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Old 09-14-2011, 01:47 PM   #1
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Default Interesting experiment - to Start or not to Start?

A friend and I are brewing up 10 gallons of a bock (one of Jamil's recipes, from BCS) this weekend, to be fermented in two separate vessels.

My friend is less than convinced of the necessity for starters. Myself, I've read a TON of HBT'ers as well as Jamil's work suggesting great benefits, but I've got only limited experience with them (plus, the only lager I've done so far was low gravity and fermented with a big packet of S-23 dry yeast). So I proposed the following experiment, which we're going to try out:

Into his ferementer, we're going to pitch only one packet of Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager (the single packet was his choice, as he's successfully fermented lagers like this before)

Into mine, I'll be pitching an appropriately sized starter (figured using mrmalty's calculator).

I'm pretty damn certain that I'll be seeing activity in my fermenter before we see it in his. Other than that, I'll be really interested to see what differences we see in the final product.

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Old 09-14-2011, 02:03 PM   #2
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A friend and I are brewing up 10 gallons of a bock (one of Jamil's recipes, from BCS) this weekend, to be fermented in two separate vessels.

My friend is less than convinced of the necessity for starters. Myself, I've read a TON of HBT'ers as well as Jamil's work suggesting great benefits, but I've got only limited experience with them (plus, the only lager I've done so far was low gravity and fermented with a big packet of S-23 dry yeast). So I proposed the following experiment, which we're going to try out:

Into his ferementer, we're going to pitch only one packet of Wyeast 2206 Bavarian Lager (the single packet was his choice, as he's successfully fermented lagers like this before)

Into mine, I'll be pitching an appropriately sized starter (figured using mrmalty's calculator).

I'm pretty damn certain that I'll be seeing activity in my fermenter before we see it in his. Other than that, I'll be really interested to see what differences we see in the final product.
Sounds good but make certain fermentation temperatures are the same, hopefully you can put them both in the same area, pitch at the same time, oxygenate them both the same, etc, etc. There are numerous other factors that affect fermentation and some of them are completely out of our control, such as barometric pressure, moon phase, vibrations, etc.
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Old 09-14-2011, 02:32 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by COLObrewer View Post
Sounds good but make certain fermentation temperatures are the same, hopefully you can put them both in the same area, pitch at the same time, oxygenate them both the same, etc, etc. There are numerous other factors that affect fermentation and some of them are completely out of our control, such as barometric pressure, moon phase, vibrations, etc.
Agreed! Let us know how it goes!
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Old 09-14-2011, 02:53 PM   #4
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What's the anticipated OG of this brew? And yeah like COLObrewer said try to keep the conditions as close as possible, I would be interested in the results.

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Old 09-14-2011, 03:45 PM   #5
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OG should be around 1.070. I'm actually a little concerned about his, as mrmalty (and Jamil's book, which makes sense since they're both the same source really) suggest that his single pack will be underpitching by around 80%. But he's confident his will be OK, and I'm just plain curious to see the differences.

And yeah, we're taking pains to keep as much the same as possible. We'll be brewing at his place (I think) but putting both fermenters in my ferement chamber (about a 20 minute ride away), which should keep them at the same temps and conditions and such. I figure I'll let the starter rip at my place, we'll smack his smack pack at his, then I'll pitch both at my place as I put them in the chamber.

The only thing I'm a little bit unsure of is the starter timeframe - I'm not giving myself much time for a 2 gallon starter here. Looks like I'll be brewing it up tomorrow night, letting it go until sometime late Saturday, then cold-crashing and decanting off (hopefully dumping any off flavors from the warm lager fermentation) on Sunday.

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Old 09-23-2011, 12:26 PM   #6
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Well, after a couple delays, we managed to brew this up last night. Good brew night, our efficiencies were somewhere north of 70 (I've yet to calculate them - maybe I'll do so over the weekend).

My first real experimental observation came this morning - we pitched his smack pack last night around 10PM (a little before I left his place with our fermenters), and pitched my starter closer to 11PM. I checked them out this morning, his (no starter) has no visible signs of activity yet, while mine is already blowing off like mad.

I'm slightly nervous that this is going to lead to some other difficulties; at this rate, both beers are likely going to be ready for a diacetyl rest at different times, and I'm not quite sure how to handle that with my ferment chamber...

I'll report more as I observe more.

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Old 09-26-2011, 11:08 AM   #7
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Latest update:

So, if we judge by lag time and lag time alone, the starter clearly "wins" here. As stated previously, the batch with the starter took off to the point of blowing off through the airlock in something less than 7 hours. The batch with only a single smack-pack pitched took just over 72 hours to finally show a real krausen - when I last checked it last night, I saw a ring of tiny bubbles that I was hoping was the start of a krausen. Checked again this morning, full blown krausen, finally!

This, honestly, is enough to sell me on continuing to do starters for lagers... I've not had a brew lag that much before, and the only thing keeping me from panicking (or from panicking my buddy) is all the posts here about some beers lagging up to 72 hours... I wasn't much a fan of all that waiting, and my beer has 3 days of fermenting done already while his is just getting started. In the scheme of things, I suppose 3 days isn't much when talking about lagers, but it's still a difference.

Also, I just finally ran our numbers through an efficiency calculator (the one right here). Since this bock had a larger grain bill than we could get into either of our mash tuns (we both have the 10gallon round coolers, and this full batch called for over 10 gallons of strike water!), we mashed and sparged separately and then combined the two worts at boil time. And, since our tuns differ a little bit, we used different techniques. He fly sparges, I batch sparge. I hit 74% efficiency, which I was really pleased with (literally my 3rd time mashing on my own gear). He hit 82%. Not bad at all!!!

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Old 09-26-2011, 05:53 PM   #8
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. . . . . , I suppose 3 days isn't much when talking about lagers, . . . . . !!!
This is true, but only if it makes no difference through quaffing, please keep this experiment going and let us know the final outcome. Make note of any and all differences you percieve.
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Old 09-26-2011, 06:29 PM   #9
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I'm slightly nervous that this is going to lead to some other difficulties; at this rate, both beers are likely going to be ready for a diacetyl rest at different times, and I'm not quite sure how to handle that with my ferment chamber...
I wouldn't worry too much about the diacetyl rest. I know lots of places recommend something like 65 F but I've had good luck just taking the fermentor out of my fridge and letting it sit on the floor at room temperature (72ish). That way you won't have to worry about controlling the higher temp of the rest and the normal fermentation temperature at the same time. Just make sure you also put your friends beer on the floor at room temperature when it's time for his diacetyl rest.
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Old 09-26-2011, 10:23 PM   #10
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I would think the real benefit doing starters is to reduce lag time meaning that the yeast get started before other microbial organisms can get a real foothold and affect the flavor of the finished product.

Another benefit is that when yeast are pitched at the correct rate (or in the correct rate range), there is the least amount of stress on the yeast and in turn they produce the least amounts of compounds that would be considered off-flavors and the most amounts of flavor compounds that we're looking for.

One of the best beers I ever had was my own pale ale where I used a starter with yeast nutrient for the first time. Fermentation started in 4-6 hours, lasted three days, blew kreusen all down the side of my 6.5 carboy, conditioned for two weeks, kegged and carb'd, and blew my mind.

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