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Old 04-07-2008, 10:36 PM   #1
cdanprice
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Default My first lager; temp. control question

OK so I'm trying out my new lagerator. I brewed yesterday and set the temp controller to 70 degrees, because I read that you're supposed to step down from 70 degrees to fermentation temp (52 in my case) slowly over several days. Well, I did a yeast starter, and I noticed bubbling last night, about 4 hours after pitching. It was bubbling just barely this morning as well, so I dropped it down 4 degrees or so. When I got home from work, I stuck my head in to read the temp on the fermenter, and took a breath. My nostrils started burning, and my eyes started watering. I assume this is from the CO2 and maybe some other stuff. I've heard lager yeasts put off some crazy odors. There is also a thick krausen, and the airlock is going nuts. I took this to mean that fermentation is REALLY kicking, so I can drop the temp on down to 52, and forget dropping it slowly over the week. Is this correct?

This is a fairly low gravity brew, so I'm worried about a significant part of the fermentation taking place above the correct fermentation temp. Is that going to hurt my beer?

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Old 04-07-2008, 10:59 PM   #2
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I always pitch my lagers (and my ales) at fermenting temps. I pitch my lagers at 50 degrees, and my ales at 65 degrees. My understanding is that if you pitch warm, you'll have some unpleasant esters associated with a warm ferment. I know that some brewers recommend your process- I guess I would have a hard time knowing when to "turn it down". For comparison, I would never pitch an ale at 85 degrees, and expect it then to ferment well at 65 degrees. I pitch it at fermentation temperatures- same as for my lagers. I do use a BIG starter for lagers, and pitch the starter at 48 degrees into wort of 50 degrees.

My concern is that if your lagerator is set at 70, and fermentation kicked off so hard, it might have been much higher inside the fermenter- as much as 6-8 degrees higher. I would get it down to fermenting temps as soon as possible- remember that the fermentation is going to cause higher temperatures inside the fermenter- without stalling the fermentation. I don't know exactly how to do that- maybe drop it 7 degrees, wait an hour and check the temperature of the wort (do you have a thermometer strip on the outside of the fermenter, or a temperature probe inside?) and then drop it some more.

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Old 04-08-2008, 12:26 AM   #3
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I've got a thermo strip on the outside of the fermenter. When you say BIG starter. What does that mean? I used a 1 liter flask on a stirplate. It ran overnight, then I decanted and replaced with fresh wort. I decanted that then poured in fresh wort from the brew, swirled, and pitched. The total volume of yeast was maybe 1/4 to 1/2 cup. I know that's not BIG but is it close?

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Old 04-08-2008, 12:30 AM   #4
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Well, I usually make a liter starter, let it ferment out, and then add another liter of fresh wort. After that ferments out, I put it in the fridge for a few days and decant all that oxidized spent wort that fermented at room temperature. Then, on brew day, I warm it up to 48 degrees, and pitch it into the wort at 50 degrees. There is alot of yeast there. Many people recommend mrmalty's pitching calculator (on mrmalty's website) but I just guestimate it by stepping up the starter as I described. It works for me, so I never got very technical.

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Old 04-08-2008, 12:51 AM   #5
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That sounds like almost exactly what I did. I guess I should have just pitched at fermentation temp. Well, I'll see what turns out in a month or so!

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Old 04-08-2008, 01:59 PM   #6
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I pitched my lager at 70F and brought down to lagering temp at first activity. There are several school's of thought on what temp to pitch, each can make great lagers. As long as you didn't allow it to ferment too long (more than half a day) at room temp you shouldn't have off flavors. I would do a diacytle rest for at least 24hrs at room temp before racking to secondary. You will probably smell a strong sulfur odor for most of the primary fermentation=perfectly normal.

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Old 04-08-2008, 07:15 PM   #7
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I have made lagers that turn out fine using a warm start of fermentation and then slowly lowering the temperature. I get no off flavors and the fermentation does not go berserk and spew krausen all over the place. I just use a sanitized blow off tube and it does not get all dirty in most cases but the brew does have a nice krausen for 3 to 4 days at 52F in the freezer. I never use a secondary and have had wondeful results leaving the beer in the primary for 4 weeks. That gives the yeast time to clean up. When I keg I taste to see if there is diacetyl and do a rest if needed for 48 hours at 65F before keging. I then lager 3 weeks minimum. Usually longer. My latest Schworzbier is wonderful. It has no off flavors at all. I used WLP830 yeast that I made a starter 7 days in advance and propigated 3 times to make the final 1 gallon of starter which I pitched liquid and all (Half into each carboy).

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