Last Friday, we had the opportunity to interview one of our longtime customers Dan Jeska, the founder of Stir Starters. We’ve been supplying Dan with PB-4P for over 10 years now. In the interview, we learn about Dan’s history and how Stir Starters came to be.
My name is Dan Jeska and at Stir Starters, we manufacture yeast magnetic stir plates for the home-brewing industry. We’ve been helping home-brewers since 2009.
Homebrewing requires good, viable, healthy yeast to get your fermentation off and running. Our product helps grow yeast and make sure it’s viable at the time needed for fermentation.
As the sole proprietor of the company, I run the entire show. However, I do have a few friends and relative that help me every now and then when I’m overwhelmed with orders.
How did you recognize a need for this?
Well, it all started 23 years ago when I began homebrewing myself. I received a copy of a book called “The Complete Joy of Homebrewing” by a gentleman named Charlie Papazian. It’s considered “the Bible of homebrewing”.
After reading it, I thought to myself, ‘I think I can do this.’ I started off and brewed my first batch of beer. From there, I experimented with more complicated brews and tried using whole grain instead of extracts.
There came a time where I decided to switch from dry yeast—which would be the kind of yeast cube in a cooking packet, usually used to make bread—to a liquid yeast. Liquid yeast is more complicated because it needs to be cultured and treated with a lot more care than dry yeast.
I consider myself a “gadget guy” who likes to build electronic gadgets so I started doing some research online. I saw some folks that were building their own magnetic interpolates for culturing. I thought, “Oh, that’s a good idea. I think I’ll build one for myself.”
After building one, I tried using the yeast in my next batch of beer and was pleasantly surprised. The yeast fermented quickly and cleanly. The beer turned out really well. The taste was noticeably better.
Then I thought, “Maybe I’ll buy enough parts to build 10 of these and give them to my home-brew friends at cost and see what they think.” That’s when I called up Circuit Specialists, ordered 10 of PB-4P and enough electronic parts to build 10 more stir plates. Everybody seemed to be quite pleased so I decided to sell a few on eBay.
Less than a month or two after posting the products on eBay, I asked my web designer friend to build me a website. Since then, the response has been very good. I’ve been very pleased with the number of people I’ve been able to help make better beer.
What does the build process look like?
In the beginning, I was building them individually because I only had three or four orders a week. But now, I have to build more at a time so I build them in batches of 200.
We take the cases of boxes I get from Circuit Specialists, remove the plastic bags, take the covers off, put screws in a particular bin and then I start drilling. Once the drilling is complete, we start assembling the electronic parts inside. After, we monitor the rotating magnets. There is a magnetic field inside that box that’s mounted to a computer fan, which we glue in.
After they pass the test, we label them, package them up and ship them to our customers. It usually takes about 20-25 minutes per unit.
What are the advantages of using a stir starter?
The main advantage is that it grows yeast at a much faster rate. The more constant contact for the yeast, the better it will grow. It’ll also help knock out any of the carbon dioxide that might develop during the fermentation and growth process.
Carbon dioxide inhibits growth so you want to knock that out of suspension, which can easily be done with stirring.
The other advantage is having constant contact with oxygen. Yeast requires oxygen to grow. With constant stirring, not only do you knock out CO2, but you also get a good exchange between the air and the surface of the liquid that you’re stirring.
What’s your favorite beer to brew?
I don’t have a favorite but I like to brew darker beers like stouts and porters. I’m a fan of just about every kind of beer there is.
If I wanted to build my own, how long would it your average electronics hobbyist and where do you recommend I start?
If you wanted to build it yourself, you’re probably going to spend an hour or two just locating the places you need to drill. You’ll need basic tools including a soldering iron, a drill, drill bits, and basic hands tools.
Once you have all the parts, you could complete the whole project in the afternoon – maybe two or three hours total.
But someone with minimal hobbyist skills could handle this project. You can find a free how-to guide along with recommended parts on my website.
We hope you enjoyed reading about Dan’s story and the story of Stir Starters! Interested in being featured on the blog in the customer spotlight? Email us and let us know! We’re always looking for community members to showcase on our blog.