Lager Fermentation woes

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Kevbud

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I pitched 2 packs of WPL800 pils yeast that was at roughly 70 degrees into well aerated 58 wort which then cooled down to 51 degrees. after 3 days I have zero activity. No krausen or bubbles. Its my first Lager so maybe I need to RDWHAHB but wondering if I should be warming up the wort to get the fermentation going, repitch or just let it run. Thanks
 

apache_brew

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How old was the yeast? Color? Could it have gotten too hot/died in handling? Sounds like you didn't make a starter. A starter is the easiest way to confirm viability before pitching.
 
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Kevbud

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How old was the yeast? Color? Could it have gotten too hot/died in handling? Sounds like you didn't make a starter. A starter is the easiest way to confirm viability before pitching.
I am pretty sure it was good. I brought it home from the brew store and had it stored in the frig before taking it out and warm it up. Its use by date was July 2021. I pitched two packs instead of a starter



Take a gravity reading. You never know what it has done until you check it.
I just checked and shows no movement from the OG


do you think I should bump up the temp to see if that gets it going. ?
 

Birrus

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I am pretty sure it was good. I brought it home from the brew store and had it stored in the frig before taking it out and warm it up. Its use by date was July 2021. I pitched two packs instead of a starter





I just checked and shows no movement from the OG


do you think I should bump up the temp to see if that gets it going. ?
Okay, if you pitched 2 packs of yeast @ 58 F, have the fermentation temp set to 51 F (within normal range for this strain), and after 3 days the gravity has not changed at all, you may have a problem. Hard to pinpoint exactly what that is, since many things could go wrong, but I lean towards it being a yeast problem. You mentioned the "used by" date was July 2021; the production date is usually more reliable, since it is easier to utilize that info to calculate how much viable yeast there is left in the pack (assuming it was transported and kept under proper conditions before you bought it). You do not mention the SG of the beer, but even a small fraction of healthy yeast in those packs you pitched should have brought it down some in 3 days. Assuming no instrument error (gravity and temp measurements, for instance), if everything stays the same for another day, it might be safe to assume the yeast was DOA, IMO. I'd buy me a couple of dry yeast packets in that case, and re-pitch.
 

Bramling Cross

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What is the volume and SG of your batch?

If it's 5gal, you're likely dealing with the lag associated with a substantial under pitch. It's your first lager, so don't beat yourself up about it, it's a lesson we all learn--and frequently it's the burned hand that best learns the lesson.

Get ready for a long, slow fermentation. It might not be the best lager you'll ever make, but it'll be plenty good. :bigmug:
 
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Kevbud

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Thanks for all the replies. Do you think I should make a yeast starter and repitch or ramp up the temp or do both, I was following directions from ballast point that said to use two pitch packs and though That would have been enough but in using a calc seems like I may have been way short
 

TheBluePhantom

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Definitely calibrate your thermometer. At 51 if you are a few degrees off cal, you may have healthy yeast dormant in the wort. Warm to 55, or calibrate. I have had several ales go to sleep at 64 F, had to find a warmer spot in the basement...
 

smata67

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You should be aware of White Labs recommendations for pitching lager yeast:

.

When pitching into cold wort, as you did, you need to make sure you have adequate yeast population. It will always be higher than if you started warm. A starter is preferred, two vials might be on the low side, you need to determine this from your OG, wort volume, etc.

Not mentioned, but I always get my starter or rehydrated dry yeast solution to the wort temperature. If your vials were at 70F and you pitched into 58F, there might be an issue with that temperature difference. Not a deal killer, rule of thumb has been a maximum 10F difference, but just another thing that may have slowed your start.
 

cactusgarrett

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In the future, too, try to make sure you're never lowering the temp until fermentation is done. Some strains are touchy and even (typically ale yeast) the smallest temp drop will prematurely slow or shut down fermentation. If anything, pitch at a lower temp than your target fermentation temp, then let it naturally rise to that before holding there.
 

