Author Topic: Should I just give up on lagers?  (Read 3036 times)

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Should I just give up on lagers?
« Reply #15 on: September 01, 2013, 02:27:03 PM »
gmac, I have to ask -- do you use plastic fermenters at all?  Old plastic can develop permanent infections that will invade every beer to some extent, but especially those with longer fermentation times such as lagers.  I had a lot of problems with my plastic buckets over the years.  Then I changed to glass and haven't had a problem since.  If all other avenues are explored and dead ends, then consider whether plastic or rubber components are screwing things up for you, and if not fermenting in 100% glass or stainless, then switch to that.  It's the only thing that worked for me after a lot of problems I was having.
Dave

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Offline mabrungard

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Re: Should I just give up on lagers?
« Reply #16 on: September 01, 2013, 03:07:11 PM »
I have to admit that my last Boh Pils was NOT a great success.  I can't really define what the problem is very well and that includes the opinions of several National and Master judges. 

It has a good Pils malt presence and it certainly is assertively bittered and still displays a spicy hop flavor and aroma.  All the things it should have.  But there is an odd flavor that we can't define.  The beer has been in the keg for over 6 months now, but I do still have a haze.  I'm thinking that its some sort of yeast or other solid that is producing that flavor.  Maybe a slight pucker or tannin??  Its not bad, but not great.

The water was crafted into what I termed a pseudo-Boh Pils profile with 40 ppm Ca, 30 ppm SO4, and 50 ppm Cl.  It shouldn't be a problem.  The pH's were as intended.

The beer was several points over the intended gravity due to my using my new grain mill instead the LHBS mill.  The terminal gravity was 1.012 and that indicates an attenuation of almost 80% and that is way high for the Wyeast Czech Pils yeast.  I used a 2L starter and fermented at 50F until the activity significantly receded and then bumped the temp to the low 60's for a D-rest.  There is definitely no diacetyl in the beer by my palate.  I would also not describe it with acetaldehyde either.  Maybe its time to filter or fine?

This result flies in the face of a very good Munich Dunkel that I crafted a year ago.  All I can say is that lagers are very hard to craft well.  Ales have never been a problem for me either.  I'm in your boat Gmac.
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Offline redzim

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Re: Should I just give up on lagers?
« Reply #17 on: September 03, 2013, 09:00:49 AM »
Water can be a big improvement, and you have to know your water.

My HCO3 is 364, if diluted 50% with RO, that is 184 ppm (assume RO is <1 ppm). That is still way over what you want! Get a water report, it will let you know what you have. Look up the profilesMartin has in Brunwater, and you will see you want low alkalinity for pale beers. I got crisp lagers once I went to all RO and adding appropriate salts. One new small brewery near heard did a Pils that I described as OK, but muddy and dull. They used the local town  ground water with no treatment.

Do you check your mash pH? That is another thing to do to assure a crisp lager.

This has made the biggest improvement in my Pilsners as well: start with distilled water and add salts according to BrunWater.  Some of my Pils are still not quite where I want them to be (and I am in agreement with Martin when he says it is very hard to nail down exactly what is missing or slightly wrong) but fixing my water has made a huge difference.

Also decoction (sometimes single, sometimes Hochkurz or enhanced double) has improved them, but I know a lot of you don't necessarily see that the added work & time has benefits.  I enjoy the decoctions when I have the time (the smell is heavenly), but water was probably more important.

red

Offline narvin

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Re: Should I just give up on lagers?
« Reply #18 on: September 03, 2013, 09:27:07 AM »
Don't give up... if you have temperature control and can make a yeast starter, you can brew a lager.  Water adjustments make a big difference for a lager, so I'd suggest you look into that.  A lower kettle pH gives you that crisp mouthfeel and smooth bitterness that a lager has.  Get a water report and adjust from there.  Even with relatively soft water, 2-3% acid malt is a good starting point for a light lager.

I will say that even with the right water, ingredients, and process, it's still hard to get that special lager "something" that's hard to quantify.  Kai suggests that it might be some product of oxidation and aging, but it can definitely be elusive even when you do everything right.
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Offline gmac

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Re: Should I just give up on lagers?
« Reply #19 on: September 03, 2013, 09:35:07 AM »
gmac, I have to ask -- do you use plastic fermenters at all?  Old plastic can develop permanent infections that will invade every beer to some extent, but especially those with longer fermentation times such as lagers.  I had a lot of problems with my plastic buckets over the years.  Then I changed to glass and haven't had a problem since.  If all other avenues are explored and dead ends, then consider whether plastic or rubber components are screwing things up for you, and if not fermenting in 100% glass or stainless, then switch to that.  It's the only thing that worked for me after a lot of problems I was having.

