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Yeast_Love
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+1 on making starters. I just made one for my first 5 gallon batch in a long time. Compared to direct-pitching the smack-pack, fermentation is 100x more solid and vigorous. I'm moving to kegging soon, and from what I've read it is basically the next step for people at your stage (I'm at the same place as you are, although with a few more batches under my belt). Might I also recommend a refractometer for testing the OG of your wort pre-boil. More accurate, no need to correct for temperature, and you only need a drop. They work wonderfully. You'll still need to the hydrometer for testing after fermentation (alcohol throws off the refractometers and I don't trust the correction algorithm).
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Dec 6, 2011