When I originally started brewing, I never made a starter. I had decent results, and whenever I made a beer with an original gravity higher than 1.060 I always tried to reuse yeast from a previous batch. The reason I didn’t make a starter was not because I didn’t think I needed to for proper fermentation and reduced lag times, it was because I HATE TO MAKE A STARTER. More on that in a second…
If you want to make a starter the traditional way, then Mike Uchima has an excellent page on that called Making Yeast Starters.
My problem was, I just could not stand spending 20 minutes to an hour getting yeast ready for the brew day. What I really wanted to be doing was brewing. Also, I hated being a slave to the smack pack. I always found that waiting on those things to swell was an absolute pain.
Then I found the “Confesions of a Yeast Abuser” page, although recently Domenick Venezia has renamed the page Yeast Starter – With Stirring Aeration.
I swapped a buddy some homebrew for a stir plate, and was off to the races. I modified the original procedure slightly. I figured if the outer pouch contains the yeast and the inner nutrients necessary for yeast growth, why am I adding YNB. So I just smack the pack and immediately put the package contents into the stirred starter.
Also the article refers to the stirring as aeration. I believe this to be true initially, but after the fermentation of the starter begins, the starter is giving off CO2, so with an outflow of CO2 from the starter container, I cannot see how much additional air can be getting in. I believe the stirring helps get the yeast in contact with the wort and adds air, which leads to a larger yeast population. Of course all this is conjecture on my part, but it works like a champ.
Here is a picture of my stirrer, an Erlenmeyer flask, and a mason jar.
Now I was no longer a slave to a smack pack, but I still had to make the dreaded starter. Very soon I tired of making the starter. I found it to be boring and tiresome.
So I searched a little more and read a few articles on Canning Wort. Unfermented beer wort pH is not low enough (4.6) to be considered safe for just water bath canning. A temperature of 240 F for 15 minutes is necessary to kill Botulism spores that could eventually produce deadly toxins. 240 F happens to be a pressure of 10 psi in the canner. In my own pressure canning of wort, I use 15 psi, 250 F, for 15 minutes. For more on canning you should check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation, and for more on botulism take a look at the CDC website.
This is my pressure canner.
It is an All American, and I obtained it off Ebay for $25 (a steal). It will hold 7 quarts, or 6 quarts and 2 pints, as shown in the picture below.
I like having some of both size canned, that way if I want to step up a starter while stirring, I can use more or less wort as needed. Wort will darken slightly in the canner, and will also undergo the boil. The picture below shows wort that has been pressure canned on the right, and on the left is wort awaiting canning.
It is a little difficult to tell the color difference, but you can definitely see the hot break in the bottom of the jars.
My procedure is to mash a grist of 100% Pils or Pale malt and after the sparge to can the unboiled wort. This gives me quite a few starters. The day I took these photos, I canned 22 quarts and 12 pints, as shown in the photo below.
So for starters, my procedure is to first use impeccable sanitation. The I smack the smack pack and dump the contents into a flask or mason jar and add the canned wort and the stir bar and place the starter on the magnetic stirrer. I then cover the top loosely with plastic wrap, or an airlock. Usually I have aerated the wort by splashing before and as I add it to the flask or jar. I really like the method because I am not tied to a smack, and I am not tied to a starter. Also when I pressure can starters I am brewing an entire batch of beer, which is what I wanted to do in the first place!