Yeast Starter

The following recipe is pulled directly from Jack Keller’s web page on Yeast Starters. He’s written an excellent page there that I highly recommend reading. However, the way he has written out the process of creating a yeast starter, in my humble opinion, needs a lot of rereading in order to be comprehended. On this page I have merely restructured his instructions in a traditional recipe format that I find easier to understand. Jack is apparently flooded with e-mails, so he’s hard to get a hold of. I hope he does not take offense that I am providing my rendition of his recipe here in case others might find it useful.


  • 1 – 4 cup tupperware container with lid for yeast starter (larger is fine)
  • 1 – packet of active dry yeast
  • 1 cup of 100 – 105°F tap or spring water.
    The harder the water the better; do not use distilled water.
  • ½ cup of non-citrus, pre-sweetened fruit juice.
    Concord or white grape are good depending on the wine you are making.
  • 1 – 1 cup tupperware container with lid for juice (larger is fine)


  1. In the first container combine yeast and water. Stir gently, cover and let sit.
  2. After 30 minutes check the yeast. If it appears to be active (not dead) cover and let sit.
  3. While that sits set out a ¼ cup of fruit juice so that it will aclimate to the same temperature as the yeast starter.
  4. After 3 hours add the ¼ cup of juice to the yeast starter, cover and let sit in a warm place. Set out another ¼ cup of juice.
  5. After 4 hours check viability, add the second ¼ cup of juice to the yeast starter, cover and let sit in a warm place.
  6. After another 4 hours the yeast starter is ready to add to the must.

Cabernet Franc

This batch was made from a kit of Winexpert Selection Original Series: Cabernet Franc ($110 but I got it on sale for $77!) and French Oak Cubes (Heavy Toast) ($8). I’ve been disappointed with my homemade red wines so far. Some of my problems are due to bad corks, some due to cheap wine kits. Some of my disappointment, I fear, is due to the limitations of the home winemaking tool kit. I highly recommend using high-quality corks for wines that you plan to store for more than three months. I also highly recommend buying $100+ red wine kits if you want a respectable red wine. So far the Winexpert Selection Original Series:Luna Rossa is very promising.

As you can see, with this batch I’m going to experiment with simulating the oak-barrel aging process by way of soaking oak cubes in the finished wine. I plan to add the oak cubes to the wine once it is almost completely clear. Once added I will keep the wine in bulk storage with the cubes for at least two months.

This kit, like other red wine kits, came with some packets of oak chips/sawdust. They are intended to be added to the initial must. I am sure this adds a little oak flavor to the wine, but it seems like the oak chips get filtered out as the must is transferred to the secondary fermenter. So the oak chips are not in contact with the wine for very long. The packaging on these oak cubes states that they should be left in contact with the wine for at least eight weeks. Logically I can see how this would simulate storing the wine in oak barrels. We’ll see.

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