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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Fermentation & Yeast > First lager, yeast activity???'s
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Old 09-17-2013, 03:13 AM   #1
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Default First lager, yeast activity???'s

So I brewed a lager on Sunday 9/15. I pitched my yeast this AM 9/16, after cooling my wort down from 80 to 52 overnight. I pitched a 36 hour starter, which was in my fridge at 50 degrees. It was a Bohemian lager yeast.

My yeast smackpack was in my fridge prior to making the starter. When I hit the smack pack, I allowed it to warm to room temp and allow the pack to bloat/expand. It didn't expand much that I could tell. But I threw it into my cooled wort for a starter anyhow.

The OG on this was around 1.052. Gravity reading was taken at 80 degrees.

Here's the big question: how long before I should start seeing activity? I've never brewed a lager before so I'm not quite sure what I should expect. Also, will I see any signs of active fermentation? I have it in a carboy in my fridge hoping that I can see some activity. The little kid in me gets giddy thinking about a rolling fermentation.

Thanks in advance for any input. I'm on every day so I can usually reply to any feedback relatively quickly. Thanks.

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Old 09-17-2013, 03:41 AM   #2
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Well, when I did my lager it was in a bucket so I never did see anything happening in real time. I was getting panicky that nothing was happening per minimal to non-existent airlock activity. When I finally broke down three or four days in for a desperation gravity check, it was more than half way to FG.

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Old 09-17-2013, 06:04 AM   #3
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How big of a starter did u make?? I usually get signs of life in less than 12 hours when brewing a lager. But I make huge starters as well!!

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Old 09-17-2013, 12:11 PM   #4
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How big of a starter did u make?? I usually get signs of life in less than 12 hours when brewing a lager. But I make huge starters as well!!
I made a single stage starter about 1 liter.
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Old 09-17-2013, 12:40 PM   #5
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I usually let my lagers go 24-36 hours at room temperature before dropping down to lager temps.

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Old 09-17-2013, 12:48 PM   #6
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I made a single stage starter about 1 liter.
With one smack pack? Even on a stirplate with yeast fresh from the factory, that would provide barely half the number of cells needed. If you didn't use pure oxygen, then starting fermentation becomes even more difficult for that low yeast population.

A properly oxygenated/pitched lager should show clear activity in 8-12hrs and be ripping right along in 24hrs.
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Old 09-17-2013, 01:32 PM   #7
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With one smack pack? Even on a stirplate with yeast fresh from the factory, that would provide barely half the number of cells needed. If you didn't use pure oxygen, then starting fermentation becomes even more difficult for that low yeast population.

A properly oxygenated/pitched lager should show clear activity in 8-12hrs and be ripping right along in 24hrs.
Kind of what I figured. The LHBS guy said that a 24 hour starter should have worked out just fine. I'll pitch more yeast next time.
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Old 09-17-2013, 01:35 PM   #8
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First off, let me just say that what you did will work. You will end up with beer.

That out of the way, you did several things I would have done differently. In some cases, wildly differently.

The big one I see is that you dramatically underpitched. A 5 gallon batch of 1.052 lager would require roughly 416 billion yeast cells. A single smack-pack of 100% viable cells (i.e., fresh from the factory) will yield about 100 billion cells. A 1L starter, not on a stir plate, won't grow that very much. Of course, your smack pack was likely somewhat less than 100% viable (probably at least a few weeks old), and thus you pitched substantially less than half the cells you "should" have pitched. But like I said, it will still work - it will just take longer to get going. If you properly manage your temperatures, it should keep off-flavours to a minimum.

Other things I would have done differently would be to have run the starter at room temperature rather than at 50 degrees. I also would have given the smack pack 3-4 hours to warm up to room temperature BEFORE I smacked it. The lack of swelling isn't really a concern, but rushing them from the fridge to putting them to work might have been.

The "proper" way to have done your beer would be:

  • Pull the smack pack from the fridge and put it somewhere at room temperature, out of direct sunlight.
  • Wait 3-4 hours
  • Smack it
  • Wait a couple more hours. Prepare a 4L starter while you wait.
  • Aerate the starter wort, open the smack-pack and pitch the yeast into the starter wort.
  • Drop in a sanitized stir bar, put on a stir plate, run it for 24 hours, at room temperature.
  • Remove the starter from the stir plate, move it into the fridge to cold-crash and drop the yeast out.
  • Wait 48 hours
  • Take the starter out of the fridge and brew the beer.
  • Chill the wort (main batch, not the starter) to 50° F (I need to use a plate chiller and ice water to achieve this), aerate thoroughly.
  • Decant the liquid from the starter, swirl up the yeast at the bottom, and pitch it.
  • Stick the wort in a fermentation chamber set to around 45° F.

