Advice for Lager novices?

Discussion in 'General Brewing Discussions' started by JAMC, Nov 2, 2012.

  1. JAMC

    JAMC Member

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    Now that the temperature is well into single figures, I though it might be useful to gather some info together for those (like me!) who've never attempted lager with their homebrew setup.

    My understanding of the key difference in process between ales and lagers is that the lager fermentation is supposed to happen at very low temperatures and can take months rather than weeks to complete. Is that all there is to it? If find it hard to believe it could be that simple.
     
  2. Brewmaster Tom

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    I have done a couple of lagers and while it is a little more challenging than ales, it is certainly worth it when you crack it open and taste your wonderful creation. I too do it in the "colder" months of the year since I do not have a spare fridge to do it in.

    Lagers are generally done at cooler temperature...I believe most lager yeast work from the upper 40's to upper 50's for temperature, but I generally shoot for 50-52. It does take a little bit longer for fermentation due to the cooler temperatures. Biggest piece of advice is to make sure you have a large enough pitch of yeast whether it is pitching multiple packs or making a HUGE starter; and also making sure it is properly aerated. Once fermentation is nearly complete you can do a diacetyl rest (warm it back up to ale temps) for a few days. Some people say the d-rest is unnecessary but it doesn't hurt to do it, so I always do it.

    Then you rack it to a secondary vessel and keep it as close to 32 as you can and just let it sit for as long as you desire. I would say 4 week minimum and I have done as long as 16 weeks. IMHO, the longer you lager it the better.

    These are some of my tips/observations based on my limited lagering experience and Im sure others can chime in with additional tips and tricks.

    GOOD LUCK and CHEERS!!!
     
  3. JAMC

    JAMC Member

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    Yep, in the same boat here.

    So converting back to metric we'd be talking 10 or 11 degrees C as a guideline. It's 6c (43f) outside right now. How much longer would the primary last? With ales I'm usually working on either 14 or 21 day fermentations.

    I've heard you need roughly twice the yeast cell count you'd typically want for an ale. Is that a good guideline?

    How much fermentation activity, if any, takes place during the lagering phase? Does the temp during this phase have a noticable impact on attenuation?
     
  4. Brewmaster Tom

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    It doesn't add all that much time...I generally do my primary fermentation for 21 to 28 days followed by a 2-3 day diacetyl rest. Most of the time when I check the gravity at transfer it is where it should be. A couple times it's been a little higher than I'd care for so I'd just swirl it and let it go a few more days. At that point the bulk of the fermentation is done so you won't get any unwanted byproducts from fermenting too warm.

    Here is a good site that I use for all my yeast calculations. I feel its better than MrMalty because you can do step calculations for your starters. But I would say as a general rule, you do need AT LEAST twice the amount of yeast.

    At the lagering phase, any appreciable fermentation has been completed. Lagering helps to brighten your beer by making pretty much anything left in suspension (yeast, proteins, etc.) drop out of the beer. And to me it seems to help smooth out the flavor of the beer. The only affect that temperature has on lagering is the length of time you need to do it...the colder you can lager at, the shorter time you can do it for.

    CHEERS!!
     
  5. Brewmaster Tom

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  6. LarryBrewer

    LarryBrewer Active Member

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    Another thing is, I always keg my lagers. In order to bottle condition a lager you need to add priming sugar and a bit of yeast. Never tried that myself.

    When you rack, make sure you have enough volume to completely fill the secondary fermentor to avoid oxidation. It is okay to use a bucket for the primary, but in the secondary I always use a glass carboy.

    The attenuation in the lagering phase is very slight if any. It takes 3 weeks in the primary for me at 47F / 8.3C then 4 weeks in the secondary at 33F / 0.5C. At that point, it can take a couple months for the flavor to peak. I plan on my largers taking 4-6 months to be drinkable from the date the batch was started. There are ways to speed this up, like putting the secondary under pressure (basically priming it during the largering phase), as Kai does:

    Here are some in depth details:
    http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?ti ... ing_Lagers
     
  7. LarryBrewer

    LarryBrewer Active Member

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    FYI - we are about to release a yeast calculator at this site.
     
  8. Brewmaster Tom

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    +1 for Larry's tip on bottle conditioning....I bottle condition all my beers and for my lagers I add my dose of priming sugar and rehydrate a yellow Munton's pack and give the bottling bucket a very gentle stir every 6 bottles or so to ensure even distribution of yeast and sugar.

    Thanks for catching that Larry or there would have been a post in a few months asking why the lager isn't carbonating!!!!

    CHEERS fellas!!!!
     
  9. LarryBrewer

    LarryBrewer Active Member

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    How many grams of yeast do you use for a 5 gallon batch of lager when priming it?
     
  10. Brewmaster Tom

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    I don't bother measuring and just use the whole 6g pack....probably way overkill on the yeast but the packet is only $1.XX so I don't worry about it too much.

    CHEERS!!
     
  11. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    Whether to add yeast or not to lagers for bottle conditioning depends on the time lagered. When I'm doing a "regular" lager with about a month in the fridge, I don't add back any yeast, just the priming sugar. No problems with that, as the "clear" beer still has a few thousand yeast cells per milliliter. My Doppelbock, three months in the fridge, gets yeast added. It's sat there cold long enough that the yeast might not be active enough to carbonate the beer in a reasonable amount of time.
     
