My first lager lagged for over a week - now what?

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PajasOtter

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I'm brewing my first lager, a Bamberg style rauchbier with OG 1.053 and FG 1.015 using Wyeast 2308. I didn't have time to make a starter and I pitched one package of yeast (for 10 liters) at 15C (59F), and decreased the temperature to 11C (51.8F) where I left it. The fermentation didn't take off and after six days, the SG hadn't changed at all. Then I went away for five days and when I came home and to my big surprise, the fermentation was complete! SG was about 1.016 and the sample tested fine. I left it for another five days or so, then I increased the temperature to 14C (57.2F) for a couple of days. As I did that, I took an initial 'forced diacetyl test', and compared a sample with a heated and cooled again sample, and I could not taste any diacetyl.

Two days ago, I decreased the temperature to 2C (35.6F). And now I would like to ask for help. How long should I leave it before bottling? And when bottling, should I add a tiny bit of dry yeast to each bottle to make sure I get CO2? The yeast was probably not so healthy when I pitched it, since it took so long to start working, so I'm a bit afraid that it didn't survive the cold phase, or am I thinking wrong?

Thank you!
 

Jag75

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I'm brewing my first lager, a Bamberg style rauchbier with OG 1.053 and FG 1.015 using Wyeast 2308. I didn't have time to make a starter and I pitched one package of yeast (for 10 liters) at 15C (59F), and decreased the temperature to 11C (51.8F) where I left it. The fermentation didn't take off and after six days, the SG hadn't changed at all. Then I went away for five days and when I came home and to my big surprise, the fermentation was complete! SG was about 1.016 and the sample tested fine. I left it for another five days or so, then I increased the temperature to 14C (57.2F) for a couple of days. As I did that, I took an initial 'forced diacetyl test', and compared a sample with a heated and cooled again sample, and I could not taste any diacetyl.

Two days ago, I decreased the temperature to 2C (35.6F). And now I would like to ask for help. How long should I leave it before bottling? And when bottling, should I add a tiny bit of dry yeast to each bottle to make sure I get CO2? The yeast was probably not so healthy when I pitched it, since it took so long to start working, so I'm a bit afraid that it didn't survive the cold phase, or am I thinking wrong?

Thank you!

I wouldn't say the yeast was unhealthy. You didn't make a starter for it . Did you aerate the wort ?

Are you batch priming or bottle priming?

I don't think you'll have issue with the yeast not producing co2. If your worried about it you could put some in a soda bottle . After a week see if it gets harder to squish. I've never bottled a lager , just keg .

To me it be easier to bottle once the diacetyl rest is complete . Let prime , then add them to a fridge .
 

rburrelli

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You are likely thinking wrong. Yeast have a lag phase where they build themselves up to handle the wort they are in. Lager yeasts, being at colder temperatures, may take longer to start. Does not mean they were unhealthy. You should have enough yeast left in the wort to carbonate the beer. Good luck.
 

Bobby_M

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It's impossible to know how healthy the yeast was because we don't know the age of the pack. If it was 1 month old, fine. If it was 4-5 months or more, probably not going to be great. Bottle condition now. Lager in the bottle AFTER you verify carbonation is right.
 
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PajasOtter

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I wouldn't say the yeast was unhealthy. You didn't make a starter for it . Did you aerate the wort ?

Are you batch priming or bottle priming?

I don't think you'll have issue with the yeast not producing co2. If your worried about it you could put some in a soda bottle . After a week see if it gets harder to squish. I've never bottled a lager , just keg .

To me it be easier to bottle once the diacetyl rest is complete . Let prime , then add them to a fridge .

Yes, I aerated using a large (50 cm) balloon whisk.
I have batch primed my previous batches, but this time I'll try bottle priming using Mangrove Jack's carbonation drops, in order to get a more homogeneous carbonation.

You are likely thinking wrong. Yeast have a lag phase where they build themselves up to handle the wort they are in. Lager yeasts, being at colder temperatures, may take longer to start. Does not mean they were unhealthy. You should have enough yeast left in the wort to carbonate the beer. Good luck.
Great!

