There is nothing like the satisfaction of brewing your own beer. People have been making their own beer and wine for centuries, and it is now easier than ever with the wide availability of supplies and information. Here we will discuss making a yeast starter to improve your home brew.
Most brewers start with a commercial brewer’s yeast. One technique to improve upon this yeast is to first make a yeast starter. Making a yeast starter is a process that allows your yeast to grow for a period of about 24-36 hours before it is pitched into the batch of brew. This process ensures the yeast’s viability and makes it stronger, healthier and more active. Making yeast starter, rather than using a dried or liquid yeast on its own also reduces the risk of contamination of the final brew because the yeast are allowed to become active enough that they will overpower any invading microbes as they compete for the sugary substance in which they are grown. Making a yeast starter will also speed up fermentation, resulting in less lag time. Yeast starters are best for a high gravity beer, as well as large batches of brew that could use a boost to promote faster fermentation. The resulting beer will also taste better and cleaner.
Make your yeast starter 2 or 3 days before you plan to brew. Before you begin, gather all your equipment, and as with all the other processes that are involved in beer making, make sure everything that will come into contact with your brew is sterile. Most home brewers make their starters in beakers or pitchers. You will also need measuring cups, a spoon, a thermometer, a stove, water (and ice if your tap water tends to be warm), a small amount of aluminum foil, and/or a lid for your beaker or pitcher. The ingredients that you will need are 2 ounces of dried malt extract (DME),( it doesn‘t matter if this is light or dark; it won‘t effect the final product), a commercial yeast pack, and 20 milliliters of water. Other sugars, such as honey, can be used to make your starter, but DME is a good choice for beer.
The first step in creating a yeast starter is to pasteurize. There are many different ways to facilitate this process, but the basic idea is to heat your water until it is hot and then mix in your sugar (DME) and stir until the DME is completely dissolved. Pour this mixture into a 1 liter capacity container and slowly bring it to a boil over medium heat. Allow it to boil for 20 minutes at 185 degrees to ensure thorough pasteurization, being careful that it does not boil over. Carefully transfer the hot container to a sink or bowl that is full of cool water and allow your sugar mixture (wort) to cool down. Swirl the container, add ice to or replace the water bath as needed, but allow the mixture to only cool to about 70 degrees, which is a good temperature for yeast to thrive. Cover the top of your container with the aluminum foil or another suitable lid and shake it well to aerate your wort. It should get foamy. Now add your packet of yeast, again taking care that everything is sterilized.
This is now your finished starter wort, although you must allow it to sit for a day or two before adding it to your batch of beer to allow plenty of time for fermentation to take place. The wort needs to be in a location that stays at about 70 degrees. Temperatures that are too hot or too cold will kill the yeast.
When you add a yeast starter to your homebrew, expect better, faster results which is always a good thing. Happy brewing!