Fermentation for a Lager

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Nov 21, 2018
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I have been brewing for about a year now, exclusively ales. I just brewed my first lager. I used a recipe from Northern Brewer for a Czech Pilsner. I did a 10 gallons batch in two 5-gallon buckets and pitched the yeast roughly 3 days ago. I used the Liquid Yeast option Omega Yeast Pilser. it's been three days, I decided to take a look under the lids to see how it was going since this is my first lager and there seems to be zero activity. No foam, nothing on the top. Looks just like a vat of pre-pitched brew like when I put it in the bucket. It's been in the brew fridge now for three days on roughly 43-45 degrees. A tiny bit colder than it should I suppose, but shouldn't I see some activity by now? I have raised the temperature of the fridge to see if that helps, but I'm worried now that I have ten gallons of beer that is not going to ferment.

Any insights?

How much yeast did you pitch? Did you aerate?
You won't see as much activity with a lager as you do with an ale, but there should still be some sort of krausen. The most likely culprit is not enough healthy yeast pitched.
I used 100ML packages for each 5 gallon bucket. the packaging made clear that it inoculates 5 gallons
I did what I usually do to aerate. I rocked the buckets on an upside down bowl. that's what I always do for the ales I brew. do I need to do more?
I used 100ML packages for each 5 gallon bucket. the packaging made clear that it inoculates 5 gallons
That only works if you pitch into warm wort, and even then it's not desirable. Pitching at cold, lager temperatures needs much more yeast. You need two (or more) packs of yeast, or a decent starter for 5 gallons of lager. Use a pitch-rate calculator like http://www.mrmalty.com/calc/calc.html to work out how much you need.

Because the yeast is working harder (lager vs ale) it's also helpful to have more oxygen than you can get by shaking. Pure O2 is good. Pitching sufficient yeast is (IMO) more important though.

For the brew you've done, there are a few options.
1. Leave it as is (but warm to 50 or so to help the yeast get going). Although underpitched, giving a very slow start, there should be enough yeast in there to eventually get the job done (it might finish off a point or two high). Do you have a pH meter? If you do, see if the pH has dropped (it would have started in the low to mid 5's; yeast activity typically drop lagers to the mid 4's before active fermentation commences). If the pH hasn't changed, the yeast is dead.
2. Pitch more lager yeast.
3. Warm it up to room temp and pitch ale yeast - have a pseudo lager (this might also wake the lager yeast up though, which could throw unpleasant flavours at room temperatures).
very, very helpful, thank you. do you think there will be any issues with my waiting two more days and pitching more yeast and aerating with a wand then? I am going to need to get more yeast and a wand and I won't be able to do it with the holiday tomorrow.
Never used Omega as none of the local shops carry it, but that's on the cold side for a lot of lager yeasts. I ferment all of mine @ 50-52*
As long as your sanitation was on point, you should be able to let them warm up naturally to about 62-65 and see if that wakes up the yeast. Give both fermenters a gentle swirl to get the yeast up from the bottom as well. Give it a day or two at that temperature and see if it starts; if so, you can gradually lower the temp back down to about 54 to let it finish out. Let us know what happens.

I would nix on adding more yeast until you try to get what you've got to wake up; overpitching can result in 'dead' yeast which will autolyse and give you some nasty off-flavors. Been there done that. Right now the yeast you have already pitched should be dormant, not dead; it should wake up with some warmth.
One very important issue with liquid yeast is that it'alive. As anything alive it can and will die eventually. One advantage of making a starter is that you will know if this is the case before you pitch the yeast into wort. As in the course of my brewing careers I've have a few startes actually not start at all I would never ever consider pitching yeast directly from the pack, it's not worth the risk for me, regardless of pitch rate and whatnot.
And yes, it's perfectly possible to have to separate packs fail if you bought them together. If they were shipped together there's a good chance that whatever killed the yeast in one pack (f.e. exposure to extremely high temps) did the same in the other one.
Really glad I used this forum. I removed both 5 gallon buckets and gave them a good shake. I then actually removed them from the fridge and stored them in a faux closet that is against the foundation of the house where the temperature was about 55 degrees. Once I got the refrigerator temp back down to lower 50s, I but both buckets into the fridge. I just took a look this morning and there is nice healthy activity occurring on top. The fermentation on the top of the lager looks thinner in consistently that want you see with an Ale, but it seems pretty clear fermentation is now underway. I'll come back and let folks know how it all went once I transfer it all. Thanks again for your help.
When your lager is done fermenting and you condition is the 30's for 4 months or so do you leave an airlock on it or let it sit in a keg?
I lager in kegs....but I've never left one for four months. I'm too skilled a brewer to need to leave a beer lagering for that long (and by skilled, I mean impatient and thirsty).

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