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General Category => Yeast and Fermentation => Topic started by: jmsetzler on October 26, 2014, 04:29:16 AM

Title: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
Post by: jmsetzler on October 26, 2014, 04:29:16 AM
Greetings to the forum!

I'm getting ready to do my first lager.  I have ordered my ingredients and plan to brew next Saturday or Sunday.  I have my chest freezer and temperature controller dialed in and ready to go so I can manage my temps.

One of the things I'm trying to understand is the fermentation schedule of the Lager process.  I'm planning to do my primary fermentation for 14 days at around 52°F.  After that point, I'll rack to secondary and raise the temp to 62°F for 3 days.  After three days at 62°F, I plan to lager at around 32 degrees for at least 30 days.

Does this sound reasonable?

My next question is regarding using airlocks in a chest freezer.  When I cool from 62 to 32 degrees will the cooling suck the liquid out of my airlock into the beer or should I use a blow-off hose during this process instead?
Title: Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
Post by: klickitat jim on October 26, 2014, 05:02:04 AM
I don't schedule. I let the yeast tell me what to do. I pitch about 3-5° cooler than my target temp and let it rise to the set temp. This guarantees that I don't pitch warmer than my target temp. Then when the gravity is about 75% of the way to FG I bump the temp up a couple degrees per day until it done done. Done dropping gravity and done cleaning up off flavor fermentation byproducts. I do not rack to secondary unless I am doing a secondary fermentation, such as adding fruit etc. I don't add fruit to my lagers.

For me, the purpose of lager yeast is to be clean generally. So I prefer a cool fermentation like about 50° 55 tops. When I do my stepping up temp at the end I usually stop around 65°. I keg my lagers and "lager" them at 45° until carbonated. Then I might drop it to 35 for a few weeks to help drop yeast out.
Title: Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
Post by: Stevie on October 26, 2014, 06:22:55 AM
U shaped airlocks will not suck back, three piece and blowoffs will. I use sold stoppers when I cold crash with better bottles.
Title: Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
Post by: majorvices on October 26, 2014, 10:54:18 AM
You don't want to rack the beer off the yeast during the d-rest/conditioning pahse. You may want to rack it off during the lagering phase but it isn't completely necessary.

Make your you pitch enough yeast (the slurry from a gallon starter is about right, it can be smaller if stirred - see the pitching calc at www.mrmalty.com to get an idea how much yeast you need) cool the beer all the way down to the temp you plan on fermenting or even couple degrees below and let the fermentation bring the temp up to your target temp. Depending on the yeast and style you will want to be between 48 and 54 degrees fermentation temp. I go cooler temps for pale low gravity lagers and a little warmer for darker or high gravity lagers but in each case I start out the fermentation at around48-50 degrees.

Fermentation sets its own schedule but generally I ferment my lagers at 48-50 degrees for the first 5 days or so then I'll bump up to 52-54 then when fermentation has slowed considerably I will raise temp to 58 until completion then raise up to about 62. Let it rest completely for another 2-3 days then crash cool on the yeast. At this point you can either rack or continue to lager on the yeast for another 2-4 weeks (or more for higher gravity lagers, though you may want to get it off the yeast if conditioning longer than this.)
Title: Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
Post by: Wort-H.O.G. on October 26, 2014, 12:29:21 PM
You don't want to rack the beer off the yeast during the d-rest/conditioning pahse. You may want to rack it off during the lagering phase but it isn't completely necessary.

Make your you pitch enough yeast (the slurry from a gallon starter is about right, it can be smaller if stirred - see the pitching calc at www.mrmalty.com to get an idea how much yeast you need) cool the beer all the way down to the temp you plan on fermenting or even couple degrees below and let the fermentation bring the temp up to your target temp. Depending on the yeast and style you will want to be between 48 and 54 degrees fermentation temp. I go cooler temps for pale low gravity lagers and a little warmer for darker or high gravity lagers but in each case I start out the fermentation at around48-50 degrees.

Fermentation sets its own schedule but generally I ferment my lagers at 48-50 degrees for the first 5 days or so then I'll bump up to 52-54 then when fermentation has slowed considerably I will raise temp to 58 until completion then raise up to about 62. Let it rest completely for another 2-3 days then crash cool on the yeast. At this point you can either rack or continue to lager on the yeast for another 2-4 weeks (or more for higher gravity lagers, though you may want to get it off the yeast if conditioning longer than this.)

