Purpose of lagering?

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

brewmonger

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 14, 2008
Messages
169
Reaction score
6
Besides storage, what is the purpose of lagering beer?
 

culaslucas

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 19, 2008
Messages
397
Reaction score
7
Location
Boulder, CO
I suppose I'm confused by the question. A lager is produced by different yeast strains than ales. These yeasts prefer cooler temperatures to do their dirty work, are 'bottom fermenting' & take 2-3 times longer to ferment than an ale. These differences produce distinct characteristics typical of a lager. Those being, crisp, less fruity/spicy than an ale.

The purpose? hell if I know, I'm an ale guy!
 

menschmaschine

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2007
Messages
3,259
Reaction score
51
Location
Delaware
This is from Brewing, Science and Practice that sums up what is happening during beer maturation (particularly lagering):
Several important groups of compounds have been identified as changing during the
maturation of beer with consequent positive effect on beer flavour. The most important
are: diketones (especially diacetyl), sulphur compounds, aldehydes, and volatile fatty
acids.
Essentially, these flavor-active compounds are reduced, resulting in a cleaner beer (essential in lager beer). Additionally, the dissolved CO2 (higher at low temps) helps to condition the beer and reduce the effects of oxidation. Lager yeast can also "gnaw" at a few extra sugars during lagering, but the effect is usually no more than 1 or 2 points of gravity reduction.

There are probably a few other mechanisms going on, but without Noonan's book in front of me, I can't recall exactly. Perhaps someone else can chime in.
 

Mutilated1

Beer Drenched Executioner
Joined
Jul 15, 2007
Messages
2,146
Reaction score
27
Location
Hoover, Alabama USA
I was wondering the same thing.

And why do you have to lager big beers for a longer time, where you can lager an American lager for 2-3 weeks and thats plenty ?

And also why does it have to be so cold for lagering, other than the obvious fact that it causes more of the yeast to fall out ?
 

menschmaschine

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2007
Messages
3,259
Reaction score
51
Location
Delaware
And why do you have to lager big beers for a longer time, where you can lager an American lager for 2-3 weeks and thats plenty ?
I believe the more sugars that have been fermented (higher gravity), the more of the compounds I mentioned above (plus more potential for higher alcohols, which get reduced to other compounds during lagering), hence the need for longer lagering. There may be more to it than that though.

And also why does it have to be so cold for lagering, other than the obvious fact that it causes more of the yeast to fall out ?
Perhaps this has something to do with it: colloidal stabilization. (Lower temperatures promote colloidal stabilization.)
 

Kaiser

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 1, 2005
Messages
3,895
Reaction score
168
Location
Pepperell, MA
There are 3 phases to a lager fermentation: primary fermentation, maturation and cold stabilization. Depending on the fermentation schedule these might be distinct from each other or flow into each other. The classic German fermentation schedule is a nice example for these phases flowing into each other.

If we talk only about the cold storage aspect of lagering it is mainly for precipitating haze and clearing the beer (the colloidal stabilization that Mensch mentioned). Some modern breweries shorten this process by filtering the beer after it has been sitting cold for only a few days. But I prefer to let the haze settle for a 4-8 weeks. After that I don't have to filter, which is always a pain and I don't see it justified anymore.

I noticed that the development of flavor (as you know it from Dunkels, Bocks and Doppelbocks) goes faster at cellar temps and that's why I only lager these beers for up to 2 months now and then rack them off the sediment and age them for another few months.

If you actually count on significant fermentation activity during the lagering phase you may have to keep the beer at these temps for more than 2 months.

And I also think that you can make a lager w/o lagering it. It won't be as good as it could be, but still pretty good.

Kai
 

flyangler18

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 5, 2008
Messages
5,557
Reaction score
45
Location
Hanover, PA
A related question (and I really should create a new thread on this) is the importance/relevance of a graduated decrease in temperature for lagering. Kai, I seem to recall you saying you go straight to lagering temps after primary fermentation has concluded rather than stepping down incrementally over a period of time before reaching lagering temperatures. Can you shed some light on this?

Jason
 

david_42

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 8, 2005
Messages
25,581
Reaction score
189
Location
Oak Grove
Lagers take longer because they are conditioned near freezing and that slows the process down.
 

Kaiser

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 1, 2005
Messages
3,895
Reaction score
168
Location
Pepperell, MA
Can you shed some light on this?
If your fermentation is not complete, i.e. diacetyl not sufficienctly reduced or the amount of residual fermentable sugars is still to high for the style, when you lower the temp to lagering you'll have to lower the temp gradually in order to keep the yeast as active as possible. But if this is not the case, which is generally the case with the extended primary fermentation or the warm diacetyl rest, then there is no need for that. This is one of the aspects that is incorrectly explained in Parmer's and Noonan's books.