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I don't think 58 F is "cold" for pitching lager yeast; I'd say it's actually rather warm, especially considering zee Germans (and myself, although German I'm not), pitch as cold as 41 F. As far as never lowering the temp during fermentation, those homebrewers in the "warm pitch camp" swear by pitching in the mid 60's to help with yeast propagation, and bringing the temp down to the 50's at first signs of fermentation. It works for them, just the same way pitching at lower temperatures works for others. Remember though that, as "smata67" mentioned, the colder you pitch, the more healthy yeast you need. I guess what I'm trying to say is that opinions differ, science might never be exhaustive enough to explain everything we homebrewers do, and "facts" need to be taken on a case by case basis while we learn from our experiences. But it is my opinion that 72 hours is too long for yeast not to have worked at all, regardless of the SG, especially considering the original pitching temp of 58 F is really not that cold. I hope ramping the temp works for the OP; I like nothing more than being proven wrong when this represents success for a fellow homebrewer. :) I'll leave this link here for an article written by Kai Troester, in case anyone is interested. It explains various methods of lager brewing. Cheers!!! Link
 
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Kevbud

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I have about 10 brews under my belt, this is my first lager and my first issue with fermentation. I am pretty confident in my sanitation and temps. I oxygenated the wort using a oxygen tank. I followed the recipe for a pils from ballast point which said to use two packs of wpl800 but in calculating the pitch rate sounds like I still should have used a starter. I ramped up the temp to 55 to see if that gets me going. I am going to get a starter going tomorrow with another pitch pack and throw that in this weekend to see if that helps.

d
 

Beermeister32

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I agree with above, sounds like a long lag from a large under pitch. Build a 2 liter starter next time to check viability and build yeast, decant the starter beer and pitch the yeast.

For today’s fix, I’d head on down to the local home brew store and grab 2 packs of W34/70 dry yeast and pitch these into the wort. Keep it at 50-51 degrees (I usually pitch lagers at 48 and let them rise to 50 degrees.)
 

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Is the beer in a carboy or bucket? If so, bring it out to room temperature and let it warm up, give the carboy a swirl to rouse the yeast 2-4 times a day or whenever you feel like it, exact timing doesn't matter. You have about $20 invested in those 2 packs of yeast? I'm kind of cheap and wouldn't be so quick to give up on it. I'll go out on a limb and predict the yeast will get going if you warm it up, you can gradually decrease the temperature once it starts. No, that's not the best way to do it, but your beer will be OK.
Next time, you just need one pack, some DME and a 1/2 gallon jug to make a good healthy amount of yeast. When I get new lager yeast, I make a starter, brew a 2.5 gallon batch and then pitch that entire yeast cake into the next batch. I usually make 4-5 lager batches in the late winter and that gives me enough lager to last the whole summer. Lager yeast is pretty tough stuff, and when this batch is done you'll be able to brew many more with the slurry.
 

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I'm kind of cheap and wouldn't be so quick to give up on it.
Same. I usually plan similar brews in succession so I can re-use a yeast cake several times before it's poured into a sanitized mason jar and stuck in a fridge to use again in the future. The lager yeast I've got under a Marzen right now is a German pils strain I don't even know the name of, yet I harvested the cake last year March or something like that. Took 5 days to start my Marzen, but it didn't, and it's apparently awesome.
 

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Lager yeast is pretty tough stuff, and when this batch is done you'll be able to brew many more with the slurry.
I would never reuse a yeast cake from a fermentation that didn't follow all of the best parameters. Unless you can put it under a microscope. I'd dump the cake and start over even if the beer turns out good or better.
 

Toxxyc

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I would never reuse a yeast cake from a fermentation that didn't follow all of the best parameters. Unless you can put it under a microscope. I'd dump the cake and start over even if the beer turns out good or better.
But a packet of yeast that spent the weekend in a hot courier company warehouse from the LHBS to your door is fine?
 

madscientist451

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I would never reuse a yeast cake from a fermentation that didn't follow all of the best parameters.
Everyone has their own concerns and stuff they'd rather not take chances on. I'm just saying that in my experience, yeast doesn't go bad all that quickly and I've run some lager yeast strains for years with out any issues. Your results will most like be be different, so do what you are comfortable with.
 

smata67

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Given the fact that you are now what, 4 or 5 days with nothing going on, I'd concur with getting back up to 70F and as soon as there are signs of fermentation, gradually lower back in to the 50s. And if no signs arise in lets say 12 hours, then you know that yeast is a no go and pitch some w37/80 and do same, lower to 50s upon signs of fermentation. No way do I let things go this far without taking some kind of action, but I get antsy after 48 hours of no activity. And that has never happened with the warm pitch method and fermenting at 55F.
 
