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May 30, 2010

This page will serve to be a collection of questions that have occurred to me while learning about the brewing hobby and hopefully some good answers.

Small Batches

Here’s a very good step-by-step guide to brewing small batches:

It has a good treatment of how to determine the water you need (a value I’ve found difficult to control) as well as some good ideas for lautering, etc.  I think I’ll stick to my more active lautering method (soaking in hot water for 10 minutes and then running water over the bag and grains), but the addition of a colander to suspend the bag would be a nice, clean addition to the process.

Yeast Starters

What is the problem with under-pitching?  Why am I supposed to create a starter?

  1. Longer lag time => more chance of infection (i.e. yeast getting beaten by bacteria)
  2. More production of reproductive by-products so a starter will presumably allow the yeast to make these byproducts separate from the actual beer (see next question).

If the reduction of reproductive by-products is a major feature of yeast starters, why do I dump the whole starter in the wort?  Won’t that just keep all of those byproducts that I didn’t want?

Clarification:  I have heard that if you get your starter going between 8-18 hours prior to pitching, there’s no need to separate the yeast from the starter beer, just throw it all in.  The relatively small volume of starter beer won’t affect the flavor.  However, if there’s sign of good fermentation going on, you might as well let it finish and then decant the beer and just pitch the yeast (see next question).

Speculative answers:

  1. The rate of production of byproducts is proportional to the amount of growth that is needed (this would lend reasoning to doing a step starter for big beers instead of just dumping a single vial into a big starter from the beginning).  Basically giving the yeast moderate growth targets at a time will limit the production of byproducts (kind of keeping the carrot just in front of them instead of putting it at the finish line).

When should I decide to just let a starter finish as opposed to pitching the whole thing?

Continuation:  Generally if there are no signs of fermentation, the majority of yeast is still in the reproductive phase, therefore pitch the whole thing.  But what’s wrong with pitching the whole thing if there are some signs of fermentation?

How fast should the yeast be warmed from refrigerated temperatures?  Since they’re dormant, is it too critical (i.e. stressful to warm too quickly)?


If aeration stones primarily work by turning over the surface of the liquid (exposing more liquid to the atmosphere) as opposed to directly infusing oxygen by the tiny bubbles travelling through, why is it that you only need to run an O2 aerator for 1-2 minutes, but an atmospheric aerator 20-30 minutes?

Speculative answer:

  1. By using oxygen, the layer of air above the wort will contain a higher concentration of oxygen => a higher proportion of oxygen will be dissolved as opposed to other gases.
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