Kai
 

flyangler18

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 5, 2008
Messages
5,557
Reaction score
45
Location
Hanover, PA
If your fermentation is not complete, i.e. diacetyl not sufficienctly reduced or the amount of residual fermentable sugars is still to high for the style, when you lower the temp to lagering you'll have to lower the temp gradually in order to keep the yeast as active as possible. But if this is not the case, which is generally the case with the extended primary fermentation or the warm diacetyl rest, then there is no need for that. This is one of the aspects that is incorrectly explained in Parmer's and Noonan's books.
Thanks Kai! I've not yet read Noonan, though I know that the rate of temperature decrease is a point of contention among some of my HBT fellows.
 

Kaiser

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 1, 2005
Messages
3,895
Reaction score
168
Location
Pepperell, MA
I'm still on the quest of brewing a lager w/ only one week of primary fermentation, one week of gradual chilling and 4 weeks of lagering. I wonder how much better this is for the taste of the beer compared to the home brewing standard of long primary w/ or w/o warm diacetyl rest.

Kai
 

menschmaschine

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2007
Messages
3,259
Reaction score
51
Location
Delaware
Kai, I seem to recall you saying you go straight to lagering temps after primary fermentation has concluded rather than stepping down incrementally over a period of time before reaching lagering temperatures. Can you shed some light on this?

Jason
That's funny, Jason, I was thinking of starting a thread on this very subject today.

Kai, what about what Briggs (et al.) says regarding this subject?

Here's a quote from BS&P 15.2.3 Lager Methods regarding reducing the temp to lagering temps:

A sudden fall in temperature must be avoided or the shock may induce the yeast to excrete protease enzymes that could be detrimental to foam stability.
 

Kaiser

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 1, 2005
Messages
3,895
Reaction score
168
Location
Pepperell, MA
Here's a quote from BS&P 15.2.3 Lager Methods regarding reducing the temp to lagering temps:
point taken. But I have made beers with my "crash to lager method" that have a foam that doesn't want to go away. Also look at these diagrams:


I took them from a PDF that I found on the web and I elaborate on them here.

In addition to that I have also seen similar diagrams in other books and papers in which their fermentation method involved quick chilling after the maturation rest.

Now I'm not saying that Briggs is wrong and I'll keep that statement in the back of my head when thinking about and evaluating lager fermentation schedules but if this actually happens, yeast excreting protease A during a quick chill, it must not be significant enough to make a difference in my brewing.

The point to take away from this is that slow chilling is not essential to the process. An aspect that will make it much easier for most brewers who want to pipeline lagers with just 2 temp zones: one for primary fermentation and one for lagering. The house could be considered another zone for maturation.

Kai
 

babalu87

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 29, 2008
Messages
1,893
Reaction score
11
Location
Middleborough, MA
I'm still on the quest of brewing a lager w/ only one week of primary fermentation, one week of gradual chilling and 4 weeks of lagering. I wonder how much better this is for the taste of the beer compared to the home brewing standard of long primary w/ or w/o warm diacetyl rest.

Kai

I wonder

They (big guys) have it nailed for consistency AND profit margin but have you had a pils/lager/beer as good as your best homebrew........................ me neither :mug:
 

menschmaschine

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2007
Messages
3,259
Reaction score
51
Location
Delaware
But I have made beers with my "crash to lager method" that have a foam that doesn't want to go away.
I can understand that. Reading into the quote from BS&P, it doesn't sound absolute. Those key words like "may" and "could" (stand out to me, working in consulting;)) make me wonder what other factors are at play for that to happen.
 

Kaiser

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 1, 2005
Messages
3,895
Reaction score
168
Location
Pepperell, MA
I can understand that. Reading into the quote from BS&P, it doesn't sound absolute. Those key words like "may" and "could" (stand out to me, working in consulting;)) make me wonder what other factors are at play for that to happen.
Overall yeast health I would assume.

But I'm definitely interested in checking this out in one of my future batches. Especially now that there is textbook that gives a reason other than continued yeast activity for chilling down slowly.

Kai
 

oloroso27

Member
Joined
Jul 2, 2008
Messages
15
Reaction score
0
Location
Seattle, WA
I'm still on the quest of brewing a lager w/ only one week of primary fermentation, one week of gradual chilling and 4 weeks of lagering. I wonder how much better this is for the taste of the beer compared to the home brewing standard of long primary w/ or w/o warm diacetyl rest.

Kai
I just brewed a Pilsner Urquell clone using exactly that schedule, and WOW - the beer was shockingly good. I pitched at 48 degrees, which made a diacetyl rest unnecessary.
 
Top