Author Topic: First Lager  (Read 2267 times)

Offline pete b

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First Lager
« on: February 24, 2016, 01:57:07 AM »
I have acquired a taste for German Lagers: Munich Helles, Czech Pils, Bo Pils, O-fest etc.
I have only made ales.
Tell me how to proceed in the following areas:
1. Grain bill  + mash
2. Yeast varieties and starter specifics
3. hop varieties and schedule
4. fermentation and lagering temp and times
Use the preceding numbering system as a reference for your advice.
You have permission to proceed...
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Offline klickitat jim

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Re: First Lager
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2016, 02:09:57 AM »
I'm only on my 3rd year at lagers. Afraid that my advice on German lagers is not there yet.

Offline pete b

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Re: First Lager
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2016, 02:24:29 AM »
I'm only on my 3rd year at lagers. Afraid that my advice on German lagers is not there yet.
Jim! C'mon Jim. Jim? Really Jim? Sometimes the novice's advice is best. I just don't believe you can't give me good advice yet I admire your humility. Donald Trump admires how, like him, the Pope is humble. Please Jim, advise me Re: lager.
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Offline mchrispen

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Re: First Lager
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2016, 02:51:08 AM »

My thoughts - since you asked. I have been focused entirely on lagers for the last two quarters, but bet this will draw some criticism:

1.) Use high quality continental malts. I like Weyermann and BestMalz. Premium malts shine in lagers. Typical German malt bills will include 90+ ish% base malt, a touch of cara-malt (think cara-hell) and cara-foam (not Briess Carapils). I just tasted a BoPils made with Avangard Pils and am very disappointed compared to Weyermann Floor Malted Bohemian. I have also seen recipes with small amounts of melanoiden, but I personally don't like that malt flavor.
1A.) Mash as infusion, or step mash or decoct. I have very good results from step mashing, but I understand there are some blind studies that support each side on the mash story. I know Denny doesn't believe in decoction or step mashing. I don't like decoction on my system - it is really messy.
1B.) Water is very important with these delicate styles. A little gypsum will help to dry out some of these styles, and a light hand helps to find the right spot. Calcium Chloride helps a lot to round up a fuller mouthfeel here. I move between yellow dry and yellow balanced quite a bit - yellow full/malty for a BoPils. And (with Bru'n Water) I add all of the salts to the mash to increase available calcium.
1C.) If you choose to decoct/step mash, take a hard look at the malt analysis sheet and decide where to grain in. Most of these malts will not need a protein rest, but if you want to use chit or other low modified, then consider one. Weyermann, BestMalz and Avangard provide pretty high Kolbach numbers - so I step from 144F to 160F to 168F to get good attenuation, decent body and foam retention. I know folks that think it doesn't matter - so YMMV. I didn't like my results with an infusion at 152F. If your malt is <37 Kolbach, it might benefit from a protein rest - but I have a hard time finding such under modified malts.
1D.) Adjust color with tiny amounts of Carafa II or III if you feel it is necessary. I know a few folk that prefer pale chocolate, but it adds a bit of flavor.


2.) I have used a few yeast strains, but look for good attenuators. Most of the styles you mention I prefer dry, and not under attenuated. Large and viable starters are important - 1.5 m/P is a good start - if in doubt, overpitch. A FFT is useful if you are not used to a new yeast - and it certainly alleviates concerns with a given wort. Make sure to properly oxygenate the wort if using a liquid yeast starter. I like to grab a fresh pitch of yeast from a local brewery and ride it through 5-6 generations. Usually, I see slightly higher attenuation after the 2nd pitch. Spare a bit, grow and use it to krausen during the D-Rest if you have worries about diacetyl.


3.) Noble hops + FWH seems to be more traditional from what I can find (Narziss, Kunze, Noonan) but you *may* want to play with a flavor addition and/or late addition. Hard to beat a long boil on Saaz, Tett or Mittlefruh. No reason not to use new varieties - but if you care about styles - stick to the standards. That said - a BoPils with Hallertauer is pretty interesting (and yummy) - but will not score well.


4.) Not that much different than ales (IMO) other than I tend to pitch toward the bottom end of the stated yeast tolerance in temp. Hold until at least 50% attenuation, and bump a couple of degrees (I go a few degrees above the minimum temp) to come within 15 points of expected FG, then a short D-rest (2-3 days usually) around 58F-62F. Then a slow crash to as close to 30F as possible. Some people hard crash from D-rest to lager - I have done both and feel better about the slow crash - but I have no REAL datapoint to support that. During D-rest, look for diacetyl and DMS. My lagers seem to drop pretty clean with a slow crash. Then a longish lager period... flavors meld and mellow a bit. Taste everyday during lagering - the change seems to happen quickly - from bitter and unbalanced to suddenly spot on (I don't experience this in ales). I package at that point. You could lager in a corny as well...


A couple of additional elements...


pH seems far more important with a light delicate lager than many ales. I just brewed a Helles at 5.4 in the mash, 5.1 in the boil kettle ensuring good protein break. Having the calcium load from minerals in the kettle helps a lot (thanks for the tip Martin!). Bringing the boil pH quickly to 5.1 with a little acid gives really great hot break and wort clarity.


Play a bit with your boil times - I have been shortening boils to 75 minutes on pilsner, but bet 45-60 min will work fine. Just adjust hopping to accommodate the shorter times if you need to. With very lightly colored pilsner malts, the longer boil should add a little color.


