You are pitching a known, viable yeast culture
No anxiously waiting for up to 3 days for your yeast to “take
Because the yeast takes off immediately, there is less chance of
infecting your wort and less chance of producing a bad batch of
You produce a cleaner, high quality beer
Lagers finish up to one week sooner, ales finish up to three
It’s simple. Your wort starts fermenting much sooner and much
faster. The immediate result is that the few “bad bugs” that
always end up in your wort never get a chance to take off and
spoil your beer. And because your wort starts faster, it also
finishes faster, up to one week sooner with lagers and up to 3
days sooner with ales. In other words, the quality of your
homebrew beer can be dramatically improved by making a yeast
Ideally, your stirplate starter should be started 2 - 3 days
before brew day. Remember, you are after a lot of activity, not
necessarily maximum volume. I'm not saying that extra volume is
a bad thing but if you had to choose between the two, actively
growing yeast will do your beer more good than more yeast that
is already going to sleep.
Measure the right amount of DME (Dry Malt Extract) or LME
(Liquid Malt Extract) for your starter. For dry, this would be
about 3 ounces by weight per 1000 ML. For liquid, this would be
½ cup per 1000 ML.
(Dry Malt Extract)
(Liquid Malt Extract)
Note: Some brewers will add hops to their starter or will
try & match their beer’s starting gravity. Neither is
necessary. You are making a starter, not a beer!
Pour the extract into your flask, add water, drop in a stir
bar and cook at a low boil for at least 10 minutes, pull the
flask off the heat and immediately cover the opening with a
piece of aluminum foil & let cool to room temperature.
Note: We recommend a flask made of borosilicate glass
because borosilicate glass can withstand direct heat. If you
are using a glass jar or a flask not made of borosilicate
then you will need to sanitize the flask with a product like
StarSan, cook the extract in a pan and then pour it into the
flask after it has cooled to touch.
Place starter on the stir plate with the foil cover still in
place and swirl at high speed for at least 10 minutes. This will
pull oxygen into the starter.
Slow the stirplate down until the vortex in the middle is
less than ½” tall, pitch the yeast & immediately re-cover with
the foil. Let spin until you are ready to pitch the yeast into
Note: Some brewers will use an air lock. You really don't
need one because the yeast will be actively producing CO2
the entire time it's in the flask and the positive pressure
inside the flask plus the foil cover will keep any bad bugs
out. If you are using a jar instead of a flask, just screw
the lid on very loose. Screwing the lid on tight will cause
On brew day, brew your beer as normal then pour the starter
into the wort once it has cooled enough.
Note: Some homebrewers pour off the liquid and only add
the yeast that has settled to the bottom. But it's best to
swirl the flask and than pour the entire starter in the
wort, liquid and all. Although it's not obvious, there are
millions of yeast cells floating around in the liquid.
Don’t forget to hold the second stir bar against the bottom
of the flask to keep the magnet inside while pouring out the
starter, otherwise you will be fishing it out of your fermenter
An average White Labs yeast vial contains around 100 billion
cells of active yeast. And no matter what anyone else may tell
you, there are more than enough yeast cells in a vial of White
Labs yeast for a 5 or 10 gallon batch. Why? Because soon after
you pitch a White Labs yeast vial, the yeast multiplies into a
much greater yeast volume. Most who make the “would need two
yeast vials for a 5 gallon batch” statement fail to mention
The issue with White Labs yeast is that it can sometimes take
2 – 3 days for a yeast culture to take off. And during this
wait, you are anxiously watching and hoping that things don’t go
south. A starter solves this problem by pitching actively
growing yeast into your beer.
Another neat trick is to use a stir plate to stretch a vial
of White Labs yeast. You can pitch ½ a vial this time, close the
vial & put it in the fridge. Then you can use your stirplate to
stretch the second ½ of the vial for another batch of beer.
Wyeast solves the startup problem that White Labs has with
their smack packs but they have the opposite problem –
relatively low pitching volume. There is not near the volume of
yeast in a Wyeast smack pack. Also, Wyeast smack packs have been
known to not blow up as they should, leaving you with a pack of
stressed and underperforming yeast to pitch into your beer.
You can use a stirplate starter to solve both of these
issues. Just start the smack pack two days sooner and pitch the
contents into your starter flask 2 days before brew day. Then
you use the stir plate to grow an acceptable active yeast volume
for your brew.
Most homebrewers still use dry yeast because you can’t beat
the convenience or cost. Also, you will rarely get a bad pack of
Some believe that dry yeast starts faster than White Labs
yeast. But they don’t understand that the initial Krausen they
see on top of the beer is not the result of fermentation. The
foam is cause by the yeast cells hydrating or taking on water.
Dry yeast can easily take as long as White Labs yeast to start.
Dry yeast starters are done by just sprinkling the yeast into
the vial just as you would the other two. And the benefits of
using a starter made from dry yeast are the same as the others.