Quantcast

Wow, first lager and I'm over my head

HomeBrewTalk.com - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Community.

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

jwalk4

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2012
Messages
1,173
Reaction score
267
Location
St. Thomas
Hey, so, I got an opportunity to brew a Marzen with a friend tomorrow, but I've never made a lager before.

We're using WLP 830-German Lager, and I can probably keep it at 50-53 for 2-3 weeks, but I get a little confused after that.

I warm it up to 60 for a few days (D-rest), then chill it back down to sub 40 for a few weeks. Right?

A few questions:
  • How important is the temp stepping for warm up and chilling back down?
  • How important is it to "lager" at below 40? What happens if conditions warmer?
  • What would happen if I fermented it like an ale, but just at 55F?
 

DurtyChemist

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 22, 2012
Messages
1,556
Reaction score
153
Location
Reno
Warming it up helps remove the Diacetyl which tastes like a stick of butter. Ask me how I know.
It's important but I would do it around the final 1/3 of fermentation based on gravity readings and not days. Maybe around 1.024 warm it up.

Conditioning beer warmer than 40F will make the blending/melding/smoothing out/whatever you call it happen sooner/faster. My suggestion would be to rack it to a keg or bottle it when the gravity is stable then hide it from yourself. It will be at least mid February when it may be done fermenting and the last thing you want to do is sample it too much. Let it sit until summer before cracking one. Literally......ONE. If you're patient you'll have GREAT beer when you remember it's been a while since you've brewed this. At that point I'd say brew it again.
 

specharka

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 13, 2015
Messages
937
Reaction score
318
Hey, so, I got an opportunity to brew a Marzen with a friend tomorrow, but I've never made a lager before.

We're using WLP 830-German Lager, and I can probably keep it at 50-53 for 2-3 weeks, but I get a little confused after that.

I warm it up to 60 for a few days (D-rest), then chill it back down to sub 40 for a few weeks. Right?

A few questions:
  • How important is the temp stepping for warm up and chilling back down?
  • How important is it to "lager" at below 40? What happens if conditions warmer?
  • What would happen if I fermented it like an ale, but just at 55F?

1) Gradually raising the temperature for a diacetyl rest allows the yeast to attenuate and clean up some of the byproducts of fermentation. Performing temperature steps gradually allows this to happen without inducing yeast stall or premature sedimentation of yeast flocs.
2) Lagering at lower temperatures produces a crisper, cleaner beer, whilst lagering at higher temperatures allows for a rounder finish. Temperatures higher than 40F aren't really lagering, though. More like cold conditioning.
3) Using lager yeast at higher temperatures will result in the development of esters and higher order alcohols. The fruity notes in warm lager fermentation are stylistically consistent with California Commons, but not appropriate for more lager styles. I've found that stronger lagers benefit from lower fermentation temperatures, as they result in a cleaner finish.

The initial phase of fermentation should occur between 45-55F, a diacetyl rest employed to attenuate the beer, and lagering performed for a number of weeks. I have consumed lagers fresh at 4 weeks, but they will invariably improve with longer lagering periods. It is not unusual to lager a bock for up to 6 months, but there's no hard rule to it.
 

sky4meplease

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 19, 2014
Messages
575
Reaction score
140
I don't know 830 but I would stay in its ideal range until the final 1/3rd like the Durty Chemist recommended and warm it up slowly to the mid 60's until you reach the two week mark (this assumes you gave it a big healthy pitch into oxygenated wort).
Transfer to secondary and work the temp down to 38-42 degrees and let it sit for three months.
Package it up and carb as usual.
That has worked well for me anyway.
Additional tips:
Purge secondary with CO2 if possible.
Minimize headspace in secondary.
Keep track of your airlock so it doesn't dry out with the long secondary fermentation.
Let us know how it turns out in the Spring.
 

stpug

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 5, 2012
Messages
3,821
Reaction score
765
Hey, so, I got an opportunity to brew a Marzen with a friend tomorrow, but I've never made a lager before.

We're using WLP 830-German Lager, and I can probably keep it at 50-53 for 2-3 weeks, but I get a little confused after that.

I warm it up to 60 for a few days (D-rest), then chill it back down to sub 40 for a few weeks. Right?

A few questions:
  • How important is the temp stepping for warm up and chilling back down?
  • How important is it to "lager" at below 40? What happens if conditions warmer?
  • What would happen if I fermented it like an ale, but just at 55F?
Just remember, lagers are no harder to brew than ales - you just use different temperatures for different durations. Otherwise, same damn thing.

Good lager beers can be had in as little as 3-4 weeks, but they will usually improve over a couple more weeks for standard gravity beers. Higher gravity lagers may benefit from a longer cold conditioning period (i.e. lagering).

