There are four common alternatives to using dry malt extract (DME) when making a homebrew yeast starter.
The easiest way to make a yeast starter without DME is to purchase a canned yeast starter based on liquid malt extract (LME) but you can also make extra wort, make a small wort, or use second runnings from another batch of beer.
Most brewers agree that a yeast starter is needed to get the best performance from liquid yeast when brewing. More active yeast creates a higher ABV (alcohol by volume) and removes off-flavors that can be caused by underpitching.
The best alternatives to using DME when making a yeast starter are: – Make Extra Wort – Make a Small Wort – Second Running – Canned Starter (LME)
When making extra wort, be sure to increase the ingredients in your recipe accordingly so that you don’t dilute your beer. After the boil, pull off the extra gallon of wort, pressure can it in quart canning jars and store it in a cool dark place.
The simplest method for making a small wort is the Brew in a Bag (BIAB) technique. It uses minimal equipment, ensures fewer grain particles in the wort, and lessens cleanup time. Use your brewing software to create a small recipe and manipulate the grain amounts to give a resulting specific gravity of 1.040 or so.
After collecting enough wort for your big beer after the boil, the specific gravity of the runnings should still be high enough to produce a starter for a lower gravity beer. Just run another gallon of strike water through the grains a few times to loosen the remaining sugars, check the specific gravity to make sure it’s around 1.030, and boil.
Canned yeast starter doesn’t need to be boiled and there’s no powdery mess like with DME. It’s quick, easy, and requires minimal equipment. It also has a long shelf life when stored at normal room temperatures. Just dilute with distilled water, shake and put on a stir plate for 24 hours.