I do and I've discovered a pernicious brett infection so I'm replacing it all (except for the ones I make with brett).  I can blame the last lager to that but I've done them in both glass and plastic.  I prefer plastic in this case because I can place it in my freezer a lot easier and I think safer than trying to lower a heavy glass carboy into the freezer. I'll do my next one with new plastic though.

Offline bluesman

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Re: Should I just give up on lagers?
« Reply #20 on: September 03, 2013, 09:41:24 AM »
My advice: Winners never give up. No matter what....

I recommend starting with your water chemistry, keeping everything else the same and move forward once your happy with that.

There are plenty of profiles to manipulate, but start with one that has proven success, like a Munich-ish profile. Martin can probably guide you on this. Distilled water or RO water is recommended. Then build your water using a calculator. Mash pH can be adjusted accordingly.

There's plenty of advisors here. :)
Ron Price

Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Should I just give up on lagers?
« Reply #21 on: September 03, 2013, 09:52:26 AM »
If you want a crisp dry Pilsner, I have had very good results with the Pilsner water recipe from Kai.

A softer Pilsner, like those from the south of Germany, would be had by the very soft water recipe. I have not tried that one, as I am bitter and dry.  :)
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Offline denny

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Re: Should I just give up on lagers?
« Reply #22 on: September 03, 2013, 10:43:25 AM »
as I am bitter and dry.  :)

I'm finding that to be more true the older I get!
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Offline gmac

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Re: Should I just give up on lagers?
« Reply #23 on: September 03, 2013, 02:41:14 PM »
So is there a bru'n water version for Mac?  I don't have excel for Mac.

Offline morticaixavier

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Re: Should I just give up on lagers?
« Reply #24 on: September 03, 2013, 02:50:42 PM »
So is there a bru'n water version for Mac?  I don't have excel for Mac.

can you get open office for mac? that will open an excel spreadsheet.

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Offline james

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Re: Should I just give up on lagers?
« Reply #25 on: September 04, 2013, 07:51:57 AM »
So is there a bru'n water version for Mac?  I don't have excel for Mac.

can you get open office for mac? that will open an excel spreadsheet.

I use libreoffice and the spreadsheet works just fine for me

Offline gmac

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Re: Should I just give up on lagers?
« Reply #26 on: September 04, 2013, 08:29:48 AM »
Since it seems to work for everyone but me, how about someone just tell me the amounts of what product to add to 5 gals of water for a basic lager profile assuming distillled water as a starting point?

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Should I just give up on lagers?
« Reply #27 on: September 04, 2013, 09:06:47 AM »
Off the top of my head...

For a Bohemian pilsner, you don't need any salt.  Use distilled, and adjust pH by adding about 4% acidulated malt (well, exchange it for part of the pilsner malt).

For just about any other lager, use about 1 to 1.5 teaspoons each of gypsum and calcium chloride.

For styles known for having very hard water (e.g., Dortmunder), you can probably go a little higher to 2 teaspoons each.

For any beer containing a reasonable degree of dark roasted malt (e.g., schwarzbier), you can optionally add about 0.5 teaspoon of baking soda.  But personally, I might not do it, and if I did I would add it to the boil, not the mash.

If you want to use any epsom salt, sprinkle it in like a tiny amount of fairy dust -- you do not need very much of it at all.  We're talking like 1/10 of a teaspoon or something like that, and this goes for any and all styles.  But I find it is optional.

That's about it, in a nutshell.
Dave

"This is grain, which any fool can eat, but for which the Lord intended a more divine means of consumption. Let us give praise to our Maker, and glory to His bounty, by learning about... BEER!" - Friar Tuck (Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves)

Offline bluesman

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Re: Should I just give up on lagers?
« Reply #28 on: September 04, 2013, 09:47:43 AM »
Off the top of my head...

For a Bohemian pilsner, you don't need any salt.  Use distilled, and adjust pH by adding about 4% acidulated malt (well, exchange it for part of the pilsner malt).

For just about any other lager, use about 1 to 1.5 teaspoons each of gypsum and calcium chloride.

For styles known for having very hard water (e.g., Dortmunder), you can probably go a little higher to 2 teaspoons each.

For any beer containing a reasonable degree of dark roasted malt (e.g., schwarzbier), you can optionally add about 0.5 teaspoon of baking soda.  But personally, I might not do it, and if I did I would add it to the boil, not the mash.

If you want to use any epsom salt, sprinkle it in like a tiny amount of fairy dust -- you do not need very much of it at all.  We're talking like 1/10 of a teaspoon or something like that, and this goes for any and all styles.  But I find it is optional.

That's about it, in a nutshell.

I'll buy that, and a pint of beer. :)

...but seriously, this is a very simple starting point. This will give you some empirical data to use as a guide. If you want to be more exacting, just weigh out each teaspoonful and jot down the weights for future reference.
Ron Price

Offline narvin

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