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Old 01-20-2010, 09:12 PM   #1
keelanfish
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Default First Lager Fermentation Question

I brewed a 13 gallon batch of Vienna Lager yesterday. This is my first lager and brewday went great. I'm fermenting in a Sanke Keg using one of Derrin's nifty converters with racking cane, blow off and thermowell. I chilled to 65 degrees with my immersion chiller, then racked into the keg leaving most of the cold break material behind. I then placed the keg in a rubbermaid bin, filling the bottom 6 inches up with water and ice and managed to get it chilled down to around 50 degrees. I then oxygenated with O2 and carb stone and pitched rehydrated S-23 yeast. This morning when I woke up it was at 46 degrees. Before I went to work I setup my controller and fermwrap to kick on when it goes below 46 and added more ice to keep it cool. I plan to ramp that up to 50 and let it ferment at 50 until complete. It's sitting on my back deck, in the shade, but unfortunately the air temperature got up into the 60s today. Over the next weeks daytime highs are to be between 55 and 65 and the nightime lows between 45 and 29. I have no other way to ferment lagers and also don't have any means to record temperature fluctuations while I'm at work. Any thoughts on this setup or advice on ways I can improve the possibility of maintaining constant temperature?



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Old 01-20-2010, 09:48 PM   #2
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well instead of relying on nature to control your lows and highs get a mini fridge. hopefully you have a two stage controller. if you do you can run both your fermwrap and the mini-fridge. this will offer a lot more control over the temp and protect your brew from the light.



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Old 01-20-2010, 11:26 PM   #3
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Yeah, I know. Plans for a full size lagering fridge, glycol system, etc are in the works. Until then I'm trying to make do. Light isn't a problem since I'm fermenting in a 15.5 gallon Sanke.

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Old 01-21-2010, 02:47 AM   #4
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I would recommend using some sort of insulated container if possible, and as big a thermal mass as you can get. Since you're using a Sanke keg, maybe use a full size garbage can with as much water as you can fit in it. Then wrap that with insulation or blankets.
Good luck

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Old 01-21-2010, 03:15 PM   #5
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gxm, the thermal mass is a good idea. I've got it in a huge rubbermaid container, probably 4' long by 2' wide by 2' tall and have it filled with water to about half way up the keg. I add ice to the water as needed. The top half of the keg has the fermwrap taped to it and is covered by a doubled towel to make sure the heat goes into the keg and not dissipate into the air. So far from what I've seen, I'm able to keep it between 48 and 52. Hopefully those temperature swings don't result in poor fermentation.

As I left for work this morning there were still no signs of blowoff activitiy. As it's in a keg, I can't see what's happening with the wort. It had been about 30 hours since pitching at that point. Is this lag normal for lagers? Also, what should I expect to see with the ferementation (off gassing, vigorous blow off, temperature increase)?

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Old 01-22-2010, 12:27 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by keelanfish View Post
As I left for work this morning there were still no signs of blowoff activitiy. As it's in a keg, I can't see what's happening with the wort. It had been about 30 hours since pitching at that point. Is this lag normal for lagers? Also, what should I expect to see with the ferementation (off gassing, vigorous blow off, temperature increase)?
I'm not surprised by a long lag time, 13 gallons of lager is alot for a single packet of dried yeast.
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Old 01-22-2010, 03:19 AM   #7
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I pitched two 11.5 gram packets of rehydrated dried yeast. I still think that is underpitched, but oh well. Still no off gassing from the blow off tube tonight, 48 hours after pitching. I gave it another 1 minute long blast of O2 and sealed everything back up. I also checked all the miscellaneous connections to make sure they were all airtight and that it wasn't offgassing somewhere else and it all checks out.

What should the top of fermentation look like with lagers? I shined a flashlight in it and it was pretty foamy.

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Old 01-22-2010, 07:40 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by keelanfish View Post
I pitched two 11.5 gram packets of rehydrated dried yeast. I still think that is underpitched, but oh well. Still no off gassing from the blow off tube tonight, 48 hours after pitching. I gave it another 1 minute long blast of O2 and sealed everything back up. I also checked all the miscellaneous connections to make sure they were all airtight and that it wasn't offgassing somewhere else and it all checks out.

What should the top of fermentation look like with lagers? I shined a flashlight in it and it was pretty foamy.
According to Mr Malty, 4 packets of dried yeast is what you'd need for a 1.052 lager, so you're definitely under-pitched. http://www.mrmalty.com/calc/calc.html
Anyway, foamy is good. Lagers won't give the thick krausen that ales have, but most of mine have 1/2" of foam which generally starts white and thin and becomes a dirty brown. It should still make beer
Be sure to check for diacetyl towards the end of fermentation, and maybe give it a d-rest at 60-65 towards the end of fermentation to be on the safe side.
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Old 01-22-2010, 05:35 PM   #9
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Thanks for all the input gxm. I'll post updates on the progress.

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Old 01-23-2010, 11:58 AM   #10
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Pleased to report that last night the blow off tube started bubbling about once every second. 72 hours of lag, but it's rocking now!



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