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General Category => Yeast and Fermentation => Topic started by: Alewyfe on January 28, 2016, 09:27:32 PM

Title: Lager starters
Post by: Alewyfe on January 28, 2016, 09:27:32 PM
What's the consensus on making starters for lagers? My ales always get thrown on the stir plate at room temp. I toss all the beer away and just pitch the yeast cake. I got to thinking, would it be a mistake to ferment lager starters at room temp? Rigging a stir plate in a temp controlled environment would be a bit of a pain for me.
Certainly I could put it in the coolest place in the house. How important do you think it is to actually grow the starters in the low 50 degree range?

We started a small focus group in our club to gain mastery of brewing German and Czech Pils and of course i want to make the best beer possible for the ultimate tasting meeting. I will have temp control for the primary fermentation and lagering phases. I just wonder how important that would be for the starter.
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: denny on January 28, 2016, 09:30:53 PM
What's the consensus on making starters for lagers? My ales always get thrown on the stir plate at room temp. I toss all the beer away and just pitch the yeast cake. I got to thinking, would it be a mistake to ferment lager starters at room temp? Rigging a stir plate in a temp controlled environment would be a bit of a pain for me.
Certainly I could put it in the coolest place in the house. How important do you think it is to actually grow the starters in the low 50 degree range?

We started a small focus group in our club to gain mastery of brewing German and Czech Pils and of course i want to make the best beer possible for the ultimate tasting meeting. I will have temp control for the primary fermentation and lagering phases. I just wonder how important that would be for the starter.

The purpose of a starter is to grow yeast, not make beer, and yeast grows better at warmer temps.  I've made all my lager starters at room temp with no il effects, so that's what I'd recommend.  Also, I've put my stir plate away in favor of the 1 qt. "shaken not stirred" starter method.  Much easier and results at least as good, if not better, than with the stir plate.
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: beersk on January 28, 2016, 09:48:23 PM
I always grow mine at room temp, stepped up from 2L to 3L usually and crashed/decanted. I'm not sure how I feel about the "shaken not stirred" method for lagers yet.
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: Alewyfe on January 28, 2016, 09:49:25 PM
Denny, Thanks for the quick feedback oh ye of no life. I kind of was thinking that, but you never know. There are some great lager makers out there and I just thought  it would be fun to ask if anybody is even concerned with starter temps.

Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: RPIScotty on January 28, 2016, 10:02:15 PM

I always grow mine at room temp, stepped up from 2L to 3L usually and crashed/decanted. I'm not sure how I feel about the "shaken not stirred" method for lagers yet.

Mark had discussed pitching 250B even for lagers using the SNS method.


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Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: denny on January 28, 2016, 10:06:48 PM
I always grow mine at room temp, stepped up from 2L to 3L usually and crashed/decanted. I'm not sure how I feel about the "shaken not stirred" method for lagers yet.

All it took for me was to try it.  Can't argue with success!
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: denny on January 28, 2016, 10:07:33 PM
Denny, Thanks for the quick feedback oh ye of no life. I kind of was thinking that, but you never know. There are some great lager makers out there and I just thought  it would be fun to ask if anybody is even concerned with starter temps.

No life?  I'm sitting here editing the podcast and working on the outline for the next book!  I'm busier now than when I was working!
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: blatz on January 28, 2016, 10:16:58 PM

I always grow mine at room temp, stepped up from 2L to 3L usually and crashed/decanted. I'm not sure how I feel about the "shaken not stirred" method for lagers yet.

Mark had discussed pitching 250B even for lagers using the SNS method.


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you know, I tried this for a lager and it came out too fruity for my liking - moderate notes of banana in it - possibly a sign of stress and/or underpitching.  I make lagers all the time and don't usually have this issue.  I went back to using a stir plate on the next lager and voila - back to high quality.

I think SNS has its place for ales, but I'm not convinced with lagers...
Title: Lager starters
Post by: RPIScotty on January 28, 2016, 10:20:47 PM

I always grow mine at room temp, stepped up from 2L to 3L usually and crashed/decanted. I'm not sure how I feel about the "shaken not stirred" method for lagers yet.

Mark had discussed pitching 250B even for lagers using the SNS method.


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you know, I tried this for a lager and it came out too fruity for my liking - moderate notes of banana in it - possibly a sign of stress and/or underpitching.  I make lagers all the time and don't usually have this issue.  I went back to using a stir plate on the next lager and voila - back to high quality.

I think SNS has its place for ales, but I'm not convinced with lagers...

I think the key is timing high krausen. This is of course a bit difficult.

