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Old 06-25-2012, 10:52 AM   #1
travlinScott
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Default Pitching yeast for lagers

Hi guys - I'm fairly new to home brewing (three batches down) and so far I've done all ales. They've all turned out fairly decent so I'm encouraged.

I'm thinking about switching it up and doing a lager this time. I'm set up with a ferment chamber to lager in, but I'm curious to know how the folks on this site might handle the yeast starters and pitching environments differently for lagers rather than ales.

Two specific questions I have on this are....

1. If you do a yeast starter say the night before, do you let it sit and start in the cooler environment that you're going to lager in?

2. If yes to the above, do you also then cool your batch of wort to that temp before actually pitching the yeast? If you do cool that batch that low, do you do anything differently to prevent contamination since it's going to take more time to get it that cool?

Or do you handle everything at room temp (as I do for ales) and then just gradually lower the temp in the ferment environment so as not to stress the yeast?

In general- do you handle any of these things significantly different for lagers, and if so, how?

Just trying to plan things out before I get knee deep in the brew and wind up wishing I'd done things differently.

Thanks for any input you might have.

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Old 06-25-2012, 11:21 AM   #2
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I do my lager starters at least 72 hours out because the pitch count usually demands a multi-step starter. Dont worry about the temperature of the starter as you are just concerned about yeast growth and health, and typically you will decant the spent wort anyways. I would try to get the wort as close to your fermenting temperature before pitching the yeast.

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Old 06-25-2012, 11:34 AM   #3
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Good questions as I have them myself. Even in the winter in MN, I imagine it would take a while to cool wort to 45F with a chiller, other option is to let it sit at the ambient temp of the fermenting g environment, but as you said, how do you prevent unwanteds form hitching a ride in the hours it would take to accomplish that?

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Old 06-25-2012, 11:44 AM   #4
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I think it would be hard to chill the wort down to that 45. I usually just get mine into the mid 60's, pitch the yeast and let the ferm chamber cool the wort. Never experienced off flavors when doing lagers. 45 is also pretty low even for a lager IMO.

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Old 06-25-2012, 04:31 PM   #5
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I'm doing my first lager (Oktoberfest) this week and have been scratching my head about this as well.

As BradleyBrew says, it'll probably take more than a day for a lager starter. I've budgeted 6 days for a 2-step starter. On brew day, I'll take the yeast out of the fridge, decant, let it warm gradually to wort temperature, then pitch.

Also, I'm planning to put the beer in my fermentation chamber and get it down into the fifties before pitching. Supposedly the downside to pitching into hotter wort is more diacetyl production, so it's more likely that you'll need a d-rest before lagering. If you bring down the temperature too fast, I think it's also possible to shock the yeast.

There's some good info in this thread.

Good luck!

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Old 06-25-2012, 06:01 PM   #6
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I'm brewing up my oktoberfest tonight... attempting The Avery Brewery "The Kaiser" Imperial Oktoberfest. Pitching 2 packs of Saflager W34/70.

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Old 06-25-2012, 06:44 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by travlinScott View Post
1. If you do a yeast starter say the night before, do you let it sit and start in the cooler environment that you're going to lager in?
How big of a yeast starter is this? Generally, lager starters need to be big and there's no way my starter could fully ferment and then be chilled enough to decant the oxidized wort to pitch the following day.

I usually do my yeast starters at least 2 days out. Let it fully ferment, put it in the fridge to drop the yeast, decant the spent wort, swirl some wort with the yeast and pitch.

Quote:
Originally Posted by travlinScott View Post
2. If yes to the above, do you also then cool your batch of wort to that temp before actually pitching the yeast? If you do cool that batch that low, do you do anything differently to prevent contamination since it's going to take more time to get it that cool?

Or do you handle everything at room temp (as I do for ales) and then just gradually lower the temp in the ferment environment so as not to stress the yeast?

In general- do you handle any of these things significantly different for lagers, and if so, how?
There are differing schools of thought on this. The best solution is to get the wort to primary fermentation temps and pitch a very large amount of yeast ASAP. However, that's tough for a lot of people. Some people pitch warm and then try to cool it in the fermentation chamber. Having seen the amount of time it takes for ambient air to cool 6G of wort in a ferm chamber, I'd imagine fermentation will start when the wort is well above the preferred temp.

Generally, I get the wort as cold as possible via chilling and then place it in the fermentation chamber overnight...I'm taking an infection risk, but it's sealed with an airlock. The yeast starter flask is in the same chamber at the same temp.

In the morning, I check the temp, oxygenate the wort and pitch the yeast from the starter.
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Old 06-25-2012, 06:50 PM   #8
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+1 to Brewthruyou.....I make my starter up, chill it in the fridge and keep it there until pitching (pitching cold yeast into a warm wort hasn't been an issue. I decant off the starter wort as much as possible. I use my immersion chiller to chill the wort down as cold as I can get it, sometimes I'll pump ice water through the chiller to aid in this otherwise I'll put it in the chamber and chill it a couple of degrees below my target temp and then pitch. ie...chill to 48F and let ferment at 50-52F. Then I still do a diacetyl rest after about 1-1.5 weeks, raise to 62F for 48 hours or so.

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Old 06-25-2012, 06:54 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by travlinScott View Post
Hi guys - I'm fairly new to home brewing (three batches down) and so far I've done all ales. They've all turned out fairly decent so I'm encouraged.

I'm thinking about switching it up and doing a lager this time. I'm set up with a ferment chamber to lager in, but I'm curious to know how the folks on this site might handle the yeast starters and pitching environments differently for lagers rather than ales.

Two specific questions I have on this are....

1. If you do a yeast starter say the night before, do you let it sit and start in the cooler environment that you're going to lager in?

2. If yes to the above, do you also then cool your batch of wort to that temp before actually pitching the yeast? If you do cool that batch that low, do you do anything differently to prevent contamination since it's going to take more time to get it that cool?

Or do you handle everything at room temp (as I do for ales) and then just gradually lower the temp in the ferment environment so as not to stress the yeast?

In general- do you handle any of these things significantly different for lagers, and if so, how?

Just trying to plan things out before I get knee deep in the brew and wind up wishing I'd done things differently.

Thanks for any input you might have.
1. Make a starter at least a week in advance. Room temperature is fine. Once it's fermented out, cool it down for at least 48 hours in the fridge so you can decant the spent wort. Lager starters are typically HUGE, so you don't want all that spent wort in your beer. A gallon starter is not too big and might even be on the small side, depending on the OG of the lager.

2. Chill the wort to 45 degrees or so if possible, and then pitch the yeast (at roughly the same temperature, or the yeast can be a little lower). Let it rise up to 50 degrees for fermentation.

After about 7-10 days, the beer will be ready for a diacetyl rest. This is typically done when the beer is about 75% finished, so about 1.020 for most lagers. Raise the temperature up to 60-65 degrees for 48 hours and then check the beer to ensure it's finished (at FG) and that there is no hint of diacetyl in the flavor or mouthfeel. Then the beer can be racked to a new carboy and lagering begin. I like to lager at 34 degrees. Usually, one week for every 8-10 points of OG is a good amount of time for lagering- so for a 1.060 lager, 6-8 weeks lagering should be ideal.
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Old 06-25-2012, 06:58 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BradleyBrew View Post
I'm brewing up my oktoberfest tonight... attempting The Avery Brewery "The Kaiser" Imperial Oktoberfest. Pitching 2 packs of Saflager W34/70.
Sounds tasty. Next time I'll have to give the Saflager W34/70 a try. I've heard good things and dry yeast is definitely a lot less work!
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