Warm temp lager fermentation experiment

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Saccharomyces

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Like many of you, I'm currently only setup to do ales using the fermentation chamber in my sig. I don't have any space left for a lagerator, but I really want to start brewing lagers more often -- currently I only lager once or twice a year when I can put up with warm kegs (and foamy pours :( ) for a couple of weeks but I love my homebrewed versions of cheap swill beer! :D

I've been stewing on this for awhile and I think I have a solution that may let me ferment lagers in my ghetto fermentation chamber using only a few bags of ice and a couple of tricks.

First, the recipe. This ain't no steam beer -- it's a pale American lager. If it has any flaws, they will show up in spades. That is exactly the point, to test out the process and to determine if it produces a clean lager.

Mid-American Lager
BJCP 1B, Standard American Lager

75% 2-row (3 lb 2 oz @85% eff. for 2.25 gallons)
20% Flaked Rice (13 oz)
5% Vienna (3.5 oz)

Hop:
1/8 oz Galena 60 (13 IBUs for 2.25 gallons)

Yeast:
WLP840 American Lager

The process:

Two days before the first batch of wort, I will prepare a 1500ml starter on a stir plate. This will give me a pitching rate of about 2.2M cells/ml/*Plato, or about 50% over the normal recommended pitching rate for lagers. This starter will be chilled and decanted.

Brew day #1 is simple BIAB, step mash at 122*F and 150*F on the stove top, to produce ~2.25 gallons of 1.056 wort. Reserving 1 quart for trub, I'll have 2 gallons of wort. I will aerate the snot out of it, chill down to 50*F in my fermentation chamber using plenty of ice, and pitch.

Of course my chamber has no insulation, so I expect the temp will rise gradually up to the low 60's by the next day. At that point I'll maintain the temp as close to 60*F as I can with water bottles, which is just above the recommended range for the yeast. The key is that with my high pitching rate and pure O2, I expect any yeast growth will be complete by the time the temp gets above 58*F, so I should have limited ester production as a result of the warmer temps.

Brew day #2, 24 hours later, I'll prepare another batch of identical wort. I'll chill back to 50*F using a bag of ice, oxygenate the fresh wort, and pitch onto the actively fermenting wort. At this point I have enough yeast to easily ferment the four gallons of lager, so again I should be through the growth phase within 12 hours and back into vigorous fermentation.

I'll then keep the temps as close to 60*F as I can with bottles of ice until fermentation slows after which I will let it finish at room temp. After attenuation is reached, I'll rack to a keg, top up to five gallons, fine with gelatin, lager for a week or two, and then filter the beer into a serving keg just like the big boys do. I'm using ALDC enzyme at the suggestion of JB from Austin Homebrew, so I can skip the D-rest altogether further shortening my fermentation time.

Target is 15-20 days grain to glass, 1.045 OG equivalent, ~10 IBUs.

Comments?
 

giligson

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I want to know how it turns out. I am also lacking a "lagerator" at this time. It would be ideal if you could run parallel samples. One on your process, one with a traditional process and one where you just let the temp run wild and see what happens.
 

ol' rummie

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Is there any way to insulate your "fermentation chamber"?
Putting styrofoam all around the sides top and bottom, kind of like a picnic cooler, would hold the temp bit better.?
I do all of my lagers in the winter, lagering temp usually isn't a problem here in Canada.
 

Joe Camel

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Sacc, (if I can call you Sacc :))

There are a few guys in our brew club that have had very good success doing what you're planning. Apparently Wyeast California lager and Munich lager yeasts are very capable at warmer temps and don't produce a lot of off flavours.

I can send you a link to an article in one of our newsletters if you'd like. Suffice to say you're on the right track. Best of luck
 
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Sacc, (if I can call you Sacc :))

There are a few guys in our brew club that have had very good success doing what you're planning. Apparently Wyeast California lager and Munich lager yeasts are very capable at warmer temps and don't produce a lot of off flavours.

I can send you a link to an article in one of our newsletters if you'd like. Suffice to say you're on the right track. Best of luck
Everybody calls me Sacc. :) Good to hear this has been done before, just never read about it. Any pointers are appreciated!
 

z987k

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if this does turn out a bit estery, you could try going with 55-60 degrees with a really clean ale yest, like us-05 and then lager. It'd be a really slow ferment, but it should be really really clean as well.
 
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Thanks for the article link.

I wanted to brew this week but my stir plate was giving me problems so I decided to return it and buy a different one. So this will have to wait until I can build up a huge pile of yeast. ;)
 
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As soon as I rack the 10 gallons of Imperial Stout taking up my fermentation chambers (aka garbage cans ;)) I will get this going. I'm really looking forward to the results.

My first go is with WLP840 American Lager. If it's too estery I'll try WY2124 next... Wyeast claims it produces decent pseudo-lagers at up to 75*F (eg Biere de Garde) so at 60*F-ish it should do fine.
 

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My first batch of homebrew was Munton's continental pilsner and I had no idea that it needed to be lagered. Both primary and secondary took place at about 65 degrees, using saflager 23 instead of the yeast that came with the kit. I found that it turned out quite good, but the bottles that i were hiding in the back of my fridge for a couple months got crystal clear and were fantastic.