As for your questions:
-Warming up and chilling back down can be done pretty quickly (24 hours always works for me, either direction)
-Lagering IS cold conditioning and, as such, requires "cold" to be accomplished. 40 or under should be your goal. Any time spent above ~40 should not be counted towards your lagering time. If you cannot lager your beer then it will probably lack a the crispness and clarity often associated with lager beers.
-Fermenting a lager at 55F used to be considered okay for some styles, but it seems like the trend is to keep things cooler for all styles now (46-50F). A lager fermented at 55F will likely not need a diacetyl rest, and may have more esters. If you HAVE TO ferment at 55F then pick a lager strain that is known to work well at that temperature range and still gives the characteristics you're aiming for. Wyeast 2124 is awesome up into the 60s but the higher you go the more pronouced the esters become; then again, my cali common fermented with 2124 at 62F tasted very good with pseudo-lager character.
 

Gavin C

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Jul 21, 2014
Messages
7,041
Reaction score
3,477
Location
Dallas
A few questions:
With all brews, ales and lagers alike I'm a firm believer in stacking the deck in my favor.
For lagers this equates to.

  • A Big fat healthy yeast biomass. Plenty of yeast, don't worry about an over pitch. A big stir pate starter running at full blast. Decant off the crap and pitch the good stuff.
  • Pitch cool. (I pitch at 48F) This is theorized to reduce the production of diacetyl diminishing the importance of a rest for this later on.
  • Ferment cool. 50F
  • Ramp when your close to terminal gravity. Visual clues and data will let you know when that is.
I just do a passive ramp My chamber is in a spare climate controlled room so after a couple of days it's at 67F.

  • Taste for diacetyl. If none present, chill to 31F (that takes a while for 5 gallons. ~12 hours I'd guess)
After a day or so it's ready to be packaged/lagered in bulk. (many wait longer)

The former for me means kegging and subsequent lagering carbonation at 34F

If you bottle you can lager in bulk as close to beer freezing temp as possible or bottle, carbonate and subsequently lager at as close to freezing as possible.

Other option if you bottle is to lager in secondary (I would advocate for getting it off the yeast cake in this instance) as close to the freezing point of beer as possible.

Bottling later with a likely need for yeast at bottling.

Pitching/fermenting warmer will lead to off flavors. (taste your lager starter to test this hypothesis, aside from being oxygenated as all hell it will be an olfactory smorgasbord of undesirable esters.)

On the importance of warming and cooling. The former is not needed but can shorten the timeframe for maturation of the beer. Traditional lager profiles involve no warming. Dactyl reduces over time at cooler temperatures. Takes longer though.

Lagering warmer takes longer. Too warm and you won't get true lagering with precipitation of yeast and undesirable polyphenols.

Fermenting at 55F is too warm IMO. Into hybrid territory. I ferment my altbier at temps not much warmer that that.

I have no doubt that plenty of folks will disavow these points heralding their successes with simpler less restrictive methods. if the beer characteristics are as planned who could argue.

I have a very formulaic and preplanned approach to brewing. This approach seems to lend itself well to making lagers. I enjoy the results.

Typical lager fermentation (Ignore the primary secondary etc, all done in primary)


Here are two examples outlining my approach.

Helles

Dunkel

A Pilsner I have on tap now has a similar methodology.

German Pils

2.jpg

5.jpg

.
 

gometz

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2013
Messages
1,228
Reaction score
207
I have become a believer in the quick lager method from Brulosopher (though he admits it isn't his, it is an old method that has been used all over)
https://www.homebrewtalk.com/showthread.php?t=518132

It seems strange I know, but having made lagers the traditional route and using this method, I can say both produce great beers. I would say it really does work just as well.

While I am normally against shortcuts, from industry journals I have read most breweries assume it takes 4 weeks to make a lager start to finish (vs. 2 weeks for an ale). This doesn't jive with the normal 2 week primary fermentation with 4-6 weeks lagering schedule, so obviously breweries know how to make lagers more quickly without affecting quality. My best guess is that the quick method described above is employed by professionals.

A lot of the time we read historical information (such as Oktoberfest beers being brewed in March) that leads us to believe lagers will take forever. But modern breweries do not take nearly that long to produce even their high gravity Maerzens.

Again: I used to be a stickler about 1 week for every 10 points of OG lagering, a 2 week primary plus a 3 day d-rest (which equals about 8 weeks for a typical lager). But now I have made 2 helles, an export, and a black lager using the quick method, with no ill effects. I brought a few bottles to my family in Germany, and all of the feedback was great (and they aren't ones to blow smoke).

As for how difficult? It just takes a little more time to keep an eye on the temperature at different times during fermentation vs. an ale. It takes a bit longer, but it's not much different than an ale.
 
OP
jwalk4

jwalk4

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2012
Messages
1,173
Reaction score
267
Location
St. Thomas
Haha, I wussed out and pitched 04 instead.

Argh, I'm such a loser :D

I guess I just don't have the space to let 5 gallons of bottles/kegs sit in my fridge for weeks-months for lagering purposes.

Great info, though. So thanks to all who responded with great advice!
 
Top