|The elusive creamy layer|
of supposedly good yeast.
If you're not following Steven and Woodland Brewing Research. You need to be. Along with Marshall Schott (Brulosophy.com). Steven is taking a practical common sense approach to brewing. He doesn't care what tradition or cannon says. He follows the science. He also wrote a book. I have it, it is somewhat technical, but it is also pretty excellent. I don't recommend it for brand new brewers, but if you are intermediate or advanced, there is loads of great information in Brewing Engineering. Steven has also pioneered a 15 minute brewing approach that is truly fascinating.
For me the big take away has been in how I handle yeast. Any step or process that I can eliminate, gets eliminated. Not only does this save time, it also reduces the chances of a process error or problem. 12 pint canning jars are $10.00 at your local Target. This is a way easier way to handle your yeast cake. Just save it. The whole thing. Drain the beer off, add a little pre boiled room temperature water to lower the viscosity, and package the whole thing. Done.
If you really want to manage your cell counts, and build starters Steven also has great information about setting up a home laboratory, viability testing, and cell growth testing. I don't do any of that. I brew. So I find that two pint jars of slurry (yeast cake) will give the same kind of fermentation as a starter, in most of my beers.