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Old 12-03-2012, 11:43 AM   #1
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Default New to Lager

I had a bit of bad news the other day when I found out my fridge's compressor died and I wasn't going to be getting it fixed until after the weekend. So, I HAD to get another used fridge to hold me over...once all the squatting food is out, it's keg time and lager time which leads to my main question.

I have searched the forums and there is a TON of information about lager fermentation but it goes down paths of technique I can't appreciate yet due to total inexperience so I want to lay out my down and dirty understanding of it and make sure I'm not doing anything really stupid. I plan on getting a Maibock all grain kit from Midwest and brewing on the 21st of December provided the mayans are off and also should be into real winter temps here in the midwest since it's going to hit 70 today.

1. Brew the beer. Cool the beer to pitch and let the beer sit inside (heater set at 66, normally) until I see signs of fermentation.
2. Move beer to the Garage (hopefully 40-50 depending on the day) for 2-3 weeks.
3. Move the beer back inside for a couple of days.
4. Rack to carboy and set in my new beer fridge for 7 weeks or so.
5. Transfer to Keg, carbonate and drink.

That is my plan based on what I can pull out of the forums without the exact temp's and such. I know that there may be better results with different controls and what not but it seems that lagers were brewed long before keezers and johnson controls came on the scene. Seems a good time to learn when I can use winter to keep my fermentation cool rather then constant messing with fridge controls but let me know if you see a glaring error.

Thanks!



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Old 12-03-2012, 01:36 PM   #2
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Without knowing what type of yeast you are using, 52-54F for your fermentation temperature should be fine for a bock. As with any beer, steady, controlled temperatures will limit the production of off flavors and give you a better end product.

If you haven't made one already, you would benefit greatly by either buying or making a temperature controller for your new refrigerator. There are plenty of threads on HBT using the STC-1000 "eBay" Temperature Controller (like this one) or you could just buy a Johnson Temperature Controller like this one.



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Old 12-03-2012, 02:15 PM   #3
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Rule of thumb is you don't want to cool beer by more than 5 degrees a day with the yeast in the beer. The temps will shock the yeast and cause them to start falling and stop fermenting. So in your situation I'd try to pitch the yeast at the lager temp; ie, let the wort cool with the yeast and pitch it at ~50 F.

I'm sure you've seen it but here's a link to the lager section of John Palmer's How to Brew

http://www.howtobrew.com/section1/chapter10.html

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Old 12-03-2012, 04:44 PM   #4
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The steps below will help you make a great, clean tasting, authentic lager. If you skimp here or there/take shortcuts/eliminate a step, you will in all likliehood still make beer. It just won't be a top-notch true lager. Lagers are considerably less forgiving than ales.

1. Pitch a TON of active, healthy yeast. This means fresh tubes/smack packs, and GIANT starters with a stirplate. If you don't have a big enough flask, ferment out a 2L starter, crash it, dump the starter beer, and make another 2L of wort. This is just for a standard 1.048 lager. If you really want to do a bock, you have to go bigger on your starter plan.

2. Aerate/oxygenate. Get you O2 levels as close to 10ppm as possible.

3. Pitch cold, like mid-40's. Allow the natural heat of fermentation to bring it up to 50 and hold it there precisely for 10-14 days.

4. Be patient. Lager ferments are much slower than ale ferments (less kinetic energy at lower temps).

5. If you follow these steps, a diacetyl rest will not be necessary. If it makes you feel better, it wont hurt to warm it up to 60F for 2-3 days when you are approaching FG.

6. Lager for at least 4 weeks, 6-8 weeks is even better. It makes a real difference in final taste/smoothness/clarity. Bocks benefit from extended lagering...2-6 months, depending on OG.

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Old 12-03-2012, 06:42 PM   #5
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Yea, for lagers you need to pitch cold (for lagers, pitch at 48-50), and your garage isn't going to get it done for fermenting. Lager yeast are finicky buggers and you need to be able to control the temperature of the fermenting beer within 1-2 degrees the whole time. Daily temp swings are going to make a nasty lager.

If you're not 100% comfortable with gravity readings (for diacetyl rest), oxygenation, making appropriately sized starters, and tight temperature control, you may want to put lagers on hold for a while.

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Old 12-07-2012, 02:37 AM   #6
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Good points. I'm going to wait until I can get a temp unit on that fridge and make them then. Going after the all grain Midwest Bourbon Barrel Ale kit instead!

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Old 12-07-2012, 02:49 AM   #7
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All great info on this thread. I am now just drinking my 1st lager and it came out fantastic, so don't be afraid to jump into the lager game. All told my brew lagered for about 5 weeks, I keg'd it and I've been drinking it for about 2 weeks and it continues to get better. I can't wait to get another one in the pipeline. My only advice is really make sure you pitch a healthy amount of yeast. I used the Mr. Malty estimates and stepped a starter up twice, after crashing/decanting to hit around the prescribed amount. I had zero issues with the fermentation and it was done within a week.



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