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Old 06-22-2011, 02:00 PM   #1
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Default Lager Decoction Help

Hi All.

I am planning to do my first lager, the Pilsner Urquell clone from BYO magazine and plan to do:

1. A single decoction with a rest at 131F (15minutes) and 155F (45 minutes) as per the recipe.
2. It states to ferment at 55F with WLP800 or wyeast 2001

I am looking for some tips on the lagering process and the pitching rate people use to successfully do a lager. I would be doing a double batch ending with 11g, so I am looking for:

1. Recommended starter size
2. Details on the lagering process (recipe doesn't give any);
a. i.e. lager for 1 month at 32-35F after the ferment is completed?
b. how long does the ferment take at 55F? (just ball park so i know how long I need to maintain that temp)
3. Soft water is reccomended for this recipe, which I do not have. What is the best/cheapest source people use for this (I will need ~20 gallons).

Any general tips or anecdotal experience would be great. this is my first lager, and my first decoction, and I am really looking forward to it. Thanks for your help in advance!

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Old 06-22-2011, 02:27 PM   #2
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ive done 3 lagers and you sound a bit more technical than i can get, but lemme feed you my acquired knowledge, since i really had to search long and hard to learn lagering techniques...and of course i'm still learning it.

starter- they say it's necessary, and maybe it is, but i just tend to smack a wyeast lager pack overnight and pitch it directly once it's fully swollen. i cracked my first dunkel last night and it was quite yeasty for what its worth without a real starter.

lager process- 2 weeks primary at 55 or so, then transfer- transferring is a good idea for lagers. then what i have done is lower the temperature gradually down to as close to 32 as possible for 2 months or so. then (and this is something i do that has worked for me) i bottle, prime, and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours. this will wake the yeast up, carb, eat any diacetyl. then put it back in the fridge at 50-55 for 3-4 weeks, maybe more.

soft water- ive never actually altered my water because that's a little too far into chemistry for me to do just yet. but what i've read states that it's so much easier to add than subtract **** in the water. so if you want to do a science experiment, get distilled water and add from there rather than using your bleachy ny water and subtracting.

decoction- again, never done it, but at my last homebrew meeting we were talking about it, and someone was talking about doing some type of sawing decoction method as a way to break down your starches into simple fermenantable sugars. the lower temperature stimulates alpha amylase, which will break down simpler starches into sugar. then you raise the temperature 10 degrees or so and that stimulates beta amylase, which breaks down larger starches into simple starches. he said that while you'll never read about this in a book, if you keep sawing back and forth between alpha and betas, you'll get a much better efficiency. but again, i've always had no problems not doing it...just throwing that ramble into the mix.

lagers are a little tougher in my opinion, especially with the temperature control, but they produce a much crisper, less estery, and definitely a much more palatable beer for the BMC drinkers of the world.

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Old 06-22-2011, 02:41 PM   #3
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Thanks hobobrewery - I try to aim small/ miss small - so apologize if I came off a bit sterile

I will have to make a starter simply based on the fact that I am too cheap to buy two packs of yeast Since I am doing a double batch it sounds like in the least I would need to make a 1 liter starter - but I have really that people make larger starters for lagers. Sounds like that hasn't been a need for you.

Thanks for the ferment info too. So sounds like ~2 weeks at 55F then I could rack into two kegs and put into my yeast refridge which is set to about 32F. From there it would be 2 months. That is great news because it means I have to work on maintaining that 55F for roughly 2 weeks, which I might be able to do with a swamp cooler in my cellar versus using my yeast refridge. For the diacetyl aspect - any suggestions on how I would handle that if I plan to keg and carb with CO2?

I typically don't mess with my water - I am on a well and have 25grains hard water and it usually makes great beer. But this recipe specifically called for it so I am trying to decide if it is worth it or not.

The decoction I am doing more because I have yet to try it, it seems pretty easy despite the hype. And I have heard and read it increases the malty character, which would be especially desired in a german/czech lager like this one. Any increase in efficiency is icing on the cake, but that is not why I am doing the decoction.

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Old 06-22-2011, 02:45 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HoboBrewery View Post
decoction- again, never done it, but at my last homebrew meeting we were talking about it, and someone was talking about doing some type of sawing decoction method as a way to break down your starches into simple fermenantable sugars. the lower temperature stimulates alpha amylase, which will break down simpler starches into sugar. then you raise the temperature 10 degrees or so and that stimulates beta amylase, which breaks down larger starches into simple starches. he said that while you'll never read about this in a book, if you keep sawing back and forth between alpha and betas, you'll get a much better efficiency. but again, i've always had no problems not doing it...just throwing that ramble into the mix.
No offense Hobo but this paragraph is very wrong. The 'alpha' and 'beta' are reversed and you can't really 'saw' the mash temp like that (well, you can...if you like spinning your wheels). Once you increase the temp much above 150-ish the beta-amylase starts to denature and doesn't work anymore (it's gradual, not ON/OFF like a switch).

