A little help with my first lager
With the cool weather finally here I decided to try a lager (since I don't have a ferm chamber or a spare fridge). I need a few questions answered, though.
Firstly: I bought a Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager yeast pack, broke the nutrient pack and let it sit at room temp for ~6 hours. It never swelled to near bursting. I think it swelled, a little, but not much. I made a starter for it, 2 cups water & 1/2 cup DME with 1/4 tsp yeast nutrient. A small krausen formed, but nothing like ale yeast (which I read would happen). 12 hours later I can see a yeast layer has formed on the bottom. I figured this meant the yeast were viable since they grew. I chilled the starter, decanted and pitched at 64F. Is this lack of swelling typical of lager yeast or did I possibly get a "tired" yeast pack. I didn't check the date on the pack (why would I do that?).
Secondly: Fermenting temperature. Beer was 64F when I pitched and put the fermenter into the swamp cooler with 40F water. 12 hours after pitching I checked the beer's temp and it was down to 50, same with the cooler water. According to Palmer you shouldn't pitch warm and slowly bring the temperature down as that can produce increased diacetyl's. However, the HBT wiki suggests pitching warm until airlock activity and then cool to fermenting temps. I have 3 gallons in a 7 gallon pail so I don't expect to see any airlock activity. Should I have let the beer sit at a warmer temp before chilling it to fermenting temps or did I do right by chilling it as quickly as I did?
I really don't want to screw this up and I think I might be starting to get a little overwhelmed with all the information I am trying to digest, process and put to use. So, any help would be appreciated. Thanks.
First it might not swell right away depending on how old/viable the yeast was. Given enough time it will swell. If you are pitching to a starter, you don't need to smack it unless you are checking for viability. The fact you have had yeast growth means the yeast was good. Next time increase you starter to 1 gallon after your initial starter has fermented out, you need a lot of yeast to make a proper lager.
But a gallon starter would make a 5 gallon brew and you would probably get away with 2 qts for 3 gallons.
Second, it is always best to pitch yeast that is a bit colder than the wort into wort that is at or slightly below fermentation tempertures that normally range about 46f to 52f. This is where that big starter comes into play. The extra yeast will allow a quick start in the colder tempertures, which will allow less esters and fusels and less diacetyl will be produced by yeast in the the cold wort.
Read a lot and ask questions if you don't clearly know the answers. It is the only way you can avoid mistakes before you make them.
Cheers and good lagering.
My yeast was in my garage where it was 50F so the yeast was nearly 15 degrees colder than my wort. Hopefully the small starter won't affect the beer too much. Do you think I should buy another yeast pouch and make a new starter and pitch that?
Thanks for the feedback.
No I wouldn't worry about it now. I'm sure you are OK. Pitching colder yeast into warmer wort is always good IMO.
Give it some time for the yeast to kick off and try to keep your fermenting temps even around 50f.
Looks like you are on your way to a lager.
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