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Old 01-17-2008, 06:34 AM   #1
The Bone2
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Default Lag period - pro's and con's

I have decided to begin using starters as a way to try to improve my beer. I have brewed 7 in the past month and a half, 2 are still in primary. I have made this decision based upon researching this website and deciding it is a very simple step that apparently makes a big difference.

So my brew partner goes to by some ingredients and gets the White Labs marketing flyer, which he says states something to the effect that the lag time between pitching the yeast and beginning of fermentation is DESIRABLE.

I am hearing two things here.

A lot of what I am reading on this site says that the quicker fermentation starts (one of the reasons to make a starter), the less chance for off flavors.

This seems opposed to the White Labs flyer.

??


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Old 01-17-2008, 07:28 AM   #2
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the first step is understanding what the yeast are doing.

lag is basically two things:
1. The yeast acclimating to their environment. they've just been dumped into a different temperature and alot more sugar.
2. The yeast eating all the oxygen and some sugar and begin reproducing.

Then starts the fermentation...basically when the oxygen is gone and the yeast goto work on the sugars and produce alcohol and co2.

with starters, because you have more yeast and they have been recently fed, the lag is shorter...they're ready for the environment and there's alot of them to take care of the job!


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Old 01-17-2008, 11:30 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DeathBrewer
the first step is understanding what the yeast are doing.

lag is basically two things:
1. The yeast acclimating to their environment. they've just been dumped into a different temperature and alot more sugar.
!
And this is why a lag time is desireable. The makeup of your wort sugars is usually different each time so the yeast need time to adjust to the amount and type of sugar it will be eating.
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Old 01-17-2008, 02:12 PM   #4
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In the book "designing great beers" there's a discussion about yeast pitching rates. He states that commercial breweries consider 200 billion cells in a 5-gallon batch to be the bare minimum pitching rate - and that homebrewers typically only pitch 10 to 20 billion cells - in other words homebrewers almost NEVER pitch as much yeast as they really should, even when making big starters.

I don't see ANY reason to try and 'push it' any more than necessary by intentionally further underpitching to force additional lag time.
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Old 01-17-2008, 02:33 PM   #5
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From what I've read, there is rarely ever a reason not to do a starter. One exception that comes to mind is when Jamil was doing his Scottish Ale recipe, and he didn't do a starter in order to keep the attenuation down and the FG up for a maltier backbone. Other than that, I can't imagine a reason not to do a starter with liquid yeast.
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Old 01-17-2008, 02:58 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Funkenjaeger
In the book "designing great beers" there's a discussion about yeast pitching rates. He states that commercial breweries consider 200 billion cells in a 5-gallon batch to be the bare minimum pitching rate - and that homebrewers typically only pitch 10 to 20 billion cells - in other words homebrewers almost NEVER pitch as much yeast as they really should, even when making big starters.
That's old information, although still relevant. White Labs vials now hold somewhere around 100 billion cells per vial (give or take 20 or 30 billion cells, depending on the product), and Wyeast packs are comparable (depending on what sort of pack you buy). So, pitching without a starter might still be underpitching by commercial (and other) standards, but it's not as severe as it may have been when Daniels first got his information.

I still believe in starters, even if it's just to proof your yeast.


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Old 01-17-2008, 03:04 PM   #7
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Jamil was saying, in his American Pale Ale episode, that there is really never any reason to purposefully stress a yeast.

On the other hand, I've heard some folks around here toss around the idea that stressing certain belgian strains will accentuate their characteristics.

While I'm more apt to listen to Jamil, I think that there may be some merit to a side-by-side test. Take something relatively neutral like a Tripel and get two packs or vials of the same belgian strain (I'd say Wyeast 1762 or WLP500). Make a starter for one batch and just pitch the other vial/pack straight into the other batch. See if there's any difference.

Other than recipes where a beer's character is based largely on the yeast characteristics, I wouldn't suggest it. Even then, I think more research is needed.
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Old 01-17-2008, 03:08 PM   #8
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I think John Palmer sums it up nicely:

Quote:
Originally Posted by How to Brew (Chapter 8 - Fermentation)

It has been common for brewing texts to over-emphasize the "lagtime" - the period of time after pitching the yeast before the foamy head appeared in the fermentor. This lagtime was the benchmark that everyone would use to gauge the health of their yeast and the vigor of the fermentation. While it is a notable indicator, the lagtime accounts for a combination of pre-fermentation processes that have a great deal to do with the quality of the total fermentation, but that individually are not well represented by time.

A very short lagtime, for example, does not guarantee an exemplary fermentation and an outstanding beer. A short lagtime only means that initial conditions were favorable for growth and metabolism. It says nothing about the total amount of nutrients in the wort or how the rest of the fermentation will progress.

The latter stages of fermentation may also appear to finish more quickly when in fact the process was not super-efficient, but rather, incomplete. The point is that speed does not necessarily correlate with quality. Of course, under optimal conditions a fermentation would be more efficient and thus take less time. But it is better to pay attention to the fermentation conditions and getting the process right, rather than to a rigid time schedule [emphasis added].


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