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Thread: Nano Brewery - Yeast Starter

  1. #1
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    Nano Brewery - Yeast Starter

    Hello. I am opening up our first location for our brewery early this fall! I've been a home brewer for 10+ years and now I am ready to make the small step to a 2 bbl system. We have some 2 bbl fermenters for single batches and 3.5 bbl fermenters for double. I've often been proud of my beer on a keggle system and give most of the credit due to my yeast practice. If I am using a starter then I always use liquid yeast, smack packs or white labs. Even with smack packs, I make a 5 L starter. I then save the yeast after fermentation and store it in mason jars for the next batch. For the next batch, again I make another 5 L starter, mainly because on the keggle system it is still a hobby and I like to stay crafty.

    So I am trying to scale this step on the 2 bbl system but I am not sure if it is necessary or not to use a yeast starter. If I wanted to start my yeast on a 2 bbl batch, how is the best way to do this?

    • Should I get 12 smack packs or white labs, along with DME, and make 6 starters in 6 X 5 L Erlenmeyer Flasks? This seems like a lot of work to get the right cell count.
    • Make a 10 gallon on the keggle system a few days before brew day and dump that into the fermenter on brew day
    • Do away with a starter and just buy 12 or 15 smack packs
    • Scratch all of these ideas and go with another suggested method


    Thanks in advance for any advice. Cheers!

  2. #2
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    You can get a 2 bbl pitch from most yeast labs. Or http://www.mrmalty.com/calc/calc.html they will tell you the starter size and packs needed for you gravity and volume.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by tjc27 View Post
    You can get a 2 bbl pitch from most yeast labs. Or http://www.mrmalty.com/calc/calc.html they will tell you the starter size and packs needed for you gravity and volume.
    Thanks for the link! This calculator is really awesome to use. I think I can get away with 3 X 5 L flask starters on stir plates but maybe it is easier to get a 2 bbl pitch and forget about the starters.

  4. #4
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    Sep 2015
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    Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
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    Starter Option

    Quote Originally Posted by MatthewsBrew View Post
    Thanks for the link! This calculator is really awesome to use. I think I can get away with 3 X 5 L flask starters on stir plates but maybe it is easier to get a 2 bbl pitch and forget about the starters.
    You can also use the Maelstrom from Northern Brewer. https://www.northernbrewer.com/maelstrom-stir-plate . We're getting ready to launch with our 2bbl pilot system while we're waiting for construction to finish on our production facility and are planning on using the maelstrom for propagating our pitches. I've only tested it with water up to this point but it made a nice vortex in 6 gallon carboy with 5 or so gallons in it. Put in a little ferm-cap and you should be good to go. We'll be using a few different yeast strains and can propagate for a fraction of the cost. A 20 liter starter should be just about right for a 2bbl batch. That or do a couple smaller 12-16 liter starters on maelstroms for a larger pitch.

    If you guys have any other questions about your 2bbl system setup you can email me at Derek@Guggmanhausbrewing.com.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by DGuggenb View Post
    You can also use the Maelstrom from Northern Brewer. https://www.northernbrewer.com/maelstrom-stir-plate . A 20 liter starter should be just about right for a 2bbl batch. That or do a couple smaller 12-16 liter starters on maelstroms for a larger pitch.
    are you basing this just off the calculators? seems a little bit low to me for a single vial to grow up enough for a 2bbl pitch in one step. am i misunderstanding?

    also- are you guys planning on using DME or extract? pulling a few gallons off a big batch for later? or just brewing a 5 gallon batch specifically for starters?

    we have a nano in mexico, in a brewpub, so we dont brew as often as a production type facility. yeast management is pain for liquid, sometimes pointless. getting bricks of dry yeast is a bit of a pain for other reasons, so a vial or two from a homebrew shop, or a few dry packets, grown up to the correct size sounds intriguing........

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by brain medicine View Post
    are you basing this just off the calculators? seems a little bit low to me for a single vial to grow up enough for a 2bbl pitch in one step. am i misunderstanding?

    also- are you guys planning on using DME or extract? pulling a few gallons off a big batch for later? or just brewing a 5 gallon batch specifically for starters?

    we have a nano in mexico, in a brewpub, so we dont brew as often as a production type facility. yeast management is pain for liquid, sometimes pointless. getting bricks of dry yeast is a bit of a pain for other reasons, so a vial or two from a homebrew shop, or a few dry packets, grown up to the correct size sounds intriguing........
    This is based on a calculator from brewer's friend that comes from a Braukaiser study/formula if I remember correctly. I've done some yeast counting in the past on starters based off of this method and they were close enough. One thing to remember is that your yeast will almost never be more healthy than when it is fresh from a stir plate or propagator, so you can pitch at a lower rate than when you re-pitch yeast from another batch of beer.

    You only need to pitch 1-2 vials/smack packs into a 5 gallon test batch beer, so a starter is not going to be any different. Those vials have already been multi-stepped to get to that point. When you start to go up to pitches for 10bbl, 20bbl, etc., then multi-step props are needed.

    We just use DME for our starters for consistency and ease of use, but you can of course take some wort from a brew and do the same thing as long as you dilute it to a good starter gravity.

