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Yeast starter slurry question

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M38A1

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I've made my first batch of SkeeterPee named GSB for "Generic Summer Beverage" and it's a hit! Not having any yeast slurry from a prior batch, I just tossed some EC1118 at it and I have to say, the stuff really is good. I did a double batch for my first one and most is gone already. Boo. Time to make more!

So about a week ago I started a peach wine using a Vintners Harvest 96oz peach juice can and three pounds of frozen peaches. That's now been sitting at .990 SG for it's third day (today). That means tonight I'll rack it off and continue the peach journey in it's own carboy leaving the yeast slurry/sediment.

Do I have to do anything special with the yeast slurry/sdiment on the bottom of my peach batch in order to use it for the starter for my next batch of SkeeterPee I'll start in a couple days? Or do I just rack off the peach above the sediment, then pour the sediment into a clean/sanitized gallon jug and keep it in the fridge for a day until I can start my SkeeterPee with it?

Anything special I need to do? Room temperature before I add it? Or just pour it in when it's time?

Excited about this new adventure and looking for your expertise!

Thx-
 

BernardSmith

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Certainly no expert when it comes to making skeeter pee but I cannot think why it would be necessary to refrigerate the "slurry" if you time your skeeter pee so that when you rack the peach wine off the lees you are ready to add the lemon must to the lees. This removes the problem of ensuring that the yeast is brought up to temperature so that it is up and running when the must is ready and it reduces the risks of contamination when you transfer the yeast from the carboy/fermenter to a smaller vessel that will sit in your fridge. But as I say, I am no expert when it comes to SP although I often simply treat the lees from one batch as the starter for another when I make te'j (an Ethiopian style mead)
 

M38A1

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Certainly no expert when it comes to making skeeter pee but I cannot think why it would be necessary to refrigerate the "slurry" if you time your skeeter pee so that when you rack the peach wine off the lees you are ready to add the lemon must to the lees. This removes the problem of ensuring that the yeast is brought up to temperature so that it is up and running when the must is ready and it reduces the risks of contamination when you transfer the yeast from the carboy/fermenter to a smaller vessel that will sit in your fridge. But as I say, I am no expert when it comes to SP although I often simply treat the lees from one batch as the starter for another when I make te'j (an Ethiopian style mead)
Thank you!
I'm mixing up the sugar/water/lemon juice and additives this evening so tomorrow I'll do my first rack out of PF on the peach and pour that slurry mix into my awaiting SkeeterPee PF. Brilliant!
 

BernardSmith

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Again, I don't claim to be an expert and this may make very little difference but my preference is always to pour the new batch onto the slurry rather than the slurry on to the new batch. When you pour the more dense must onto the lees you know that you are going to be distributing the lees effectively throughout the entire batch and you have not touched those lees with anything that could contaminate them. When you pour the lees as if this is a fresh pack of yeast then it is possible that the slurry will stay close to the surface for an extended period and it is possible that your mixing technique won't be great. The reason for using the "slurry" with SP is that you are using yeast that has been exposed to an acidic environment in which it has thrived (assuming your batch of peach wine has not stalled or indicated any problems with stress). The lemon environment is very acidic and if you are using Real Lemon it also contains some sorbate so you really want a very large and vigorous colony in your must. The slurry is like a huge starter.

When you add dry yeast you need to allow the "powder" to rehydrate and absorb the liquid before you stir the yeast into the must. With lees the yeast cells are fully hydrated. So you can simply add the SP must to the carboy /fermenter.
 

M38A1

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Wow, makes sense to this newbie.... The two PF's are side by side now so tonight I'll yet again follow your guidance racking the peach off to a glass carboy, then dumping the lemon/water/sugar must into the peach PF where the peach lees reside. This is going to be fun!

How many times can you use the lees for something like this? Are they replicating or is there only so much yeast from the original yeast packet?
 

BernardSmith

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Yeast bud and replicate and if you count the viable yeast cells you have in the lees and compare that number to the number of cells you pitched you will see that the colony has grown significantly. How many times can you use the lees? That's a good question. Here's the thing: the cells that are viable after fermenting a batch of wine are those that are best surviving the acid levels, the levels of alcohol , the ambient temperature, and other stresses you have created for them. That means for good or bad that the culture has adapted to the last batch you make and that means that if you are looking for specific characteristics of the strain you pitched originally those characteristics may have changed or been completely destroyed - or enhanced .. Brewers who harvest their yeast may use the same cells a handful of times but I think some commercial meaderies and breweries may use the same yeast for batch after batch after batch... Proof of the pudding is always in the eating. When your current batch does not have the characteristics you would have predicted it should have or if it has characteristics you don't prefer then it's time to thank the yeast and move on.
 