+1 to this.

i like to pitch generally at 47-49F (again yeast dependent). i like to to do a two step starter around 1.030 and 1.6-2l each - that generally gets me where  I want to be at .
Title: Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
Post by: erockrph on October 26, 2014, 02:39:56 PM
There are a lot of different ways to handle lagers. I honestly believe that if you pitch enough yeast, and pitch it into cool enough wort, then everything else will take care of itself. But Jim made the best point - let the yeast set the schedule. Don't rack or start lagering until the beer is fully fermented and has no diacetyl.

Personally, I chill down to 45F, then set my thermostat to 50F, pitch and let it sit for about 5-7 days. From there, I bump the temp 2 degrees every couple of days. I D-rest for 2-3 days at ambient (but at least 60F). It's not often needed by the time I get my fermentation temp ramped up, but a diacetyl rest gives me peace of mind. I also dry hop at D-rest temps if I'm dry-hopping a lager.

After the D-rest, I cold-crash in the fermenter for a couple of weeks. then I rack to keg and finish lagering under pressure. For a big beer like a doppelbock, I'll lager for maybe 4-6 weeks, then finish aging at cellar temps.
Title: Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
Post by: morticaixavier on October 26, 2014, 02:51:23 PM
Ive used a schedule that Denny mentioned the last couple times. I pitch at ~45 set the temp controller to 50 wait 4 or 5 days then start bumping the temp 5 degrees every 12 hours until I'm at 65. let it ride there for a coupel days then drop the temp in the same 5 degrees every 12 hours rate until I'm at 30. leave it there a week and rack crystal clear beer to a keg. about 21 days total
Title: Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
Post by: HoosierBrew on October 26, 2014, 03:21:01 PM
Ive used a schedule that Denny mentioned the last couple times. I pitch at ~45 set the temp controller to 50 wait 4 or 5 days then start bumping the temp 5 degrees every 12 hours until I'm at 65. let it ride there for a coupel days then drop the temp in the same 5 degrees every 12 hours rate until I'm at 30. leave it there a week and rack crystal clear beer to a keg. about 21 days total

That's pretty close to what I do. I'll pitch at 46-47F, ferment @ 48-50F.  I go 5 days steady at fermentation temp, then ramp up slowly over 5 days or so until I get to 65F, leave for 2 days, and crash for 2 days. I now rack the fairly clear beer onto Biofine Clear in the keg and lager for ~ 2 more weeks for pale average strength beers until I like the clarity. I lager at most another 2-3 weeks for stronger, darker lagers. So that's 1 month grain to glass for pilseners, Dort, and helles.
Title: Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
Post by: jmsetzler on October 26, 2014, 06:50:43 PM
Thanks to everyone for the info.  I think I can put all this together and ferment a lager now :)
Title: Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
Post by: theDarkSide on October 27, 2014, 12:38:04 PM
Check out the Devil's Backbone lager talk from NHC this year.  You can download from the presentation archive if you are an AHA member.  Their Vienna lager they served was excellent!!
Title: Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
Post by: factory on October 27, 2014, 12:45:59 PM
There are a lot of different ways to handle lagers. I honestly believe that if you pitch enough yeast, and pitch it into cool enough wort, then everything else will take care of itself. But Jim made the best point - let the yeast set the schedule. Don't rack or start lagering until the beer is fully fermented and has no diacetyl.

Personally, I chill down to 45F, then set my thermostat to 50F, pitch and let it sit for about 5-7 days. From there, I bump the temp 2 degrees every couple of days. I D-rest for 2-3 days at ambient (but at least 60F). It's not often needed by the time I get my fermentation temp ramped up, but a diacetyl rest gives me peace of mind. I also dry hop at D-rest temps if I'm dry-hopping a lager.

After the D-rest, I cold-crash in the fermenter for a couple of weeks. then I rack to keg and finish lagering under pressure. For a big beer like a doppelbock, I'll lager for maybe 4-6 weeks, then finish aging at cellar temps.

When you all say that you cold-crash, do you lower the temp gradually over a period of days?  Or do you set the temp controller to say 32-34F and cool it down in a matter of hours?  I read somewhere to not cool it down more than 5F per day, or you will shock the yeast. 

I just did my second lager, and I cooled it gradually.  I'm just wondering if I'm wasting time for nothing.
Title: Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
Post by: theDarkSide on October 27, 2014, 01:05:17 PM
Cold crash a couple degrees a day until it hits about 40-42, then crash it down to 32ish.
Title: Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
Post by: reverseapachemaster on October 27, 2014, 03:01:49 PM
When you all say that you cold-crash, do you lower the temp gradually over a period of days?  Or do you set the temp controller to say 32-34F and cool it down in a matter of hours?  I read somewhere to not cool it down more than 5F per day, or you will shock the yeast. 

I just did my second lager, and I cooled it gradually.  I'm just wondering if I'm wasting time for nothing.

