Author Topic: Questions: My First Lager fermentation  (Read 1995 times)

Offline jmsetzler

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Questions: My First Lager fermentation
« 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?

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Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
« Reply #1 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.

Offline Stevie

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Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
« Reply #2 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.

Offline majorvices

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Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
« Reply #3 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.)

Offline Wort-H.O.G.

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Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
« Reply #4 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 .
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Offline erockrph

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Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
« Reply #5 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.
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Offline morticaixavier

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Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
« Reply #6 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
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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
« Reply #7 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.
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Offline jmsetzler

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Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
« Reply #8 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 :)

Offline theDarkSide

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Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
« Reply #9 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!!
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Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
« Reply #10 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.

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Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
« Reply #11 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.
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Offline reverseapachemaster

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Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
« Reply #12 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.
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Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
« Reply #13 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.
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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Questions: My First Lager fermentation
« Reply #14 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.
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