M38A1

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Yeast bud and replicate and if you count the viable yeast cells you have in the lees and compare that number to the number of cells you pitched you will see that the colony has grown significantly. How many times can you use the lees? That's a good question. Here's the thing: the cells that are viable after fermenting a batch of wine are those that are best surviving the acid levels, the levels of alcohol , the ambient temperature, and other stresses you have created for them. That means for good or bad that the culture has adapted to the last batch you make and that means that if you are looking for specific characteristics of the strain you pitched originally those characteristics may have changed or been completely destroyed - or enhanced .. Brewers who harvest their yeast may use the same cells a handful of times but I think some commercial meaderies and breweries may use the same yeast for batch after batch after batch... Proof of the pudding is always in the eating. When your current batch does not have the characteristics you would have predicted it should have or if it has characteristics you don't prefer then it's time to thank the yeast and move on.
Again, thank you for the primer!

This is all based on the assumption I'd know the difference of the characteristics let alone what those characteristics are!

Again, thx. :)
 

BernardSmith

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Again, thank you for the primer!

This is all based on the assumption I'd know the difference of the characteristics let alone what those characteristics are!
It does .. but you selected a yeast. What was the reason for choosing a specific yeast to ferment that batch? And sure , you may have picked the yeast at random, but then that suggests you don't have in mind any characteristics that you wanted from the yeast . OK , but every strain of yeast enhances different colors or flavors or adds to mouthfeel (or not) - or masks aspects of flavor or works well in high stress/acidic environments or in high or low temperatures or flocculates well (or not) or works well with other strains of yeast or kills them to mitigate competition with them, or happily thrives in high alcohol environments or in high concentrations of sugar, etc. Some yeasts produce lots of fruity esters and some few. Some yeasts are high maintenance - producing lots of hydrogen sulfide while other strains are low maintenance. Some demand a high nutrient load , others require very little. For each strain there is a spec sheet published by the lab that cultures the yeast - And that's to say nothing about indigenous or wild yeasts that you can capture and cultivate from the fruit or flowers or honey you are fermenting.
 

M38A1

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Bernard,
Thank you for the explanation. I selected Vintners Harvest MA33 for the Peach batch as the label said it tends to favor fruity country wines where residual sugar is desired. That's about all I understood so I went with it. My other is Lavlin EC1118 because it just works in huge variety of applications. (my Mustang grapes here are super-acidic) My 'take-away' is that I have to make several batches of the same recipe but using different yeast strains to see if I can even taste a difference. The simple fact that I can ferment something and get it drinkable is a huge win for me. That's where I'm at in my journey.

Your reply above has now informed me of characteristics of what wines have to offer in simple terms I can understand. Thank you.
 

M38A1

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Wowzer, that was fun!

Last night I racked peach off it's gross lees, did the k-meta/k-sorbate/sparkloid thing and put it under airlock. Then came the fun part - I poured my SkeeterPee mix directly into the bucket that had the peach gross lees and crossed my fingers the wine gods were going to be looking down favorably. Well this morning I pulled back the towel over it and the entire top was covered in a foam of bubbles! On first pass, I'd say this is going to work.

 

M38A1

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I've been thinking a bit about what Bernard said on the yeast strains and I'm forming an opinion that the MA33 really likes an acidic environment. I had used the MA33 on the peach mentioned above, then used that slurry as the starter for a SkeeterPee. The peach was fermented to dry in four days. My SP using that 'used' slurry fermented to dry in four days, lemon acid and all. Tonight I'll mix another batch of lemonade stock and tomorrow I'll rack off the newly fermented SP and toss in the lemonade stock. That should be interesting to see if it's again four days to ferment. That will be the third use of the yeast. And then a friend said "Hey! Grab a small Mason jar about half full of that yeast slurry - I want to try and use it in some bread making to see what happens". Mmmm, ok?
 
