Fermentation Riot All Grain Beer Brewing

How to Make a Yeast Starter

Most people may think that a yeast starter is not needed because their fermentation is active and that is all that matters. The truth of the matter is that the pitch rate (quantity of healthy yeast) is a definite factor that will impact the taste of your beer. As brewers make wort and yeast make beer, enough healthy yeast needs to be prepped and warmed up before fermentation begins.


Here are the steps in making a starter:

1.) Determine what your recipe will be for the beer you are making. Specifically note what the starting gravity target is and what type of yeast you are using (ale or lager).

2.) Also look at the recipe and determine where your yeast source will come from. Will this be a dry yeast in a packet or a liquid yeast such as White Labs or Wyeast.

3.) After you know your starting gravity, type of yeast, and which brand of yeast you will be using enter your information into this yeast starter calculation tool.

4.) What do the outputs mean?

Yeast Required: This is the recommended pitching rate in billions of cells that you should use for your beer recipe to optimize the production of beer and flavors.

Yeast in One Package: This is the quantity of yeast that is supplied in one package from the yeast type that was selected. This can be used to see what the difference is between what is needed and what one package of yeast will supply.

# of Packages Needed: This is the result of the yeast required divided by the yeast in one package.

Starter Size: This is the estimated starter size that should be used to propagate one package of yeast to the required cell count needed.

Malt Extract to Add: This is the amount of dry malt extract that should be added to the amount of water listed on the starter size.

Record the starter size and malt extract to add from this tool as you will need this information in the next steps.

5.) Fill up a pot of water with volume that was given to you in the output category starter size. For example if the recommended starter size was 2.5 liters then 2.5 liters should be added to the pot.

Pouring Water into Pot

6.) Start heating the water on the stovetop.

7.) Properly weigh out dry malt extract to the amount that was called out by the yeast starter calculator. This will achieve a starting gravity of roughly 1.035. Add this to the water and stir so it does not burn to the bottom of the pot.

Dry Malt Extract used to Propogate Yeast

It is useful to always have some dry malt extract on hand that can be used for starters. Use a malt extract that closely resembles the beer color being produced.


8.) Once the temperature of the minature batch of wort reaches 170°F and is held there for a minimum of three minutes the pot can be placed in an ice bath in the sink.

9.) Keep a thermometer in the bath to monitor the temperature and once this reaches 70°F the pot can be poured into a sanitized glass container where fermentation will occur. Add your vial of yeast to this container as well. Shake the container for 4-5 minutes to aerate it well.

yeast starter container

Glass allows you to see the growth of yeast at the bottom of the container. Many different containers do the job. It is also helpful if the container being used has a cap that can be tightened for shaking up the wort for aeration.



I strongly recommend the flasks as shown below as they work well with stir plates and can be stirred easily without spilling. They are also graduated for filling to specific volumes.

Yeast Starter Kit, 2L

Yeast Starter Kit, 2L

Great for increasing your yeast pitch rate from a liquid culture for fermenting larger batches, high-gravity beers and lagers.


10.) Let the container ferment for a minimum of 24 hours and a maximum of 48 hours prior to being added to the primary fermentor. Over this period shake the container well to aerate. Aeration helps to build the yeast cell walls and speed reproduction.

11.) It helps to keep the yeast at the temperature that it will be added for primary fermentation. This ensures the yeast is not shocked by the temperature change.

12.) Depending on the yeast type and how well it flocculates to the bottom of the container the majority of the fermented starter can be discarded and then the yeast added. Some yeast types do not settle well and the entire starter can be added in that case. There is little effect on the final beer if the entire starter is added as long as the dry malt used closely resembles that of the beer.

13.) Sit back and let the yeast do the work!

14.) There are different ways different people utilize the yeast from the starter. Some may chill the container to drop out all the yeast and then separate the starter beer from the yeast. Others add the entire starter to the beer.


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