The theory is sound but the brewer's execution of the process will always be the variable.

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Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: Philbrew on January 28, 2016, 10:31:24 PM
I've been doing SNS lager starters for a year now with excellent results.  But I do 2 qt. starters for lagers (1 qt. for ales) in 6 gal. batches (with starter).
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: martinj on January 28, 2016, 11:08:58 PM

I always grow mine at room temp, stepped up from 2L to 3L usually and crashed/decanted. I'm not sure how I feel about the "shaken not stirred" method for lagers yet.

Mark had discussed pitching 250B even for lagers using the SNS method.


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you know, I tried this for a lager and it came out too fruity for my liking - moderate notes of banana in it - possibly a sign of stress and/or underpitching.  I make lagers all the time and don't usually have this issue.  I went back to using a stir plate on the next lager and voila - back to high quality.

I think SNS has its place for ales, but I'm not convinced with lagers...

I think the key is timing high krausen. This is of course a bit difficult.

The theory is sound but the brewer's execution of the process will always be the variable.

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I agree, pitching at high krausen has it's benefits. However, an underpitch is an underpitch, high krausen or not.

That said, I've done a lot of reading and contemplating the SNS method, and I see practical and theoretical advantages and disadvantages to both SNS and the stirplate method. I choose to stay with the stirplate, even though it is less convenient. 2l for most ales, 2l 2 step for most lagers.  In either case, I make the starters in advance, then store them until I'm ready to use them. I then decant, bring to room temp, add 1l of wort and let it come to high krausen while I'm brewing (no stirplate), and pitch the whole thing. I know it's a lot of steps, but hey, it's a hobby, and it works very well for me.
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: blatz on January 28, 2016, 11:10:24 PM
I agree martinj and do basically the same as you
Title: Lager starters
Post by: RPIScotty on January 28, 2016, 11:22:10 PM

I agree, pitching at high krausen has it's benefits. However, an underpitch is an underpitch, high krausen or not.


The assumption being that pitching 250B or so cells at high krausen constitutes underpitching.

If the yeast mass doubles it's cell count just shy of 90 minutes in the wort then your not really underpitching. It's all relative.

Like many have said the mechanics behind the SNS starter can be abstract and offer a different paradigm to the one proposed by the now ubiquitous yeast starter calculators.

Like Denny has said many times, "What works for you may not work for other homebrewers."

It's all good. It's all beer. Cheers man.


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Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: AmandaK on January 28, 2016, 11:47:52 PM

I always grow mine at room temp, stepped up from 2L to 3L usually and crashed/decanted. I'm not sure how I feel about the "shaken not stirred" method for lagers yet.

Mark had discussed pitching 250B even for lagers using the SNS method.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

you know, I tried this for a lager and it came out too fruity for my liking - moderate notes of banana in it - possibly a sign of stress and/or underpitching.  I make lagers all the time and don't usually have this issue.  I went back to using a stir plate on the next lager and voila - back to high quality.

I think SNS has its place for ales, but I'm not convinced with lagers...

I'll also throw my hat in for not using Mark's method for lagers. I've tried it and have not experienced a clean lager with it. Apples, pears, and other esters that aren't what I got with my usual 2 packs in a 4L stirred starter for a 5g batch. I have abandoned the shaken, not stirred method in lagers.
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: HoosierBrew on January 29, 2016, 12:10:16 AM

I always grow mine at room temp, stepped up from 2L to 3L usually and crashed/decanted. I'm not sure how I feel about the "shaken not stirred" method for lagers yet.

Mark had discussed pitching 250B even for lagers using the SNS method.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

you know, I tried this for a lager and it came out too fruity for my liking - moderate notes of banana in it - possibly a sign of stress and/or underpitching.  I make lagers all the time and don't usually have this issue.  I went back to using a stir plate on the next lager and voila - back to high quality.

I think SNS has its place for ales, but I'm not convinced with lagers...

I'll also throw my hat in for not using Mark's method for lagers. I've tried it and have not experienced a clean lager with it. Apples, pears, and other esters that aren't what I got with my usual 2 packs in a 4L stirred starter for a 5g batch. I have abandoned the shaken, not stirred method in lagers.


This does nothing to make me want to try it on a lager. I've done SNS on regular-ish OG ales and it works well. But a healthy pitch of slurry is all I want going into my lagers. Thanks for the feedback.
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: RPIScotty on January 29, 2016, 12:28:14 AM
Can't argue with tangible experience.

I wonder if I should try it on a small batch lager....


