Lager Fermentation Question

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Lager Fermentation Question

Postby pdawg » Fri Nov 14, 2008 4:21 pm

I decided to do a lager for my first homebrew without doing enough research. I cannot get the fermentation temperatures below 60 degrees so can I keep it in primary fermentation for 2 weeks @ 60 degrees and secondary fermentation for 2 weeks @ 60 degrees and then bottle and keep in the fridge for a few weeks or what would be the best way to go about this? I ordered an ale kit for my 2nd batch btw. :?
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best guess

Postby slothrob » Fri Nov 14, 2008 7:00 pm

I won't go through a litany of ways to lower the temperature, assuming you've tried them already. So, let's assume you're stuck with 60°F is as low as you can go.

In that case, your fermentation schedule is probably about right, but: First, keep it it in primary until it is finished fermenting (no more drop in gravity) plus a few days to clean up some of the byproducts you're making by fermenting too warm. Also, it might take longer for the yeast to settle than 2 weeks, so I wouldn't move it out of secondary until the yeast is down.

Then, and this is where it differs from your proposal, bottle and keep the bottles warm until they are carbonated. This may take a few weeks in the 60-70°F range. Then, and only then, you can move them to the fridge. Since a lager should be stored at refrigerator temperatures for a month or more (that's the "lagering"), I'd store the bottles in the fridge for a month or more after they're carbonated. This lagering will help smooth the flavor and may take longer than usual to get properly smooth, due to the warmer than usual fermentation.
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keepin it cold

Postby pdawg » Sun Nov 16, 2008 8:23 am

thank you for the response. what kind of ways were you going to suggest to keep it cold?
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Tub with Ice

Postby brewmeisterintng » Sun Nov 16, 2008 9:06 am

There are a few methods to creating a lager environment... a chest freezer with a temperature control unit is the most dependable. It's a set it and forget it system. New brewers should stick to ales until they master some brewing skills but above that... read. The information is out there to control lager temperatures as well as naturally carbonating a bottle of beer. To forgo discouragement and less than desired results, do some research (books/ internet). Pdawg I want you to be a successful brewer who is proud of his efforts. :D
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moving to secondary fermentation

Postby pdawg » Sun Nov 16, 2008 10:01 am

Slothrob suggested to wait until there was no more drop in gravity and let sit for a couple days after before I move to secondary fermentation. The big thing I am worried about is sterilization so is there a way I can predict when there is no more drop in gravity without using a hydrometer. Like waiting until the air lock bubbles once every 2 minutes or so. It's been in primary fermentation for 11 days at 60-62 degrees and bubbles about every 50-55 seconds. I was trying to plan when I will start my ale kit so I know when to smack the activator and start the yeast starter. I was hoping for friday, but I was thinking just wait until the air lock shows a bubble every 2 minutes and 3 days after that I can move it to the secondary fermenter and start my ale kit. Any suggestions would be helpful. I'm not trying to make a perfect beer for my first time, I just want it to be drinkable.
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Fermenting My Way

Postby brewmeisterintng » Sun Nov 16, 2008 10:38 am

For ales I primary for one week, secondary for two. For lagers double everything. That is the generalized rules. However if the beer doesn't look ready for transfer ie. coursin hasn't dropped or air lock is still active, I will wait. There is nothing wrong with letting it sit for another week in the primary. I am kegging now so I don't take a secondary reading anymore. Just lazy I guess. Back when I was bottling though I always took a FG reading. This ensured that I didn't have sugars left that would result in over carbonation or exploding bottles.
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straining before secondary fermentation

Postby pdawg » Sun Nov 16, 2008 11:19 am

I was thinking about putting a mesh muslin bag over the end of the hose as I am racking into the secondary fermenter. Is this ok or will I be straining necessary yeast?
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secondary

Postby slothrob » Sun Nov 16, 2008 12:53 pm

I wouldn't use the bag. I think it would risk introducing too much oxygen and damaging the beer. Also, it shouldn't be necessary. Most of the remaining yeast that makes it into the secondary should drop out before you bottle.

Taking a gravity reading is the only reliable way to know that fermentation is finished. Waiting until the bubbling has completely stopped, then waiting 2 or 3 more days, is less than 100% reliable but is usually trustworthy enough if you are doing a secondary.

Other ways to keep the beer cool without a fridge:
-My buddy uses a cooler that the fermentor fits into, puts a few inches of water in the bottom, then uses soda bottles frozen with water in them and changed twice a day.
-Placing the fermentor in a large bucket with a few inches of water then draping a damp towel around the fermentor can drop the temperature a few degrees or more by evaporation. A fan will increase this temperature drop. Just watch for mold growing on the towel.
-I put my fermentor into a shallow pan of water and place it on my concrete cellar floor. This usually gets me about a 10°F temperature drop, to about 60°F in the summer and 50°F or lower in the winter.
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