First Time Lager

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by chrisjws, Nov 26, 2019.

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  1. chrisjws

    chrisjws Savant (902) Dec 3, 2014 California

    I'm planning to do a lager in January or February. I have a converted chest freezer I've been working with and I've been able to get it to hit a consistent temp +/-2F, and humidity < 30%.

    I haven't got my heart set on any one style of lager, I'd like to hear suggestions as to what'd be a good one to start with, and if there are any gotchas with the fermentation I haven't thought about already.
     
  2. Maestro0708

    Maestro0708 Initiate (0) Feb 27, 2015 Kentucky

    I can't speak to a true lager, but I did my first (faux) lager recently, a Schwarzbier using 34/70 in the low 60s, and was really happy with the results. Cheers and good luck!
     
  3. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,752) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    My next lager that I will be brewing in a month or so is a Tmavý Ležák (Czech Dark Lager). This will be my fourth time brewing this batch!

    For lagers in general there are various lager fermentation profiles you could follow but a simple ferment of 50 – 55 degrees F over 14 days ‘works’ for me. Some folks like to conduct a diacetyl rest at the end but for the many lagers I have brewed (70-ish) I have never done a diacetyl rest and all of those beers turned out fine (no perceptible diacetyl).

    Cheers!
     
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  4. Granitebeard

    Granitebeard Initiate (130) Aug 24, 2016 Maine

    So I have only done two, but am planning my third. I used to stay away from lager like the plague, but then had a couple darker variation and was never the same. I am a dark beer guy in general, and did not know darker lagers were a thing. I have done two Bocks and love that style along with Vienna Lagers, which will be my next one I want to do along with a barrel aged Eis bock.

    I fermented mine at 52 degrees, but after a few days I let it slow rise to 56-58. I felt that my first one was a little "harsh" on the edges, but this second one seems smooth and malty. Not sure what I did different.
     
  5. wasatchback

    wasatchback Devotee (414) Jan 12, 2014 Tajikistan
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    Pitch a lot of yeast... more than you think. You basically can’t overpitch but it’s very easy to underpitch and that leads to so many issues with lager ferments.

    How do you oxygenate?

    How quickly can you cool wort to lager pitching temps?
     
  6. chrisjws

    chrisjws Savant (902) Dec 3, 2014 California

    I've always oxygenated by shaking the shit out of my filled fermenter and never had issues with ales. Should I mix up that approach?

    I can drop the temp to 65 in less than an hour, and I figure from there I'd put it in the chest freezer and assign the desired temp to my pitching temp, and pitch a few hours later once it hits that temp.

    I have no issue getting fresh yeast where I'm at. From what it looks like I need a vigorous starter.

    As far as temp control, I can consistently hit anything from 32-70F with a +/-2F, I figure that's more than adequate to do whatever changes I need throughout fermentation.


    Any suggestions as to what lager I should try first? Pils? Bock? Vienna?
     
  7. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,752) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    I suggest you brew whatever style you prefer. There is not much difference in brewing any of those styles you listed. You need to ferment cool and conduct a cold secondary (i.e., lagering process) for any of the styles you listed.

    Cheers!
     
  8. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Disciple (312) Jan 13, 2016 Canada (ON)

    I have brewed numerous lagers (far prefer them to ales) and, in terms of resulting flavor, have found my fermentation "sweet spot" to be 48 F. The key, as Wasatchback mentioned above is to pitch LOTS of yeast. If you don't, fermentation (at 48 F) could take as long as three weeks. Otherwise, it should take about two weeks. It is also good to keep it on the yeast for a week after final gravity has been reached. This allows the yeast to settle out naturally, which thereby helps reduce diacetyl and other undesirable flavors. This then means that no diacetyl rest is required. When reducing the temperature to lagering temperature (just above freezing), let the temperature drop gradually about a degree or two per 12 hours (don't cold crash it) until you reach about 40 F or just under, as cold crash can shock the yeast and produce undesirable flavors.When you reach 40 F, the yeast will have settled out, and you can then cold crash it.

