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What's YOUR Lager Fermentation Like?

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Evan!

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My previous question regarding w34/70 went unanswered, so I'm'a try this a little differently.

On average, what is your typical lager fermentation like? Do you get a large krausen? Is your airlock activity similar to your ale fermentations? How long does fermentation last?

I ask because I'm currently on my 6th lager. The first 5 had relatively short fermentations (within a week), a pretty big krausen (one even needed a blowoff tube), and staccato airlock activity like an ale. However, I kept hearing from people that lager fermentations typically take a couple weeks. Then I get into this latest lager, a pils, and I pitch the Saflager w34/70, which I've never used before. It took 2 days+ to start doing anything, and even then, it's just a really thin krausen with a bubble from the airlock every 5-10 seconds, rather than every second or faster.

So what is a "typical" lager fermentation supposed to be like? Have my first 5 lagers just been atypical, and this one is how it's supposed to be? Or is something wrong with this one?
 

Kaiser

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For an avarage 12 *P beer I aim for a 2 wk primary fermentation at a temperature below 9 *C (48 *F). primary fermentation is over when the gravity is about 1-2 *P over the final gravity and I rack to a corny for secondary. Then it takes another 2 weeks at 10 *C (50 *F) or below to carbonate and get to a gravity at which I feel comfortable to start lagering the beer.

I have noticed that the yeast performance is very dependent on the yeast yealth (given a good pitching rate) and some of my lagers seem to take longer than others to get to an attenuation that allows me to drop the temp close to 0. My goal is to get this time shorter (lagering 3 weeks after pitching w/o having to raise the temp above 10* C would be nice).

I aim to get a blow-off from my lagers so the gunk can be blown off or stick to the carboy. I don't want that in my beer. To get this I generally have to fill the carboy up to 5 in from the neck.

Pitching cold, the lag time is generally 24 hrs. This is how long it takes from pitching until I can see the first foam form. I'd like to get this more into the 12-16 hr range, but are not to concerned with it.

Commercial lager primary fermentations take about 7 days with the time spent above 6 *C (42 *F) being only 4-5 days. They have the same pitching rates, but I assume that fermentation in a large conical gives you much more beer movement which in turn keeps much more of the yeast in suspension. That's why I have been thinking about stirred lager fermentation. I don't have the set-up yet and are not at a point where I think that this gives flavors that I can't get otherwise.

Kai
 

Warrior

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Evan! said:
My previous question regarding w34/70 went unanswered, so I'm'a try this a little differently.

On average, what is your typical lager fermentation like? Do you get a large krausen? Is your airlock activity similar to your ale fermentations? How long does fermentation last?

I ask because I'm currently on my 6th lager. The first 5 had relatively short fermentations (within a week), a pretty big krausen (one even needed a blowoff tube), and staccato airlock activity like an ale. However, I kept hearing from people that lager fermentations typically take a couple weeks. Then I get into this latest lager, a pils, and I pitch the Saflager w34/70, which I've never used before. It took 2 days+ to start doing anything, and even then, it's just a really thin krausen with a bubble from the airlock every 5-10 seconds, rather than every second or faster.

So what is a "typical" lager fermentation supposed to be like? Have my first 5 lagers just been atypical, and this one is how it's supposed to be? Or is something wrong with this one?
I've never used the saflager dry yeast. My typical lager ferment takes about 2 weeks. I do get a good karusen build up but never need a blow off tube. I use the wyeast activator pouch at first and then wash my yeast for future ferments. I start the ferment at room temp for 1 day and then move to the basement for what is usually about a two week ferment at around 50 deg.
 

cheezydemon

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I think temps have a large affect. Mine at 51F is a lot slower and with a smaller krauzen than the previous batch at 56F.

Of course different yeasts behave differently too.
 

Teddi Brewski

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Typical lager fermentation? Kind of like asking what the "typical" homebrewer is like, no? My first few lager fermentations have been pretty ale-like over all, but I ferment in the low 50's (with Wyeast American Lager) or whatever my chilly New England Basement happens to be. A lot of folks will probably say this isn't "true" lager, but I definitely perceive the end product to be different from my ales. RDWHAH
 

Teddi Brewski

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And to more directly answer the question, plenty of Kreuzen, but no blow-off necessary, and fermentation comeplete in <5days after making a starter and pitching at room temp, placing in basement at first signs of activity
 

Beerrific

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I have done 2 lagers. In both I get about 3-4 inches of krausen and the airlock activity is comparable to an average ale fermentation with probably less than 24hr lag (pitched cold both times). The airlock activity usually declines greatly or stops after 1 week. This is at 50F.

