Saturday, August 29, 2009

New Plates Are Poured!

Today I'm making up some new blank plates so I can catch up on my yeast sampling.  I've found a variety of recommendations for recipes to make up malt/agar plates on the internet.  Honestly, I didn't write down what I did for my first batch so I can't tell you.  This time my recipe is as follows:

  • 100 grams H2O
  • 1.5 grams agar
  • 1.5 grams Fermaid K
  • 12 grams light DME
I have access to an autoclave at work and use it to routinely sterilize my glassware.  However, things get kind of busy and hectic there so trying to mix up some plate media would be difficult and get in people's way.  I also worry about having agar spill out into the autoclave and make a mess.

Since I don't want to deal with mixing up my media at work I am breaking the rules of sterility and mixing it up stove top. I dissolved the solids in hot H20 and boiled in a sterile 250 ml beaker on my stovetop. This should be good enough to kill any yeasts and most bacteria (except for the spore-formers). If I was using these plates for a commercial application I might be concerned but since they are for my own use I'm taking the"Relax, Don't Worry, Have A Homebrew!" approach.  I will let the plates sit for several days to a week to look for any growth to indicate contamination.

After finishing I realized I might want to make up some more plates to reculture out some of my existing plates since they are getting a little old.  Well one thing at a time....

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Making Plates and Slants

I realized the other day that I've got a couple of yeast samples hanging out in the fridge that I want to plate out and isolate. Since I recently used my last plate to isolate the Whitbread strain its time for me to make some more plates.

You can buy pre-poured plates at but I like to pour them myself. I mix up a solution of water, malt extract, and agar and boil it up. Be careful because this solution loves to boil over and I made a mess of the inside of my microwave the last time I did this :)

Right now I have plastic plates so I am not able to autoclave the plates and technically my agar mix is not sterile with boiling alone. The plates came pre-sterilized and so far I haven't had a problem with my boiled media into my pre-sterilized plates. At some point I would like to invest in some reusable and autoclavable glass plates.....

Once the boiled media has cooled down enough for me to handle the glassware I either pour or use a syringe to fill my plates. They gel up pretty quickly. I seal them up and will keep them out at room temperature for several days to a week to watch for any growth. If anything grows I know that I have some contamination. If they stay blank I bundle them away into the fridge for storage.

There's a lot of information about these procedures out there on the Internet. One of the sites that I found helpful was the BrewKaiser

I can't wait to get my new plates set up so I can add to the stable. One of my projects is to try and recover yeast from a 15 year old BarleyWine. I'm pretty interested to see what if anything has survived in there for so many years. If I do manage to recover anything it will also be interesting to see if it looks like I am getting a single isolate or more than one.....

Monday, August 24, 2009

Thar She Blows

Nothing quite like christening the new 6 gal better bottle than a blow-off! Apparently my Belgian starter that I built up last week was pretty happy. I was seeing fermentation within 2-3 hours after pitching which I think is the soonest I've ever had activity. This morning I got up to check on the fermentation and there was my airlock sitting on the floor and krausen right up the neck of the carboy! I love it! (only because it is in my basement and easily cleaned) In fact this is one of the most vigorous fermentations I have ever had!

It looks like the krausen is already down slightly from where it peaked last night so I popped the airlock back on. Since this better bottle is brand new and has a different neck size than my glass carboys I don't have a blow-off tube that fits it yet.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Big Brew Day!

Today was the big group brew. We brewed up a 20 gallon batch of Warrior IPA (lots of Warrior hops with some cascade at the end). Last time we brewed it, it came out great. This time around we put in an extra 1/2 pound of special B which I think should be good.

Anyway, all three starters were ready to go. Within 2-3 hours of pitching the Belgian strain into the batch I took home there were obvious signs of fermentation :)

Three of the four batches used starters built up out of the yeast library. The fourth is being fermented with S-05 dry yeast which I think will do a nice job as well. I can't wait to compare the Belgian version to the ones done with the American yeasts.

As an added bonus I brought home the dregs of a White Labs tube to try and culture some Kolsch yeast out of. I tasted the Kolsch that was brewed with it and it was quite good so I am excited to get this one into the stable.

Time to pour some more plates!

Friday, August 21, 2009

My three starters are looking good today after a big step up last night. There was nice fermentation activity already this morning. The Belgian Ale yeast seems to be the most active. I think it is really loving the warm weather we have been having. The Belgian is the starter in the erlenmyer flask, you can see the nice layer of yeast that has developed in it already. This should really kick of the IPA when it gets pitched in a couple of days.

I really need to get a stirplate, I constructed one following the plans in Zymurgy a few years ago but it has never worked right. Either my magnets aren't strong enough or my RPM's are too high because the stir bar always ends up spinning off to the side and not working properly. One of these days I'll either have to figure out how to get it working properly or buy one for myself. I've been pretty happy with how my starters work out without using a stirplate so I'm not in any rush.

My next priority is pouring some more plates for myself so I can add to the collection and maybe making some slants as well.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Stepping it up baby!

This has been a busy week on the old ranch. The big group brew is coming up this weekend and the ranch has to stud for 3 of 4 batches being brewed. Working of the plates I started a single colony into 10 ml starters earlier this week. They are now fermenting away in a couple hundred ml bottles and tonight they are getting stepped up to somewhere in the 500-750 ml range.

It's pretty amazing how quickly a single colony can be built up into a good starter. I'm going to make sure tonight's wort gets well oxygenated so I can get some really good growth over the next couple of days so there ready to handle the 5 gal batches this weekend.

I have the White Labs Belgian Ale, Cry Havoc, and East Coast Ale getting ready for this weekend. The coolest thing this time around is how much like a Belgian ale my little 10 ml starter of Belgian yeast smelled like. I was really tempted to drink it instead of pitching it up!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Welcome to the Safari

Welcome to my adventures in fermentation. I have become a huge fan of all the work that microbes such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae do for us. I have been brewing beer since the early 1990's and have always been fascinated by the process of fermentation. Having studied way to much biochemistry I can fully appreciate why our yeasty friends are so happy to ditch the Kreb cycle and stick to good old fashioned anaerobic respiration!

As I explore the art of brewing I continually look for new and exciting aspects to play with, one of my more recent adventures is starting a yeast farm. Thanks to google, AHA tech talk, some basic information from white labs, and some rudimentary lab equipment I have begun to lasso those crazy yeast out there and bring them into the corals. I have been building up the collection both for personal satisfaction and for use by my homebrew friends.

Currently the stable includes:

  • Cry Havoc
  • Belgian Ale
  • London ESB
  • Whitbread Ale
  • East Coast Ale