Making Starter Wort

Making starter wort is very simple. If you can boil water, you're basically there. The following assumes a single batch made from 4 oz of DME (dried malt extract). You will need to use the absolute lightest DME available (e.g., Briess Pils DME or Munton's Extra-Light DME which is a bit darker than the Briess). You can prepare this wort for immediate use or future use. We'll cover the differences after the basics.

  1. First, sanitize everything you intend to use with the wort, including all Erlenmeyer flasks and stoppers, jars and lids, a small funnel, and one of those neat little re-usable coffee filters you find in grocery stores, usually in the coffee isle with the paper filters.

  2. Next, combine 1L of filtered water with 4 oz of your ultra-light DME, a hop pellet or two, and 1/2 tsp of Wyeast Yeast Nutrient—this provides the nitrogen and other nutrients critical for optimal yeast growth in your starters. Combine all of this in a large boiler or kettle over medium-high heat (the exact setting will depend on your stove). Stir gently and avoid splashing. You do NOT want to aerate the wort at this stage.

  3. Boil for .... If you plan on using this immediately, boil for a full 15 minute boil. If you plan on using it for sterile wort, boil until you get a good hot break (i.e., it stops trying to boil over and the foam settles to reveal the boiling wort).

  4. Using your sanitized filter/funnel combination, run the wort through the filter and funnel into a sanitized 1000mL Erlenmeyer flask to clean out any trub formed during the above boil. Pour VERY gently. Hot Side Aeration (HSA) is BAD...VERY BAD.

To Use Immediately

For using the starter wort immediately, start by sanitizing the Erlenmeyer flask(s) you intend to use. After a soak in sanitizer, spray the mouth of the flask with food-grade alcohol (e.g., Everclear) sanitizer and light with a torch lighter. Be extra careful when you do this, as it WILL flame up. Do NOT do this with any other flammables nearby, including any clothing that might ignite. Seriously, you MUST BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL! I cannot stress this enough! Then pour the near-boiling wort into the flask(s), cap with aluminum foil (spray the foil with the same food-grade alcohol first), and put the flask into an ice-water bath (make sure the water level is not high enough to tip the flask over). Cool until the wort can be gently swirled without heating the sides of the flask.

Then, see the next section, Making Yeast Starters.

To Sterilize and Use Later

  1. Pour (gently...) into either pint-sized canning jars (make sure they will fit into your pressure cooker and that it will close properly with them in place, lids and all) that you intend to use to store your yeast.

  2. Cap LOOSELY with either #6 non-drilled stoppers for the flasks or lids/caps for canning jars.

  3. Add water to your pressure cooker to bring it up to about a half-inch or an inch above the false bottom (the most important thing being to add enough that it doesn't boil dry...if it does, you're screwed).
  4. Place into your "autoclave" (or pressure cooker) and set the heat on medium-high (again, may vary per your stove). When the cooker really gets into a roll, hissing loudly (as opposed to when it's just cranking up), start a 15 minute timer. At the end of the time period, turn the heat off and remove the cooker from the burner.

  5. When the cooker has cooled (raising the weight will not cause it to hiss, and the lid's interlock pin will drop), open it and, using tongs and pot-holders, VERY, VERY CAREFULLY remove and set on a hard surface with a towel, pot-holder, etc. on it. This would be a good time to have your rubber brewing boots on, too (I just thought of this as I was writing this—I've had 2nd degree burns on one ankle/foot from boiling wort. It sucks).

  6. Gently and carefully, tighten the caps and lightly secure the stoppers. Be careful not to stuff the stopper down too far, or as the wort cools, it may suck the stopper right into the flask.

  7. After the wort has cooled enough to avoid heating up your fridge, cover the solid rubber stoppers for any Erlenmeyer flasks you may have used with aluminum foil (as a backup for the stoppers), label each container with the date and transfer into the fridge for later use.

NOTE: If you need to make 10mL starter tubes, modify the above as follows:

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