If you'd done all that, you'd see activity within 24 hours. It should look like a normal ale krausen, although less vigorous, in my experience.

Again, like I said, I'm not trying to criticize, merely offer suggestions for how you might improve your process for the next time. What you did will likely be fine, and you will undoubtably end up with beer. It's just that lagers are more tempermental than ales, and yeast pitching/fermentation temperature are (in my opinion) the two most important factors in brewing optimal beer.
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Old 09-17-2013, 02:06 PM   #9
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Kombat hath summed it up rather nicely.

With lagers, the yeast cell count should roughly be DOUBLE that for a comparable ale. Plus, you have to aerate the heck out of the wort. If you see yourself doing plenty of lagers, consider an O2 setup and a stir plate.

Give this current batch time at the current temp. It's likely to be a slow beginning and a subtle ferment considering the yeast amount.

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Old 09-17-2013, 11:31 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kombat View Post
First off, let me just say that what you did will work. You will end up with beer.

That out of the way, you did several things I would have done differently. In some cases, wildly differently.

The big one I see is that you dramatically underpitched. A 5 gallon batch of 1.052 lager would require roughly 416 billion yeast cells. A single smack-pack of 100% viable cells (i.e., fresh from the factory) will yield about 100 billion cells. A 1L starter, not on a stir plate, won't grow that very much. Of course, your smack pack was likely somewhat less than 100% viable (probably at least a few weeks old), and thus you pitched substantially less than half the cells you "should" have pitched. But like I said, it will still work - it will just take longer to get going. If you properly manage your temperatures, it should keep off-flavours to a minimum.


Other things I would have done differently would be to have run the starter at room temperature rather than at 50 degrees. I also would have given the smack pack 3-4 hours to warm up to room temperature BEFORE I smacked it. The lack of swelling isn't really a concern, but rushing them from the fridge to putting them to work might have been.

The "proper" way to have done your beer would be:
  • Pull the smack pack from the fridge and put it somewhere at room temperature, out of direct sunlight.
  • Wait 3-4 hours
  • Smack it
  • Wait a couple more hours. Prepare a 4L starter while you wait.
  • Aerate the starter wort, open the smack-pack and pitch the yeast into the starter wort.
  • Drop in a sanitized stir bar, put on a stir plate, run it for 24 hours, at room temperature.
  • Remove the starter from the stir plate, move it into the fridge to cold-crash and drop the yeast out.
  • Wait 48 hours
  • Take the starter out of the fridge and brew the beer.
  • Chill the wort (main batch, not the starter) to 50° F (I need to use a plate chiller and ice water to achieve this), aerate thoroughly.
  • Decant the liquid from the starter, swirl up the yeast at the bottom, and pitch it.
  • Stick the wort in a fermentation chamber set to around 45° F.

If you'd done all that, you'd see activity within 24 hours. It should look like a normal ale krausen, although less vigorous, in my experience.

Again, like I said, I'm not trying to criticize, merely offer suggestions for how you might improve your process for the next time. What you did will likely be fine, and you will undoubtably end up with beer. It's just that lagers are more tempermental than ales, and yeast pitching/fermentation temperature are (in my opinion) the two most important factors in brewing optimal beer.
First, thank you. I'm not one to take things to heart on these forums but you nailed the post. I'm not offended, but enlightened. Everybody makes different mistakes when brewing their first lager, ale,etc etc. I'm happy to see a nice list of things I can change appropriately for next time. For that, I'm thankful.

Secondly, I REALLY need to put a stir plate together and invest in some flasks. I would love to pitch the right amount of yeast without having to purchase 2-4 smackpacks. I realize that I'm not using the optimum techniques as far as yeast propagation is concerned but I do the best I can with what I have.

I'm now at the point where I KNOW I need to make an investment in the direction of healthy yeast growth. I've always enjoyed good lagers but I was always short on a spare fridge where I could do my lagering. So now that I have the fridge and I have a brew in the fridge, I can better allocate brewing funds in the right areas.

I'm still all ears when it comes to healthy yeast growth. Would you guys add anything to that list in order to best grow your yeasties? Again, thank you guys for all your input.
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