Usually when I make a yeast starter, I use dry malt extract (DME) - only because I believe it is the "standard method," and it has sort of become a habit. So I usually have a pound or two in the back of my fridge for that purpose. But if you've had a chance to read about my first attempt to brew with homemade malt, you already know that I had to basically ransack my fridge during that brew session, and all my available DME wound up in that beer (which miraculously came out excellent and I am drinking it right now).
In any case, today I wanted to get a starter going so that I can brew my Belgian Dubbel tomorrow, and suddenly realized I have no DME. So I decided to make a tiny little mash to produce a quart of wort for the starter. First I smacked my Wyeast pack to release the nutrient pack, which needs at least 3 hours to activate:
Then I opened up my ProMash software and created a small recipe. I immediately discovered that ProMash will not allow a recipe smaller than 1 gallon. So I kept the batch size at 1 gallon and adjusted the grain weight until I achieved a predicted 1.040 specific gravity, which came out to 1.44 pounds. Then I divided that by 4 and came up with 0.36 pounds - the amount of Belgian Pale Malt (my primary ingredient in this brew) necessary (at 75% efficiency) to make a tiny mash and produce a quart of wort.
Next I measured out 0.36 pound of grain and 1 quart of water, adding a little extra water for grain absorption and boil off. I also decided to use a couple chunks of Belgian candy sugar, since it is part of my recipe and I feel that it is always best for a yeast starter to consume the same sugar profile it will eventually be expected to devour and make beer out of:
Then I heated up the water to the mid 150's and dumped in my grains. The mixture stabilized at about 151 degrees:
I left it for an hour, goosing up the temp every 10-15 minutes by turning on the stove burner for a few seconds and stirring gently. Then I heated it up to 170 degrees for a 10 minute mash-out. I got out another pan, put my mesh strainer on top, and dumped the mash through it:
I then transferred the strainer back to the first pot and slowly drizzled the hot wort over the grains, performing this action 3 or 4 times back and forth between the two pots:
I eventually ended up with a pile of "spent" grains, and some nice looking wort:
I brought the tiny wort to a boil. Here's its miniature-sized hot-break:
Then I added the chunks of dark Belgian candy sugar:
I boiled for about 10-15 minutes, then dumped it into my sanitized 1 gallon fermentor that I use for starters (no I don't have a cool flask and stir-plate):
I chilled the wort in an ice bath:
And finally, I aerated vigorously, and then pitched my yeast:
And that's it! It's just like a regular mash, just super-tiny! It's the first time I've ever tried doing it that way, but it appears to have turned out very nicely - I guess we'll find out for sure tomorrow morning. See you then!