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How to Make a Yeast Starter

Homebrewers often think that creating a yeast starter is reserved for the more experienced brewers. However, this notion is far from accurate. In fact, beginner brewers should consider starting with yeast starters. When you break it down, yeast starters are essentially just small-scale extract brewing.

Why Make a Yeast Starter?

  1. Ensure Adequate Yeast Population: Yeast starters promote the growth and multiplication of yeast cells before pitching them into your main batch. This is especially crucial for higher gravity beers where the initial yeast count might be insufficient to fully ferment the wort.

  2. Faster and Vigorous Fermentation: A healthy yeast starter introduces active and robust yeast cells to the wort, leading to faster and more vigorous fermentation. This helps prevent off-flavours and allows for a quicker turnaround time.

  3. Reduced Risk of Incomplete Fermentation: With a larger and healthier yeast population, the likelihood of incomplete fermentation or stuck fermentation is decreased. This contributes to a cleaner and more consistent final product.

  4. Enhanced Flavour Profile: Proper yeast pitching ensures that the yeast is active and ready to metabolize sugars, leading to the production of desirable flavour compounds and reducing the chance of unwanted off-flavours.

  5. Consistency in Replicating Recipes: Yeast starters help standardize the yeast cell count, making it easier to replicate recipes accurately and achieve consistent results from batch to batch.

  6. Cost Efficiency: Making your own yeast starter allows you to propagate yeast from a smaller initial purchase, saving money over the long term.

  7. Ideal for High-Gravity Brews: High-alcohol or complex beers benefit greatly from a yeast starter, as these conditions can stress yeast and hinder their ability to ferment thoroughly.

What do you Need to Make a Yeast Starter?

  1. Yeast: The yeast strain you intend to use for your batch of beer.

  2. Dry Malt Extract (DME): DME will provide the sugars needed for yeast growth during the starter process. The amount depends on the size of the starter you're making (or for an easier yeast starter, use Propper Starter).

  3. Water: Distilled or filtered water is recommended to avoid any chlorine or impurities that could affect yeast health.

  4. Erlenmeyer Flask or Container: A flask or container with a capacity larger than your starter volume is ideal. It should be heat-resistant and have a proper seal for shaking.

  5. Airlock and Stopper (Optional): If using an erlenmeyer flask, an airlock and stopper can be used to create a closed but still breathable environment.

  6. Stir Plate (Optional): A stir plate can keep the yeast in suspension, improving oxygen absorption and yeast growth. It's not mandatory, but it can enhance the process.

  7. Sanitization Supplies: Proper sanitization of all equipment is critical to prevent contamination.


  1. Calculate Starter Size: Determine the size of your yeast starter based on the OG (original gravity) of your main batch and the recommended pitching rate for the yeast strain. Online yeast calculators can help with this.

  2. Boil the Starter Wort:

    • Measure the amount of water needed for your starter and add it to a pot.
    • Heat the water and bring it to a boil.
    • Add the calculated amount of Dry Malt Extract (DME) to the boiling water, stirring to dissolve it. This creates the starter wort.
    • Boil the wort for about 10-15 minutes to sterilize it.
  3. Cool the Wort:

    • After boiling, cool the wort quickly to room temperature using an ice bath or a wort chiller.
  4. Prepare the Container:

    • Sanitize the erlenmeyer flask or container, along with the airlock and stopper (if using).
  5. Transfer and Pitch:

    • Pour the cooled wort into the sanitized container.
    • Pitch the yeast into the container. You can either pitch the yeast directly or create a yeast starter using a small amount of pre-made yeast starter solution or a small amount of the wort.
  6. Seal and Oxygenate:

    • Seal the container with a sanitized lid and airlock or stopper.
    • If you have a stir plate, place the container on it to keep the yeast in suspension and promote oxygen absorption. This step is optional but can enhance yeast growth.
  7. Fermentation and Growth:

    • Allow the yeast starter to ferment and grow for about 24 to 48 hours. You will see signs of yeast activity, including bubbles and a layer of yeast sediment.
  8. Cold Crash and Decant (Optional):

    • If you want to separate the yeast from the liquid, you can place the container in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. This causes the yeast to settle at the bottom.
    • Gently decant the liquid, leaving behind the settled yeast.
  9. Pitch into Main Batch:

    • Once your yeast starter is ready, you can pitch it directly into your main batch of beer.