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 Post subject: Making Tempeh from Scratch
PostPosted: Sun Jan 05, 2014 1:18 am 
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Huffs Nutritional Yeast
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I ordered tempeh starter, bought my soybeans, and was super excited to start making my own blocks. I followed the online instructions to a T -- my soybeans have now been "incubating for a solid 40 hours, and all they're doing is perspiring a bit and getting dried out and wrinkly. Not a spore of mold anywhere to be seen.

Anyone got ideas about what could have gone wrong? I didn't really crush the beans...but the recipe didn't tell me too. I did de-hull them, made the holes in the ziplocs...etc etc. I made it the day the starter showed up, so I'll be real mad if it's dead...

Anyone got tips?

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 Post subject: Re: Making Tempeh from Scratch
PostPosted: Sun Jan 05, 2014 10:44 am 
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What temperature are you holding and how are you holding it?

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 Post subject: Re: Making Tempeh from Scratch
PostPosted: Sun Jan 05, 2014 2:48 pm 
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I started off in a dehydrator...on it's only heat setting. Did that for about 30 hours...when that wasn't working, I switched to an oven with just the oven light on...

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 Post subject: Re: Making Tempeh from Scratch
PostPosted: Sun Jan 05, 2014 5:00 pm 
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Chip Strong
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Hmmm. I've made a lot of tempeh from scratch (and taught several classes on tempeh-making), and never had an issue. You shouldn't need to crush the beans as long as you've dehulled them, but you should definitely have seen some kind of action after 30 hours! It sounds like your starter has died, for whatever reason, and I don't think this batch is gonna work out for you.
A few questions to see if I can figure out what might've gone wrong:

How par-cooked did you make the beans? I usually get them to the point that they're just soft, right before they'd start getting soft enough to eat and start losing their shape a little. If they weren't cooked enough, the started might've had trouble getting going.
Did you dry the beans after cooking and before adding starter? (Too wet and the starter won't necessarily work)
Did you let the beans cool to body temperature before adding starter? (Hotter than this can kill the starter)
Did you use apple cider vinegar to create an acidic environment? (some people don't use this and find it works out fine, but I've always used it just to be sure. It might be possible that this could be the problem, but seems unlikely).
Have you been measuring the temperature with a thermometer? A dehydrator might actually be too hot, which also would've killed the starter. The temperature needs to stay very strictly at 28-32C (82-90F).

I hope that helps! Let me know and we'll hopefully work it out together so that your next batch can be a success! Other PPKers might also have good suggestions.

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 Post subject: Re: Making Tempeh from Scratch
PostPosted: Sun Jan 05, 2014 8:22 pm 
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gunk wrote:
Have you been measuring the temperature with a thermometer? A dehydrator might actually be too hot, which also would've killed the starter. The temperature needs to stay very strictly at 28-32C (82-90F).


This is what my money is on. A way of measuring temperature goes a long ways here and a way of controlling it a premium. Both worth striving for.

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 Post subject: Re: Making Tempeh from Scratch
PostPosted: Mon Jan 06, 2014 12:59 am 
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Huffs Nutritional Yeast
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I didn't measure the temperature --- so I'm betting on things having gotten too hot and killed the starter. Perhaps I'll try another batch with just the oven light on, and skip the dehydrator to see if that's it. (Otherwise it's an angry letter to the starter provider.

I soaked the beans about 16 hours (removing hulls throughout, and then boiled (with apple cider vinegar) for about 40 minutes, after which I was able to pick out the remaining hulls. They were still totally holding shape, but the directions that came with the beans said 30 minutes...so I didn't want to overdo it. After draining, I left the heat on until all the water evaporated, then spread them out on a cutting board to cool for about ten minutes. They were definitely below body temperature when I added the starter.

Then I packed them in punctured ziplocs....put them in the dehydrator...and nothing. I'm hoping excessive heat was my issue, because I'm not sure what else I could fix...

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 Post subject: Re: Making Tempeh from Scratch
PostPosted: Mon Jan 06, 2014 6:31 am 
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Not that the acid is a major deal breaker but you might want to add it to your beans just prior to inoculating, not in the boil. Also before you start the next endeavor do what you can to measure the temperature of the oven just to see what it delivers.

Out of curiosity, where did you get your culture?

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 Post subject: Re: Making Tempeh from Scratch
PostPosted: Mon Jan 06, 2014 7:22 am 
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I got my cultures from topcultures (http://www.topcultures.com/) It's the only place that ships to the ME at a non-ridiculous rate...

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 Post subject: Re: Making Tempeh from Scratch
PostPosted: Mon Jan 06, 2014 7:22 am 
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Drunk Dialed Ian MacKaye
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gunk has some great advice and the old thread skill sharing thread might be helpful too viewtopic.php?f=15&t=15913


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 Post subject: Re: Making Tempeh from Scratch
PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 12:27 am 
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Chip Strong
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craiger_ny wrote:
Not that the acid is a major deal breaker but you might want to add it to your beans just prior to inoculating, not in the boil. Also before you start the next endeavor do what you can to measure the temperature of the oven just to see what it delivers.

