When my wife asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I had a hard time coming up with something as I had recently finished my e-HERMs build and was at the point where I didn't really need any equipment. We were sitting on the couch, watching something on Food Network when one of the chefs used a pressure cooker to braise some meat. I've never used a pressure cooker, but I've been wanting to try cooking in one and I knew that there was a way to use it to can starter wort to cut down on starter preparation time, so I asked my wife for a pressure canner.
I specifically asked for a Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Canner. I chose this one because it was big enough to can seven quarts of wort at a time, yet small enough that I felt it would fit on a shelf in my garage.
I followed Drew Beechum's excellent writeup. Make sure you read the manual for your pressure cooker and heed the warnings. Pressure vessels can be dangerous if used incorrectly.
I made two batches of six quarts each for a total of 12 quarts of starter wort. I typically build starters around 2L in size, so this should last me for at least six brews.
I posted a picture on Facebook and it elicited a comment to the effect of why bother doing this when Norther Brewer is selling pre-canned starter wort. There are a couple of good reasons to do this myself instead of just buying the pre-canned wort:
- The pre-canned wort has to be diluted, which means you still have to boil and cool water which eliminates any time savings
- Cost $9.99/4 pack + shipping. Each can will make 1L of wort.
Let's do a bit of cost analysis...I bought a 3lb bag of DME. It cost me about $13. I used 12 * 3.2oz = 38.4 oz of DME, leaving me about 10oz for next time. In addition to this, I had to buy a case of quart sized mason jars ($14). The jars are reusable, so that won't be a recurring cost, but the lids are one time use. You can get a 48 pack of lids for about $10, so around $2.50 for 12. My initial cost (ignoring the cost of the pressure canner) was DME ($13) + jars ($14) = $27 and I produced 12 quarts. To buy that much of NB's wort, I'd have to spend $29.97 + $7.99 shipping....pretty close, but I come out ahead.
Things change a bit for my next batch. At that point, I'll just be spending for consumables. DME ($13) + lids ($2.50) = $15.50, so about half the cost of NB's starter wort. If you're saving ~$15/batch, you'll make up the cost of the pressure cooker in roughly six batches of starter wort...for me this will probably be about 2 years.
This ignores one important thing; I now have a pressure canner/cooker to use to cook soups, tough cuts of meat, jams/jellies, pickles, and any other recipe I can find. This is a big win in my book as I like to cook.
I'm looking forward to making my next yeast starter. It should be as easy as allowing the yeast to warm to room temperature, sanitizing my flask/funnel/stir bar, pouring a couple jars of wort into the flask, and pitching some yeast.