Yeast starter (Heather Agave Mead)

I follow a similar pattern for my yeast starters (whether from tube or repitch from a previous brew).  Usually when I am making a deviation is when I am making a starter for something big or for a lager.  It is important to increase the cell count for each of these.  My standard starter begins at 1 liter before heating to sanitize, the bigger starter is a liter and a half.  Something to consider when you make a starter from a repitch, you will most likely have a super huge cell count.  But when they will be a bit haggard from the previous brew.  The reason to make a new starter for these beasties is to help them recover and come into the new brew healthy and strong. 

So, for this starter I have begun with a liter and a half of wort.  The ratio I use for this is 100 grams dry extract to 1 liter water.  How this is measured is by weight for the extract (into the measuring cup) and then add the water to the mix on top of the extract.  From here it goes to the stove to be boiled.  I also want to stress right here to watch the pot, you will have boil overs (I seem to do it at least every other starter).  I boil the wort for roughly 15 minutes for sanitization purposes.  I also add a 1/4 teaspoon of yeast energizer and nutrients to the boil to give the yeast that much more of a boost. 

I have found that this small amount of wort will cool down in 20 minutes or less in an ice bath.  This is pretty much just enough time to get your vessel (I use growlers) ready for work.  When the wort is cooled down to pitching temp you can pour it into the growler and then aerate.  Using anitized tin foil to cover the top, I have found that a couple minutes of good shaking will give you plenty of oxygen for a good run.  Finally, sanitize the outside packaging of the yeast and then add it to the wort (shake to mix). 

From here you have a couple choices.  You could use a bubbler to lock the system and keep out stray bugs.  Or you could cover with sanitized tin foil so that you can add more oxygen to help increase cell growth.  I have done both methods and have had success with both.  If you use a stir plate you will want to use the foil method, it allows new oxygen to mix into the starter (you can also mimic a stir plate by shaking new oxygen into the mix every few hours by hand). 

And so now, with the starter happily building away, I will be ready to pitch into the mead on Saturday.  I like to give the starter a little more than a day or so to do its magic.  I have found in the past if you do it sooner than that the yeast will still be closer to the building mode and will take a bit longer to begin their work (the purpose of the starter is to get the yeast closer to active fermentation for a quick, strong start). 

Lets find a pint … the yeast are the ones working here…

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