Out of curiosity, where did you get your culture?


Yup, I would add the acid after cooking the beans. But I'm thinking it was probably that your dehydrator was too hot.
I've read accounts that say a higher temp to begin with can actually be beneficial in helping the starter take hold - 38C (100/101F), but you certainly shouldn't sustain that for more than maybe an hour or two. I'd imagine a standard dehydrator would probably keep things at about that temp the whole time.

Definitely try using the oven method! A friend of mine has done it that way, and the only issue she came up with was that it tended to dry the beans out a bit. But otherwise worked quite well.
These days, I'm using a lightglobe hooked up to a thermostat, and placed inside a box with my tempeh in a container inside. A slightly more involved setup, but worthwhile if you start making tempeh regularly and want a less labour-intensive way of doing things.

I hope the next batch turns out well for you! It will fluctuate a bit in temperature, and will warm up towards the end (as the spores have started growing lots and producing heat as they do), so keep an eye on it then. Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

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 Post subject: Re: Making Tempeh from Scratch
PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 12:33 am 
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Huffs Nutritional Yeast
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I'd restarted soaking beans right away, and last night put together a new batch...They're definitely well cooked this time, the beans are all split (or nearly all, I may have missed a couple) and I'm using the oven with the light on instead of the dehydrator. As of this morning when I checked on them after approximately 10 hours, there was zero activity. I'm starting to lose all hope here...

I feel like the oven is probably not warm enough...but I'm terrified to turn it on briefly and kill the spores (assuming they aren't already dead, which I'm beginning to think they are...) Crossing my fingers something happens before I get home from work in 9ish hours...otherwise I've officially wasted a couple kilos of soybeans not to mentions spores, vinegar and hours of time...

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 Post subject: Re: Making Tempeh from Scratch
PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 5:24 am 
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Chip Strong
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You probably won't be able to see too much activity (if any) after 10 hours. Don't lose hope! Also, if your incubator (oven, in this case) is a bit too cold, they'll take longer than usual to do their thing.
But yes, if this batch doesn't work then it's possible that your spores are dead already. If you think that might be the case, I'd write to the supplier.

Do you have any way of getting a thermometer? It's really your best bet to make sure that the tempeh stays warm enough. It's really important that it stays the same temperature the whole time (within a margin of a few degrees), and if you're planning to make future batches you'll find that your results are much better (tempeh texture will be much more even).

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 Post subject: Re: Making Tempeh from Scratch
PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 5:25 am 
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Chip Strong
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Another thing you could try is putting a hot water bottle in the oven with your tempeh if you're worried about it getting too cold, especially overnight.

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 Post subject: Re: Making Tempeh from Scratch
PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 7:14 am 
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gunk wrote:
Another thing you could try is putting a hot water bottle in the oven with your tempeh if you're worried about it getting too cold, especially overnight.


Yes. I know it's a little late to the game but you could even heat up a pot of water to put in the oven before starting. My incubator is a seedling heating mat with some bricks on top of it inside an old cooler. I have it hooked to a thermostat. The bricks make a nice thermal mass and I'd imagine that a crock of warm/hot water would as well. A piece of cast iron with water in it would probably be temperature stable for quite a while.

Good luck jerusalemboheme6, I hope you don't get discouraged.

off topic but my being new here what is with the avatars with a broom or brush or whatever it is on people's heads?

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 Post subject: Re: Making Tempeh from Scratch
PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 7:17 am 
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Drunk Dialed Ian MacKaye
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craiger_ny wrote:
off topic but my being new here what is with the avatars with a broom or brush or whatever it is on people's heads?


viewtopic.php?f=4&t=14685 :)


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 Post subject: Re: Making Tempeh from Scratch
PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 7:57 am 
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Huffs Nutritional Yeast
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the hot water bottle sounds like a really good idea...or cast iron with water...I've got a regular body thermometer...not an oven safe one of any kind, and I'm not sure where I'd get one here...I don't think I've ever seen one.

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 Post subject: Re: Making Tempeh from Scratch
PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 8:09 am 
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You don't have to worry about oven safe these aren't oven temperatures we're working with here. As a matter of fact a thermometer that is made for high temperatures isn't go to be reliable on the low end.

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 Post subject: Re: Making Tempeh from Scratch
PostPosted: Wed Jan 08, 2014 3:50 pm 
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The second batch had a real slow start...but its worked, its worked!!! (Can you tell I'm super excited?)

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 Post subject: Re: Making Tempeh from Scratch
PostPosted: Thu Jan 09, 2014 5:12 am 
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Chip Strong
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Congrats! That's fantastic!

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 Post subject: Re: Making Tempeh from Scratch
PostPosted: Thu Jan 09, 2014 6:26 am 
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Very nice. It will generate a surprising amount of heat on its own so keep an eye on that but you got through the toughest part.

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