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Kevbud

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Just a quick update. I increased temp to 55 on day 4. I just checked the gravity on day 5 and looks like I am down 12 points in two+ days so clearly got fermentation going. Should I lower the temp back down to 50?
 

Beermeister32

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Sounds like you are off to the races. I prefer lagering cold, I think you get cleaner flavors with a colder lager fermentation. My latest lager us fermenting at 48F using WLP833 Bock yeast. I'd drop it down a to 50F if I was doing it with my lager.
 

cactusgarrett

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Should I lower the temp back down to 50?
You will likely not notice a different between fermentation at 55F compared to 50F for WPL800. As I mentioned before, typically only negative effects happen when you drop temp in the middle of a ferment (ie. stalling), so I would leave it at 55F until it's done or you're going to do a diacetyl rest.
 

Bramling Cross

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Cactusgarrett has done a nice job describing some of the bad things that can result from moving the temperature downward during fermentation. I'll also note that moving the temperature downward is largely pointless after the gravity has dropped 12pts. The bulk of the yeasts' contribution to flavor is set during the growth phase of a fermentation. While that's a bit of a gross oversimplification, it'll do for now. The point being is that from a flavor standpoint, what's done is done at this point. There's nothing to gain from lowering the temp and several problems that could result.

The key point is that you've learned a ton and you're going to get a pretty good beer out of the bargain, too! It's good to be you, sir.
 
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Kevbud

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Thanks. I actually turned the temp down on Saturday and it stalled my fermentation ! I have held steady at 1.030 The last two days However the beer in my hydrometer built up a good Krausen when I let it warm up and dropped 10 points in one day, so I turned the temp up to 58 to help it finish
 

Nubiwan

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I pitched a pils yeast about 3 weeks ago and it took 5 days to start showing pressure in the airlock. It happens.

RDWHAHB.
@Toxxyc Did it finish off without adding any more yeast? I am in a similar boat. Pils with s-23.
 
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Kevbud

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It finally got down to 1.010 after about 13 Days. I ramped up the temp to 55 then 60 as it seemed to stop fermenting for a while and finished with a few days at 68. I am cold crashing right now. It tried a taste and it’s a little rough but we’ll see after it lagers for a while.
 

Toxxyc

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@Toxxyc Did it finish off without adding any more yeast? I am in a similar boat. Pils with s-23.
I'd guess so. It was bubbling for almost 2 weeks at 9°C and it eventually stopped. I haven't taken a gravity reading as it's cold crashed and lagering now, but I'm guessing it finished just fine. Sample from the tap smells and tastes fantastic, so I'm happy with it.
 

Nubiwan

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I'd guess so. It was bubbling for almost 2 weeks at 9°C and it eventually stopped. I haven't taken a gravity reading as it's cold crashed and lagering now, but I'm guessing it finished just fine. Sample from the tap smells and tastes fantastic, so I'm happy with it.
I'd have to take a gravity before I did anything else, if its going as a slow as it is now. Literally a bubble every 30 seconds. Perhaps this is the norm for lagering yeasts. I've read some are done in 5 days. Mines going to be 2 weeks easy.
 

Nubiwan

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Remember the airlock is not a measure of fermentation.
Exactly my point. So why didnt you take a gravity reading, instead of "guessing it finished just fine"?

I think i just take gravity readings to sneak a taste. Sometimes twice a day. :)
 

Toxxyc

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I've brewed a few beers to date. Usually when I have the temp ramped up, the krauzen has dropped, the beer is visibly clearing up and the airlock activity slows down at the higher temperature (and after the rest there for a week), I'm 99% of the time correct that fermentation is complete. I'll take a reading on bottling day to confirm, but that's usually just to calculate the ABV of the batch.
 

cactusgarrett

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I'm 99% of the time correct that fermentation is complete.
Sounds good - people here are just concerned for safety, not gatekeeping. It just takes that 1% of the time for bottle bombs cause a problem. Better to be 100% sure.
 

Toxxyc

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Yep. However, I had a few bottles go pop about 20 brews back, one giving me a permanent scar, so I guess I've got 79 to go before my next pop. Will make a mental note... :p
 

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