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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Fermentation & Yeast > First lager very slow?
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Old 07-18-2013, 04:32 PM   #1
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Default First lager very slow?

After plenty of ales under my belt, I'm trying my first lager. I built an icebox out of a nice 3/4" plywood, wheeled cabinet I found at the Habitat resale shop and lined it with 1" of polystyrene sheet from HD. I got it nice and sealed up. My conical fits nicely, or two stacked buckets. I'm making a German Pilsner using White Labs WLP800. Cabinet is holding the temps in the 55* range by using frozen bottles of water and changing them out every 24 - 36 hours.

I'm now into the 5th day and have seen no visible airlock activity. I popped the top off the conical and I have a foamy krausen, just not as "wild" as with my ales. I checked the gravity and I'm at ~1.040 having started at ~1.053. I can see little tiny streaming bubbles in the thief. Am I on track? Is it normal for the fermentation to be this "low and slow"? If so, at what gravity should I warm the beer up a bit to clean up any acetyls? At what temp? FG target is 1.012.

I plan to go into a corny when he's done and leave it in the kegerator for a month, then filter. My fridge is at about 40*. I have a corny lid which I have modified to accept a bubbler, but I'm thinking I'll just let it build pressure instead. The safety is always there if it gets too high.....

As an aside, I had FANTASTIC results with a Munich Helles that was supposed to be lagered but instead I used WLP029 ale yeast. I've also found that when I keg, pushing CO2 into the bottom (liquid) port to purge any O2 from the head space is quick and easy and gives a jump start to carbonating.

Thanks.

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Old 07-18-2013, 05:10 PM   #2
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How big was the starter? It sounds like it was underpitched by quite a lot, as my lagers are generally about done in 7-10 days.

I do the diacetyl rest when the beer is about 75% of the way to FG, often about 1.020.

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Old 07-18-2013, 05:18 PM   #3
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Lagers are indeed slower and less violent than ales, but I'm with Yooper and say this one is a little too slow. Mine slow down at about day 5 (usually D-rest time if I do one) and are finished in 7-10 days. I'm thinking underpitching too, especially since you're at the top end of temp. Give it a few more days, take another reading, and let it warm up to 60 or so once it hits 1.020.

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Old 07-18-2013, 05:35 PM   #4
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Thanks guys. I pitched 1 vial for 5 gallons. It had been warmed up from refrigerator temperature for a couple of hours. It is the same procedure I always do for my ales. Do lagers require extra yeast? I just checked the vial and see that its expiration is in 1 month, so it's possible there was a % of dead guys in there....

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Old 07-18-2013, 05:48 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by spittybug View Post
Thanks guys. I pitched 1 vial for 5 gallons. It had been warmed up from refrigerator temperature for a couple of hours. It is the same procedure I always do for my ales. Do lagers require extra yeast?
You should pitch something like 1.5 million cells per degree Plato per ml of wort for your lagers. For new lager brewers, the simplest option is to use dry yeast. Don't worry about dry yeast being somehow "worse" than liquid--I won three BOS in 2013 and two of them were with dry lager yeast (S-23 and S-189). Just be sure to rehydrate properly.

Your ferm temperature was warm enough to give the yeast a fighting chance even though you probably pitched 15% of the cells you needed. Still, it looks like you are going to have trouble finishing off.

As an aside you should re-examine your pitching rates for ales. Go 0.75 to 1 million cells per ml per degree Plato per ml, although this can vary a bit for certain styles. Trust me, there is a difference in beer flavour between underpitched and properly pitched ales. I recently made a tripel, split the starter between two fermenters, and let it go. Must have gotten more cells into one of the fermenters; it took off more quickly and only finished about a point lower, but you can taste the difference.

Bottom line is that yeast pitching rates are very important to making the best possible beer. This is especially true for lagers.

Good luck!
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Old 07-18-2013, 06:25 PM   #6
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Bottom line is that yeast pitching rates are very important to making the best possible beer. This is especially true for lagers.

Good luck!
This is key to a good lager! Pitching the correct amount of yeast at the correct temperature makes a huge difference. One of the ways that the yeast manufacturer try to help compensate for underpitching is to give instructions to pitch the yeast too warm (to get reproduction), and then chill the wort. That isn't the best way to make a good lager with a clean flavor.

In general, pitch enough yeast at UNDER the optimum fermentation temperature and let it rise up to the proper temperature. For example, if you're fermenting at 50 degrees, add 45 degree yeast to 48 degree wort, and then let it rise to 50 degrees. It seems to make the yeast happy, and fermentation will go well, and it produces an ultra clean flavor.

A proper pitch rate is far more yeast than you can imagine. For example, using the yeast pitching calculator at mrmalty.com, a 1.050 lager with yeast that is 3 weeks old (pretty darn fresh!), you'd need 4.3 packages of yeast, or a 9 liter starter. (Yes, 9 liters!!!) That's a lot more yeast than you used, that's for sure.
http://www.mrmalty.com/calc/calc.html
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Old 07-18-2013, 06:44 PM   #7
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...then what's the best way to come up with that much starter? Stir plate step-up?

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Old 07-18-2013, 09:29 PM   #8
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...then what's the best way to come up with that much starter? Stir plate step-up?
Either dry yeast (easiest) or yes, stir-plate step-up. I now use the settings on yeastcalc.com with the Kai Troester (aka braukaiser) option selected.
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Old 07-18-2013, 09:34 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by osagedr

Either dry yeast (easiest) or yes, stir-plate step-up. I now use the settings on yeastcalc.com with the Kai Troester (aka braukaiser) option selected.
Awesome thank you
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Old 07-18-2013, 09:35 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Yooper View Post
A proper pitch rate is far more yeast than you can imagine. For example, using the yeast pitching calculator at mrmalty.com, a 1.050 lager with yeast that is 3 weeks old (pretty darn fresh!), you'd need 4.3 packages of yeast, or a 9 liter starter. (Yes, 9 liters!!!) That's a lot more yeast than you used, that's for sure.
http://www.mrmalty.com/calc/calc.html
Or brewing a lighter (<1.050 OG) beer first and rack the lager on top of the yeast cake, right? More beer, more yeast = win/win!
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