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Old 03-16-2012, 01:15 PM   #1
pat07421
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Default Lager Troubles(esters)

Hi. This is my first post. Sorry, it will be long, but I want to be detailed.

So I had been brewing for about a year when I decided to try my hand at lagering. Went with a keezer design, got a 75$ used chest freezer, built it to utilize 5 taps, digital temp control, got kegging equipment etc. I've always been a fan of the Munich Helles so I brewed one of those using a kit from my LHBS, with wyeast 2308(munich).

The owner there recommended starting out at 65 degrees F to allow the yeast to get started, then bring it down to the recommended range for the yeast, which is 48-56 degrees F. Fine, so set the carboy in the keezer, set the temp, and the freezer died 6 hrs later. Couldn't get a solution figured out in time, so I just let that batch ferment at room temps to see how it should NOT taste. It was awful of course, very estery and sulphury. First ever dumped batch.

I saved up and got a brand new freezer and ripped off someones design from this site for my new keezer:
keezer.jpg
So I tried the same kit, same yeast, same strategy(minus the failed freezer of course, also added d-rest), and 3 months later still had terrible beer. It was a little bit better, but still very estery(banana variety) and a little sulphury. Didn't seem to bother my dad, so I let him drink this batch.

I went online and tried to figure out the issue. For attempt three I got a different kit, which was brewer's best's Helles, Used the same type of yeast, but tried a different strategy. I did a 2L yeast starter at 55 degrees for 24 hrs, brewed the wort, but let it cool in the keezer until was also 55 degrees before I pitched. Slowly cooled it down to 45 degrees assuming it would ferment a few degrees warmer than the air in the keezer to get me to the recommended range of 48-56.

When the beer reached a gravity reading of .020 I did a D-rest at 65 degrees for two days, FG .008, cold crash, keg, lager at 35 for a month, and tasted it. It was about 90% better, but still estery, still a bit sulphury. Its drinkable now, but I'd like to get it to taste how its supposed to.

I'm assuming its a fermentation issue so I didnt list any of the brewing info. The only thing I can think to do is start at a colder temperature, but I see people say all over the internet that they pitch at 65 or room temp and let it sit in their garage or basement with a fan to ferment with no issues. It doesn't seem like a taste that will go away by giving it more time. I'd like to get some opinions before I spend any more time or money on lagering. Thanks for reading and helping.

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Old 03-16-2012, 01:28 PM   #2
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How much lager yeast did you pitch on each batch? Did you consider pitching on the previous yeast cake?

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Old 03-16-2012, 01:32 PM   #3
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With a helles, there isn't much room for error (really none), you can't hide behind hops or strong flavors somewhere else. For your next batch, I would try a couple of things:
1. Make sure you pitch enough yeast. Use Mr. Malty or the newer Yeastcalc site (I like the new site better). This will help cut down on the esters. Decant your starter too, and only pitch the yeast.
2. Pitch even colder. Try getting the wort down below your ferment, like 45 or so, and don't ferment above 50.
3. Let it lager a bit longer. A few more weeks will probably get rid of the sulphur, the esters, maybe not.
4. Check into your water too. I'm just now getting into this myself, but for pils, helles, etc., water can have a bigger impact.

Good luck.

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Old 03-16-2012, 01:43 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StoneHands View Post
With a helles, there isn't much room for error (really none), you can't hide behind hops or strong flavors somewhere else. For your next batch, I would try a couple of things:
1. Make sure you pitch enough yeast. Use Mr. Malty or the newer Yeastcalc site (I like the new site better). This will help cut down on the esters. Decant your starter too, and only pitch the yeast.
2. Pitch even colder. Try getting the wort down below your ferment, like 45 or so, and don't ferment above 50.
3. Let it lager a bit longer. A few more weeks will probably get rid of the sulphur, the esters, maybe not.
4. Check into your water too. I'm just now getting into this myself, but for pils, helles, etc., water can have a bigger impact.