    I oxygenate my lagers with O2 for about a minute, using an O2 tank attached to a wand with a stone at the end to produce fine bubbles.

    As to which one to try first, any will do, but if you want to gain experience with the lager flavor, you might want to start with a simple, light, clear lager (mostly pilsner malt, and 2 or 3 noble hop additions such as Saaz or Hallertauer), as the darker lagers will mask the flavor more.

    For lagers, you generally want to mash for 1-1/2 hours and boil for about 1-1/2 hours. For specialty malts, you can add a little Vienna or light Munich malt to give it more of a "decocted" flavor, and also to add a little color. I also always add a little aciduated malt to reduce the PH level, which is better for mashing lagers. In terms of water profile, you generally want soft water with few minerals. If your tap water is hard, consider using about 50% reverse osmosis water, depending on how hard your water is. Other than that, for the lighter lagers, you generally don't need to add any additional specialty malts.
     
    #8 OldBrewer, Nov 28, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2019
  9. VikeMan

    VikeMan Poo-Bah (2,032) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
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    This will certainly result in a more fermentable wort (thus a drier beer) than a shorter mash. Is there some other reason you mash that long?
     
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  10. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Disciple (312) Jan 13, 2016 Canada (ON)

    That is the main reason (generally, IMO drier lagers taste better), although pilsner malt contains fewer enzymes than 2-two malt, so could use a little more time mashing to get full conversion. This is especially true if you were to do a decoction (which I generally do). If I don't do a decoction, I generally mash for about 1-1/4 hours. Thus I should have mentioned 1-1/4 hours above, rather than 1-1/2.
     
    #10 OldBrewer, Nov 28, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2019
  11. VikeMan

    VikeMan Poo-Bah (2,032) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
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    "Full conversion" (all starches converted to something smaller than starches) can happen very fast, like well under 30 minutes, in many/most mashes. Additional time does, of course affect the sugar/dextrin profile, i.e. fermentability. That aside, I don't know that it's accurate to say that pilsner malt (as a rule) has less DP than "2-row" malt, if by 2-row you mean non-pilsner pale brewer's malts. It all depends on the particular malt(ster). For example, Bries Brewers Malt and Briess Pilsen Malt both have a very high 140 DP.
     
    #11 VikeMan, Nov 28, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2019
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  12. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Disciple (312) Jan 13, 2016 Canada (ON)

    According to "New Brewing Lager Beer" (Gregory Noonan):

    "The duration of the saccharification rest also affects fermentability and flavor. A 120-minute mash is going to eke out every bit of diastatic power that the malt has to offer, while a 45-minute mash at the same temperature is going to leave more polysaccharides. Consequently, a two-hour mash at 149 degrees F is going to give a beer with a lower final gravity than a 45-minute mash at the same temperature." (Page 301).

    Also:

    "Maintain the rest temperature for forty-five to sixty minutes, or up to a maximum of two hours for greater attenuation."

    In terms of diastatic power, it does differ depending on the maltster. I found that in general, the diastatic power of typical American two-row malt is about 140 degrees lintner, while German pilsner malt is about 110 degrees lintner. Somewhat lower, thus if a one hour mash if typical for American two-row, I give it 15 more minutes for German Pilsner malt (and an extra half hour if I am doing a decoction).
     
    #12 OldBrewer, Nov 28, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2019
  13. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Disciple (312) Jan 13, 2016 Canada (ON)

    Source for above:

    http://beersmith.com/blog/2010/01/04/diastatic-power-and-mashing-your-beer/
     
  14. VikeMan

    VikeMan Poo-Bah (2,032) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
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    I'm glad to see Noonan agreed with me! :slight_smile:

    Another way of saying the same thing...a longer mash yields more fermentable wort. But again, this is about fermentability, not "full conversion" per se.
     
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  15. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Disciple (312) Jan 13, 2016 Canada (ON)

    Although not near as critical as the fermentability advantage, see the rest of what I said regarding diastatic power and type of malt.
     