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Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: klickitat jim on January 29, 2016, 12:31:17 AM
For lagers I use 1L oxygenated starter with no stirplate, sat in my fermentation chest at lager fermentation temp, and pitch the whole thing at 12 hrs. Same as ales, but cooler and 4 hrs longer wait.

Edit: I am not trying to get anyone else to do it. I'm fine with being the only home brewer who does it. I will say that if you listen close to Dan Gordon interviews, you find that Gordon Biersch is made with what would be considered an under pitch of "yeast in exponential growth phase". Meaning, they do it too. I've never tried their beers though, so maybe they suck.
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: narcout on January 29, 2016, 12:41:40 AM
For lagers I use 1L oxygenated starter with no stirplate, sat in my fermentation chest at lager fermentation temp, and pitch the whole thing at 12 hrs. Same as ales, but cooler and 4 hrs longer wait.

I thought you said in the "Rube Goldberg" thread that you were pitching two 1L starters?
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: RPIScotty on January 29, 2016, 01:01:07 AM

For lagers I use 1L oxygenated starter with no stirplate, sat in my fermentation chest at lager fermentation temp, and pitch the whole thing at 12 hrs. Same as ales, but cooler and 4 hrs longer wait.

Edit: I am not trying to get anyone else to do it. I'm fine with being the only home brewer who does it. I will say that if you listen close to Dan Gordon interviews, you find that Gordon Biersch is made with what would be considered an under pitch of "yeast in exponential growth phase". Meaning, they do it too. I've never tried their beers though, so maybe they suck.

I'm forgot you were doing 1LO2HK for lagers Jim.


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Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: martinj on January 29, 2016, 01:44:17 AM

I agree, pitching at high krausen has it's benefits. However, an underpitch is an underpitch, high krausen or not.


The assumption being that pitching 250B or so cells at high krausen constitutes underpitching.

If the yeast mass doubles it's cell count just shy of 90 minutes in the wort then your not really underpitching. It's all relative.


Like many have said the mechanics behind the SNS starter can be abstract and offer a different paradigm to the one proposed by the now ubiquitous yeast starter calculators.

Like Denny has said many times, "What works for you may not work for other homebrewers."

It's all good. It's all beer. Cheers man.


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No argument here, my thought is, not knowing for sure what might happen after a high krausen pitch, my goal is to make sure I pitch an adequate number of cells to begin with. That way, the jump start I get by pitching all those cells at high krausen is just icing on the cake. (http://www.picgifs.com/smileys/smileys-and-emoticons/cheers/smileys-cheers-641856.gif) (http://www.picgifs.com/smileys/)

Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: klickitat jim on January 29, 2016, 02:01:26 AM
For lagers I use 1L oxygenated starter with no stirplate, sat in my fermentation chest at lager fermentation temp, and pitch the whole thing at 12 hrs. Same as ales, but cooler and 4 hrs longer wait.

I thought you said in the "Rube Goldberg" thread that you were pitching two 1L starters?
I did. That was then. Now I do 1.

I also hit 50% ADF within 4 days, so I'm not seeing a lag issue.
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: RPIScotty on January 29, 2016, 02:14:45 AM

For lagers I use 1L oxygenated starter with no stirplate, sat in my fermentation chest at lager fermentation temp, and pitch the whole thing at 12 hrs. Same as ales, but cooler and 4 hrs longer wait.

I thought you said in the "Rube Goldberg" thread that you were pitching two 1L starters?
I did. That was then. Now I do 1.

I also hit 50% ADF within 4 days, so I'm not seeing a lag issue.

So your getting a clean lager fermentation profile with 1L?

That is at least anecdotal confirmation of Mark's insistence that cell counts needn't be different for ales and lagers using the variations on the method.


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Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: jeffy on January 29, 2016, 02:31:43 AM
For lagers I use 1L oxygenated starter with no stirplate, sat in my fermentation chest at lager fermentation temp, and pitch the whole thing at 12 hrs. Same as ales, but cooler and 4 hrs longer wait.

Edit: I am not trying to get anyone else to do it. I'm fine with being the only home brewer who does it. I will say that if you listen close to Dan Gordon interviews, you find that Gordon Biersch is made with what would be considered an under pitch of "yeast in exponential growth phase". Meaning, they do it too. I've never tried their beers though, so maybe they suck.
They don't.
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: AmandaK on January 29, 2016, 02:51:58 AM
Can't argue with tangible experience.

I wonder if I should try it on a small batch lager....


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I do 2.5g batches and did a 1L starter, shaken not stirred, in a 5L flasks for 3 different lagers. All of them under attenuated from my normal experience and had more than perceptable esters. I pitched at high krausen, I think I even have a picture of it somewhere.

