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Brewing Lager

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Postby Thommo » Thu Nov 07, 2013 7:52 am

When brewing a Lager and using a yeast starter is it necessary to make up twice the amount of yeast starter than what you would make up for an Ale? I've read somewhere that this is what you should do?
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Postby Dr Jacoby » Thu Nov 07, 2013 10:04 am

It depends on how you brew the lager. One approach is to pitch the yeast at a fairly high temperature (say 15-20C) and lower it over the first 12 hours or so to standard lager fermentation temperatures (9-12C). In this case you don't need twice the pitch rate of a normal ale yeast but you do need a big pitch, maybe one and a half times a normal ale pitch.

A second approach, one used by most commercial lager breweries, is to pitch the yeast at about 4 or 5C and raise it slowly to standard lager fermentation temp. This requires a much bigger pitch to compensate for the colder temperatures. Normally this equates to twice a standard ale pitch rate.

The best place to start is with the Mr Malty Pitching Rate Calculator.
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Postby Ciderhead » Sat Nov 09, 2013 12:20 am

Have your starters and wort at the same temp to avoid thermal shock.
Beer smith will let you know volumes but all my pilsners are 3l and heavily oxygenated before pitching.
More recently I have been making 2l ale starters and pitching at high Krausen in the starter the theory that the yeast is already in 3rd gear and ready to scale up to fourth. That and 02 has resulted in fast starting fermentations.
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Postby Lars » Sun Nov 10, 2013 11:33 am

With weather getting colder and no real temp control I've been toying with the idea of a pilsner. To achieve lower lagering temps it'd be in the shed. Would the likely temperature swings be hugely detrimental to the flavour profile or should I try it? Just wondering because I see no benefit in brewing a crap lager for the sake of it but if a good lager is possible like this I'll try it. I'd be thinking, moderate mash temp, mainly pilsener malt and Saaz all the way, about 30IBUs
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Postby Dr Jacoby » Sun Nov 10, 2013 6:18 pm

I've never tasted a good lager that was brewed with no temp control but some people reckon it's possible.
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Postby Lars » Sun Nov 10, 2013 6:33 pm

Dr Jacoby wrote:I've never tasted a good lager that was brewed with no temp control but some people reckon it's possible.

Mmmmm that's kinda putting me off the idea
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Postby Will_D » Mon Nov 11, 2013 11:42 am

Before risking a lager - go to the DIY shop and buy a max/min thermometer. Pop it into shed where the lager would go and see what temp swings you get. I think in a corner away from the side that gets any sun(ha ha) you will find its fairly stable.

This thermometer is always useful to have arounfd the house and garden!
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Pri Fermenting:..AG Paulaner
Sec Fermenting:..LaTrappe Dubbel, AG Pilsner, Aventius AG Clone
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To Brew:.........HoorsLite, Hefe Dunkel, Dark Pilsner
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Postby Lars » Mon Nov 11, 2013 12:03 pm

Hi Will, might try that. I have a tc and data logger I can use. Thing is, even if the ambient swings between 1C and 12C I'd expect the thermal mass of the beer to result in a much smaller swing. Also, how forgiving is a lager of swings in that range, as opposed to rising up to ale fermentation temps?
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Postby Biertourist » Mon Dec 02, 2013 10:43 pm

The short answer to your question is "yes"; general rules are 0.75 million cells for every milliliter of wort for every degree plato for ales and 1.5 million cells for every milliliter of wort for every degree plato for lagers.


NO lager tradition and no larger commercial lager producer pitches at room temperature; it's a home brewing lager myth.

"Warm pitching" referred to the newer German practice of pitching at 8-10 C vs. as low as 6 C with the old low and slow 90+ day fermentation schedules; it did NOT refer to pitching at room temperature.


Sulfur and diacetyl production is high enough with a low temp pitch in some strains, you don't want to push it with a room temp pitch.

You certainly want to make your yeast STARTERS at room temp and then slowly chill them down to your pitching temp, but don't pitch at room temp. That's an ale technique being applied to lager brewing and it doesn't make for particularly great tasting lager. (Aging, diacetyl rests, and krausening can get rid of the diacetyl and sulfur produced by pitching at room temps but nothing will get rid of the ale-like esters and burny fusol alcohols...)

You also want to make sure to get the beer off of the trub when brewing lagers; large amounts of trub will also produce fusol alcohols (I have lots of experience producing very burny fusol-laden beers; I tried everything until I finally read "New Brewing Lager" and realized that the insane amount of trub I was just transfering into the fermenter to save time was to blame.)

-Chill that lager with your chiller as good as you can and then throw it in your fermentation fridge as cold as you can get it and let the cold break fully settle for 24 hours, you can be propogating another starter step during these 24 hours to get your cell count up, then siphon off of the trub into another fermenter (you're using the first vessel as a settling tank), then if you need to let the beer warm back up to at least 6C or up to 10C and THEN pitch your yeast.

New Brewing Lager from Noonan spells out the super old traditional lager fermentation schedule, the newer schedule, and the modern "fast" schedule and some techniques of the mega lager producers; he's got plenty of Narziss references to go around. -None of these schedules approach a room temperature pitch temp. None.


Room temp lager pitching is a technique for lazy home brewers just as diacetyl is really only a problem for impatient home brewers. You need Zen-like skills to brew lagers properly; don't worry even if you don't see signs of fermentation for 24- 48 hours even with a large healthy pitch at cold temps, everything happens in super slow motion in lager brewing. -You can even watch the fermentation slow down and then approach finishing gravity at a SUPER SLOW, CRAWLING pace if you pitch a less fermentable / dextrinous wort. --All the theory about the different stages of fermentation that you don't normally get to see / experience in ale brewing is clearly on display at the lethargic rate of fermentation in a traditional (most traditional) cold pitch, cold ferment, colder lager fermentation.



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Postby Biertourist » Mon Dec 02, 2013 10:50 pm

I should also add that if you want a traditional-tasting lager for the love of all that's good do NOT DRY HOP your lager!

If you are looking for a modern take dry hopping with modern varieties can of course be super tasty, but it won't taste like a traditional lager style if that's what you're going for.

The Germans are kettle hoppers and not big dry hoppers; dry hopping is a British technique. (I just had a terrible American "pilsner" this weekend that was fine except it was given a huge dry hopping with American-grown pellets and it just tasted "worty" vs. that refined German "kettle hop" flavor; it wouldn't have been bad beer had they not set the "pilsner" expectation.)



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Postby sbillings » Tue Dec 03, 2013 6:36 pm

Would you have a recipe for a nice north German pilsner by any chance Adam? I'm curious about the hop additions. I hear the Germans are not big on late additions, let alone dry hopping.
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Postby Biertourist » Mon Dec 08, 2014 10:33 pm

sbillings wrote:Would you have a recipe for a nice north German pilsner by any chance Adam? I'm curious about the hop additions. I hear the Germans are not big on late additions, let alone dry hopping.


So... I'm responding to this more than a year after the original post... And... No, a German Pilsner is still one of the styles I have not tackled yet. I don't find it exciting enough or expensive enough to brew it on my own, I guess.

If I'm going to take the time to make a Pilsner, I go Czech everytime, I just want that decocted malty balance...

Having said that I could completely see myself taking a traditional Kolsch recipe and just making a late hop addition and making a cheater's Pils.


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Postby oblivious » Mon Dec 08, 2014 10:45 pm

Biertourist wrote:I should also add that if you want a traditional-tasting lager for the love of all that's good do NOT DRY HOP your lager!



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