  7. #7
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    Thats the calcs i used and my numbers were way off. Might have been the c white numbers though, guess id have to check again and make sure its the braukaiser estimates.

    When you say you checked cell count vs estimates are you talking about this same growth - vial/pouch to the 5gal starter you reference?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by brain medicine View Post
    Thats the calcs i used and my numbers were way off. Might have been the c white numbers though, guess id have to check again and make sure its the braukaiser estimates.

    When you say you checked cell count vs estimates are you talking about this same growth - vial/pouch to the 5gal starter you reference?
    Correct, I did cell counts on the starters that I made. Some of these were from vial/pouches, some were from harvested yeast. I don't know if you already do cell counting, but if you don't then this would be a good opportunity to start and it's cheap. If you need any assistance with selecting equipment just let me know. I haven't performed this counting on a 20 liter starter before (but I do on 20 liter batches of beer), but you'll be able to trial various numbers of pouches to get the amount of yeast you need within a certain period of time. I would guess two pouches is enough.

    You know that pitching 12 (or 24 depending on how you feel about lab pitches) pouches straight to the fermenter would be more than enough to get a good fermentation and that a normal 20 liter fermentation (no starter, just normal beer fermentation), makes enough yeast to pitch into a batch 4-5 times its size. I usually pitch about the equivalent of two yeast packs/vials into a 5.75 gallon batch and based on the number of cells I harvest from each batch that three of these batches would make enough to pitch into a 2bbl batch so your max number of smack packs should be 6. Starters have much more growth than a normal fermentation so I would expect you to need much less.

  9. #9
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    Oct 2012
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    You should REALLY consider just contacting a yeast lab and buying the correct pitch for your initial beers. You'll have so much other stuff to worry about when opening, stressing about yeast viability and the quality of the beer shouldn't be on the list. Later on, after you've established a reputation for high quality beer, that's when I'd suggest looking into ways to nail down the smack pack scaling. When you can afford to dump it if it fails.

  10. #10
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    Agreed. I am doing 3bbl batches and I started off buying homebrew yeast packets, but I am realizing now that it is not worth the effort. Since switching to commercial sized pitches I am getting a much more reliable fermentation.
    Troy Robinson
    Quirk Brewing
    Walla Walla

  11. #11
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    i'll let you guys argue with the OP and the guggenB over whether its "worth it" but as stated before we are not in the US and therefore it is a royal pain to order from the labs. even dry is a pain. and selection is obviously limited.

    given that labor is cheap as hell south of the border, and equipment/specialty items are expensive and difficult to bring in, it changes the way you have to approach your operations.


    Quote Originally Posted by DGuggenb View Post
    I usually pitch about the equivalent of two yeast packs/vials into a 5.75 gallon batch and based on the number of cells I harvest from each batch that three of these batches would make enough to pitch into a 2bbl batch so your max number of smack packs should be 6. Starters have much more growth than a normal fermentation so I would expect you to need much less.
    i missed this part. it would actually be three separate 20L starters. ok, now i get it. my math says half a sack of two row and six pouches/vials is gonna be around 50-60 bucks. that's not quite as appealing, and for dry strains it doesnt pencil out. but for anything that requires a liquid strain then this definitely seems to be a big savings. plus it makes it easier to pull the trigger on liquid even if we arent gonna use the yeast more than once. i think that might be the biggest factor.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by brain medicine View Post
    i'll let you guys argue with the OP and the guggenB over whether its "worth it" but as stated before we are not in the US and therefore it is a royal pain to order from the labs. even dry is a pain. and selection is obviously limited.

    given that labor is cheap as hell south of the border, and equipment/specialty items are expensive and difficult to bring in, it changes the way you have to approach your operations.




    i missed this part. it would actually be three separate 20L starters. ok, now i get it. my math says half a sack of two row and six pouches/vials is gonna be around 50-60 bucks. that's not quite as appealing, and for dry strains it doesnt pencil out. but for anything that requires a liquid strain then this definitely seems to be a big savings. plus it makes it easier to pull the trigger on liquid even if we arent gonna use the yeast more than once. i think that might be the biggest factor.
    What I meant was that if you didn't even have stir plates and just fermented three 20 liter batches that you would have enough yeast from that. If you incorporate a stir plate into this, you might be able to get away with a single 20L starter using two packets of yeast but you would just have to trial it. So the options for getting enough yeast for a 2bbl batch could be 1. Ferment three separate 20 liter batches with 2 packets of yeast each, no stir plate or 2. One 20L batch with two packets of yeast on a stir plate or 3. Buy a pitch.

    As for the value of buying a pitch vs making your own, it's just personal preference and time. If you can set up an efficient process for propagating yeast then you can save yourself $80 per pitch of yeast without much added effort. That's not much money in the scheme of things, but hey, if you're using a few different yeast strains and are needing new yeast fairly often then it adds up pretty quick for a small brewery. You also then don't feel forced to get your money's worth out of a pitch if you just want to brew one or two beers with it and it's also easier then to just restart a strain if you have any concerns about the viability of harvested yeast. If you have the ability to buy pitches up front and then work your way into a yeast propagation process then that's a good option too.

    We're targeting this summer for opening so if I remember I'll post back about what we end up doing,

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