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Old 10-19-2011, 03:56 PM   #1
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Default Latest Lager Redux - what I have learned.

After 6-7 lagers, I am determined to brew one that actually tastes "lagery" and doesn't take a dang week to get going.

So, this time, I did it by the book, and for the first time I had a vigorous fermentation going, at target temp, in less than 48 hours. I may be jumping the gun on this, but I call that a preliminary success. Here's a breakdown of what I did differently.

1. Temperature

Previously I had to crank my fridge temp up to the 60-70 range for a few days to get the yeast started, even with a starter. After cooling the wort, I put the temp controller all the way down to 45 for this, taped the probe to the side of the carboy, and waited several hours for the wort to come down to pitching temperature.

2. Aeration

Previously I would depend on the "splash the wort" and "shake the hell out of the carboy" methods for aeration. Not this time. I went whole-hog on this one. Bought me an aeration stone and filter assembly from the LHBS, then dropped by the local welding shop, where they hooked me up with the regulator and fittings to hook the assembly up to a 20-pound oxygen tank. Gave me a pretty hefty discount, too, since I was a homebrewer and not a welder (apparently homebrewers drive a large chunk of their business lately).

I boiled the aeration stone and tubing for 15 minutes, hooked it up to the filter already plugged into the O2 tank, and cranked it up. Had a slight mishap where I opened the main valve too far and spilled some wort over the sides of the carboy. Despite some fussing, I couldn't manage to get a gentle flow with the main valve all the way open, so I ended up cranking the main valve slightly, and let it bubble for 2 minutes.

3. Cell count

I said "Screw it" to liquid yeast and attempting to build up a starter. Too many headaches and heartbreaks (I have one lager that tastes like a too-fruity Belgian because I forgot to decant the starter before pitching).

Since I was preparing mason jars to wash the cake from a previous brew, I set aside one jar with boiled, chilled water, dumped off about 1/8 of the water, added 2 packets of Saflager W-34/70, and let soak for about 7 hours prior to pitching. After chilling and aerating, I gave the whole thing a good shake and dumped it in, water and all.

The Result

Within 24 hours of pitching there was a thin yeast layer on top of the wort already. 48 hours later there was a thick, healthy layer of krausen on my lager, big enough to compete with some of my pale ales. At 45 degrees, no less. All my previous lagers would sit, flaccid and motionless, for at least a week before showing any sign of fermentation.

The Moral

If in doubt, check your process. Also, and this is something I didn't pick up on when I first started doing lagers, but aeration is at least as important to lager brewing, if not more so, than temperature. Just having a freezer and a temp controller isn't going to brew you the best lagers. Shaking the hell out of the wort is fine for ales, but it will only do so much for lagers. Having some method of active aeration is as crucial. If you're gonna drop $100-200 on a freezer setup to do lagers, you might as well splurge on oxygen as well.

The hard part now is going to be waiting the 10-14 weeks before I can actually taste the final product!

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Old 10-19-2011, 04:06 PM   #2
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Glad to hear you had a good experience. Two packs of 34/70 = good. Aerating with pure O2 = good.

Not following manufacturer's instructions on how to rehydrate yeast = bad, but not bad enough (this time) to cause you any trouble.

Great job!

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Old 10-19-2011, 04:16 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by osagedr View Post
Glad to hear you had a good experience. Two packs of 34/70 = good. Aerating with pure O2 = good.

Not following manufacturer's instructions on how to rehydrate yeast = bad, but not bad enough (this time) to cause you any trouble.

Great job!
Man, I'm never organized enough to do everything right. Plus I'm usually in a mild panic getting everything together to finish off the brew day by chilling time, so I doubt I'd have remembered to rehydrate 30 minutes in advance...

How bad is rehydrating 7 hours in advance versus half an hour?
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Old 10-19-2011, 04:29 PM   #4
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Well it sounds like your process is good, and improving.

I don't know enough about yeast to know how bad it is to rehydrate that far ahead of time, but given how well your fermentation is going, it can't be that bad. Someone who knows a lot more than me might be able to give a good technical explanation. It might be one of those deals where it will work 19 times out 20 but then one time something will go awry.

One thing on the O2; I've read that you can actually over-aerate the beer so pay some attention to that. Paradoxically (seemingly), I've also read that giving another shot of O2 after fermentation is evident is also a good idea. Other than having to re-sanitize stuff (like you when I first started aerating I boiled my stone, now I just soak it in Starsan), this doesn't take much time and likely helps fermentation. I haven't done a second round of O2 yet but will with my next lager.

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Old 10-19-2011, 04:35 PM   #5
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well ill be giving it a go this sunday without an aeration stone and with liquid yeast. starting my starter tonight and plan on having around 400 billion cells at pitching time. we'lll see how that goes. good to hear your brew is doing well!

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Old 10-19-2011, 04:38 PM   #6
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well ill be giving it a go this sunday without an aeration stone and with liquid yeast. starting my starter tonight and plan on having around 400 billion cells at pitching time. we'lll see how that goes. good to hear your brew is doing well!
I can only hope your experience is better than mine. If you're not aerating, I'd recommend starting at 60 degrees and dropping down to 45-50 at the first visible sign of fermentation. Be sure to do a proper diacetyl rest if you do this.
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Old 10-19-2011, 04:41 PM   #7
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i plan on shaking it for a good 5 minutes straight, but i do think pitching at 60 is a good idea.

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Old 10-19-2011, 04:42 PM   #8
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i plan on shaking it for a good 5 minutes straight, but i do think pitching at 60 is a good idea.
I forget where I read this, but I believe you can get around 6-7% aeration by shaking. With pure O2 supposedly you can get something like 20% aeration.
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Old 10-19-2011, 05:43 PM   #9
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What you are looking for is parts per million (ppm) of O2. You can get around 8 by shaking or running air through an aquarium pump, but according to Wyeast you need at least 10, and often more, which can be accomplished with pure O2 through a stone.

http://www.wyeastlab.com/hb_oxygenation.cfm

I can tell you I noticed a much more vigorous fermentation with my lagers after I started to aerate with pure O2.

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Old 10-19-2011, 05:52 PM   #10
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Osagedr, do you aerate your ales as well? What effect does that have on your final product?

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