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cmason1957

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Everyone says Skeeter Pee is so acidic. I measured it once and it wasn't that bad, my memory says it was about 3.0. Once I measured that I decided to always just rehydrate my yeast and then add it to the skeeter pee. I have never had a problem fermenting it that way.
 

M38A1

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Thx for that tidbit of info!

I"m amazed that this stuff ferments to dry/.992 in four days. I'll pitch another 5gal batch tomorrow evening and if it's four days to dry again, I think that's another good data point.
 

M38A1

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So that second PF on the MA33 went so well I mixed up another batch of 'lemonade' and a couple days ago racked off the prior SkeeterPee and dumped in the third 'lemonade stock' of mix. So this batch is just rocking along now making it's third fermentation in a row on that MA33. The SkeeterPee takes about four days to ferment to dry, then sits for three days so it's a week between five gallon batches out of PF. Thinking I'll mix up another one and let it go. I've read the potential issue for the rotten egg smell but so far haven't experienced it. I'm now somewhat curious as to how long I can keep this going..... I'm down to about two five gallon carboys and maybe six three's. I think that will be my limiting factor in all this unless the first ones are out of clearing and a couple weeks past back-sweetening. At about $14 per five gallon batch this is a cheap fun experiment.

Has anyone else just kept the SkeeterPee going like this?
 

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I've been reading through SP posts for one that has the answer to my question and this one comes close. I'm planning my 2nd batch of SP. I'm halfway through my first batch and this does go down easy. I'm not a sweet wine drinker but I pour this over ice and its very refreshing after a day in the Texas heat. My 1st batch was pretty straight up from the recipe except I used EC-1118 instead of the slurry from a previous batch. Yesterday, I racked a batch of Pinot Noir off of it's secondary fermentation and kept the slurry. Too clarify, when I racked it off the primary o brought everything except the oak chips with it. I have about 1000ml of it. I won't have the lemon juice for a couple more days so I just put the slurry in a sanitized beaker, put a stopper in it and put it in the fridge. My question is do you think it's worth trying to ferment the new SP must with this slurry? I have some EC-1118 as a backup plan but thought this slurry might add a different dimension to the SP. Or is this too far outside the box?
Image_1 2020-08-04_13-06-27.jpeg
 

BernardSmith

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Great question and here's my take , Old Corker. There is nothing magical or ritualistic about wine making. Every single idea and every single action has a reason. What is the reason behind the idea of using a yeast slurry to make SP? Well one good reason is that the must is likely to be very acidic and quite full of sorbates and both these conditions tend to inhibit fermentation. BUT if you pitch a slurry you are pitching what is likely to be a very large and viable colony of yeast and that colony of yeast is likely to have been through a relatively high ABV wine and lived in a relatively high acidic environment so your colony of yeast is likely very pre-adapted to the environment you are demanding they ferment in. The large colony size is also going to neutralize the presence of the sorbates (albeit already quite diluted by the volume of water added to the lemon juice.

If the picture I am painting is reasonably accurate then your use of the lees from your Pinot Noir is exactly right on target. which is to say that if you simply pitch a pack of dry yeast into the must to make SP you may not be starting off with as large a colony as best works and you are not staring off with a colony as comfortable in the acid bath you are creating. The finished product may be excellent but to get there you may have stressed the yeast and the stressed yeast may have produced all kinds of off flavors although those faults may be largely hidden by the sweetness of the finished wine and its acidic kick.
 

Old Corker

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Thanks for the reply @BernardSmith. Will it harm the slurry to sit in the fridge for a couple of day? I get that it won't be as active as it would if I poured the must on top of it in the bucket but thought that was better than just letting it sit at room temp. I can let it warm up while I let the SP must off-gas. Was thinking I would give it a little starter kick before pitching. Sound about right?
 

BernardSmith

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Not sure why the must for SP will be off gassing. If the yeast is the slurry and the slurry is in the fridge then there is no CO2 produced and so nothing to be "off-gassed". What I would do is allow the slurry to reach the same temperature as the lemon juice must and then add the juice to the slurry or the slurry to the juice. The critical point is that there should be very little or no difference in temperature between the must and the yeast. And of course , the temperature of the yeast should be not far below or above blood warmth
 

Old Corker

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Sorry, I meant letting the Kmeta and sorbate dissipate from the lemon juice. Should have been more clear. What do you think of my thought about kick starting the slurry? Add a little must and nutrient and let the yeast get started before mixing. Like a starter.
 
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