Why Make a Yeast Starter Culture?

An active yeast starter will greatly reduce the fermentation lag time and improve the homebrew

You have no doubt heard the recommendation that you make a yeast starter prior to pitching yeast into a new batch of beer. It’s important to know where this recommendation comes from and understand the reasoning behind it.

The evolution of making a yeast starter when homebrewing is twofold; first of all finding fresh ingredients were challenging to say the least. It wasn’t until around 2004 that the popularity of homebrewing had grown to the extent that inventories of homebrewing supplies were turning over quick enough to ensure freshness. When it came to brewer’s yeast this meant the yeast was almost always dormant or non-viable. The yeast starter was necessary to activate the viable yeast cells and build their fermentation strength of numbers to overwhelm any inferior bacteria that may be present.

The second reason is more brewing related. The period of time between pitching yeast and the onset of fermentation is called the lag time. The longer this time the greater the chance of some other bacteria taking hold of the fermentation. Pitching an already active yeast slurry greatly reduces the lag time. Two critical things are happening during this lag time. One is the re-hydration of dry yeast cells and more importantly, the aspiration stage of the yeast cells prior to entering the feeding and reproductive stages when the most vigorous fermentation takes place. Here’s our answer to building an active yeast starter with almost no effort or equipment investment.

The day before brewing, boil one cup of dry malt extract in one quart of water until the malt is completely dissolved. Chill the small wort to 72° by placing the kettle in a sink of cold water.

Pour the cooled wort into your sanitized primary fermenter allowing it to splash and foam as you do so. This will add oxygen to the liquid. Pitch the yeast. Close the fermenter with an airlock and let it rest for at least 24 hours.

Brew your beer then chill the wort to 72° before pouring it into the fermenter right on top of the yeast starter.

homebrewed beer with malted grains and hop flowers

Home Beer Brewing

Brewing beer is an American Tradition.