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October 01, 2019

Yeast Starters and Secondary Fermentation

Yeast Starters, Two-Stage, and Cold Fermentation

When it comes to making great beer at home, there are a few techniques that can transform your craft to true mastery: 

1. Make a yeast starter

2. Transfer your beer into a secondary fermentation vessel

Yeast Starters: 101

If you're brewing a big beer, we highly recommend making a yeast starter 24-48 hours before your brew day. An average pack of beer yeast is designed to ferment an average strength ale, usually about 1.040 starting gravity. Fermenting a beer up to about 1.060 in gravity is no problem for a single yeast pack, but a gravity higher than this presents some special challenges to the brewer. You can easily imagine that a beer with twice as much sugar to ferment is going to need at least twice as many yeast cells. It also helps a lot if the yeast cells are healthy and active instead of dormant.

If you don’t make a starter for a strong beer, the yeast will likely not be able to handle the high amount of sugars and will leave the beer sweet and uncarbonated. Making a yeast starter dramatically increases your yeast cell count and also gets the yeast active and ready to ferment. Lager fermentation greatly benefits from the use of a yeast starter, as the higher cell count will reduce the lag time before fermentation begins and help prevent off-flavors.

How to Make a Yeast Starter

Yeast starters are easy! You just:

  1. Boil a small amount of water and malt extract
  2. Cool the mixture down
  3. Combine with the liquid yeast in a small vessel with an airlock or foam stopper.
If you cannot make a yeast starter, you can pitch additional packs of yeast, but this is not as effective as making a starter.

Skip a step by using Fast Pitch Canned Wort!

Fast Pitch is a canned wort solution that saves you the time and possible mess of making a yeast starter before your brew day. Watch the video to learn more. Link to buy yeast starter kit below. 

Secondary Fermentation 

Some say that there is an extra ingredient when making big beers: time. In general, the bigger and more alcoholic the beer, the longer it takes to be ready. When you are aging the beer before bottling for more than a month or so, it is important to rack the beer off the yeast and other sediments that fall to the bottom of your primary fermentation, otherwise you may wind up with undesirable off-flavors.

The transferring and extra time also result in a clearer beer. The period of aging after racking the beer off the sediment but before bottling is called secondary fermentation, and it is best accomplished by using a 5-gallon glass carboy or Big Mouth Bubbler® as a storage vessel. Our extract beer kits all contain detailed instructions on secondary fermentation.

You can transfer your wort from a primary fermenter to a secondary fermenter in the following ways:

  1. Manually, with a classic homebrew racking cane. Click here to view video on racking beer with auto-siphon
  2. Automatically, with the all new, fan favorite anti-gravity transfer pump. See video below:

Shop Yeast Starter Kits & Secondary Fermenting Gear

Fast Pitch® Yeast Starter Kit - 2000 mL

Fast Pitch® Yeast Starter Kit - 2000 mL

Includes:

Raise Your Game 5 Gallon Secondary Fermenter Big Mouth Bubbler®

Raise Your Game 5 Gallon Secondary Fermenter Big Mouth Bubbler®

Includes:

  • 5 gallon plastic Big Mouth Bubbler
  • Universal single-port lid
  • Small Universal Stopper
  • Bubbler Airlock

Anti-Gravity Transfer Pump Kit

Anti-Gravity Transfer Pump Kit Includes:
  • Anti-Gravity Transfer Pump
  • 24" Stainless Steel Racking Cane
  • 10' 5/16" ID Tubing
Northern Brewer
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