How to Make a Yeast Starter

How to Make a Yeast Starter

Making a starter culture to increase the quantity of yeast pitched into a particular beer is a great way to assure consistent results. If you are brewing a high gravity beer (greater than 1.065 original gravity) or a lager that will be fermented cold then you need to increase your pitch rate by pitching more packages of yeast or making a starter culture.

The WYeast smack-pack is designed to inoculate 5 gallons of standard ale wort (O.G. < 1.060, 65-72°F). When brewing high gravity beer (O.G. >1.060) or cold fermented lagers or ales (<65°F) additional yeast will be required. An Activator contains approximately 100 billion cells which will deliver slightly less than 6 million cells per milliliter in a 5 gallon batch of beer.

The easiest and best way to insure yeast growth and health requires using a malt based media (DME) fortified with nutrients. Gravity should be kept near 1.040 and cultures should be grown at 70°F.


  • 0.5 cup DME (100g, 3.5oz)
  • ½ tsp Yeast Nutrient
  • 1qt.(1L) H2O
  1. Mix DME, nutrient, and warm water.
  2. Boil 20 minutes to sterilize.
  3. Pour into a sanitized flask or jar with loose lid or foil.
  4. Cool to 70°F.
  5. Shake well and add yeast culture.

Timing of Starter:
Starter growth is usually maximized within 24-36 hours. The gravity of the starter should always be checked prior to inoculation into wort to assure proper cell growth . Cultures should be used immediately, or refrigerated for up to 1 week before using. Cell viability will decrease rapidly if culture are left at ambient temperatures for extended time.

Stirring and O2:
Agitation aids in removing inhibitive CO
2 from suspension as well as possibly adding small amounts of oxygen. Stirring or shaking the starter periodically or using a stir plate will improve cell growth. The use of stir plates has been shown to increase cell growth 25-50% over a non-stirred starter.

Caution: It is important to understand that creating a starter can increase the risk of infection by undesirable organisms. Small levels of contamination can multiply to unacceptable levels, causing undesirable effects on the finished product. Use all of the same sanitation practices that you would while normally brewing.

Gluten Free Beers: A Review & How to Brew a Good One!

New Planet’s Off Grid Pale Ale

Gluten-free beer: some would say there is no such thing, while others would say there’s just not a good example. Regardless of where you stand, any curious beer-drinker is in search of something new. For this review, our two ridiculously awesome employees Nick and Andrew review a bottle of Fort Collins Brewery’s gluten-free New Planet Off Grid Pale Ale against the BJCP Pale Ale guidelines. Before we get to the sensory descriptions, here’s a list of the beers ingredients to give you an idea of what this ale contains:


This copper-colored ale pours brilliantly clear with a generous amount of head. Unfortunately, the head quickly dissipates leaving no sign of carbonation behind. The aroma is mostly comprised of caramel, over-shadowing what little American hop aroma there is. Andrew sensed a slightly musty, stale character. Upon taking a drink, the beer comes across as dry, tangy, with a chewy malt presence, little-to-no hop flavor, and a heavy lingering bitterness. The beer finishes too dry for the style, and it comes across as astringent. Nick notes that this beer would be much better by focusing more on late and dry-hop additions, and less on bittering additions.

The reviewers agreed that, overall, this was good for a gluten-free beer, however, judged against what most people would expect out of a pale ale, this beer falls short. Its astringency and lack of body, combined with its huge lack of hop flavor and aroma does not make for a good example of a pale ale. It’s not undrinkable, but more could have been done to make this gluten-free beer compete against its barley-filled counterparts.



Category 10A American Pale Ale

Nick 34/50

Andrew 29/50



Tips on brewing a good Gluten Free beer (yes, it is possible)

*Use lactose to sweeten the beer.  Gluten free extracts ferment out really dry.

*Use a blend of rice and sorghum extracts for a better overall taste.

*You pretty much have to use Malto Dextrin for body and head retention.

*Gelatin Finings are great for clarity (another must).

