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Old 02-10-2010, 05:44 PM   #1
MadHopper
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Default Noob Lager question

My first post on HomeBrewTalk !!!

So I have been a home-brewer for all of three months. Have made two ales, one hefe (all bottled in various stages of being ready to drink) and a Doppelbock, in which I am experimenting with a Ale yeast.

Now I want to start brewing a lager in time for summer. I have all the materials for a Celeia Pilsner and will be using a chest freezer with temp controls for the fermentation. And I will be using Wyeast Bohemian Lager 2124.

So the main question is that - do I need to use a starter culture with this yeast ? Or, can I just slap the pack and let it warm up for several hours ?

Secondly, with or without the starter culture, what's the best temperature to keep the fermenter right after pitching the yeast (before fermentation begins)? Some places say 58F, some recommend just room temperature. My 'fermentation closet', where I have been making the ales, hovers around 66-70F. Will that be okay ?

Finally, is it better to 'lager' the beer for a longer time in the primary, or after bottling (or both ?)?


There is a lot of information on all the above questions out there - but I've found them often conflicting. Hopefully some of the experienced homebrewers out here can help shed some light. (Or confuse me even further )

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Old 02-10-2010, 06:10 PM   #2
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Check this site out:

http://www.mrmalty.com/calc/calc.html

Great info on yeast starters and how much to pitch. You should always use a starter with a lager, since its lower temps, it takes the yeast a lot longer to work and the increased pitching rate helps.

If you are looking for the cleanest lager you can get, pitch your yeast at 48-50 and keep the fermentation at that temp. Some do pitch at room temp, let the yeast grow, and then crash to lager temps for fermentation. However, lagers are meant to be clean and the yeast produces most of their off flavors, esters, etc during the growth phase. If you pitch warm, the yeast will produce more of these flavors than you need.

I do not have any experience bottling lagers, since i started making them after I keg, but you would be better off lagering before bottling. Part of the lagering phase helps a lot of the yeast and proteins settle out, creating a cleaner tasting beer. You probably want that stuff out before you bottle. Then you can condition and carbonate at room temperature. The small amount of activity that occurs for carbonation wont produce any off flavors.

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Old 02-11-2010, 04:31 AM   #3
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Thought I would expand on the one response you received. Definitely make a starter, you'll need a starter for your lager moreso than ales. Check out Mr. Malty as mentioned already.
As far as temps go, get the wort down to the fermentation temp before you pitch the yeast. Actually a few degrees below and then let it warm up is even better. This will give you a cleaner taste you'd want in your lager, especially a pils. Use the lower end of the recommended temps for your yeast too if you can. Once fermentation is finished, transfer out of your fermenter and bulk lager if you can (like in a carboy or corny). Once lagering is finished, bottle it then. If you can't bulk lager, I suppose leaving it in the bottle at lagering temps is better than skipping it entirely.

My last lager can be summed up like this:
2L starter, fermented out, chilled and decanted. Stepped back up to 2L again, fermented out, chilled and decanted to about 1L. Chilled wort down to 44 with ice bath, then pitched yeast (which was about the same temp). Let it rise to 50. Fermented for over a month (I use 1 day for every 4 points at a minimum, but check gravities). Transfer to corny for lagering, lager as long as you can stand it. I've only made a few lagers, but they've turned out quite well.

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Old 02-11-2010, 02:46 PM   #4
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StoneHands has some good info. I agree with the advocates of pitching low and then slowly raising temp up to fermentation temp.

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Old 02-11-2010, 03:05 PM   #5
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If I were you I would really look into utilizing the "kolsch" process. With your "closet" temperature being unsuitable for fermenting lagers, your best bet may be to brew lager recipe's using kolsch yeast and then going through the lagering process......I can tell you that some really nice beers can be made this way. It could save you a lot of time and headache.

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Old 02-11-2010, 05:06 PM   #6
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Thanks all of you for responding and for the valuable suggestions. Seems like a starter culture is the way to go for a lager.

I have a followup question on the starter: as per calculations on MrMalty, almost 2 gallons of starter is recommended for lager with OG 1.051 (total 376 billion yeasts) or 1 gallon for intermittent shaking!! Isn't that a bit too much? Most starter recipes I have seen call for 2L, and perhaps stepping up once (as StoneHands has suggested). Starting with a pack of Wyeast (100 billions), a two-step starter, both at 2L should get it up to near 400 billion, right?

@StoneHands: you mentioned chilling the wort to 44F in an ice bath. Wonder how long it takes you to do that? I am not using a wort chiller and usually takes me almost 20mins just to get down to 75-80F!

I have been transferring all my ales so far to secondary, so I am planning to do the same for my lager - rack to a secondary and lager for a few weeks at least.

@permo: I will be getting a chest freezer and temp controller this weekend. So I should be okay on the temperature for fermenting as such. But I will try the 'kolsch' process too sometime. Thanks.

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Old 02-12-2010, 12:46 AM   #7
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I use a wort chiller to get the wort in my pot down to 70 or 80, and then transfer to my fermenter. I use a carboy. I picked up Yooper's idea of using an Igloo cooler to keep the fermenting beer down to temp - it actually works very well, I don't think I get more than a 2 degree swing in temps. Anyway, after putting the wort in the carboy, I put it in the igloo cooler surrounded by ice water. I usually brew in the morning, finished by lunch, cool it for the rest of the day and then pitch late at night once it gets down to temp. I'll aerate just before pitching too. The wort chiller and ice bath cool pretty quickly, but I make sure everything is fairly equalized by leaving it all day. I use my floating thermometer in the bath. I'm still amazed at how well the cooler holds an even temp by just swapping out an ice bottle occasionally. I'll then lager in two 3 gallon kegs in a mini fridge, works pretty well.

As far as the amount of starter, I use Mr. Malty as a guide, but pretty much just step up my lager starter twice every time in my 2L flask and I get what I get as far as cell count. It's probably underpitching according to the calculator but it seems to work well, certainly better than just one vial. Give yourself plenty of time on a lager starter too. Even at room temp, they seem to take at least a day or two to ferment out, then another day or two to crash cool so you can decant. I try to start my starter 8-10 days before I brew.

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