Homebrewing Blog and Resource

Making A Yeast Starter

When I started to homebrew, I visited a lot of forums to get tips about how to make the best beer possible. What I keep reading in posts was the advice of “make a yeast starter”.

It seemed like making a yeast starter was the solution to a lot of problems. I definitely understand the importance of pitching a sufficient number of healthy yeast to your wort. What I never got out of those form posts was how to make a yeast starter.

Well, here I am to let people know how to make a wort starter.

I got these instructions from John Palmer’s How To Brew:

Boil a pint of water (that’s two cups) in a pan.

Pour in a 1/2 cup of dry malt extract.

Boil the mixture for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, cover the pan and put it in an ice bath in your kitchen sink.

After the wort has been cooled to a temperature that is ideal for your yeast, pour the wort into a bottle like a growler. I poured mine in a nalgene bottle.

Pour the yeast into the bottle with your cooled wort

Shake the wort to aerate it well.

Cover the top of the bottle with aluminum foil, plastic wrap held down with a rubber band, or a rubber stopper with an airlock.

Put the bottle in a place out of direct light. Make sure this place stays around the temperature range that is optimal for your yeast.

After two days, it should be ready to be pitched into your larger wort on brew day.

Here are some pictures from my yeast starter night. I tried to cover my wort for the last few minutes of the boil like John Palmer tells you to do in his book. Total boil over. 🙁 (See picture 2)

Boiling The Small Wort Boil Over Yeast Starter


Tasting Grains


Goodnight Kegerator


  1. Been there… done that… at least your stove is easily cleaned. I once boiled over a 3 gallon cream stout boil. That was a terrible mess to clean up.

  2. Travis

    yea I am still scrubbing off the crap from my last boil over on the cook top. I’ve been thinking about getting a hotplate or something so I can just do them in the basement away from my wife’s cooking area (to help with the longevity of my marriage). Anyone have experience with starters and priming sugar boiling on a hotplate?

  3. While a Nalgene bottle may work well for you in this case, just be aware that there are warnings about the use of Nalgene plastic products and their link to health issues. I’d suggest keeping your starter in a glass bottle rather than plastic as the plastic may add off tastes and possibly other health affecting contaminants. http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/200311/lol5.asp

  4. Chemgeek: It only took me a few minutes to clean up that mess. I did have to pull out a razor blade to scrape up the really tough bits from the ceramic stovetop. I wasn’t happy when it happened, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would have been.

    Travis: I have a single burner that plugs right into the wall. I bought it as a part of a meat smoker that I built a la Alton Brown. It should be able to boil up this amount of liquid with no problem, so I should give it a try since it would win me some points with the wife as well.

    Chipper Dave: When I was putting up this post, I queried ‘nalgene’ to learn more about the bottle and found information about the dangers of their plastic bottles. To be frank, it scared me a little. I did clean the bottle with OneStep cleanser and sanitized it with an iodophor solution…who knows what effect that had on the bottle.

    I am going to have to take a ‘wait and see’ approach since my starter is already doing its thing and I am not going to transfer it to another vessel. If there are off-flavors, I will post them up. I probably will use glass moving forward if I have problems.

    One note, I did add a line to shake the wort to aerate it…which I didn’t write last night and I didn’t do last night. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s strike two on this yeast starter.

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