Cidah,
Decoctions are not that difficult if you're already decent at hitting mash temps/etc. Once you've done a couple they are quite easy. But for very new all-grain brewers they can be a recipe for a very long brewday. The first problem I see with that mash schedule is the 15 minute rest at 131* F. How do you plan to: pull the decoction, heat decoction to conversion temp without scorching, rest the decoction until it's mostly converted, heat to a boil without scorching, boil for x minutes, and then add it back; all in 15 minutes? Also, going from 131* F to 155* F is going to require a big decoction.

Try the Mr Malty pitching rate calculator but I can tell you right now you're not going to like the answer, it will be a ginormous starter.

Check out Kaiser's Fermenting Lagers page at Braukaiser.com. Great info there. He has a video on decoctions and a decoction mashing article as well. Good luck.
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Old 06-22-2011, 02:45 PM   #5
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My handy dandy yeast pitching sheet tells me that I should be shooting for 378 million cells/ 21.4g or nearly a 3 liter starter for a 10G batch of 1.050 wort.

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Old 06-22-2011, 02:55 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpanishCastleAle View Post

Cidah,
Decoctions are not that difficult if you're already decent at hitting mash temps/etc. Once you've done a couple they are quite easy. But for very new all-grain brewers they can be a recipe for a very long brewday. The first problem I see with that mash schedule is the 15 minute rest at 131* F. How do you plan to: pull the decoction, rest the decoction until it's mostly converted, heat to a boil without scorching, boil for x minutes, and then add it back; all in 15 minutes? Also, going from 131* F to 155* F is going to require a big decoction.

Try the Mr Malty pitching rate calculator but I can tell you right now you're not going to like the answer, it will be a ginormous starter.

Check out Kaiser's Fermenting Lagers page at Braukaiser.com. Great info there. He has a video on decoctions and a decoction mashing article as well. Good luck.

I figured this would lengthen the brew day for sure (thanks for the warning). I have dialed in my brew equipment and do hit my mash temps routinely - so I believe I am ready for the decoction challenge. My buddy and I pulled of 2 10G batches in 6 hours last weekend on my electric system in fact!

I used brewsmith to set up the decoction volumes (but the temps are from BYO) and I think it was something like a 14 quart decoction, which is big, luckily I have a spare 22qt aluminum pressure cooker I planned to use for heating it.

Good point about heatind that 14qts up in 15 minutes to a boil.... I do have a big bayou classic 180K burner. I would have to stir constantly to avoid scorching.

Would you recommend following another decoction schedule?

thanks for that link!

I wanted to start my starter now, because I was thinking that it would be something like 6L for the batch if a regular starter would be 3L by mr. malty for a regular ale




Th
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Old 06-22-2011, 02:57 PM   #7
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thanks spanish. it was at a homebrew meeting that i learned this. in order to enter the doors of my club you have to be at least 8 beers deep, hence my jumbled confusion. in over my head on that part of the topic. thought it was interesting he said it, until i heard he probably spends 5 hours varying the temperatures to get better efficiency. i'm also about 1 step 1 hour and move.

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Old 06-22-2011, 03:00 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpanishCastleAle View Post
How do you plan to: pull the decoction, heat decoction to conversion temp without scorching, rest the decoction until it's mostly converted, heat to a boil without scorching, boil for x minutes, and then add it back; all in 15 minutes? Also, going from 131* F to 155* F is going to require a big decoction.
Just curious after rereading this. I assumed the process would be:
1. pull 14 quarts
2. bring to boil
3. add back to main mash until you bring temp up to 155F

Sounds like there is more to it based on your description.
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Old 06-22-2011, 03:04 PM   #9
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TBH Hobo, if you do almost anything (or...nothing, just let it sit) to your mash for 5 hours you'll probably increase efficiency. Grain is cheap, I don't worry about high efficiency (consistent efficiency, yes). So what if I have to add another pound of $1-something malt.

Cidah,
you want the decoction to be at least somewhat converted before you boil it. Read Kaiser's Decoction mashing article and watch the videos. They'll help immensely.

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Old 06-22-2011, 03:08 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpanishCastleAle View Post
Cidah,
you want the decoction to be at least somewhat converted before you boil it. Read Kaiser's Decoction mashing article and watch the videos. They'll help immensely.
Ok will chew through it and get back. Thanks!

+1 on the grain is cheap I am hoping the decoction will make a superior lager
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