Good luck.
I agree with all of the above. Pitching at 45 and allowing the beer to rise to 50 degrees (no higher) will encourage yeast growth and reproduction and a good healthy start. I know people pitch at 70 and drop the temp, but then esters can be a problem. I don't pitch my ales at 90 degrees and drop the temp 25 degrees, either!

Water can be important in lagers, but that probably isn't the cause of any of these off flavors. Lagering should help the sulfur, and perhaps some of the esters.

You could try a different yeast strain, to see if it's maybe just that strain that doesn't do so well for you.
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Old 03-16-2012, 01:48 PM   #5
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Wow thanks for the quick replies.

As far as the yeast goes, my starter was one smack pack into 2L of wort that was about .045 gravity. Let that go for 24 hrs, swirling occasionally. There was more than an inch of yeast on the bottom of the flask before I pitched, I dont know how many cells or units of yeast that would be, but it seemed like a lot to me. I did decant it.

The water I've been using lately is nestle one gallon jugs from walmart. I dont know enough about water to add anything to it or treat it.

So maybe next time I'll use a yeast calculator, and just pitch and ferment at 45 the whole time? I am letting this current batch go a little longer before I drink more, to see what effect that has on it.

Thanks a lot.

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Old 03-16-2012, 01:51 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yooper View Post
I agree with all of the above. Pitching at 45 and allowing the beer to rise to 50 degrees (no higher) will encourage yeast growth and reproduction and a good healthy start. I know people pitch at 70 and drop the temp, but then esters can be a problem. I don't pitch my ales at 90 degrees and drop the temp 25 degrees, either!

Water can be important in lagers, but that probably isn't the cause of any of these off flavors. Lagering should help the sulfur, and perhaps some of the esters.

You could try a different yeast strain, to see if it's maybe just that strain that doesn't do so well for you.
(you posted while I was typing my last response)

Okay, so I'll try pitching at 45, and bumping it up a little.
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Old 03-16-2012, 01:51 PM   #7
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For any beer, you want to pitch a large amount of yeast, cooler than fermentation temp. I pitch the lager yeast at 45 and have my fermentation temp controller at 50 deg, that is with a thermowell in the liquid so its liquid temp, not air temp.
I keep it there for 2 weeks, then let them finish at room temp, about 65 deg.
Lagers are much slower than ales, and are really dependent on cool temps. The best lagers are made when you repitch onto a cake for the second beer.

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Old 03-16-2012, 02:14 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pat07421 View Post
Wow thanks for the quick replies.

As far as the yeast goes, my starter was one smack pack into 2L of wort that was about .045 gravity. Let that go for 24 hrs, swirling occasionally. There was more than an inch of yeast on the bottom of the flask before I pitched, I dont know how many cells or units of yeast that would be, but it seemed like a lot to me. I did decant it.

The water I've been using lately is nestle one gallon jugs from walmart. I dont know enough about water to add anything to it or treat it.

So maybe next time I'll use a yeast calculator, and just pitch and ferment at 45 the whole time? I am letting this current batch go a little longer before I drink more, to see what effect that has on it.

Thanks a lot.
^^^That still may be under pitching.
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Old 03-16-2012, 02:16 PM   #9
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^^^That still may be under pitching.
Looks like it. Mr. Malty says I would need 2 packs in 1.64L wort, or one pack in 4L wort.
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Old 03-16-2012, 02:34 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by onthekeg
For any beer, you want to pitch a large amount of yeast...
The best lagers are made when you repitch onto a cake for the second beer.
I would buy ingredients & brew a beer with the plan of dumping it onto this yeast cake.
You are definitely underpitching a lager with 1 smack pack and intermittent shaking over a very short period of time. Also look at buying/building a stir plate.

Also the instructions to pitch warm and cool down once fermentation starts is imo bad advice... it is done to get yeast replication... but at a great cost (crappy beer).
good luck!
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