If you perform a d-rest and you had a healthy fermentation then your lagering is not really about letting the yeast clean up the beer at cool temperature over a long period of time but just getting the beer to drop clear. In that case it doesn't matter how fast you cold crash. On the other hand, if you are relying upon the traditional lagering approach then you would want to adopt a slower schedule for chilling to 32F.
Title: Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
Post by: erockrph on October 27, 2014, 06:28:48 PM
When you all say that you cold-crash, do you lower the temp gradually over a period of days?  Or do you set the temp controller to say 32-34F and cool it down in a matter of hours?  I read somewhere to not cool it down more than 5F per day, or you will shock the yeast. 

I just did my second lager, and I cooled it gradually.  I'm just wondering if I'm wasting time for nothing.

If you perform a d-rest and you had a healthy fermentation then your lagering is not really about letting the yeast clean up the beer at cool temperature over a long period of time but just getting the beer to drop clear. In that case it doesn't matter how fast you cold crash. On the other hand, if you are relying upon the traditional lagering approach then you would want to adopt a slower schedule for chilling to 32F.
Bingo. Plus, I've tried it both ways and I can't discern a difference. If the yeast are producing any compounds due to thermal shock from the rapid cold crash, they are below my flavor threshold. I figure if you can cold crash an ale that is fully fermented without producing off-flavors, then you can do the same with a fully-fermented lager.
Title: Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
Post by: HoosierBrew on October 27, 2014, 06:45:14 PM
When you all say that you cold-crash, do you lower the temp gradually over a period of days?  Or do you set the temp controller to say 32-34F and cool it down in a matter of hours?  I read somewhere to not cool it down more than 5F per day, or you will shock the yeast. 

I just did my second lager, and I cooled it gradually.  I'm just wondering if I'm wasting time for nothing.

If you perform a d-rest and you had a healthy fermentation then your lagering is not really about letting the yeast clean up the beer at cool temperature over a long period of time but just getting the beer to drop clear. In that case it doesn't matter how fast you cold crash. On the other hand, if you are relying upon the traditional lagering approach then you would want to adopt a slower schedule for chilling to 32F.
Bingo. Plus, I've tried it both ways and I can't discern a difference. If the yeast are producing any compounds due to thermal shock from the rapid cold crash, they are below my flavor threshold. I figure if you can cold crash an ale that is fully fermented without producing off-flavors, then you can do the same with a fully-fermented lager.

+2.  Like I posted, I give the beer a solid 2 days d-rest @ 65F and crash, meaning temp controller set down to 31F right away. Using the modified lager fermentation schedule that more and more people are starting to use, I'm not finding any flaws at all from doing this.
Title: Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
Post by: klickitat jim on October 27, 2014, 09:21:19 PM
I think the schedule isnt as import as a few key principles. 1: Pitching at or below the target temp. Yeast in dropping temps may tend to get a bit lazy so starting low and going up prevents that. 2: Starting your D rest climb before the beer is totally attenuated. Again to prevent them from getting lazy too soon. 3: going by gravity readings rather than a calendar. Its a gravity and temp thing not a time thing. 4: cold storage with carbonation. I can't think of a lager style beer that wouldn't benefit from a few weeks aat sub 40º once it is all done.
Title: Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
Post by: brewinhard on October 27, 2014, 09:41:50 PM
U shaped airlocks will not suck back, three piece and blowoffs will. I use sold stoppers when I cold crash with better bottles.

An S-shaped (u) airlock will not suck back, but it does allow oxygen to ingress into the fermenter as the beer starts to cool and the headspace cools creating a pressure difference which will pull air into the fermenter from the outside.  Negligible amounts of O2...perhaps?  But if you are truly concerned, then after your diacetyl rest, rack to a keg before crashing. 
Title: Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
Post by: klickitat jim on October 27, 2014, 09:45:28 PM
U shaped airlocks will not suck back, three piece and blowoffs will. I use sold stoppers when I cold crash with better bottles.

An S-shaped (u) airlock will not suck back, but it does allow oxygen to ingress into the fermenter as the beer starts to cool and the headspace cools creating a pressure difference which will pull air into the fermenter from the outside.  Negligible amounts of O2...perhaps?  But if you are truly concerned, then after your diacetyl rest, rack to a keg before crashing.

I wonder about this in a chest freezer temp control chamber. It seems like most of the freezer would be full of CO2 by this point. It seems like the amount of O2 would be miniscule.
Title: Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
Post by: Stevie on October 27, 2014, 10:24:44 PM

U shaped airlocks will not suck back, three piece and blowoffs will. I use sold stoppers when I cold crash with better bottles.