During peak fermentation, if I didn't already know, I probably couldn't tell you if it was an ale or lager without smelling or tasting it.
 

bgrubb7

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I just finished bottling a pilsner using WY 2112 California lager. It's a 58-68 degree lager yeast. I fermented at around 60, and the activity was slow to moderate at best. Very little krausen (maybe a .5" at most), that almost formed a crust on top that never dropped out. Airlock bubbling was consistent for almost 12 days and finally slowed to a halt around day 14.

I transfered to secondary and moved to the 55 degree basement. I did get positive airlock pressure, but never did see any actual airlock activity during a week in the secondary.

I tasted a sample last night, and decided it was good enough to bottle. The beer made a complete transformation during that one week in the secondary, it dried out, took on that crisp lager taste, and cleared up dramatically. I didn't see another week in the secondary improving it much more, so I went ahead and bottled. This is one clear fermenting yeast. I wish I would have saved the yeast cake from the primary.
 

Kaiser

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Teddi Brewski said:
and fermentation comeplete in <5days after making a starter and pitching at room temp, placing in basement at first signs of activity
Wow that's quick. What starting gravity and temperature is that?

Kai
 

TerapinChef

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Here's the report on my first lager...

I pitched at 55*, WL South German Lager Yeast. I had a starter, about 2Q worth, and just pitched the whole thing in. My basement holds near 50 almost all winter. until I put my first lager down there. Then it drops into the mid 40's. So I lift it up off the floor and place it up a bit higher 3 days after pitching, (Little activity so far) Now, four days later, I have a small krausen (maybe 1") and steady ale like bubbling with a temperature of 52. I think I'm happy....
 

david_42

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I'm in the pitch a little warm & wait for fermentation camp. Even so, my ferments take 2-3 weeks and I don't see much krausen.
 
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Evan!

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I'm thinking about just saying f*ck it and pitching some of the old standby: s-23. I just can't fathom why it's such a timid fermentation...
 

landhoney

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Evan! said:
I'm thinking about just saying f*ck it and pitching some of the old standby: s-23. I just can't fathom why it's such a timid fermentation...
You've probably been yelling at it too much Evan! Cut it some slack, you just met. ;)
 
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Evan!

Evan!

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landhoney said:
You've probably been yelling at it too much Evan! Cut it some slack, you just met. ;)
I tried coddling it, I tried having a civilized discussion about its role in our relationship, but it refused to listen.
 

landhoney

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Evan! said:
I tried coddling it, I tried having a civilized discussion about its role in our relationship, but it refused to listen.
Women huh! Can't live with them....woops, I mean Yeast huh!
 

AdIn

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Evan! said:
My previous question regarding w34/70 went unanswered, so I'm'a try this a little differently.

On average, what is your typical lager fermentation like? Do you get a large krausen? Is your airlock activity similar to your ale fermentations? How long does fermentation last?

I ask because I'm currently on my 6th lager. The first 5 had relatively short fermentations (within a week), a pretty big krausen (one even needed a blowoff tube), and staccato airlock activity like an ale. However, I kept hearing from people that lager fermentations typically take a couple weeks. Then I get into this latest lager, a pils, and I pitch the Saflager w34/70, which I've never used before. It took 2 days+ to start doing anything, and even then, it's just a really thin krausen with a bubble from the airlock every 5-10 seconds, rather than every second or faster.

So what is a "typical" lager fermentation supposed to be like? Have my first 5 lagers just been atypical, and this one is how it's supposed to be? Or is something wrong with this one?
I found that Saflager w34/70 flocculates rather quickly so I had to swirl my carboy a few times to keep this yeast strain in suspension and finish fermentation.
Did you rehydrate it before use?
 
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Evan!

Evan!

