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Lager Pitching Temp: Can we settle this lager debate?

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mdf191

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LAGERS...
Some say cool wort to fermentation temp (roughly 50 degrees) before pitching..

Some say pitch while warm and put directly into cold conditions...

And some say pitch while warm but wait for visible fermentation signs before cooling...

Opinions? Experience?
 

SuperiorBrew

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I pitch when my wort is 50º and my yeast is 48º
All the boks and information I have ever read say this is the best way to do it.
 

Kaiser

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I tried to elaborate on this here.

Commercial brewers pitch below fermentation temp b/c they have enough healty yeast to pitch. Home brewers started to pitch above fermentation temp to avoid problems w/ underpitching lager yeast.

Kai
 

slnies

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Unless you know you have enough yeast, the Kaiser is right. If you do not have enough yeast, than you need to pitch warm and cool down to fermentation temp. This gives the yeast enough time to multiply to the correct number. Chris White of White labs also stated that if done this way there will be no ill effects to flavor because there will be no alcohol production for the first twelve hours at least, and that if you are going to pitch at fermentation temps, be familiar with yeast growth( not just starters) because under pitching will cause a lot of problems in fermentation. A good rule of thumb, is to pitch two Vials or smack packs at fermentation temps. Each package is designed to be enough for an ale, but for a lager pitching twice the amount at fermentation temp would be advisable, unless you follow the directions on the label, which tell you to pitch warm and cool down. Than one is enough.
 

Kaiser

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slnies said:
A good rule of thumb, is to pitch two Vials or smack packs at fermentation temps.
I guess, before I would drop $16 worth of yeast into a batch I'd rather be spending the money on a large erlenmeyer flask and a stir plate. I didn't know people actually pitch multiple vials since there is a significant cost to this.

But you could always brew a few lagers in a row and recoupe some of the cost.

Kai
 

SuperiorBrew

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Bobby_M said:
It's probably best to learn how to make starters before you go to lagers. Building up the colony allows you to pitch at ferment temp.
+1

I ended up doing a 5L starter for my last lager.
 

Yooper

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SuperiorBrew said:
I pitch when my wort is 50º and my yeast is 48º
All the boks and information I have ever read say this is the best way to do it.
This is precisely what I do! I make a huge starter first, and then put that in the fridge when it's fermented out. I decant the spent wort, and pitch that cold yeast into a very slightly warmer wort. It seems like that small temperature difference "kick starts" the yeast. Too much of a temperature difference would stun the yeast, but 2-3 degrees seems about perfect.

If you pitch cold, you usually don't have an issue with diacetyl or other off-flavors, either.

I do the same thing in a way with ales, if you think about it. I pitch the yeast at fermentation temperatures- I don't pitch at 80 degrees and bring it down to 66 degrees, for example. I always pitch the yeast at the fermentation temperature. I just think that this would give you the most consistent way to minimize off-flavors in both lagers and ales.
 

jdoiv

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I bought a very outdated smack pack of the Budvar yeast recently. I made a starter and it didn't really seem to do much. So, I made a second starter, decanted the first, tossed the second on top of the yeast and put it back on the stir plate. Got good activity in the second starter. Put it in the fridge. I still didn't trust it very much though, so when I brewed my pils yesterday, I went ahead and pitched at about 65*F and put the fermenter in the cold room at 52*F. Just went out and checked on it and 12 hours later, the fermenter is at 52*F and I have krausen. I'm a little worried that I may have a fruit bomb but we'll see. So the moral of the story is, pitch at ferment temps and trust your starter.
 

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I made a boston lager clone and didnt make a starter. I had it at about 68 for two days until activity started, then put it in the fermenting fridge and 52F. I just racked to secondary after a little over three weeks in the primary and it is already clearing. There was no hint of diacetyl at all. I used the white labs Budejvoice strain too.

My next lager will have a 2L starter for sure, and I will pitch cold. This one was pitched at about 65F.
 

boo boo

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slnies said:
Unless you know you have enough yeast, the Kaiser is right. If you do not have enough yeast, than you need to pitch warm and cool down to fermentation temp. This gives the yeast enough time to multiply to the correct number. Chris White of White labs also stated that if done this way there will be no ill effects to flavor because there will be no alcohol production for the first twelve hours at least, and that if you are going to pitch at fermentation temps, be familiar with yeast growth( not just starters) because under pitching will cause a lot of problems in fermentation. .
The only part of this I disagree with is the part where there are no ill effects.
Esters and fusels are created mostly during respiration of the yeast, so the higher temp you pitch, the more fusels and esters you'll get.
 