It's impossible to know how healthy the yeast was because we don't know the age of the pack. If it was 1 month old, fine. If it was 4-5 months or more, probably not going to be great. Bottle condition now. Lager in the bottle AFTER you verify carbonation is right.
I forgot to check the age on the package, unfortunately. However, I ordered it from a shop and it was out of supply, so I guess they ordered it straight from the supplier, and thus it shouldn't be that old. One thing, though, is that the shop sent it without an ice pack, and I don't know what temperatures the yeast has been exposed to during the trip.

Both @Jag75 and @Bobby_M suggest bottling after diacetyl rest and before lagering. I have already decreased the temp in the fridge to 2C and it has been so for three days now. Should I abort the lagering and bottle now, and then put the bottles back in the fridge after, say, a couple of weeks or whatever it takes to get the carbonation right? Or should I keep them in the fridge for a week, then bottle, then store in room temp until carbonation is good, and then perhaps store them in cold temp?
 

Jag75

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Yes, I aerated using a large (50 cm) balloon whisk.
I have batch primed my previous batches, but this time I'll try bottle priming using Mangrove Jack's carbonation drops, in order to get a more homogeneous carbonation.


Great!


I forgot to check the age on the package, unfortunately. However, I ordered it from a shop and it was out of supply, so I guess they ordered it straight from the supplier, and thus it shouldn't be that old. One thing, though, is that the shop sent it without an ice pack, and I don't know what temperatures the yeast has been exposed to during the trip.

Both @Jag75 and @Bobby_M suggest bottling after diacetyl rest and before lagering. I have already decreased the temp in the fridge to 2C and it has been so for three days now. Should I abort the lagering and bottle now, and then put the bottles back in the fridge after, say, a couple of weeks or whatever it takes to get the carbonation right? Or should I keep them in the fridge for a week, then bottle, then store in room temp until carbonation is good, and then perhaps store them in cold temp?

When priming , the amount of sugar and the temp of beer decide the co2 volume. If I were you I'd let it come to room temp , bottle prime for a couple weeks then lager . Remember lagering is just cold conditioning. Some do it in kegs , some in bottles.
 

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Two days ago, I decreased the temperature to 2C (35.6F). And now I would like to ask for help. How long should I leave it before bottling?
I usually transfer my lagers off the yeast in the primary to a second carboy and keep at 35 degrees for a month.

There is a rule of thumb - I don’t know it off the top of my head, maybe someone else can chime in - where you are supposed to lager one week for every so many degrees plato.

I also keg all my lagers, I have never bottled one. I’m not sure if you are supposed to keep the bottles cold too for any time.

I would not worry about adding extra yeast at bottling - just be sure to syphon up a little off the bottom when you rack to the bottling bucket. Most likely going to happen anyway.
 

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How long should I leave it before bottling?
I'd suggest racking it into the secondary and lager it for at least a month before bottling. A very rough but useful rule of thumb is one week per 10 points of OG plus a week more, so I'd lager a 1.053 beer for 6 weeks. I've lagered some of my beers for 3 months (as required in traditional Bohemian recipes) and have never had problems with bottle carbing afterwards. There's plenty of invisible yeast cells suspended in your beer even after a prolonged lagering.
If I were in your situation, I'd rather blame the increased lag time to pitching at 15C and then lowering to 11C. Not every yeast enjoys downward temperature swings at the start of the fermentation. The standard approach would be rather pitching at 11C and leaving there, or pitching at 11C and rising to 15C only when the high Krausen starts to settle, but pitching warm and then cooling before the active fermentation starts looks like a mistake to me.
 
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PajasOtter

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Thanks for all the input. I think for this time, I'll keep the beer in the fridge until I have time to bottle it, which hopefully will be this weekend, and then I'll keep it in room temp until carb is right. If it tastes good then I'll drink it, otherwise I'll lager it.
Next time I brew a lager, I will do a starter and pitch the yeast at correct temperature.
 
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