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Old 12-05-2010, 02:29 PM   #1
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Default Lager and Yeast Advice

I have been brewing for a while now, but haven't lagered yet due to lack of equipment. However, I recently created a "ghetto" lagering cabinet in my basement that draws in cold air from the outside via a fan (all controlled by a Ranco Single-stage). At any rate, I plan on making my first lager next week because outside temps have been consistently near 32 and will just continue to drop over the next couple months. My questions are thus:

1. I want to make a Munich Helles style beer- something like Hofbrau Original or Warstiener Premium, and I want the malt profile to come through. Which yeast would you guys recommend: S-23, WLP830, or something completely different?

2. When is the preferred time to pitch the yeast? In other words, would I chill the wort all the way down to fermenting temp, then pitch, or can I pitch at say 65-70 and then place in the lagering cabinet which should bring the temp down in a few hours.

3. If I go with the liquid yeast option, I will make a 2L starter (largest I have equipment for), but should the starter ferment at the lager fermenting temps, or can it just ferment at room temp because I will chill and decant that size of a starter anyways?

Any other advice?

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Old 12-05-2010, 03:02 PM   #2
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1. I never used dry lager yeast, so I can't say on that.
2. I like to chill below fermentation temperature, pitch, and let the wort warm up to the desired temperature. I first heard that from Jamil, I believe, and it works great for both ale and lager fermentations. I like to ferment on the cool side of the yeast strain's listed optimum range, usually 48-50 degrees. I don't pitch too warm and wait and then lower the temperature- for a couple of reasons. One, that's simply to compensate for pitching too little yeast, not because it's going to make the best tasting lager. Two, I don't pitch ale yeast strains 20 degrees too warm, either, because I have in the past and seen what happens! Three, if you pitch warm and fermentation begins, by the time you lower the fermenting temperature down to 48 degrees, the majority of fermentation will be over. It takes a long time to chill 5 gallons of fermenting beer down to 48 degrees from 70 degrees!
3. That's a pretty small starter for a lager. Maybe make 2 of those? Anyway, you can ferment them at room temperature a week before, chill and decant. I like to have the yeast about 2 degrees cooler than the wort when I pitch. So, if the wort is at 45 degrees, I'd have the yeast a couple of degrees cooler. It seems to really wake up the yeast, and get them going. Then I'd allow the temperature to rise to 48 or 50 (whatever the fermentation temperature is) over the next few hours.

If you pitch enough yeast and at fermentation temperatures, and use a lager yeast strain that isn't a notorious diacetyl producer, you may not even need a diacetyl rest. There isn't any harm in doing one, but I've had many lagers where it wasn't needed.

Good luck- keep us posted!

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Old 12-05-2010, 03:04 PM   #3
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I can give suggestions on questions 2 and 3.

2) I would say this depends on how big of a starter that you end up making. I fyou follow the Mr. malty calculator you can pitch your yeast right at your fermentation temperature as long as your yeast is already at that temp to avoid a temperature shock. If you don't make a starter big enough then I would pitch in the mid-60's which would give hte yeast a litle time to multiply at the warmer temperature.

3) You can ferment your lager starter at room temperature, I would just make sure to cold crash and decant to remove the off flavored starter beer. If you want to make a bigger starter than your 2 liters, do your cold crash and decant then add more starter wort. This will increase your yeast size tremendously. I used a 1/2 gallon growler then chilled and decanted then I stepped this yeast up into two separate growlers chilled and decanted. I had air-lock activity with a lager somewhere around 12-18 hours with pitching the yeast in the low 60's.

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Old 12-05-2010, 03:44 PM   #4
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The only dry yeast I would use on a Helles is Saflager W-34/70. It's the same strain as WLP830 and Wyeast's equivalent, so no reason not to use it unless it's cost prohibitive... and it tastes the same from my experience. These yeast packets used to be $3.00 to $4.00 each. Now they're up to $7.00. You need at least 2 packets per ~5 gallons, so cost-wise, liquid yeast is beginning to look more cost effective. With DME and a starter, the dry yeast might be worth it on a 5 gallon batch, but for a 10 gallon batch, you're talking like $28.00 in yeast, so liquid is probably more cost-effective.

If you use the dry yeast, rehydrate it per Fermentis' instructions. If you use liquid, it's probably OK to ferment the starter at room temp., although I'm still a little uncomfortable allowing the yeast to get used to fermenting warm. Like DP says, if you do ferment the starter warm, you need to decant the starter beer. With this, you'll need almost 2 weeks to build up the starter and cold crash it (at least 2 days). With only a 2L starter, you should start at 1L, build it up to 2L, ferment, cold crash and decant the starter beer, then
pour another 2L of starter wort on that yeast, ferment, cold crash, and decant. All that would probably take close to 2 weeks.

And like Yooper says, don't pitch the yeast warm. A Helles has too delicate a flavor profile to allow for any flaws. Cool the wort to at least 50°F before pitching and have the yeast slurry at roughly the same temperature before pitching.

A Helles is one of the most delicate lagers. The recipes themselves are simple... Pilsner malt and German noble hops at 60 min. It's all in the procedure and temperature control.

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Old 12-05-2010, 06:38 PM   #5
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Thanks for the advice all! I've decided that since this is my first lager, I will try to keep things a little simpler for myself and go with the Saflager W-34/70 and use two 11.5 gram packages (rehydrating as recommended). I will also pitch cold like you guys suggest. One other question though... does a lager heat up while fermenting like an ale does? In other words, the W-34/70 is suggested to be at 54, so should I set my controller a few degrees colder to compensate for fermentation heat?

Edit: I guess I have another question... Anyone got a solid helles recipe they would share or recommend?

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Old 12-05-2010, 06:46 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigB View Post
Thanks for the advice all! I've decided that since this is my first lager, I will try to keep things a little simpler for myself and go with the Saflager W-34/70 and use two 11.5 gram packages (rehydrating as recommended). I will also pitch cold like you guys suggest. One other question though... does a lager heat up while fermenting like an ale does? In other words, the W-34/70 is suggested to be at 54, so should I set my controller a few degrees colder to compensate for fermentation heat?

Edit: I guess I have another question... Anyone got a solid helles recipe they would share or recommend?
It does heat up a bit, but not much. Maybe a degree or two, depending on how active the ferment is.

Menschmachine gave his "recipe" for helles- and I think he's right. All pilsner malt, and noble hops at 60 minutes only, with IBUs of 16-22 and an OG of 1.045-1.050. You want to mash fairly low, so that you get a FG no higher than 1.010-1.012. You want it malty, but not sweet, and very "clean" tasting with little hops aroma.
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Old 12-05-2010, 06:50 PM   #7
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Great, thanks!

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Old 12-05-2010, 07:12 PM   #8
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Don't pay too much attention to the "optimal" fermentation temperature. I'd ferment W-34/70 at 48 to 50°F. That will give a reasonable timeframe of fermentation while still being a clean fermentation (low esters, etc.).

As for the fermentation causing it to heat up... when it comes to using a temperature controller, focus on controlling the temperature of the beer, not the ambient air. I tape the probe of the temperature controller to the side of the fermenter and insulate it with bubble wrap (taped over it). That way you don't have to worry about how much heat is produced from fermentation.

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