  16. VikeMan

    VikeMan Poo-Bah (2,032) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
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    Hmmm...I'm not sure what you're getting at.
    Diastatic power (DP) is a measure of the level of alpha and beta amylase. You need enough DP for full conversion (all starches to non-starches), which generally happens in much less than an hour. Beyond full conversion, remaining enzymes will continue to reduce the lengths of the sugars/dextrins, resulting in a more fermentable wort up until the enzymes are all denatured, which is why longer mash times result in more fermentability (lower FG).

    Is there something above that you don't agree with?
     
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  17. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Disciple (312) Jan 13, 2016 Canada (ON)

    Yes, I agree, except for the part about FULL conversion taking place in far less than one hour, as mentioned in the quotes by Noonan. My understanding of diastatic power is:

    "Diastatic power refers to the enzymatic power of the malt itself – its ability to break down starches into even simpler fermentable sugars during the mashing process. The term “diastatic” refers to “diastase” enzymes. There are two “diastese” enzymes, the first is alpha amylase and the second is beta amylase."

    My point was that there is less diastatic power in some malts, such as some German pilsner malts, compared to American two-row malt. Although enzymes activity is 'strongest' for the first 20 minutes of the mash, enzymes continue to work for up to about two hours, as Noonan mentioned.

    Since some German pilsner malts contain about 20% fewer enzymes than American two-row malt (measured according to degrees lintner), and because one hour basically takes care of the majority of conversion when using American two-row malt, I add an extra 15 minutes to account for the difference (also recommended in some source I read years ago).
     
  18. VikeMan

    VikeMan Poo-Bah (2,032) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
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    Noonan does not say that full conversion doesn't happen in less than an hour. In fact, he specifically uses 45 minutes in his example. The difference, in his example, between the 45 minute mash and the 120 minute mash, is fermentability. Both achieve full conversion.
     
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  19. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Disciple (312) Jan 13, 2016 Canada (ON)

    If that's the case, then please help me correct my understanding of what enzymes continue to do after full conversion? If everything's converted to sugars after 45 minutes at the most, how can fermentability increase?
     
  20. VikeMan

    VikeMan Poo-Bah (2,032) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
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    Full conversion means that all the starches have been converted to something that is no longer a starch, i.e. a mixture of fermentable sugars and unfermentable dextrins. The longer the mash goes (and there are still enzymes that have not denatured), the more unfermentable dextrins will be converted to fermentable sugars, but only to a point. There will always be some unfermentable dextrins left.

    TLDR:
    Full Conversion = no starches left
    Full Conversion <> all starches converted to sugars (which is not possible)
     
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  21. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Disciple (312) Jan 13, 2016 Canada (ON)

    Thank you for correcting my understanding.

    So, the ONLY advantage to a longer mash is not the conversion, but the degree of fermentability, and generally, the greater the fermentability, the drier the beer. Thus no need for me to change the 1-1/4 hour mash, since I prefer a drier finish.
     
    #21 OldBrewer, Nov 28, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2019
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  22. VikeMan

    VikeMan Poo-Bah (2,032) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
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    Essentially, yes, the really important impact is to fermentability.

    I suspect the mash length may also affect proteins to a small degree, as well as extraction of tannins and flavor compounds.
     
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  23. wasatchback

    wasatchback Devotee (414) Jan 12, 2014 Tajikistan
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    I step mash every beer. Different regimes for different beers depending on ingredients and what not. I definitely get an increase in gravity by about 1-1.5* Plato with a mashout rest at 168-172 for about 10 minutes. The mash has generally been going for about 75-90 minutes by then and recirculating the whole time with the previous step at 162 for 20-30 minutes. Gravity always increases from the end of the 162 step to the end of the mashout step.
     
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  24. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Poo-Bah (1,907) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan
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    I have also noticed better foam doing this.
     
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  25. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Disciple (312) Jan 13, 2016 Canada (ON)

    This got me to thinking. Typically, you mash for an hour, then do a mash-out by raising the temperature to about 170 F in order to stop all of the enzyme activity (and making the wort more fluid). If enzyme activity continues until the 170 F temperature has been reached, then why do a mash-out at all? It will reach that temperature during the boil, so couldn't you just stop the mash early, drain it, and bring it to a boil? You could subtact the time it takes to drain it and bring it to a boil from the length of mash. So if it takes 20 minutes, couldn't you just mash for 40 minutes, drain and bring it to a boil? That way the enzymes continue working for the full hour. The only downside would be the fluidity of the mash, but if you are already using a reasonably high water to grain ratio, this shouldn't affect the draining.
     
