When I started to brew in early 1993, no one I knew used a stir plate. That count included all of the hardcore amateur brewers I knew at that point in time and throughout my first pass through the hobby. I brewed all-grain beer and maintained a yeast bank on agar slants for over a decade before taking a hiatus to focus on my family. When I came back to the hobby in 2013, everyone was using a stir plate and proclaiming that a stir plate was a “must have” if one was going to make starters. My experience with yeast cultures did not align with this assertion. However, being inquisitive, I played along and purchased a stir plate and bar. The performance of my cultures did not match what was promised. The media was so foul smelling after turning off the stir plate that I ditched it and went back to my old way of making a starter.
This blog entry covers yeast propagation in general, claims made by proponents of stir plates, and my method of making and handling a starter. My method is not the do all, be all yeast starter method, but it provides a simpler, lower cost way of making a starter that performs just as well, if not better than one made using a stir plate.