No boil starters

So there is no argument, most everyone will agree that a proper yeast count will yield a healthy fermentation, which will lead to proper attenuation as well as yeast performing in a comfortable lower stress environment. This equates to the most accurate flavor profile of your beer. Some may say that underpitching stresses the yeast and leads to a different, sometimes desirable flavor (some Belgian practices), however at the homebrewing level I can’t see a way to regulate this. That being said it is very hard to “over-pitch” your yeast when you look at the optimal pitching rates. The hobbyist go to cheat sheet is very accurate and makes the adjustments necessary for how much yeast is needed.

Without getting into a long winded discussion on starter techniques and efficiencies, there are a couple things all starters must possess: a sugar/malt concentration of 1.030 to 1.045 gravity, and a sterile environment. Both of these can be accomplished in many different ways, but most will include an addition of Dried Malt Extract (DME) to healthy water and then a boil for solubility and to sanitize everything that your yeast will be in contact with.

If most are like me, different methods have been tried to minimize transferring from pot to starter vessel with varying advantages. If you boil in a pot much larger than your starter/fermenter, you will need to transfer from the boiling pot, after cooled to the new vessel, possible contamination, but little chance of boilover. If you boil in a heat safe starter/fermenter like an Erlenmeyer flask, there is less contamination chances but a high risk of boilover. If your starter requires large capacity say 3-4 quarts, a very large flask is necessary but becomes expensive, and still needs to have a hawkeye kept on it throughout the boil to avoid a messy mishap. A compromise may be the necessary solution.

My solution is to use sanitary ingredients in a sanitary container. My vessel of choice is Carlo and Rossi’s 1 gallon wine jugs. Either dump the wine out (yeah right) or use it as you wish, but when empty give it a good PBW (powdered brewer’s wash) soak and then fill with sanitizer. When you are ready to build your starter just dump out your sanitizer (no rinse preferable) and swish to rinse it clean with a cup or so of distilled water. If I need a huge starter 1-2 gallons, I just split my yeast/slurry into 2 of these jugs. You can buy glass 1 gallon jugs at many places for around $5, I like to pay the extra $5 and get some wine out of it. Any other clean and sanitized container will work, I happen to find these the best. A screw cap top is also great and allows you to shake things up periodically safely, then the cap can be loosened to allow for escaping CO2.

Now we need some contents. Malto Goya can be purchased at most mega-marts. Mine sells them for $.40 per bottle. The drink is a sanitary malt beverage that holds a gravity of about 1.075. I dillute it with distilled water at the rate of 1 12oz bottle to 1 cup of distilled water. This provides you with a starter wort of a 1.040 gravity.

Most of the time I build 3 quart starters. To do this I open 5 bottles of the Malto, sanitize the top with some spray no rinse, then dump it into my sanitized jug. There is a small amount of bottled CO2 (not really carbonated) so when you first pour in it will have a foamy head. Swish it around to degas it and wait a few minutes, once the head dies down it will not come back up, then add your distilled water to desired solution, (I usually pour a little extra to get a 1.035 wort less yeast stress). Then add your yeast. Simple as that!

I have done this method many times and have always had normal starter activity and the yeast settles out fine. There is one caveat- if you pitch the whole starter without chilling and decanting, the malto may add 1-2 SRM to the finished color of your beer. It would be up to you to decide if that is acceptable. I pitch the whole thing into stouts, porters even darker IPA’s, but for belgians and beers I try to pay attention to color, I choose to chill for a day and decant off the spent wort.

If you are using specific equipment and have a routine down that is fool/fail proof, then good for you. I on the other hand was able to accomplish a boilover regularly and cursed out the day of the week when I would need to make my starter wort, chill, clean off the stove, etc. Now it is pretty pain free and costs about $2.50 each time. This is a necessary pre brewday task that I do not mind doing anymore. Hope this little tip is helpful and can save you time and money in the future- for more beer!