I tried to like it. I don't. No big deal though, there are plenty of ways to skin a cat.
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: erockrph on January 29, 2016, 03:20:14 AM
Can't argue with tangible experience.

I wonder if I should try it on a small batch lager....


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I do 2.5g batches and did a 1L starter, shaken not stirred, in a 5L flasks for 3 different lagers. All of them under attenuated from my normal experience and had more than perceptable esters. I pitched at high krausen, I think I even have a picture of it somewhere.

I tried to like it. I don't. No big deal though, there are plenty of ways to skin a cat.
Interesting. I've only done SNS once for a lager, but I was quite happy with the results. I did a 1.25 qt starter for a 3 gallon batch, so a similar rate to you, and otherwise followed my normal lager routine. The batch turned out great, and I'm committed to using SNS in the future.

I did miss high krausen by a few hours. Not sure if that made a difference, but the beer turned out crisp and clean. Yeast was WY2278, FWIW.
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: Phil_M on January 29, 2016, 11:49:46 AM
I wonder if starter fermentation temp could be a factor? Jim is using the method with success, but is temp controlling his starter.

It makes sense that if the starter is a massive fruit bomb that pitching the entire thing might affect the final beer.
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: blatz on January 29, 2016, 11:56:14 AM

I wonder if starter fermentation temp could be a factor? Jim is using the method with success, but is temp controlling his starter.

It makes sense that if the starter is a massive fruit bomb that pitching the entire thing might affect the final beer.

I also made the starter with wort from the actual batch at 50df, aerated with pure o2 and kept it in my fermentation fridge until it appeared to hit HK.
Title: Lager starters
Post by: RPIScotty on January 29, 2016, 12:09:11 PM
I wonder if starter fermentation temp could be a factor? Jim is using the method with success, but is temp controlling his starter.

It makes sense that if the starter is a massive fruit bomb that pitching the entire thing might affect the final beer.

Why would the starter be a fruit bomb?

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Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: klickitat jim on January 29, 2016, 02:02:41 PM

I wonder if starter fermentation temp could be a factor? Jim is using the method with success, but is temp controlling his starter.

It makes sense that if the starter is a massive fruit bomb that pitching the entire thing might affect the final beer.

I also made the starter with wort from the actual batch at 50df, aerated with pure o2 and kept it in my fermentation fridge until it appeared to hit HK.
Yes, if thats an option its not a bad idea. I dont just use any old DME, I use Breiss extra light pilsner. I wouldn't expect a liter of, for example, stale amber LME extract starter wort and then be surprised that it effected the flavor and color of your helles.
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: beersk on January 29, 2016, 02:15:56 PM
I wonder if starter fermentation temp could be a factor? Jim is using the method with success, but is temp controlling his starter.

It makes sense that if the starter is a massive fruit bomb that pitching the entire thing might affect the final beer.
The yeast will do what it does in different environments. A 1L starter into 5g shouldn't make a difference if it is pitched into 48F wort. However, I wonder if the starter fermented at room temp will be shocked if it is pitched into cold wort like that.
I would say that I agree with Paul that under pitching, even a high krausen starter, is the cause of his estery lager. A stir plate or stepped up starter is better, in my opinion. But we do what we want, so if you like your end product with under pitching, brew on!
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: RPIScotty on January 29, 2016, 02:24:08 PM

I wonder if starter fermentation temp could be a factor? Jim is using the method with success, but is temp controlling his starter.

It makes sense that if the starter is a massive fruit bomb that pitching the entire thing might affect the final beer.
The yeast will do what it does in different environments. A 1L starter into 5g shouldn't make a difference if it is pitched into 48F wort. However, I wonder if the starter fermented at room temp will be shocked if it is pitched into cold wort like that.
I would say that I agree with Paul that under pitching, even a high krausen starter, is the cause of his estery lager. A stir plate or stepped up starter is better, in my opinion. But we do what we want, so if you like your end product with under pitching, brew on!

The probably is translating the paper characteristics to the fermentor.

On paper, and in reality under the IDEAL (much emphasis added) circumstances, the growth of the starter once it hits the wort will be explosive in short order.

In reality, everyone's process and equipment is so varied that proposing that the SNS method would work for everyone is impossible. Lagers, especially the paler ones, seem to be less forgiving than ales.