As with my blog - that is what is working for me, but I only have 6-7 lagers under my belt. So take it with a grain of salt. :)
« Last Edit: February 24, 2016, 03:04:24 AM by mchrispen »

Offline pete b

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Re: First Lager
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2016, 02:57:32 AM »
Thanks for the input Matt!
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Offline majorvices

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Re: First Lager
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2016, 10:43:08 AM »
The 34/70 is a nice dry yeast. It's a good place to start without having to worry about doubling your liquid yeast starter size. I honestly can't tell much difference between that and WY2124. Remember to aerate for twice as long as you do for ales.

I start most of my lagers off at 48-50 and let them ferment for at least 72 hours at this temp before slowly ramping the temp. The 34/70 (WHY2124) really works well for this technicque (as do other strains) and remains very clean. Usually I don't go higher than 56-58 (thought have gone into the low 60s and not had any issue.)

For lower gravity beers you really don't need much more than a week or two lagering in spite of what many folks will tell you assuming you have a method to fine the beer to get it clear. Darker lagers do see some improvement with some extra aging, especially higher gravity lagers. But even my doppelbock I don't lager much more than 4-6 weeks.

Agree with continental malts where possible for most authenticity. Some US hops like Crystal are every bit as nice as noble hops IMO if you want to experiment, though hard to beat the likes of Mittlefruh, Tettnang, etc.


Offline pete b

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Re: First Lager
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2016, 01:15:50 PM »
Thanks for the info. Re: continental malts, I actually have 50# of locally grown and malted pilsner malt so I will try that.
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Offline klickitat jim

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Re: First Lager
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2016, 01:43:20 PM »
Here's what works for me

1. Good German grains. I prefer Best Malz. In bright light beers use 4-5% Weyermann CaraHell. Single infusion mashing at 152-154 works just fine. I like to go 90 min.

2. Wyeast 2352 if you can find it, 2308 isnt bad either. I prefer to chill my starter wort to pitching temp 50F and pitch to a 1L oxygenated starter morning of brew day. At 12 hrs pitch the whole thing.

3. German varieties. I prefer German magnum at FWH to bitter, and Hallertau/Tettnanger blend at 5min.

4. Cool, like 48-50F until you've reached greater than 50% apparent degree of fermentation, then free rise to 68F. At FG heat your hydrometer sample to about 110-120F to smell for diacetyl.

5. Water... good luck! This varies widely depending on style. Try building RO with CaSO4, MgSO4, NaCl, and CaCl. Go light handed in lightly flavored beers.

Offline erockrph

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Re: First Lager
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2016, 02:26:52 PM »
Great advice so far. One other yeast I like a lot is WY2633 (Octoberfest Lager Blend). I'm not sure what yeasts are in the blend, but it has a nice fermentation character that enhances the malt a bit, leaves a small amount of sulfur that I think is important to get that "German Lager character", and produces a touch of diacetyl that is easily cleaned up with a short D-rest.
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Offline goschman

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Re: First Lager
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2016, 02:33:43 PM »
I only have a few lagers under my belt. I have had what I consider great success with a single infusion mash, w34/70, and the accelerated fermentation schedule. Maybe it's harder to brew a great lager but I was surprised how easy it is to make a good one...
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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: First Lager
« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2016, 02:40:18 PM »
+1 to all the good advice. Definitely use good continental malts and noble varieties (if you're brewing traditional styles). If not, hops like Crystal are awesome and work well. IMO WY 2124 (same as dry 34/70) is a great yeast to use for your first lager - it's easy to use and as Keith mentioned, stays clean during the 'quick lager method' temp raise. I cool to 48F, pitch and hold 50F until I'm at around 60% attenuation then free rise to ~ 62F for 3 days. Go lightly with the salts and bump up in later batches. As said, if in doubt, overpitch.
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Offline lenphallock

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Re: First Lager
« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2016, 02:44:34 PM »
In my experience WLP833 is the most forgiving lager yeast out there. Naturally does not give off as much sulfer as some other varieties. Temp control, proper yeast pitch, and hit it with 02 every 12 hours until fermentation starts. I recently been messing around with Hochkurz to improve mouthfeel, but single infusion at 152 has won awards too. I second the shorter lager times. I am 7-8 days at 50, free rise to 60-62 for 3 days, slow cold crash to 35 over 3 days, transfer to keg and lager for 2-4 weeks dependent on color and gravity, fine and carb. Ready to drink. Good luck!


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Offline pete b

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Re: First Lager
« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2016, 02:53:34 PM »
For some reason I'm excited about Jim's suggested diacytel test. Bummed by the consistency of the continental pilsner advice given my 50# bag of local pils. I think I'll buy some continental pils and do two batches of the same recipe because I'm curious how this particular malt will be. Most of that local pils will go into a lot of farmhouse ales that I want to make in the spring.
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Offline pete b

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Re: First Lager
« Reply #13 on: February 24, 2016, 02:56:24 PM »
Oh, if I do two 2.5 gal batches would people recommend a full packet of 34/70 (if that's what I use) in each or half a pack in each? Just wondering because I know people do extra large starters when using liquid yeast.
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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: First Lager
« Reply #14 on: February 24, 2016, 03:12:22 PM »
Oh, if I do two 2.5 gal batches would people recommend a full packet of 34/70 (if that's what I use) in each or half a pack in each? Just wondering because I know people do extra large starters when using liquid yeast.


I'd use a full pack because I use 2 packs in 5 gallons of average OG lager (though I normally use liquid cultures).  34/70 is a good dry strain.
Jon H.