A yeast starter you say? Is that really necessary?
Well, no. Is it really needed to make a good beer? No it is not, you can brew yourself a lot of good beers without it. Dry yeast is perfect for that, and you could also pitch your fresh yeast directly to the wort as well.
Some might be calling the people in white frocks now, and direct them to my household, but the fact is that it`s true. Not everyone know how to make one, and others don`t care. But after reading this article I hope to make you see that it is not as hard as you thought and you might give it a go.
I plan on going about this in 2 ways. Without a magnetic stirrer and with one as well. In this first article it will be without. Completely basic. They both work well, but with the stirrer you will provide more oxygen to the mixture and end up with a bigger starter in less amount of time.
There are definitely more intellectual ways of explaining this and I will link to this at the end of this text, but first of all, I will try to explain things as simple as possible here at TheWayIBrew.
What you need:
1 pcs Erlenmeyer bottle 2, 3 or 5 liters
Sanatizer (Star San or similar)
Yeast nutrition (Not a necessity, but some people swear by it)
If you are to use a magnetic stirrer you will also need:
Magnetic rod for picking magnet out of your bottle
Fresh yeast. (How many units you need you will calculate using Mr.Malty or BeerSmith 2.0) Remember to remove this from the fridge and bring it to working temperature.
DME (Dried malt extract) Personally I always use one that is light in color.
Ok then, lets get started. Remember to calculate about 4 days for this starter, as it is done without a stirrer. Plan ahead of your brewing day.
Start by boiling the water you need. This is also calculated in your Mr.Malty or Beersmith. Rule of thumb is that using 100-130 grams of DME will give you a wort of 1040-1048 SG. This is a good amount for a yeast starter.
While the water is boiling you might as well take good care to sanitize your Erlenmeyer flask. Make a mixture of Star San and water and leave it in your flask for a couple of minutes, personally I also keep a mixture in a spray bottle. This way I can spray some on the foil and around the top of the flask whenever I need it. The right mixture will not be needing a rinse after you have used it in the flask. Don`t fear the foam they say. That is correct, but try to get as much of the mixture out as possible.
Let the wort boil for about 15 minutes. In the final 5-10 minutes you can drop in the yeast nutrition if you choose to use this. As mentioned, I do not use this and have always been happy with my starters, so this will be a personal preference. Use about 2/10 of a teaspoon or liter of wort.
Now, cool the wort. Pour it into your Erlenmeyer flask and cool it in a waterbed. Now before you use your parents 90`s lovepad, I mean use a waterbed in the sink. Cool it down in the lower regions of the yeast working temperature. You will find this info by reading on the yeast tube. Shake the yeast in the tube proper and pitch it in your flask. Make a lid out of aluminum foil and put that on. This should not be completely sealed, but lie as a protector on the top. We want oxygen in and out of the flask. Shake the yeast well into the wort and leave the flask in a place that will keep 17-20°C in general. Other special yeast might need other temperatures.
A good tip is to leave it where you can see it. This way you will remember to stir it now and then for a couple days. Keep this up for 3-4 days. As long as you have a nice foam building as you stir it, the yeast is thriving and happy.
Remember now to put your flask cold 12-18 hours before use, so that the yeast can settle.
3-4 hours before use you might wanna pour most of the wort away. You do not want this pitched into your beer as it taste plain horrible.
Another tip for you. When you have bought a tube of fresh yeast there is a bit of fluid in there. You will also need a bit of fluid so you can stir the yeast up proper before you pitch it into your beer. Remember this when you pour unwanted wort from your flask. Leave a little bit in there.
As promised. Here is a link to more intellectual reading on this subject.