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April 28, 2021 3 min read

The famous James Bond line about his martini preference - now in yeast starter context! You'll find passionate defenders of both methods of yeast starter techniques - but has anyone asked the yeast? We’ve established that we can improve our fermentation by giving yeast a great environment and getting them what they want. That brings us to Team 007. Shaken, not stirred. 

That’s great and all but what the heck is the “Shaken, Not Stirred” (SNS) method? 

It is exactly what it sounds like. We are going to shake the yeast starter instead of using a stir plate. No worries, you’re not going be shaking this thing constantly for 24 hours. It’s very passive after the initial preparation which is fairly quick and painless. The yeast aren't under continuous stirring or "shear" stress with this method and some believe this helps to keep off flavors from forming and won't oxidize the starter. 

I first heard about this technique through the Experimental Brewing podcast and read Denny Conn's blog entry where he describes his experience and decided to give it a shot. Let me be clear; I tried SnS because I was curious, not because I was dissatisfied with my stir plate starters. I did not expect to notice much, if any, difference in my fermentations. Well, fast forward two years and I'm not sure where my stir plate is anymore. This method is simple, dead simple, and it will give you a nice little mini-workout. A true win-win.

Here's what you'll need to get started with shaken, not stirred starters: 

  1. A vessel that is 4-5x the volume of your starter. I use a 1 gallon glass jug (demi-john, carboy) to make 1 qt. starters 
  2. A cap or solid stopper to seal your vessel during shaking
  3. A funnel
  4. A foam stopper or piece of foil
  5. Starter wort and yeast. 

Now that you've gathered your hardware, here's the step by step.

  1. Clean and sanitize your gear
  2. Prepare the starter wort ( I use the canned Propper Starter because it is so dang fast & easy)
  3. Pour room temperature starter wort into your vessel and seal. Funnels make this much easier.
  4. Shake your vessel. I mean shake it. Shake until foam fills the vessel 2/3 to 3/4 of the way up. More is better. Please do make sure you are dealing with a dry vessel before you do this, and have a good grip on it.
  5. Pitch the yeast, using the funnel to make sure it all gets in the starter wort
  6. Gently swirl or shake the yeast to disperse 
  7. Cap with a foam stopper or foil. 
  8. Occasionally swirl when you walk by or think about it
  9. Pitch the entire starter into cooled wort 18-24 hours after making 

That's it! Yes, it is that simple. I have been using this technique for a couple of years now and my beers are fermenting better because of it. I don't really bother with cell calculators or any of that because I find it's not been necessary for my beers. Oh and you'll never catch me pitching any more than a liter of starter - I have different techniques for high gravity beers, but this method has served me well and I don't have to think about it. It's one less thing to worry about. 

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