The important thing is the dialogue between everyone. It's a good thing to know what everyone is doing and what works for everyone. It makes for a great learning environment.
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: klickitat jim on January 29, 2016, 02:28:51 PM
Yes to shock. That is a "tied for first place" reason for me running my lager starters at temp. #1 is to limit off esters and #1 is to not shock the yeast that I worked so hard to get to log phase by dumping them into a 20º temp drop.
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: Phil_M on January 29, 2016, 02:32:29 PM
My thought had more to do with esters being created in the warm starter, but shocking the yeast is also an interesting thought.

But I've never brewed a lager, so take that for what it's worth.
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: klickitat jim on January 29, 2016, 02:39:31 PM
A warm L lager starter may throw some off esters. Wether they would be detectable after diluted in 5-6 gallons? Maybe.

The 20° drop will cause stress. Wether the stress would always cause a detectable difference in the end, who knows. Might depend on the beer. But I have the temp controlled chest, so why not use it and prevent the possible problem?
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: beersk on January 29, 2016, 02:42:28 PM
Since I usually step my starters up, cold crash and decant, the yeast is already cold going into the cold wort. I haven't tried doing a starter at fermentation temp though for lagers. I wonder if that would make any appreciable difference, even with crashing and decanting. Denny says no, but ... I haven't tried it, so perhaps it is worth a try, for kicks.

Paul, do you usually stir plate your lager starters at room temp or fermentation temp?
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: klickitat jim on January 29, 2016, 02:45:29 PM
My take would be that if you are decanting then temp doesn't matter.
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: HoosierBrew on January 29, 2016, 02:53:49 PM
I do lager starters @ room temp, then crash and decant. I could definitely see how doing a SNS starter at room temp could produce esters and cause some temp shock which could produce its own esters. Depending on the strain it could be noticeable.
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: denny on January 29, 2016, 04:35:41 PM
I wonder if starter fermentation temp could be a factor? Jim is using the method with success, but is temp controlling his starter.

It makes sense that if the starter is a massive fruit bomb that pitching the entire thing might affect the final beer.

Not of it's only a qt.  At least, not in my experience.
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: blatz on January 29, 2016, 04:40:40 PM
Paul, do you usually stir plate your lager starters at room temp or fermentation temp?

room temp on the plate, crash and decant.  usually step at least once.

I pitch right after decanting, so my hope is that the yeast is actually rising in temp rather than lowering.
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: beersk on January 29, 2016, 07:06:30 PM
Paul, do you usually stir plate your lager starters at room temp or fermentation temp?

room temp on the plate, crash and decant.  usually step at least once.

I pitch right after decanting, so my hope is that the yeast is actually rising in temp rather than lowering.
Indeed. I decant right before pitching as well.
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: Wort-H.O.G. on January 29, 2016, 07:21:50 PM
still doing about 3qt on stir plate at room temp, crash and then decant right before pitching.

if i were to pitch SNS for lager...I likely would do the starter cooler and then pitch high krausen vs warm....I'm just not there yet in having reason to stop doing what Ive been having good results with. I'm using slurry most the time so only doing lager starters with new yeast after 6+ slurry repitch anyway.
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: beersk on January 29, 2016, 09:42:55 PM
I likely would do the starter cooler and then pitch high krausen vs warm....I'm just not there yet in having reason to stop doing what Ive been having good results with. I'm using slurry most the time so only doing lager starters with new yeast after 6+ slurry repitch anyway.
Very much the same for me. I try to pitch fairly fresh slurry (with in a couple weeks of harvesting) if I can help it.
Title: Re: Lager starters
Post by: brewinhard on January 29, 2016, 09:55:52 PM

I wonder if starter fermentation temp could be a factor? Jim is using the method with success, but is temp controlling his starter.

It makes sense that if the starter is a massive fruit bomb that pitching the entire thing might affect the final beer.
The yeast will do what it does in different environments. A 1L starter into 5g shouldn't make a difference if it is pitched into 48F wort. However, I wonder if the starter fermented at room temp will be shocked if it is pitched into cold wort like that.
I would say that I agree with Paul that under pitching, even a high krausen starter, is the cause of his estery lager. A stir plate or stepped up starter is better, in my opinion. But we do what we want, so if you like your end product with under pitching, brew on!

The probably is translating the paper characteristics to the fermentor.

On paper, and in reality under the IDEAL (much emphasis added) circumstances, the growth of the starter once it hits the wort will be explosive in short order.

Possibly for ales, but does this also apply to lager yeast being pitched at a much colder 48F?  I know Mark was reporting that lagers don't need to be fermented any cooler than 55F as well, which I feel is quite warm. But I have yet to try it at that temp so I cannot make any claims.