*Gluten Free beers benefit from a secondary, because that astringency from the extract mellows with age.

We have several Gluten Free recipes on file that people brew all the time and are very pleased with.  Come talk to us if you are interested.   


How to Make Hard Cider

Hard Cider

Hard Cider is pretty darn easy to make, and this recipe and process is quite simple.

*A typical recipe is five gallons, but you can change the recipe to make any size (less or more).

*Most raw cider will ferment out to about 5% ABV, so if you want to add sugar (brown sugar, honey, etc) to bring the alcohol percentage up… about 1lb of sugar will give you an extra percent of alcohol. For example, 7.5% cider needs 2.5lbs of sugar. We would suggest that when adding sugar to cider it should be dissolved in water (simple syrup solution) before being added. This ensures that the sugar is equally dispersed in to the cider, and prevents you from having to heat the cider.

1. Get 5 gallons of raw, unpasteurized cider from a a cider mill, fill into a sanitized carboy or plastic bucket. See recommended local cider mills at the bottom of the page.

2. Use Campden Tablets to kill wild yeast if you desire, but you can leave wild yeast in for some unique character. To use Campden Tablets, crush 1 tablet per gallon of cider, and put it into the carboy when you get home after filling it. Wait 24 hours to let the Campden do its job. One hour prior to adding the yeast add Pectic Enzyme if you want a clear, nice looking cider. Without Pectic Enzyme the final product will most likely be a little cloudy.

3. Pitch yeast. We recommend Wyeast Cider Yeast, but any dry ale or wine yeast will work. The type of yeast used will determine the body of the cider i.e. Dry or Not Dry. If you like a very dry crisp cider then use a champange yeast. If not, use an ale yeast.  Click on the “cheat sheet” pic below for yeast and additive options.  

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 4.36.24 PM

4. Ferment for about 2 weeks, and transfer to secondary. At this point, you can leave the cider in the fermenter for as long as 2 weeks or 6 months. We are usually not patient enough to wait, so I bottle or keg after about a month of total fermentation.  It should be noted that if you use an ale yeast, your cider could smell like sulfur for quite some time….that is normal, and wait for that smell to go away before bottling.  

5. Bottle or keg the cider. Enjoy!

*Recommended local cider mills:


Hill Brothers



No Boil Berliner Weiss

Hi everyone, it’s Nick! For the last year, Andrew (the newest addition to the shop) and I have been discussing older styles of beers. After doing several sour beers, I finally decided to try my hand at a few techniques that I have researched, and I want to share my results with you.

Recently Ben brewed a German Pale Ale for the shop (on tap now), and at the end of the sparge there was a tiny little bit of sugar still draining off. So, I took the opportunity to try something called a “Sour Mash”. I took the spent grain and mashed in an additional six pounds of grain to get some more sugars out. Once I let it rest I drained the wort off into a sanitized bucket (one of my sour buckets to avoid cross contamination) on top of two ounces of Saaz leaf hops. In the ancient ales of yester-year all malts were kilned over open fire and had a distinct smoke flavor. I wanted to give a nod to that, so instead of pitching yeast I dumped two pounds of smoked malt in to allow the wild bacteria on the grain husks to ferment the wort. Grain husks are covered in Lactobacillus and other wild things. The next day it was cranking away just like any other beer yeast, and in about a week it was finished fermenting! I killed the wild bacteria with a back-end short boil, and after a quick few days in secondary the beer was on tap. It’s more smokey than I would have imagined, but the slight tartness and the light body are perfect for a Berliner Weisse.

The recipe is below! Enjoy!

