While I really enjoy capturing, harvesting, and culturing yeast, I find making yeast starters annoying. It’s unfortunate since the more I do with yeast, the more starters I end up making. I recently saw an ad for Northern Brewer’s Fast Pitch which seemed the perfect answer to my problem until I saw the cost. Surely there was a cheaper way.
A quick Google search led me to an answer that should have been obvious from the start. Canning starter wort is something that has been going on in the home brewing community for a while. The process is simple. The equipment and ingredients are inexpensive. Basically just what I was looking for.
What You Need
The most expensive piece of equipment needed is a pressure canner. I went with the “bigger is better” mantra and got a used 21 quart model off eBay. Even after shipping and replacing the seals I still saved a good chunk of money going the used route.
Also needed are some canning jars with lids and rings. Lids aren’t expensive, but I’ve been going through quite a few and have considered purchasing these reusable lids. Most people use the larger quart sized jars, but I elected to go with pint sized jars instead. Most of the time I use significantly less than a quart for culturing or making agar plates and this has been working out well for me.
The last thing that’s needed is some DME or extra wort. I prefer using DME because it’s easy to calculate how much you need to hit a particular specific gravity. That said you can use left over wort from your brew day or even make a small batch of wort to can as well.
You’re looking to achieve a 1.040 OG, which is kind of the standardized OG for starters. Alternatively you could make a smaller amount of a higher OG starter wort (say 1.080) and then dilute it when making your yeast starter. Begin by mixing DME and water in a 1:10 ratio. I weigh out the DME in the canning jar, then fill the jar half full of warm water. Stir really well to dissolve the DME before filling with the remaining portion of water.
Once the jar is full make sure the rim is clean by wiping it with a damp cloth. Place a lid on the jar and then screw on the ring. Not too tight, the ring is just there to hold the lid in place. Follow the instructions for operating your pressure canner and process the jars at 15 psi for 15 minutes. Once the jars are cool and sealed you’ve got shelf stable starter wort.
Using Canned Wort
The next time you need to make a yeast starter just crack open a jar of wort, pour it into a sanitized flask, drop in a stir bar, and add your yeast. It’s that easy.