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Old 09-11-2013, 02:25 PM   #1
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Default Is it even possible to achieve that authentic German crispness in a homebrewed lager?

After brewing dozens of German-styled lagers, I'm beginning to think it's impossible to achieve that German character as a home brewer. It's that sharp crispness that clearly sets apart German lagers from American counterparts. My beers are IMHO professional-quality but lack that crispness, and instead taste American (e.g. Michelob).

Here's a typical description of what I'm doing. Am I missing something?

- Always a base of German pilsner malt.
- Very little crystal or other non-base malts.
- German yeasts, e.g. Wyeast 2308, 2124, WLP 833
- Good water, e.g. 50% lake Michigan, 50% distilled.
- Mash pH around 5.4-5.5 (room temp, measured w/meter)
- Typically single infusion, sometimes triple-infusion (hochkurz method)
- Proper lager fermentation (pitch 46F, ferment 48F 7-10 days, d-rest 3-days, slowly lower over 2 wks to 32F).

This has frustrated me for 15 years now!


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Old 09-11-2013, 03:16 PM   #2
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Looks pretty good, although I think that for lagers, you could lower the pH just a little bit to the 5.2-5.3 range. Probably won't make that much difference.

What is your mash temp?

How long are you lagering?


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Old 09-11-2013, 03:33 PM   #3
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Id be willing to bet its your water. That kind of thing is exactly where dialing in your water profile to the style you're brewing is important.

Sounds like you're making a fantastic beer you're just wanting to take it from a 38-40 to a 45. John Palmer describes this exact thing in a water series he and jamil did. I'd go on the brewing network and listen to those 4-6 shows.

Get your water tested by Ward labs for like 15-20 bucks. With that knowledge in hand use one of the great calculators available online to tweak your water profile to style. Brunwater is a great one.
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Old 09-11-2013, 04:01 PM   #4
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Water is important! I'd definitely consider using all reverse osmosis water, and adding back calcium chloride for most lagers.

The other thing we need to know is your fermentation schedule. I assume you're chilling the wort to fermentation temperature, or below, and pitching a huge amount of yeast, and fermenting at the low end of the yeast strain's optimum range, according to your notes there. But what about chilling faster to near freezing (you said you do it over two weeks), and holding it there for at least one week for every 8-10 points of OG? That means for a 1.060 lager, you'd lager for 6-8 weeks.

I'm no expert on lagers, but I've had more than a few great homebrewed ones! I've had pjj2tuba's German pilsner and CAP and thought they rivaled the crispness and flavor of a commercial excellent version.

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f58/2013...ilsner-419449/
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f58/ocas...-clone-333411/

Neither one of those recipes are German pilsners- one is the Czech and one is CAP- but those are fabulous beers and the recipes and techniques are worth a read.
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Old 09-11-2013, 04:38 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Homercidal View Post
Looks pretty good, although I think that for lagers, you could lower the pH just a little bit to the 5.2-5.3 range. Probably won't make that much difference.

What is your mash temp?

How long are you lagering?
I'll start experimenting with 5.2-5.3 pH and see what happens.

Mash temps have been all over the board, but doesn't seem to have an impact. E.g. infusions at 148F, at 155F, or hochkurz doing a rest at 145F then 160F.

Lagering your typical 6-8 weeks, except that I do this at 36F. Maybe lagering at 32F would help?

Quote:
Originally Posted by thirstyutahn View Post
Id be willing to bet its your water. ...
Perhaps. My typical water (50:50 plus CaCl) is: Ca 43, Mg 7, Na 4, Cl 54, SO4 13. Perhaps 100% distilled plus CaCl is worth a shot.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yooper View Post
Water is important! I'd definitely consider using all reverse osmosis water, and adding back calcium chloride for most lagers.
... But what about chilling faster to near freezing (you said you do it over two weeks), and holding it there for at least one week for every 8-10 points of OG? That means for a 1.060 lager, you'd lager for 6-8 weeks.
...
Good points. I think I addressed these here.

Thanks for the help so far, folks. I'll give these a shot:
1) 100% distilled plus CaCl,
2) Lager at 32F instead of 36F.
3) Try a pH of 5.2-5.3.
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Old 09-11-2013, 05:45 PM   #6
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Part of the "clean, crisp" taste of a lager also comes from mashing temperature. That would be a temperature in the mid-high 140s for the majority of the saccrification rest.

Your water with the 50/50 looks pretty good, so I think it's not the water.

Lagering colder, longer, will help but not fix it completely.
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Old 09-11-2013, 06:08 PM   #7
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According to kai's wiki, traditional German fermentations don't include a d-rest:

http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php...menting_Lagers

Coming off fermentation, they very slowly bring the temp down from fermentation temp to avoid shocking the yeast, and the yeast continues to clear diacetyl throughout that whole process.

Is this important? Not sure... But it's one difference from "tradition" that may be worth trying.

(As with any experiment, you're working with several variables here and I don't recommend changing all at once, so I'd try the others, i.e. water, before adding this step. Keeping a d-rest makes life a lot easier for us homebrewers, so if you can get to the goal without making this change, I'm sure it's preferred.)
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Old 09-11-2013, 08:41 PM   #8
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Ever tried Belgian pilsner malt in your german recipes? I haven't, but I have used Best Malz pilsner which I think is German, and it wasn't very sharp tasting.

Filtering is another thing to consider. I haven't tried this yet either though.

In addition to the lower mash PH, try measuring the PH in the bottle too.
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Old 09-11-2013, 08:51 PM   #9
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I stopped with the D-rest as I make sure to pitch a robust starter.
The 48* fermentation temperature is that the lagering temp or the wort temp?
I keep mine at 42*-43* with a wort temp of 44*-46* as fermentation takes off the wort temp goes up several degrees so you may be higher then you think during your primary
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Old 09-11-2013, 09:05 PM   #10
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I've used Belgain pisner, even British. They all have worked pretty good. Many seem to prefer Best. My favorite is probably Castle.

I think my tap water is about right for a German pills but too much calcium sulfate for a Bohemian pilsner.

Most of mine are just 8 pounds pisner and hops at 60, 15 and 1. Doughed in at 145, decocted to 155 after 30-40 minutes, rested another 30 minutes than decocted to mash out. I get 5.25 gallons of 12-13 brix wort. I'm always playing around with different hops and yeast. WLP 830 is best for a German pills I believe. It's dry but still malty.

Although not 'traditional' most all lager breweries use some form of an accelerated brewing method these days, even in Germany. I do too. I pitch enough yeast at 48-50F (not always as much as Mr. Malty but it's always healthy and that's more important.) I let the temp go up a degree or so a day. By day five or six it's at FG and I'll let it sit there for at lest a few days before crashing to lager temp. Sometimes I'll even move it out to room temp for a few days. When it's a FG and tastes good I think the best place for it is in a keg and cold.


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