.  Not sure how long this is supposed to take, but give yourself about 12 hours.

After your Yeast package has puffed up, you’re ready to create your starter wort.  You don’t need to add hops or anything, it’s just a simple wort that gives the yeast population something to eat in order to multiply.

Creating the starter wort is easy.  Boil 1 pint of water, then add half a cup of DME.  I used Amber DME, as I had it around from a batch I had done in the past.  There are several ratios of water to malt that you can choose, I used the amounts I seemed to come across the most often in instructions.  After you have brought the wort to a boil, remove it from heat and cool it.  A simple sink ice bath works great.

Next, add your cooled wort to a sanitized growler or mason jar.  It’d be easier to work with wide mouthed jars, but I didn’t have any, so I went the growler route.  Either should work fine.

You’re ready to add the yeast.  Use sanitized scissors to cut open the yeast package, and pour the contents in to your wort.  Shake the mixture a little to aerate and combine, then cover with some sanitized foil.  You wouldn’t want to screw the top on, as the yeast will create some pressure as it releases CO2.

Put your yeast starter in a cool, dark place and let it roll.  Give this process a day or two, and you’ll have a great yeast population to pitch in to your wort at the end of your brew day!

Yeast Starter Resources

How to Brew – Yeast Starters

Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation

Beer Dude – How to Make a Yeast Starter

Beer Smith – Making Yeast Starter

Mr. Malty – Proper Yeast Pitching Rates

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