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How do I make a yeast starter?

There are several things that you can do to help your beer turn out better, but one of the easiest things you can do is make a yeast starter. What is a yeast starter exactly? Well a yeast starter is a “mini” batch of beer that you make in order to allow your yeast to reproduce and become active. This allows you to pitch active and healthy yeast directly into your beer instead of yeast that have been dormant for a long time. By doing this, you cut down on your lag time between when the yeast first enters the wort and the time that it begins to eat the sugars. This limits the chances of other critters who like beer to get a head start. It can also allow you to ferment fuller and cleaner. You can read more about this from Mr. Malty along with information of proper pitching rates.

For my yeast start I use a 1:4 ratio of dry malt extract to water. I generally use 1/2 cup of dried malt extract and two cups of water. From there I boil it for 15 minutes and then cool it quickly. You can put a tiny amount of hops in or leave it without hops. In either case, your sanitation needs to be stellar. Remember these yeast are going to go in your final beer. I use a growler with an screw on cap and an airlock to pour my wort into (once properly cleaned and sanitized). From there I pitch my yeast in and give it 2-4 days to ferment. Make sure you plan your brew days ahead if you are going to do this. You should wind up with something that looks similar to the image below:

A quick recap

  • 1/2 cup of DME
  • 2 cups of water
  • Boil for 15 minutes
  • Cool quickly and place into (sanitized!)  growler
  • Aerate your wort
  • Pitch yeast into wort
  • Seal container with airlock
  • Give 2-4 days and then pitch into brew day wort (more…)