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Old 02-24-2013, 03:49 PM   #1
MikeyPipes86
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Default Lager not taking off

Brewed the Brewers Best Oktoberfest kit which is my first lager. Everything else I've done are either ale kits or ale recipes.

So everything was smooth as butter: boil/cool/aerate/pitch. OG was right on point: 1.053. So I pitched the Brewferm dry lager yeast at around 11pm Thursday. After about 36 hours I had no activity so I went to the LHBS and talked to the owner/brewmaster. He said to repitch as lagers sometimes require additional yeast cells that the kits provide.

So I got another Brewferm pack yesterday and this time made a mini starter, pitched and swirled it up pretty good. My primary temperature has been right around 57 degrees in a dark crawl space.

24 hours later I still have no airlock activity or krausen so I took a hydrometer reading that registered 1.052; basically signaling no fermentation whatsoever is taking place now 60 hours in and two yeast pitches in.

Any one have ideas?

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Old 02-25-2013, 05:13 PM   #2
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Lagers do not normally have a krausen that will rise on the top like ales do, because lager yeast are bottom fermenting not top, so if anything all you might see on top is a thin layer of foam as the C02 bubbles up. They also take longer than ales to reach FG.

Using Mr. Malty website for yeast pitching, without a starter and with yeast that is only a day old (not sure if Dry Yeast have dates on the them too) and with a OG of 1.053, Mr. Malty says you needed to pitch 3.9 packs. So with older yeast that means even more packs are needed, so you still don't have enough yeast. Lagers need a lot more than ales. With lagers you should always make a starter. When you say you made a mini-starter, do you mean you just mixed the yeast with warm water to activate? Without sugar, all that does is take the yeast out of suspension, they would need wort to eat to grow.

Your gravity has come down a point, so the yeast is working a little bit, but not enough to generate much C02 for it to show in the airlock yet. I would pitch at least two more packs of yeast. 57 degrees is also a little warm, you should bring the temp down if you have a way to control it to between 50-53.

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Old 02-25-2013, 07:02 PM   #3
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Every lager I've ever made started very slowly as well, and they never "take off."

The lower temps of a lager yeast are designed to be within the yeasts' active threshhold, but low enough that the yeast process sugars and propogate very slowly, so there are little to no off-flavors in the low malt final beer.

This one will not look like an ale fermentation. It'll be much slower, with little to no visible activity, and will take a good 10-14 days for active fermentation to conclude, compared to 3-5 days for a standard ale. Don't be surprised at all if you never even see the airlock bubble. CO2 will always take the path of least resistance, and At 57F, that may be absorbing into the wort/beer instead of pushing out of the airlock.

Everything's normal! Good luck!

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Old 02-25-2013, 07:47 PM   #4
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Thanks for the help. I posted this on the extract brewing forum and got some advice there as well. One of the guys there said that he would raise the temp back up to 65, pitch again and once fermentation signals to drop back down to lager temps.

I'll check back on it tonight when I get out of work but I think the underlying problem is not enough yeast cells. Which begs the question, why would a kit not provide enough dry packs knowing the style and OG of their own recipe?!

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Old 02-25-2013, 09:05 PM   #5
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Quote:
One of the guys there said that he would raise the temp back up to 65, pitch again and once fermentation signals to drop back down to lager temps.
BAD ADVICE!!

Again, lager fermentations typically show very few visable signs of active fermentation, and there's a very good reason for that, so you don't WANT it to. There's NOTHING unusual about a lager fermentation showing no visible signs of fermentation OR being the same gravity after 2.5 days. My last lager STARTED fermenting around day 4. SLOW and LOW = GOOD LAGER. FAST and WARM = BAD LAGER.

WTF are "fermentation signals?" Just because you don't "SEE" anything doesn't mean nothing's happening. There is only one fermentation signal: GRAVITY.

You ferment in the 50s so that it is clean without off-flavors. Raising it to 65 doesn't do anything but promote off-flavors. If the yeast won't ferment at 57, they won't at 65 either. You are being impatient.

Take a gravity reading at like DAY 5, and if it hasn't moved AT ALL, I'd consider re-pitching and shaking the crap out of it to re-oxigenate. If it has moved even a little bit, let it be!!

Again, you are being impatient and treating this like an ale fermentation. It isn't and everything you've described is normal. Don't go trying to fix something that's not broken!!
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Old 02-26-2013, 12:33 AM   #6
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I appreciate your help Topher but don't kill the messenger. I just stated another guy gave me that advice. I didn't say it was correct or that I was going to adopt his strategy. My only consensus after reading recommendations and talking with some people is that the yeast cell count from one (and probably even two) dry lager yeast packets is light.

Topher you obviously know what you're talking about so your points are well taken and noted. Thanks again for your help.

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Old 02-26-2013, 03:19 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeyPipes86 View Post
I'll check back on it tonight when I get out of work but I think the underlying problem is not enough yeast cells. Which begs the question, why would a kit not provide enough dry packs knowing the style and OG of their own recipe?!
That's a problem with kits sometimes because they don't know if you will use that pack of yeast and make a starter (though I think I read that when making starters you should really use the Wyeast Smack Packs or White Labs vials, not dry). It is a common topic in our home brew club where new to brewing members are constantly underpitching the right amount of yeast.

I was one of those myself at the beginning and then learned to pitch more than one vial/pack depending on OG and yeast date. And now I make a starter with a stir plate every time and fermentation is faster and my beers have improved greatly.
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Old 02-28-2013, 01:46 AM   #8
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This batch finally started fermenting last night, about 4.5 days and an extra yeast pitch later. It was a relief to see it get going finally. Definitely a learning experience...going to be very patient with this moving forward. Lagers: definitely NOT like brewing an ale!

Thanks for everyone's help.

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Old 02-28-2013, 02:39 AM   #9
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Raising it to 65 doesn't do anything but promote off-flavors. If the yeast won't ferment at 57, they won't at 65 either.
Not sure I agree with that. My LHBS told me similar and I did it and within 24hrs of boosting to 64 I had fermentation. Quickly dropped back to 54 and fermentation kept going and going.

LHBS explained it as kicking the yeast in the butt or jump starting it.
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Old 02-28-2013, 03:06 AM   #10
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Default Brewferm lager yeast

I would never use that yeast again. It is very slow to take off, has poor flocculation and poor attenuation. If you read the instructions with that kit, it says that the yeast can also ferment as an ale at between 64-72F. It is not a true lager yeast. I used it for a kolsch and it took about a week to start activity after raising the temp to 62 degrees. I have brewed several lagers since then with Saflager 34/70 with great results.

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