  12. TheZel66

    TheZel66 Member

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    If you make a yeast starter, I am assuming with lager yeast that starter has to be around 50-52F to do its thing. How soon before you brew should you start the starter? Is the night before a morning brew still ok? or should I start it a day sooner?
     
  13. Brewmaster Tom

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    You do not have to make the starter at 50-52 degrees because you are just trying to grow yeast, not make beer. When you are ready to actually pitch the yeast into your wort you will want your yeast close to the same temperature as your wort to avoid shocking it.

    Time required depends on the size of the starter you are building. I just have a 2L flask so I go through a couple of steps, so it takes me about a week to build an adequate starter; a day to spin on the plate, a day to cold crash, decant and do it again. If you can make a gallon starter you may be able to get away with just one step or vice versa if you only have a 1L flask you'll need an extra step or two.

    CHEERS!!!
     
  14. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    1 Qt Starter: Start 2 days prior to brewing. Boil 1 Cup LME in 4 Cups water (both are volume measurements - metric use 250 ml and 1 liter respectively) for ten minutes. Cool to room temperature. Transfer to a sanitized 1 gallon (4-liter) container, cover with a sanitized cap and shake to aerate, pitch your yeast then cover with loosely crimped, sanitized aluminum foil. Swirl up occasionally to keep yeast suspended. Before brewing, place in the refrigerator to allow yeast to settle. Pour off most of the liquid, leaving just enough to suspend the yeast prior to pitching, and let the slurry warm to just below your pitch temperature. Pitch into 5 gal (19 l) cooled wort.
     
  15. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    And you can cut the recipe for the starter in half, it will still help get fermentation started much quicker than the tube, smack-pack or package of dried yeast.
     
  16. ChilliMayne

    ChilliMayne New Member

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    Here's what Whitelabs instructs you to do, to make a yeast starter. Ive always followed this without fail. I make it 48hrs prior to brew day.

    Procedure:In a medium sauce pan, add 2 pints of water and 1/2 cup Dried Malt Extract (DME). Mix well and boil the solution for about 10 minutes to sterilize. Cover and cool the pan to room temperature in an ice bath. This will give you a wort of approximately 1.040 OG. Keeping the Original Gravity low is important because you want to keep the yeast in its growth phase, rather than its fermentation phase. The fermentation phase will create alcohol which can be toxic to yeast in high concentrations.Pour the wort into a sanitized glass container (flask, growler, etc.) and pitch the vial of yeast. Cover the top of the container with a sanitized piece of aluminum foil so that it is flush with the container, but will still allow CO2 to escape. Vigorously shake or swirl the container to get as much oxygen dissolved in the solution as possible. Allow the starter to sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours, occasionally shaking it to keep the solution aerated.You probably won’t see any visible activity, but the yeast is busy taking up the oxygen and sugars in the solution and growing new cells. After the yeast has consumed all of the nutrients and oxygen, it will form a milky white layer on the bottom of the container. If you are not planning on pitching the yeast right away, you can store it in the refrigerator with the foil still in place. When you are ready to brew, decant off most of the clear liquid from the top, being careful not to disturb the yeast layer below. Once the yeast and your wort are at approximately the same (room) temperature, rouse the starter yeast into suspension and pitch the entire quantity into your fermenter.Typical Starter Volumes for 5 gallons:
    To activate the yeast: 1 pint (with 1/4 cup DME)
    To revitalize yeast past its Best Before Date: 2 pints (with 1/2 cup DME)
    To brew a high gravity beer: 2 pints (with 1/2 cup DME)
    To brew a lager beer, starting fermentation 50-55F: 4 pints (with 1 cup DME)
     
  17. LarryBrewer

    LarryBrewer Active Member

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    Our new yeast calculator will help you dial in just how big of a starter to make. The white labs advice is a very rough guideline. Making starters is a great way to take your beer to the next level. I do it for ales above 1.040, and all lagers - which pretty much means my stir plate is going before every brew. The exception is dry yeast - just buy more packs to hit the desired number of cells.

    http://www.brewersfriend.com/yeast-pitc ... alculator/
     
  18. JAMC

    JAMC Member

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    Have been meaning to ask; every time starters are discussed, DME is always the food of choice for the yeast. Is it possible to make starters with something cheaper? DME goes for about $11/Kg, and while I don't use it for anything else, it would be far simpler to just use whatever sugar I've got in the house. Does the yeast food in a starter really matter as long as I hit about 1.030 or 1.040?
     
  19. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    I've never tried anything else but I'd stick with the DME. It has all the nutrients the yeast need. Using sugars could result in malnourished yeast, I don't know, I've never considered it. Here in the States I get DME for $15 for three pounds, it's enough for several starters. Before I started using starters, I never had any trouble with fermentation, it just took longer to get started. You might try a mixture of DME and sugar but the yeast need at least some of the nutrients to grow and reproduce well.
     
  20. LarryBrewer

    LarryBrewer Active Member

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    Use 100% DME - the nutrients and sugar profile are what you want to train the yeast to, and what they thrive on.

    The cheapest option is to make extra wort on brew day. Before the boil (after mashing), just pour whatever amount you want to save into sanitized jars and refrigerate.
     

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