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I have pitched cold and warm and if your lager is long enough the yeast cleans up fusels great. I think when brewers use good practices and are careful to log what you do you can better decide how to proceed in the future. If you don't have any experiance I would go with a warm pitch of the yeast as you will still make an excellent lager given enough lagering time. The reasoning being that you are not flying totally blind in that you know that a krausen has appeared. Then you can slowly take it down to 50-53F. Whatever you do, keep it sanitary.
 

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The eternal search for a single, universal answer to a brewing question, any brewing question, is much like the search for the Holy Grail. There are always multiple ways of doing any step in brewing and they work.

Bottom line: Find out what works for you. The sad truth is this can only be done by brewing lots of beer.
 

Bobby_M

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I've made exactly four lagers so far and the two that I pitched warm clearly had more diacetyl and fruity esters than the cold pitched equivelents. I didn't do these as split batches so it just empirical not scientific.
 

ChrisS68

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I'm getting ready to brew my first lager, and I had some (possibly silly) questions.
Most of the discussion and other info I've read revolves around liquid yeast. Is it right to assume that dry lager yeast can be pitched at fermenting temps as well? If pitching at a lower temp, should the dry yeast be rehydrated at the low temp, or rehydrated at a warmer temp - say 65-70, then brought down to fermenting temp? Does it not matter either way?
Thanks!
Chris
 

Bernie Brewer

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Looks like I am in the minority here, but I admit I pitch warm and cool down when I see signs of fermentation. I have been brewing 2 or three lagers a year for a long time this way without any significant problems. But my starters are nowhere near 5L, either, more like 1 1/2L.
 

Kaiser

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ChrisS68 said:
Is it right to assume that dry lager yeast can be pitched at fermenting temps as well? If pitching at a lower temp, should the dry yeast be rehydrated at the low temp, or rehydrated at a warmer temp - say 65-70, then brought down to fermenting temp? Does it not matter either way?
Thanks!
I'm not using dried yeast, so I have no idea how many cells one pack provides. To pitch cold (an average gravity batch) I need about 80 - 100ml yeast sediment for 5 gal. I'd gess that this equals 2 - 3 pk dried yeast (?).

I'd say that you should pitch warm if you want to pitch only one pack. Rehydating at pitching temperature seems reasonable to me.

Kai
 

ChrisS68

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Found Mr. Malty's pitching calculator, and for a 5.25 gallon batch, it recommends a 354 Billion yeast count for lagers vs. 177 Billion for an Ale. Considering the different pitching rates, my guess is that this calculation would be for a cold pitch, unless it just takes more lager yeast to initiate a good fermentation, regardless of the temps.
Anyhoo, going by their numbers, your estimate of 2-3 packets of dry yeast is spot on.

I'm pretty new to brewing, and this is my first lager, but I'm going to go ahead and pitch cold, hoping to avoid the byproducts from warm pitching and the need for a diacetyl rest.

Thanks for the help!
Chris
 

ChrisS68

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Oh, If I may run a few more things by you.
I don't have a dedicated refrigerator for lagers yet, so I'm limited to my basement that keeps a pretty steady 50 degrees, which should be perfect for the yeast I'm using. Reading your great Wiki link, I see that lagering in the bottles is an option that might be best for me right now. My plan is to ferment and do the secondary at the 50 degrees, and then finish up the lagering in the bottles. Does this sound like a reasonable procedure? In the Wiki article, it states that carbonating should be done at room temp before lagering, so this would be warmer than fermenting temp - say 70 degrees?

Thanks again!
Chris
 

ChrisS68

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That's kinda what I was thinking. I've been carbing at fermenting temps, but up to now it's been ale yeast. From what I've read, some people do advocate going a bit warmer than fermenting temps for carbing. When I hear "room temperature", I think 70 degrees; that's why I asked.

Thanks!
Chris
 

pkgmsu2000

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The eternal search for a single, universal answer to a brewing question, any brewing question, is much like the search for the Holy Grail. There are always multiple ways of doing any step in brewing and they work.

Bottom line: Find out what works for you. The sad truth is this can only be done by brewing lots of beer.
there is nothing sad about brewing, and drinking, lots of beer :tank:
 

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It's not so much that you are reviving an ancient thread, but more that you did it by neither asking a relevant question nor adding any on-topic advice....not that I'm helping the situation with this post.

