Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Yeast Starter

Sunday arrived and for the first time in recent memory, I was not hung over.  I decided to make it a productive day and pick up some stuff for my next brew.  I plan on one day being able to brew completely outside so I picked up a propane tank.  I hooked it up to my sweet burner I got for Christmas and gave it a test run.  It makes my garage smell like chemicals but it lights stuff on fire so thats always good.  I'll have to rig up some kind of ventilation system in the near future.  Alcohol, fire and flammable gas make for an interesting night.

I also decided that if I ever wanted to brew up my IPA I would have to learn how to make a yeast starter.  So I hit up google and after reading a few differing opinions I had a rough plan.

Now before I get into my awesome plan I should maybe explain what a yeast starter is and why it is recommended for a beer with a high specific gravity...or at least the 6 years in college for a 4 year degree version.  Yeast is alive and its hungry.  When it eats it has babies.  Its favorite food is sugar.  Beers with a high specific gravity have a lot of sugar in them.  Too much for the little yeast guys to eat before passing out in a food coma.  So the idea behind a yeast starter is to give them an appetizer to start having babies but not enough to fill their tiny bellies.  It is basically making a little bit of wort to feed your yeast.  So now after the starter they are all hungry and there are a lot more of them.  You dump them in the fermenter with the high specific gravity wort and let them eat into a comatos state.  I envy them.  Questions?  I have one.  Why dont you just add more yeast at the beginning?  Answer:  Stupid question, Next.  Real Answer:  I don't know, back off.  I'm still learning.  Maybe because it's expensive.

Okay moving on.  My awesome plan.  For this plan to work I will need the following:  Dry malt extract, water, pot (kitchen style), yeast, funnel and a container.  I had all of the above except...dry malt extract (DME).  Luckily for me, the liquor store down the street just started selling homebrew supplies a few months ago.  A quick trip down the road and I was ready to roll.  Pro Brew Tip 1- Do Not buy Amber extract for an IPA.  That's right, I bought amber extract.  Why?  Because I have the brain of an ADHD addled 4 year old.  Get this kid some Aderol.  I was stuck on brew #1, which was an amber.  Too late now.  Let's get started. 

I followed instructions from John Palmer's website.  Boil a pint of water, add a 1/2cup DME.  Boil 10 minutes.  BORING.  For the last 3 minutes I was supposed to put the lid on the pot.  After that I wasn't so sure so I went to check the directions.  Pro Brew Tip 2- Do Not leave your boil pot unattended in the house. 15 seconds later I hear a sizzling coming from the kitchen.  Ugh why me?  My pot overflowed.  Imagine turning your burner on high for 10 mins and squirting maple syrup on it.  Not pretty.  I scrubbed the sh*t out of it for 15 mins but it wouldn't come up.  Oh well, live and learn.  At least I now have my yeast starter.  I just have to cool it to 80 degrees, pour into my container and add the yeast.  Simple.  Pro Brew Tip 3- Do Not shake your yeast vial vigorously before opening.  It will explode.  Everywhere.  If you would like to see this effect recreated go to the store, buy a 20 oz Mountain Dew, shake it for 30 seconds, and open.  Very similar.  I lost about 1/3 of my yeast.  Will it still work?  I don't know.  You will have to stay tuned to find out.  (The suspense is killing you)

BTW, that guy John Palmer has a book.  It's what got me started in this messy hobby.  Check it out if you want to learn more.       

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