Step 1: Make a 1.028-1.034 O.G. Mash light in color with at least 30% of the mash being Torrified or White Wheat (in the old world it was smoked wheat)

Mine: (Fresh): 3 lbs Pilsen, 3lbs White Wheat

(Spent): 8lbs Pilsen, 3lbs Organic 2-row, 1 lb Caracrystal

Mash in at 148° F for 6 hours

Step 2: Rack hot onto a pile of Grain and Hops

Mine: 2lbs of Smoked German Malt (Makes the beer more savory, for a more refreshing lemony flavor use basic 2 Row or Pilsen)

2 oz Saaz Leaf Hops

Step 3: Ferment for 1 week or until the Gravity of the wort is 1.010-1.006

Step 4: To help remove protein haze and a achieve a mild bitterness from the hops, rack the fermented wort off of the grain and leafs into a kettle and bring to a boil for 10-15 minutes. Chill this to below 80 and rack into a secondary container. Try to keep from aerating the beer at this point to avoid O2 ruining your batch. Keep in secondary long enough for any more remaining sediment to drop out (about 4 days)

Step 5: Serve! If you are bottling it at this point you should re-pitch yeast and add priming sugar. Be wary! All your equipment touching this beer is a potential contamination risk for your future batches, so please mark your sour equipment accordingly. Traditionally this beer is served with a splash of Mugwort or Raspberry Syrup, but it is great straight too!

Have fun! If you decide to do this feel free to stop in to O’Connor’s and pick my brain about it!

Nick LaVelle – Professional Home Brewer and honest dude.

Mitten Brew Article

Our Brewing with extract seminar was a big success.  We wanted to give thanks to all those who made it out for the fun!  A special thanks goes out to Rob Kirkbride from for putting together a great article about the class.  Check it out at the link below.


Dog Treats Made From Spent Grains

Really cool article that my buddy Ethan Vandoorne sent me.

Original recipe:
4 cups spent grain
2 cups flour
1 cup peanut butter
2 eggs

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Press down into a dense layer on a large cookie sheet. Score almost all the way through into the shapes you want. Bake for about half an hour at 350 F to solidify them. Loosen them from the sheet, break the biscuits apart and return them, loosely spread out on the cookie sheet, to the oven at 225 F for 3 to 4 hours (or until they are really dry) to prevent mold growth. Store in an airtight container to keep them dry and mold-free.


So You Want to Brew Your Own Beer or Make Your Own Wine……Awesome…….Read This


When considering to brew your first batch of beer it’s helpful to think about how much time, effort, and money you’re are willing to put into it. First one should do a little bit of research about the brewing process just to get an introduction to the world of suds. There is plenty of literature out there that can give you a good lesson on the age old art of making beer.

Once you are up to speed on the process I would suggest starting with an inexpensive equipment kit, which comes with everything you need to brew a 5 gallon batch. Also you will need a malt extract ingredient kit, which supplies you with all the ingredients, step by step directions, and a beginners handbook to the art of brewing. Each 5 gallon batch produces approximately 50 cold ones. All you will need in addition is a kitchen stove, sink, and a few household utensils. The reason to start with a malt extract ingredient kit is that it allows you to make a good beer while skipping the most difficult step of mashing (extracting fermentable sugar from barley and grain). Malt extract is pre- made and has the correct amount of sugar already in it.

The brewing process then becomes as simple as dissolving the malt extract into hot water and adding some hops. The brewing process only takes a few hours, but the whole entire process from the start to the final step of drinking your beer is about 3 weeks to a month. Believe me it’s well worth it. There is nothing more satisfying than getting to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Try starting with a pale ale, which is relatively easy to make and has a great chance of turning out nice and tasty. It’s important to keep it simple at first to avoid unnecessary discouragement. Don’t be afraid to call us to ask questions.

Those who have a good experience brewing with extract may wish to pursue the hobby a bit more intensely. For those eager brewers, the next step is probably to try a partial mash. This involves extracting sugar from fresh whole barley and grains, while still using extract for the majority of your fermetable sugars. This can be done with the same equipment you used for your extract batch. I would suggest trying this first before jumping into all-grain brewing. Come to us to get help putting together a partial mash recipe.

