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When to Rack Lager to Secondary

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gregblatz

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Hi All,
I have been fermenting a Czech style Pilsner and I am thinking it may be time to rack to my secondary, but since this is my first lager, I need some advice...

It has been in my basement since 1/24/08 (17days) and has been at a pretty consistent temperature of 50-52 degrees.

It seems that the airlock activity has ceased, and I think I am ready.

Is there any basic rule of thumb similar to the 1-2-3 rule with ales?
 

Beerrific

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Take a sample. Taste it. Check the gravity. If it has signs of diacetyl, raise the temp. If it is at your final gravity, rack to the lagering vessel in the next week or so. Leaving a lager in the primary for 3-4 (or more) weeks is very common. I would hesitate to lay down a rule similar to "1-2-3" with a lager, there are too many variables.
 
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gregblatz

gregblatz

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So, would it have been better to do the primary in warmer conditions, then drop the temp for the lagering(secondary)?
 

Beerrific

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gregblatz said:
So, would it have been better to do the primary in warmer conditions, then drop the temp for the lagering(secondary)?
No, 50-52 is perfect for lager fermentation. If you can, drop it to 40 or below for the lagering. You would just want to warm it up to encourage the yeast to take up the diacetyl (if needed).
 

Yooper

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With lagers, you usually do primary around 50 degrees, and then if you need a diacetyl rest, you do that for 24-48 hours at room temperature. Sometimes you don't even need a diacetyl rest, though. I pitch my lagers cold with a big starter, and don't have diacetyl. If you taste diacetyl when the fermentation is around 75% finished, you have to do the diacetyl rest. John Palmer's book howtobrew, talks about testing more for diacetyl, but I just taste the beer and see.

If you're doing the diacetyl rest, you leave it on the yeast cake until it's 75% finished and then raise it to room temperature for that diacetyl rest. Then rack and gradually lower to lager temperatures. If you're not doing the diacetyl rest, you can rack and gradually lower the temperature. It really depends on your yeast strain (some don't produce much diacetyl, some produce tons) and your pitching rate.
 
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gregblatz

gregblatz

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Gotcha, thanks guys. I will wait a week, then test. So for diacetyl, I am looking for a buttery or ale like taste?

As far as lagering temp, I am stuck with 50-52 degrees. I have it in my basement floor which keeps it at a constant temp due to the cold Ohio winter. Will this be a problem?
 

kirkpants

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im on my first lager as well, coincidentally a czech pils. i was told to rack it over after the cake on the bottom got to be 1.5 -2" thick even if the primary phase wasn't over with -

currently it has a decent amount of bubbles coming up from the cake on the bottom, so i dont want to arrest the fermentation, but from what you all are saying, it sounds like I can just leave it for a couple weeks no problem, taste it to check for diacetyl, and eventually rack it and lager after its done bubbling.

greg, i think you would be better off getting it lower for the lagering phase, can you put it next to your basement wall or in a lined box with ice bottles? itll still be fine though at 50 i would think as long as you rack it off the dead yeasties
 
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