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AdIn said:
I found that Saflager w34/70 flocculates rather quickly so I had to swirl my carboy a few times to keep this yeast strain in suspension and finish fermentation.
Did you rehydrate it before use?
yep, I did. I'll try some light swirling. thnx
 

boo boo

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PUD

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i'm in the middle of my first lager. i pitched the yeast hot from the wyeast bavarian lager activater pack and it took 5 days before it started fermenting at 50. it had a thick krausen and lots of airlock activity for at 5-6 days. after two weeks i put her in the secondary and started bringing the temp down in my chest freezer.

i'm lagering in my secondary, i saw a post putting it in a keg force carbing then lagering. which is better? leaving it in the secondary for four weeks or lagering in the force carbed keg? i was planning on leaving it in the secondary for at least four weeks. guess i'll find out.
 

Kaiser

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PUD said:
leaving it in the secondary for four weeks or lagering in the force carbed keg?
I don't have data on that. I lager in a cabrbed keg since I want the beer to be ready to drink once it comes out of lagering and it also makes sampling easy since I just pull the sample with a picnic tap. But many lager in a carboy, so you should be fine by doing so.

Kai
 

William Anderson

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Evan,
Your comments on Saflager w34/70 were good ones and caught my attention as I am currently doing a starter of Saflager S-23 lager yeast. It's going into it's 3rd day in a cider bottle, and I'm not sure I trust what I'm seeing in its current activity to pitch it onto a 5 gallon batch of wort. I've been brewing for a good 30 years, but this is the first time I'm deviating from my ale-yeast only habit to try a lager yeast. My basement's cool enough to let a lager go for however long it wants during this season (in Georgia, basement temperatures are far more conducive to ales than lagers unless one has a brewing 'fridge). There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of detailed literature devoted to lager brewing that I have been able to get my hands on thus far - probably because I haven't made a good effort to look for it... But at any rate, let me ask your advice on a yeast starter such as the one I've currently got going. I'm doing this at room temp, but the activity thus far is a bit disappointing for me. Keep in mind that I'm an ale fan and I'm accustomed to the quick, virulent activity and heavy foaming of ale yeasts, which can even blow foam out of a starter bottle's airlock. So here's this gallon bottle of S-23 starter, solution at the half-gallon level, with a bubble in the airlock once every 40 seconds, and foam? Well, that's what concerns me here. The "foam" is in the form of large bubbles - only one layer, though - that resemble root beer float bubbles for their size. My question: is this normal activity for a lager starter at two days? Would you trust something like this enough to pitch it into wort or should it be pitched into the toilet? I did the Jimmy Durante test on the airlock... "the nose knows"... and it smells good, but here again, I'm not an experienced lager guy. My gut feeling is that I ought to let it go another day as a starter to see if it starts smelling differently or if the bubble activity slows or both. As an ale guy, I'm wanting to see nice, thick foam, fine bubbles 3-4 inches high, and the airlock clicking 1-2-cha-cha-cha. Am I expecting too much from this S-23 culture?
 

WBC

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I have used S23 and rehydrated in 80F water and pitched at 75F (recommended) and then once I saw a nice krausen I lowered slowly to 53F (recommended). It had a nice krausen the whole time it was in the vigorus stage of ferment (4 days) and then the head slowly dropped into the wort. Right beside it I had another carboy of beer with WLP830 German lager yeast and they both did about the same on the krausen. If you pitch at lower temps more yeast is needed to take off fast as it takes a lot of time for them to multiply and become vigorus.

If you go to the Saflager yeast website they have a PDF for the S23 yeast that explains all this.
 

Jaybrinks

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I just brewed my 1st lager on Saturday 3/28/09. 10 Gallons. I basically took a cream ale recipe, added honey at the end of the boil, and used lager yeast. I'll call it Honey Cream Lager for lack of a better name.

I split it into two fermenters and pitched 2 different lager yeast. One was Wyeast #2308 Munich, and the other was Wyeast #2206 Bavarian. Both were pitched from 1.5 qt starters @ 55 degrees. I was seeing airlock activity at the 5 hour mark My fermentation temp is 52.

2 days running and It has a mild krausen....not nearly as aggressive as my ales though. I will let you know how it progresses.
 

goatchze

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Jaybrinks, sounds like my experience. I've only got 2 lagers under my belt, but here's how they went/are going.

One bock, one pils. Both pitched with Bavarian 2206 at room temperature, then placed in cooler @ 50F. Used a 1qt starter for each 5 gallon batch. Activity was noted the next morning, a good Krausen after 1-2 days. Fermentation was pretty much complete at day 7.

I've debated starting cooler, but honestly, the yeast did fine pitched from a starter at room temperature. No lag time to speak of and no need for a diacetyl rest.