For the brewing enthusiasts is the process of all-grain home brewing. Its very similar to how the professional breweries and brew pubs do it. There are still varying degrees of intensity when it comes to all-grain brewing, but no matter how serious you are it still is more time consuming and involved that extract brewing. For many it is worth it because the quality and taste of your beer is much better. The first thing that you will need to do when you decide to brew all-grain is build a mashtun. A mashtun is a vessel that can hold grain and water at a desired temperature for a long period of time. This allows you to extract the fermatable sugar that you need to make beer. Home brewing mashtuns are usually made from beverage coolers and can be made for as little as $30. Be sure to do some reading and research before you attempt to build your mashtun. The internet has plenty of information and diagrams that will help. YouTube also can offer a good amount of help with your venture.


If you happened to be more of a wine drinker then you should try your hand at making a batch . It’s a relatively simple process, much less complicated than brewing beer. The total time from start to finish can be a little longer though. Aging your wine before you drink it will be the longest part, but it is well worth it considering that one standard batch will produce 30 bottles. Most of the same equipment used in brewing beer will be sufficient for making wine. A larger fermenting bucket and carboy are necessary because of the head space needed to ferment wine. Too small of either could end up causing a bubble over, which would ruin your batch. Any other equipment used in the process, such as corks and a corking machine can be purchased at your local home brew supply shop.

When making your first batch you should most definitely start with a wine ingredient kit. It comes with all the ingredients and directions you need including the most integral part of wine, the grape juice. Juice can be made by pressing grapes, but that can be expensive, complicated and much more time consuming. A grape press machine is something to think about buying if you are really serious about the hobby. The process of making wine from a kit can be as simple as pouring grape juice into a bucket, adding some chemical agents, specialty ingredients, and yeast, then letting it ferment into wine. Once finished with the fermenting process its time to bottle and age. Used wine bottles from your private stash can be used to hold your homemade wine and corks and a corker can be purchased O’Connor’s Home Brew Supply rather inexpensively.

Whether you are really busy with your day to day life or you have plenty of free time, home brewing and wine making can be a fun and rewarding hobby. Initial investment in the equipment and ingredients to brew your first batch of beer or make your first batch of wine or cider can be under $100 . Once you have purchased the equipment, from then on out one only needs to pay for the ingredients for your next batch. This will normally be around $20 for beer depending on the style and a bit more expensive for wine. If you are interested if giving home brewing or wine making a try, I would suggest starting with either a malt extract beer ingredient kit or a wine kit.

Happy Brewing,

O’Connor’s Home Brew Supply

The Brew Shop Build Out: What We Do So You Can Brew

Shelving Units

The following article was written by our custom woodworker Matt Sutton. He built our shops point of sale counter, mill table, and shelving units. He did a wonderful job I might add. If you would like to get a hold Matt just look for his contact info at the bottom of the article.

Ben and I had been talking for some time about the home brew shop. Once the location had been determined, we began to plan the actual layout of the shop. It’s an old building with some great historic appeal and character. When we got in though there was much that needed to be done. The space was bare bones and in need of all of the trim and a few new doors. It was not only the shelving and casework, the interior needed to be completely revamped. There were certain considerations that we were contemplating: there needed to be ample room for display and storage, it needed to look great and be functional allowing them to be able to change and grow with the requests of new equipment and supplies. After we settled on the plan, I came in and got to work on the space. After plenty of time and elbow grease we are all happy with the results and we are sure that you will too. Come on in and take a look.
With over 50 linear feet of wall cases that are 8 and a half foot tall and center shelving that is 6 foot tall, all of which is fully adjustable from top to bottom, there are a wide variety of arrangements. You will find ample room for, and easy access to, all of the supplies that you need. One of the most fun aspects of the build was the custom designed and built grain mill. I spent hours looking over other designs but nothing seemed to fit. I visited a few other shops and was not impressed with the setups. I scrapped all of the ideas and started from scratch. After several discussions with Ben about what the functionality of the piece needed to be, I got to work. The mill is awesome and I cant wait for home brewers like you to give it a crank.

I enjoy the collaborative process and it was a pleasure to work with Ben and Allison to bring their dream into the world. If you have a special brew or non brew related project, feel free to contact me to talk it over.

Matt Sutton