To make this at least semi-relevant: I always try to pitch at or slightly under my fermentation temp. Beers come out noticeably cleaner. If you can't make a started for lagers, you can always use dry yeast, which is cheaper and contain about twice as many cells as liquid.
 

pkgmsu2000

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It's not so much that you are reviving an ancient thread, but more that you did it by neither asking a relevant question nor adding any on-topic advice....not that I'm helping the situation with this post.

To make this at least semi-relevant: I always try to pitch at or slightly under my fermentation temp. Beers come out noticeably cleaner. If you can't make a started for lagers, you can always use dry yeast, which is cheaper and contain about twice as many cells as liquid.
this thread was referred to me in another thread when i asked if there was a sticky lagering thread for newbs. so i read all the way through, not really noticing when the posts took place, but just soaking up the useful info...

im off to get the smack packs tomorrow, just about everyone has told me to do a liquid yeast but the starter to me is still very confusing. hope it becomes clearer once i have the smack packs. i have the 2 gallon jug.

do you mean the yeast is pitched slightly colder than the fermentation temp? for my czech pils i was told to ferment at 46-48 degrees.
 

Trouble_Brewing

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You really need to do some reading up on making starters first if you are going to brew lagers and use liquid yeast, assuming you are doing batch sizes of 5 gallons or more. I'd recommend getting a copy of John Palmer's book How to Brew. He covers making starters in detail. He has an online version you can find but it is out of date, so the current printed version is best. Otherwise do a search as there are lots of places to find basic instructions for starters.

You should also take a look at http://www.mrmalty.com/calc/calc.html, which is a very nice online calculator for determining how much yeast you need, or how big of a starter to make. Again, there are other versions to be found, but I like this one the best.

As for pitching temp, yes, most people recommend pitching the yeast at or a few degrees below your target fermentation temp. You can then let the temp rise up to the fermentation temp. Fermentation temperature control is one the the most important tools to make good (or great) beer. It's doubly true for lagers.

If you are new to brewing, you may want to get a few ales under your belt before you attempt a lager. They are more forgiving, and you'll have beer ready to drink much faster. Just a thought.
 

pkgmsu2000

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You really need to do some reading up on making starters first if you are going to brew lagers and use liquid yeast, assuming you are doing batch sizes of 5 gallons or more. I'd recommend getting a copy of John Palmer's book How to Brew. He covers making starters in detail. He has an online version you can find but it is out of date, so the current printed version is best. Otherwise do a search as there are lots of places to find basic instructions for starters.

You should also take a look at http://www.mrmalty.com/calc/calc.html, which is a very nice online calculator for determining how much yeast you need, or how big of a starter to make. Again, there are other versions to be found, but I like this one the best.

As for pitching temp, yes, most people recommend pitching the yeast at or a few degrees below your target fermentation temp. You can then let the temp rise up to the fermentation temp. Fermentation temperature control is one the the most important tools to make good (or great) beer. It's doubly true for lagers.

If you are new to brewing, you may want to get a few ales under your belt before you attempt a lager. They are more forgiving, and you'll have beer ready to drink much faster. Just a thought.
very helpful :eek:

yes, i have the book you mentioned, just picked it up on sunday. we are going to do 5 gallons and as luck would have it, i came across the malty's online pitch calculator just an hour ago.

i have some experience with ales, but this is first venture into lagers and i enjoy drinking them so much more than ales :mug:
 

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I find it hard to believe that dry yeast is so fab with all the probs and confusion with liquid. I have 3 batches of a Pilsner Urquell going at the moment however, with the same ingredients except Nottingham at room/condo temps, and 2001 PU and 2278 CP going between 8-17 celsius on the balcony.

I'd like to see more experiments posted for using liquid yeast. I know a guy who repitched on a trub 5 times, but it would be so fabuolous to see everyones accounts.
 
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I know this is an old thread but I do repitch on the old cake several time with good results. After three of four time there gets to be too much yeast and I'll wash it. Take care of your yeast and it will make you good beer. Proper pitching rates and cold fermentation is the key to lagers. I ferment at 50 with WLP830 and it's my favorite. I have enough ice on hand (I'm in Texas) to get the wort down to the mid 40's before I go in my carboys. It sits on the cake for 4 weeks at 50 then gets racked to lager in the mid 30's. I know there are ways to improve my methods but this has worked well for me. I'm currently reading "Brewing Lager Beer" by Gregory J. Noonan and it's awesome.
 
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