I left them in the primary another week with the temp stepped down to 40F. Then moved to cornies for lagering @ 35F. Will force carb after a couple of weeks (I'm at week 3 right now).

I do like Kaiser's idea of going straight to the corny before fermentation is completely done to carobonate. (For these two batches this transfer would have been done on day 7 when full attenuation had pretty much been reached). Will definitely do this on my next batch. Should cut the whole process down to 4 weeks. 1wk in Primary @ 50-55F, 1wk in corny @ 40-50F. 2wks in lagering in corny @ 35F.
 

menschmaschine

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I've brewed a lot of lagers... mostly with WLP830 and always had decent krausens, but rarely, if ever, a blow-off. Lager krausens are invariably neater and smaller than ale krausens.

HOWEVER, I brewed a German Pils this past Saturday and used a dry lager yeast for the first time (Saflager W34/70). I pitched 2 rehydrated packets each for 2 Better Bottles at ~50°F and it took about 15 hours to see the first signs of fermentation. So they've been going for about 4 days now and one thing I've noticed is that the krausen is definitely smaller than what I see with WLP830.

The odor of fermentation is the same and I'm hopeful with this yeast. If it's good, then no more lager starters. 4 packs of W34/70 cost me $10, so that's roughly the same cost as 1 vial with starters and without the hassle.
 

humann_brewing

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I'll toss in a visual reference



This beer was fermented right at 50* using WLP830 for I think it was only 12 days, went from 1.044 to 1.010 in primary. I then racked to a bucket, then a corny to loose any trub I could, but there wasn't much anyways. It has been lagering for 2.5 weeks now.

This is my first lager so we will see how it goes.
 

DanVader

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I have used the 34/70 on a schwarzbier, but I pitched 2 packets, and aerated with pure O2. I pitched at 70 deg and had obvious activity within about 6 hours. put it in the fridge set for 52 deg and by the next morning had around 4" krausen and a blow-off tube was necessary. active fermentation lasted about 10 days. beer turned out yummy, I would use it again. the only person I've known with fermentation problems was under-aerating. and under pitching. just a thought.

dan
 

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I just brewed a California Lager (wyeast 2112) that was 7 1/2 months old, I should have smacked it 3 days pefore pitching, but I didn't, and I should have made a starter, but I didn't. I just pitched it before it was ready. Three days later it finally took off, and it really took off! Ususally the California Lager is a bit less vigorous than the ale yeasts, but this one was quite turbulent, and about 3" of krausen, and lasted about 6 days.
It smells good and fresh so far, hopefully there is no ill effects from the three days of waiting for it totake off.
 

menschmaschine

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Here's my Pils probably at high krausen (4.5 days) with the W34/70. Everything else was the same (aeration, etc.) as many batches I've done with WLP830 and a higher krausen. We'll see how well it attenuates. I think it will be fine. Remember, this was pitched at 50°F and held there for fermentation.

 

menschmaschine

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Just wanted to follow up on this. My primary fermentation on the above beer with W34/70 got 75-76% attenuation. It's consistent with the yeast strain and my wort fermentability, so I'm happy with that.

I've also had very vigorous ale fermentations (blow-off) that had poor attenuation (mostly due to dextrinous wort). I think it's interesting that fermentation vigor doesn't correlate with attenuation.
 

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I just brewed a ~16 P Bock yesterday and used Wyeast Bohemian Lager 2124 which is allegedy Weihenstephan 34/70 (same as WLP830). This was using a washed slurry (approx. 20mL of 'cake') from a previous brew I did in January. I started it in a 2 qt. starter then decanted and stepped up to 1 gal. (both starters grown at ~60 F). I decanted before pitching. I think that should be in the 18M/mL ballpark which is prob underpitching a brew this big by decent amount. Pitched last night @ 7:30 PM (@ ~56 F) and had activity by 10:30 PM...there was a small krausen this morning. The fridge is at ~47-48 F. This is all pretty nominal for my lagers.

I have been merely letting them ferment until they slow down enough to let the trub settle...this is usually 8-10 days. Then I rack to a keg and put it back in the fridge (still @ fermenting temp) and put a gage on the gas post and let it go for at least a month...but usually not more than two. It continues to ferment and it carbs up the beer during that time. Then I cool it down to lagering temp (~34 F) and do a closed keg-to-keg transfer. Then back into the lagering keezer for at least another month.
 
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