I noticed that I was getting short on my home-brewed beer. So I went past the homebrew shop and bought ingredients to make a kolsh. Since I will make a post about brewing the actual beer, I figured I should make a post about making the starter. For anyone just starting out, feel free to take a look at my Beginning Brew Equipment post.
Note: Please keep in mind that any equipment that comes into contact with fermented food should be sanitized prior to use.
The first thing I want to point out is that a starter culture is not required to brew beer. However, by making a starter, there are MANY more yeast cells available to start fermenting the beer. Most brewers, including me, do not make a starter when using liquid yeast. But for the past couple of years, I have been using dry yeast because it stores longer and I can keep some of it on hand at all times.
A starter culture is just a miniature batch of beer. Because of this, we use the same sort of equipment. A brew pot, fermentation vessel, stopper and airlock. A 1 liter Erlenmeyer flask doubles as the brew pot and the fermentation vessel. The stopper and air lock are the same as used for brewing a regular batch of beer. The ingredients are dry malt extract (DME), water and yeast. I don’t add hops or other additions since this is a starter and not a finished beer.
First step is to sanitize everything that will contact the wort. Then add 400 ml of water to the flask. Measure out 2 ounces of the DME and add to the water. Stir the liquid to help the DME dissolve. Put on the stove and bring it to a boil. Boil the wort for about 20 minutes. Keep a close eye on the wort to ensure it does not boil over. If not, this makes a sticky mess of the stove.
Just like with a full batch of beer, we cool the wort. Since this is a very small amount of wort, I cooled this using some cool tap water in the sink. To ensure that nothing contaminates the wort, I put a bit of aluminum foil over the mouth of the flask. This is one thing that I really like about this flask, I took it off the stove and put it right into the sink. Little chance of shattering the glass.
Once the wort is cooled to about room temperature, add the yeast and attach the stopper and air lock. Fill the airlock with water and set the flask on a shelf out of direct sunlight. Do not shake the flask. The yeast will re-hydrate and drop into the wort. Shaking the container will cause the dry yeast to clump up and it will take longer to hydrate.
In just a couple of hours, the airlock should begin bubbling. In just 24 to 48 hours, the bubbles will stop and the yeast will drop out of suspension. This means that the yeast if finished its job. There should be a fairly thick layer of yeast on the bottom of the flask as seen in this picture.
Hopefully I’ll be able to brew tomorrow.