An important step in homebrewing is learning how to make a yeast starter. The easiest way to get it going the right way, is to use a stir plate. Enter the StirStarter. Before I get into the review of the StirStarter, I think it is good to look at my history with starters.
This is a step that I really didn’t get into at the beginning of my brewing. More often than not, I just used dry yeast….sprinkle and go. Occassionaly, I used liquid yeast, but just did a smack pack…smack it and go.
Well, then tried my first yeast starter. I started with a 2 liter flask, and used an airlock. DON’T USE AN AIRLOCK! ( The airlock does just that….it stops oxygen from getting in there, which is needed to promote good yeast growth). I would walk by and give a little shake. I got some propagation, but not nearly enough. After finding out not to use an airlock, the next time, I used sanitized foil on the top of the flask. That is the better choice. Now I was moving forward and learning some stuff along the way….and that is what we should do, right?
Well, fast forward some more time. I was surfing through Homebrewfinds.com and was reminded by Chris that he uses the StirStarter. I went back to eBay and picked it up directly from Dan. With that, my journey of stir plates begins!
The package arrived, and immediately I was impressed! The package was customized for me! I know this is a little touch, but much appreciated – it made it feel like Dan worked just for me to develop the StirStarter! The unit has a manufactured date and a serial number. I am sure this is so Dan can track things for his lifetime warranty (more on this later)!
Dan has done a great job of this being ready to go out of the box.
To get me started on my StirStarter adventure, I pulled some White Labs WLP007 Dry English Ale Yeast to make a starter with. This will be used in an upcoming recipe for a nice stout. I quickly threw together a 1.5 liter starter. My thought was to use some of this for the starter, and hold the rest for future batches. Instead of harvesting the yeast each time after the primary fermentation, when I get a new yeast, I will make a larger starter, split it, and just keep repeating the overbuild each time.
I fired up the starter on the Stirstarter about 3 in the afternoon.
Set it and go. I walked away when I saw some nice swirling action in the flask. I checked in on the starter periodically until about midnight. Sometime during my few hours of sleep, the bar did kick off to the side and the vortex stopped. I do not think this is of any fault of the StirStarter. It is highly possible that my boys may have been curious and moved the flask on the StirStarter and the bar got thrown off. I quickly re-centered the stir bar, and it fired back up. After a day of running the starter, there were a ton of fine bubbles rising through the starter wort. There was not a huge krausen level, but it looked great! My wife did complain to me about the clicking noise of the stir bar in the kitchen…but it didn’t bother me. It was a way for me to monitor that it was still going.
Again, I slept for a while, and I woke up to find cottage cheese! Really, that is what it seemingly looked like swirling at the bottom of the flask. Still some bubbles rising, but that rate greatly decreased. It was time to sanitize and prepare some mason jars for storage. I split the batch into 3 pint sized mason jars. There was a little yeast left over in the flask when I was done, but I can build these up again in the future, so no worries.
After finishing my first yeast starter, I had a few questions, so I fired them off to Dan. He was awesome at getting back to me. He gave me some pointers that I would have never thought about.
So a few things to really take note of here:
- You may find a sweet spot with your flask that is off center.
- Stick with the bar Dan sends, it is the quietest he has found.
- Let your stir bar acclimate itself and align the fields by having it sit for a few days.
Overall, I would say the StirStarter is THE way to go. The price point is way below the “industry standard”. Dan’s statement of “If all else fails, I will get a replacement unit out to you at no charge.” is a promise that no other company makes. He will fix it or replace it. This makes this small piece of homebrewery equipment a no brainer. I look forward to using it over and over again. The small investment will allow me to save a ton in yeast costs in the future.