Alright you Lagering pros???

What went wrong? Was this supposed to happen? Should I throw it out? What do I do now?

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Alright you Lagering pros???

Postby plalo » Thu Aug 25, 2005 8:20 pm

:shock: I have no idea what I'm doing with lagering but I drafted up a nice maibock recipe for my first attempt at a true lager brew. Well first the OG came out way low but I think I know why that could have happened. Most importantly I don't know how to tell if there's fermentation!?!?! I know it's a bottom fermenting yeast so I guess there should be no Krauzen? The air lock has done nothing but suck back in and I'm starting to wish I had some cheaper vodka... to drink if this batch has flopped on me. Primary is coming to an end this weekend. It's been steady at around 53 degrees F. Am I going to be disappointed guys?
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Lagers

Postby BillyBock » Fri Aug 26, 2005 4:38 am

I've been brewing lagers for the last 3 years and it takes some getting used to. Making lagers is similiar to making ales...but not exactly. One thing to get used to is the fact that everything with lagers just takes longer. They take longer to ferment. When I make a lager I plan on a primary of 2 weeks (on average). The secondary time depends on the OG. I follow Noonan's suggestion of 1 week per 2 deg Plato (roughly 4 SG points). So for example a Pilsner with an OG=1.048 (12 deg Plato) would secondary for 6 weeks. If it took 2 weeks in the primary...then this isn't ready to drink for 2 months. An ale of similar gravity would be ready within a month.

A lager ferment is more subdued than an ale. There will be a krausen, just not as large as an ale's. I never rely on airlock activity as a guide. I've had similar problems as you--check the gravity to be sure. I can't see inside my fermenter (it's a plastic conical). To check for signs I shine a flashlight against it after I pitch to know where the liquid level is. Then in future checks I look for the shadow of the krausen compared to the liquid level. How long has your Maibock been in the fermenter? How do you know primary is coming to an end? Let the yeast tell you when primary is over--don't impose a time schedule on them, or they might go on strike :D

There are many, many other keys to making good lagers. Check out 'New Brewing Lager Beer', by Greg Noonan. It's an excellent read and full of good info and tips. Check your gravity. Also if you post the recipe and your procedures we can provide other pointers.

Hope this helps and gives you a start. Good luck!

v/r
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Thanks

Postby plalo » Sun Aug 28, 2005 12:34 pm

It's a clear glass carbouy that I use for primary and that's why I can see there was no kreusen. I see lots of trub at the bottom but the only think that I can see on top is a very tiny colony of white fuzz along with some oily residue, maybe hop oils or some fusal alcohol from the temp lingering around 53 instead of a solid 50 degrees.

Here's the recipe I drafted up with BeerTools:

1lbs. German Light Munich
1lbs. German Vienna
6 lbs. Dry Extra Light Extract
1 lbs. Muntons Dry Amber
.5 lbs. Light Brown Sugar

2 oz. Mt. Hood (Pellets, 3.00 %AA) boiled 60 min
.25 oz. Yakima Magnum (Whole, 13.50 %AA) boiled 60 min
1 oz. Saaz (Pellets, 3.00 %AA) boiled 30 min.
1 oz. Mt. Hood (Pellets, 3.00 %AA) boiled 15 min.
1 oz. Mt. Hood (Pellets, 3.00 %AA) boiled 3 min.

Yeast : White Labs WLP833 German Bock Lager Yeast


I basically did a step mash in the pot with the specialty grains.
15 min. at about 125 degrees
20 min. at about 150-155 degrees
then "sparged" the grain bags with boiling water to "mash-out"

Boil was roughly 60 mins. I did tend to add som water to the boil as it decreased in volume to attempt to keep higher efficiency but it was a tinkering that I many never do again considering. I just need a bigger pot. I can only keep less than 3 gallons in it so after I use my wort chiller coil to bring the temp down as quickly as possible I add cold water to bring the volume up in the carbouy to 5 gals. for fermentation. I then take a reading and pitched the yeast, in this case at around 68 degrees. Agitated the wort by shaking the carbouy vigorously for about five minutes. Immediately placed an airlock on and dropped it in the fridge.

I've followed the same process with all the ales I've made and I make some pretty good beers so I don't know what went wrong with this batch. I guess I'll wait to hear a response to this reply since I was planning to rack to secondary today which would make primary two weeks exactly.

The only other thing that concerns me is the fact that my brew supply store wound up selling off the yeast I had ordered so he had to have it shipped to my house and I got it in a little box that sat in my mailbox all day. When I contacted him with my concern he simply said just put it back in the fridge until you're ready to brew. I have never done a starter and didn't see why I should start now so I followed his instruction. I then did what I always do with yeasts I get from him and bring it out when I start to brew and by the end of the boil and cool down it's ready to pitch right in. Just an FYI.