An S-shaped (u) airlock will not suck back, but it does allow oxygen to ingress into the fermenter as the beer starts to cool and the headspace cools creating a pressure difference which will pull air into the fermenter from the outside.  Negligible amounts of O2...perhaps?  But if you are truly concerned, then after your diacetyl rest, rack to a keg before crashing.

I wonder about this in a chest freezer temp control chamber. It seems like most of the freezer would be full of CO2 by this point. It seems like the amount of O2 would be miniscule.
Yep. I have considered buying a snorkel for when I need to reach into the freezer to pull a carboy.
Title: Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
Post by: HoosierBrew on October 27, 2014, 11:02:21 PM
U shaped airlocks will not suck back, three piece and blowoffs will. I use sold stoppers when I cold crash with better bottles.

An S-shaped (u) airlock will not suck back, but it does allow oxygen to ingress into the fermenter as the beer starts to cool and the headspace cools creating a pressure difference which will pull air into the fermenter from the outside.  Negligible amounts of O2...perhaps?  But if you are truly concerned, then after your diacetyl rest, rack to a keg before crashing. 

Yeah, I always felt that whatever O2 gets sucked back in must sit on top of the heavier layer of CO2, or else a lot of people here would make a lot of oxidized beer from crashing. All the same, I still prefer to crash and/or lager in a corny.
Title: Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
Post by: hopfenundmalz on October 27, 2014, 11:40:59 PM
When you all say that you cold-crash, do you lower the temp gradually over a period of days?  Or do you set the temp controller to say 32-34F and cool it down in a matter of hours?  I read somewhere to not cool it down more than 5F per day, or you will shock the yeast. 

I just did my second lager, and I cooled it gradually.  I'm just wondering if I'm wasting time for nothing.

If you perform a d-rest and you had a healthy fermentation then your lagering is not really about letting the yeast clean up the beer at cool temperature over a long period of time but just getting the beer to drop clear. In that case it doesn't matter how fast you cold crash. On the other hand, if you are relying upon the traditional lagering approach then you would want to adopt a slower schedule for chilling to 32F.

This is what I have said often. Somewhere I read that crashing too fast stresses the yeast, and they give off esters and other flavor compounds. As a homebrewer, I will try to go down about 4 degrees F or less a day and see if that does any good. My lagers are generally good, just seeing if I can make them better!
Title: Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
Post by: klickitat jim on October 28, 2014, 12:10:50 AM
I think Zainashef mentioned a study that reported an increase in esters by crashing vs slow drop. But he didn't reference the study. Im not saying he invented it but it might be that the exact details of what "they" did in the study could reveal wether or not it even applies to us. Like what yeast, what gravity, what temps, grain bill etc etc.

If you cold crash and don't experience a problem it seems to me that it doesn't matter much what we've heard.

It has been my experience that so long as the yeast are all done doing their jobs, it doesn't matter much if I drop slow or fast. Dropping fast might actually creat a clearer product. Also it might help with viability since you're not taking several days to get it chilled, and getting that yeast into storage or reuse.
Title: Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
Post by: jmitchell3 on October 29, 2014, 09:38:31 PM
What about a schedule for folks who bottle-condition beer?  I've never done a lager, but I'd like to but I bottle-condition. 

Could I pitch cold, ramp to ferm temp, raise for d-rest, crash back to <50F, bottle, condition at room temp for 3 weeks, then lager in the bottle for 3-4 weeks?
Title: Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
Post by: morticaixavier on October 29, 2014, 10:05:45 PM
What about a schedule for folks who bottle-condition beer?  I've never done a lager, but I'd like to but I bottle-condition. 

Could I pitch cold, ramp to ferm temp, raise for d-rest, crash back to <50F, bottle, condition at room temp for 3 weeks, then lager in the bottle for 3-4 weeks?

yes you can. you can skip the crash to 50 or crash and lager on the yeast at 32 and then transfer to the bottling bucket intentionally picking up a bit of yeast cake in the transfer.
Title: Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
Post by: erockrph on October 30, 2014, 02:54:00 AM
What about a schedule for folks who bottle-condition beer?  I've never done a lager, but I'd like to but I bottle-condition. 

Could I pitch cold, ramp to ferm temp, raise for d-rest, crash back to <50F, bottle, condition at room temp for 3 weeks, then lager in the bottle for 3-4 weeks?

yes you can. you can skip the crash to 50 or crash and lager on the yeast at 32 and then transfer to the bottling bucket intentionally picking up a bit of yeast cake in the transfer.
+1 to skipping the crash after the D-rest. I have done exactly this procedure on several occasions before I had a fermentation chamber and was very happy with the results. Just make sure you check for carbonation before you lager the bottles.