How to Make a Yeast Starter for Brewing Beer

This video demonstrates how I follow my fool proof procedure for making a yeast starter. The liquid yeast that I use is a Wyeast 3068 smack pack. To get the exact required amount of yeast to pitch in the wort, I prepare the yeast starter in two steps. If you’re a home brewer and want to level up your beers, liquid yeasts are the way to go. So what are you waiting for? Go buy a Wyeast Activator Smack-Pack, follow my yeast starter recipe, and brew amazing beer!

Video transcript:

Hello ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Tony Needs Hobbies. My name is Tony and as you can see, it’s another beer brewing day. I will not show you the entire brewing process, I have different videos about that which I will link in the top right corner. In this video I will focus on making a yeast starter which I will make out of one of these Wyeast smack packs. The process that I will show you has never failed me yet so I hope it will be useful for you too. Have fun watching.

Let’s have a look at the smack pack. It’s important to use fresh ones for the highest yeast vitality. This pack is around five weeks old on the day I make the starter. Inside is a small pouch with nutrient that activates the yeast when ruptured. This is done by moving the pouch to one corner and giving it a firm smack. Don’t worry about the pouch to tear open at the seams. I haven’t heard about this happening to anyone yet. Over the course of a minimum of three hours, the pouch will swell and will be ready to use for the next step, which requires a decent bit of calculations if you want to pitch the perfect amount of yeast.

I am going to demonstrate how I use the very convenient Brewer’s Friend Yeast Pitch Rate and Starter Calculator to do those calculations for me. I’ll put a link to the calculator in the description.

I will use metric units and gravity for scale. I’m aiming for a 1.082 specific gravity before fermentation and 20 liters of wort. I will slightly under pitch, because that’s what Wyeast suggests in the datasheet if you want to manipulate the fermentation towards ester production. I use 1 smack pack as mentioned before, and the manufacturing date was the 6th of June 2022 so very fresh on the brew day. I’m recording this on a different date, so I chose a date with the same interval between yeast production and brewing.

To end up with the required amount of yeast cells, I’m going to do 2 steps of a 1L starter. It could be done with a large 2L starter too, but I don’t have a 5L flask to fit 2Ls of wort. For each step the wort will be made from dry malt extract and water in a 2L Erlenmeyer flask to have enough head space. This will give the required amount of yeast, so with this theory in mind, I will now show you how I actually make that.

This process requires you to work very clean and with sanitized materials. We are going to combine wort and a relatively small amount of yeast. If there is anything else living in the flask, the yeast has to compete with that. Better to make sure the only living thing in the flask will be the yeast to prevent a spoiled batch of beer. So work clean, I can’t stress it enough.

I use a 2L flask, a magnetic stirrer, Star San for sanitizing, and for the wort I use dry malt extract and yeast nutrient. All the materials will be put in a bucket full of Star San solution and left there until required.

In the meanwhile I heat up 2L of water to which I will add one teaspoon of nutrient. Depending on the nutrient you use, it might require a different amount so check your nutrient instructions. To the water I add 200 grams of dry malt extract to get a wort with a starting gravity of approximately 1.037. This has to be boiled for 10 minutes.

Then it’s time to transfer half of it into the Erlenmeyer flask to which the stirring rod has already been added. The other half goes into measuring cup and will be put in the freezer until it’s needed for the second starter step. Meanwhile some aluminum foil is sanitized with Star San after which it will be used to cover the flask. That will be placed in very clean sink with cold water to cool the wort to room temperature before adding the yeast.

As you can see, the pouch has swollen nicely in about five hours, so the contents are ready to be pitched into the flask – only after the wort has completely cooled down. The scissors and pouch will be soaked in the sanitizer before cutting the pouch open. Then the contents, except the inner pouch, are emptied into the flask which is then again covered with a sanitized piece of foil and put on the magnetic stirrer overnight.

When the stirrer is turned off and shows fermentation has finished, which you can tell if there are no bubbles rising, it is time to put the flask in the fridge so the yeast can settle out to the bottom. One day later it is time to continue with the second step of the starter by boiling the frozen batch of earlier prepared wort for ten minutes and letting it cool completely to room temperature.

Before adding the cooled wort to the flask I first slowly decant the fermented beer off of it. Then I put the sanitized funnel in and pour the cold wort in the flask, cover it again with a sanitized piece of aluminum and place it back on the stirrer. I set up a time lapse shot to show you how the wort goes through different steps of the fermentation in half a day. When turned off it is placed in the fridge again and stored there until brew day.

The beer I’m brewing today is a Weizen Doppelbock for which I chose the Wyeast 3068 Weihenstephan Weizen yeast to do the fermenting. I go through all the steps: crushing the malts, step mashing, sparging using a neat aluminum foil trick, filtering, boiling with the hops and cooling it to fermentation temperature. Then I transfer it in the fermenting bucket after which I decant the flask so only the yeast is left in it. The yeast in the flask is swirled up and then added into the fermenting bucket.

I leave the beer in the fermenter for three weeks and I don’t typically rack wheat beers. In three weeks it will be bottled and bottle conditioned so in roughly five weeks I will be able to enjoy this refreshing Weizen Doppelbock.

I hope fermentation will start real soon, and while I’m waiting for that I’m going to enjoy this homemade cider before cleaning everything up because, hey, that’s what home brewing is all about. Cheers!

I hope you have enjoyed watching this video and if you did, please let me know by hitting that like button. Please also consider subscribing to the channel for more content like this in the future. That’s it for now. I would like to thank you for watching. Bye, bye!

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