Thanks for all the insight. I no way am going to give up on making a lager though if this one flopped. What I may do today is take my wine thief, sanatize it, and sneak a reading. I'll post my findings here.
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Postby BillyBock » Mon Aug 29, 2005 5:00 am

I believe your 'oily residue' is from your late hop additions--not enough time to isomerize them into bittering acids. Man, you got a lot of hops in there :D By the way, do you have a way to maintain stable temps (converted freezer & temp controller, etc.)? White fuzz? Is it possible it's just clusters of CO2 bubbles rising and forming at the surface? Since lagers are fermented cool they tend to have more residual CO2 after the ferment than an ale. Take a close look--and pop the airlock off and take a good whiff. Give it the 'does it smell like beer?' test.

By your description of the yeast handling, I'd be concerned they got over-stressed, or beyond the 'good by' date, or both. Then they probably had a reduced cell count which leads to longer lag times. In retrospect, a starter would've been good to do (since it's a White Labs vial) to check for yeast viability. Do you keep dry yeast on hand in case of emergencies? I like liquid yeast, but I'm not fond of making starters. Saflager S-23 is a good dry lager yeast, makes good beer.

Oh yea, did you take your gravity reading?
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Oh man...

Postby plalo » Tue Aug 30, 2005 8:19 pm

Ok sorry I didn't get that reading yet. I wound up getting a sick little boy Sunday and had to take care of my feverish 1yr old who wound up getting hand, foot, and mouth disease... maybe the fuzz is his fault! ahhaha No seriously, it's a virus not bacteria.

I started to see actual Co2 surface Monday night but that little dime sized colony of white fuzz was definitely fuzz (mold). I think your reservations on the yeast are true since it took so long for any activity to take effect. I think the viability just took two weeks to get going but LORD knows what else is growing in there. I'm not that against soured beers but I think it will be tough to work this one through. Not to mention I have no idea how to work with soured beers.

Regardless, I think fermentation has actually started after two weeks. I do have it in the fridge which keeps a pretty steady 50-52 degrees. Should I run the risk to do a reading at this point or let it go to see if it kruesens and finishes out primary or simply toss this batch and try to start over?

Thanks for your input. I'm not letting this mishap stop me from lagers. If anything I'm feeling a challenge. Not to mention I should get a free yeast outta my brew supply shop for this one. :roll:
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Dilemmas

Postby BillyBock » Wed Aug 31, 2005 3:52 am

Hmmm...whether to keep the batch or not? That's a tough one. The best advice I can give you is to smell & taste it and go from there. If it really bugs you, toss it. Or keep it as an experiment if you have the space and see what happens over time. You could always tell people you made a lambic :D
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Great advise

Postby brewmeisterintng » Mon Nov 28, 2005 6:37 pm

I too am on my FIRST true lager. I have read that it takes twice as many yeast cells to make a lager as it does ale so I made a yeast starter almost two days before brew day. I was concerned when I didn't see much activity in the starter but less than 24hrs after pitching I was in business. I am fermenting in a modified (temp controlled) chest freezer at 50 degrees and was getting concerned when I had crousin (about an inch and a half) sitting on top. I didn't expect that. But after reading your post my mind is at ease. It had been in the primary for just a little over a week and I was wondering if I should wait till the crousin drops back to transfer or take a gravity reading. I am a little fuzzy on when to transfer to the secondary. I know that you said two weeks as a guide but is there more specific guidance?
Thanks,
James
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Re: Lagers

Postby BillyBock » Mon Nov 28, 2005 7:06 pm

James: When to start secondary? I seem to remember from Noonan's book to let the lager go to terminal gravity in the primary vessel. If you rack too early to a secondary you run the risk of a stuck ferment. Remember, everything with a lager is slower...because everything is colder. IMHO you don't need to worry as much about autolysis as you would for an ale--time is on your side. So let it go to completion in the primary, it may take 2 or 3 weeks. I have a lager in my conical right now that's 5 weeks old and I just dumped the yeast/trub for the first time a couple days ago (got busy and forgot)--no funky off aromas [two weeks at 50F, 3 weeks at 35F]. Soon it will be kegged. My norm is to 'secondary' in the keg at near beer freezing temps (around 30F) while it ages and carbonates.

Check out this post of mine earlier in the year; it should give you some quantitative information to get started based on my experiences.

http://www.beertools.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1485

v/r
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