After a couple ales I decided to try another lager and realized that if I used a carboy instead of a fermentation bucket it could fit in my mini fridge with a few small modifications. I pulled out the freezer section and used a box cutter to cut out the rack on the inside of the door, and it fit perfectly.
 
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I used Saflager S-23 once at 48*F and it was a disaster. Fruity and full of diacetyl. I have heard this yeast does really well at warmer temps so I'll definitely consider giving it a try.

My current thinking is to try yeast strains in the following order until one produces a satisfactory result --

Budweiser (WLP840)
Weihenstephan 34/70 (dry -- equivalent to WLP830)
Saflager S-23
Anchor Steam (WLP810)

I have some more slants prepared so I am getting closer to giving this a shot. I need to knock out the Westy 12 clone for the swap thread first, though.
 

menschmaschine

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I used Saflager S-23 once at 48*F and it was a disaster. Fruity and full of diacetyl. I have heard this yeast does really well at warmer temps so I'll definitely consider giving it a try.
At what temp did you pitch it?

My current thinking is to try yeast strains in the following order until one produces a satisfactory result --

Budweiser (WLP840)
Weihenstephan 34/70 (dry -- equivalent to WLP830)
Saflager S-23
Anchor Steam (WLP810)
If you switch No. 2 to the No. 1 position, you can stop at No. 1.;) (At the right pitch rate and pitched cold/fermented cold.)
 
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Been slow getting around to brewing this but I have the WLP840 on the stir plate banging away. I will be pitching this weekend.

As mentioned in the OP, my plan is to use ALDC enzyme for diacetyl precursor elimination. In addition I have decided to do a pressure ferment in the corny keg between 5 and 10 PSI to reduce ester production, and I will not be stepping the wort volume (I am doing 2.5 gallons only). I will be pitching at 50*F chilling with ice, and try to keep temps between 57*F and 62*F for five days before letting it finish at 68*F. Then I will lager on the primary yeast for a week at 42*F rousing the yeast daily before racking, fining, and filtering the beer for serving.
 

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Looks like an interesting experiment.
Chad
 
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Been keeping it between 57*F and 62*F and under 10 PSI in a corny with a spunding valve. Yesterday it started kicking off a hint of sulfur. On Saturday I'll open the valve and drop the keg into the kegerator which is a nice cozy 42*F for a week, then I'll rack and fine to drop the yeast out and filter into a serving keg.
 
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Drumroll, please....















S U C C E S S ! ! !


No esters. No diacetyl. Just a hint of sulfur which should wear off in a few weeks as it ages. And, it's tastier than the stuff in a can. This will replace cream ale as my house swill beer.
 

ChrisS68

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Good to hear it came out! The results are really what it's all about.

I'm a bit late to the game. I've been championing Superior lager yeast as an excellent workhorse yeast for a while. Unfortunately, it's been discontinued for some reason. Well, Superior has been, but if you can get your hands on Mauribrew 497... let me know where! :D (Superior was Mauribrew 497 packaged for retail sale in North America) I've fermented with it up to 70 degrees with good results. 60 degrees and you're golden.
 
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Filtered and force carbed it, unbelievable having a lager done 20 days grain to glass.

I took it over to Soperbrew's yesterday for a tasting. Everyone agreed it was lacking in body and flavor. Success, matches the 1B style guideline perfectly... :D

There is a slight green apple flavor that the WLP840 is known for producing that I really like, slight sulfur on the nose, but no esters. I will be using this yeast again for sure.

I'm starting to look for parts to build a couple of spunding valves with gauges. Pitching 2L off the stir plate for 2.5 gallons isn't a practical pitching rate for doing 10 gallon batches, so I would like to start out at 5 PSI and ramp up to 15 PSI over 5 days (pressure retards yeast growth).
 

z987k

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Be interested in how it tastes side by side to the exact same beer properly lagered.
 

WortMonger

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Yep Sacc, I'd let it do most of the primary at 5 psi and check your gravity via a serving line and picnic spigot (or similar) on the beer-out side. Then rig the spunding valve to ? psi/temperature for CO2 volumes wanted when you are a couple points from FG. Those couple of points worth of primary fermentation shouldn't hurt much in the way of off flavors. The points should also be enough to get you carbonated. Unless you are wanting to do a little force carbonating, then it is all up to you. I like a "fully" naturally carbonated product going into my secondary/serving vessel. I haven't had any off flavors from these last points carbonating my beers. I can't wait to use the Bud yeast, and I really can't wait to use the enzyme. Sounds like a real winner!!! You the man Sacc!
 

WortMonger

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Curious as well... I know how well this works for un-estery ales, but more lagers would be useful to know about. Anyone, anyone, anyone... Voodoo Economics!
 
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I haven't done this again because of the high pitching rate required. I should, however, have a pretty good stock of yeast after my next round of Munich Helles, so perhaps I will toss a yeast cake in a keg along with a quick canned kit to see how it turns out. The first experiment I screwed up by oxidizing the beer, so after a few weeks in the keg I ended up dumping it. :mad:
 
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