  26. VikeMan

    VikeMan Poo-Bah (2,032) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
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    Yes, you could do it this way. Lots of people do. The downside, as you already know, is a stickier runoff. No matter how thin your ratio is, the wort will be less viscous at ~170F than it is at mash temp, so efficiency will be impacted to some degree. Whether or not it's significant enough for you is a personal decision. Also, bringing everything to ~170F all at once is a very repeatable process. Bringing wort to a boil (or to a particular on-the-way-to-a-boil temp) in exactly "X" minutes isn't, particularly if you boil outdoors.
     
  27. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Disciple (312) Jan 13, 2016 Canada (ON)

    The problem with trying to bring the mash to 170 in a 10 gallon cooler when doing a mash for a 10-gallon brew, is that there is not enough room left in the cooler to add enough boiling water to bring it even close to 170 F (usually can only add about 5 liters of boiling water - not even close to being able to bring the other 31 or 32 liters of mash at about 150 F, up to 170 F). With a five gallon brew, it is possible.
     
    #27 OldBrewer, Dec 1, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2019
  28. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Poo-Bah (1,907) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan
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    A friend would pull a decoction, mainly liquid. It worked.
     
  29. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Disciple (312) Jan 13, 2016 Canada (ON)

    Yes, this would be possible, but if you were doing a decoction, you would have to draw the mash out after no longer than about 20 minutes into the mash. It would take about 25 minutes to bring it up to boiling (at least on a stove) and another 15 minutes at least of boiling.

    On the other hand, one could just drain a couple of quarts a half hour before the mash is complete, just bring that to a boil, and add it back to the mash at the one hour mark (assuming you're mashing for one hour), along with the portion of the sparge water that will just fill up the cooler (about 5 liters).
     
    #29 OldBrewer, Dec 1, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2019
  30. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Poo-Bah (1,907) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan
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    Let me be more clear. You were talking about getting to mashout with a full mash run. At the end of mash, he went 60 minutes, he pulled enough of the liquid by draining off to leave the solids behind, brought it to a boil quickly. It wasn't that much, there are calculators online to estimate the volume. Boiling liquid went on top and was stirred in. Mash came up to mashout temps, he did this just about every time. Rest, start the sparge.

    This is just the liquid, no need to boil for 15 or 30 minutes.
     
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  31. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Disciple (312) Jan 13, 2016 Canada (ON)

    My issue is both maintaining temperature during the mash and in raising it to 168 afterwards. I could use the same method by draining enough liquid from the mash after about 20 minutes, boiling it, and adding it to the end of the mash. It would require about 12 liters in total. About half of that could just be boiled water, since I have enough room in the cooler for about 6 liters.
     
  32. Naugled

    Naugled Savant (954) Sep 25, 2007 New York
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    A lot of good information here....

    I love lagers, brew them regularly.

    I'd start with a Vienna, find a Sam Adams clone recipe.

    Diacetyl rests are cheap insurance, I routinely do them because I tend to bounce around trying different yeasts and unless you're familiar with their characteristics, a diacetyl rest will give you one less thing to worry about. Or learn how to do a diacetyl test, its fairly simple and works from my experience. Google it, you'll find instructions, you may even find them in this forum.

    Lastly, I find my lagers hit their peak flavor profile around 5-6 weeks of lagering, so be patient. Lager as cold as you can for as long as you can, it makes a difference.
     
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  33. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Disciple (312) Jan 13, 2016 Canada (ON)

    Odd, I've often read about the advantages of lagering for 5-6 weeks, but for some reason seem to prefer my lagers as fresh as possible. So even a week of lagering (waiting for the right amount of carbonation) seems plenty. If I let it lager for 5-6 weeks, the taste seems to begin to go off, the longer it sits in the keg (not in terms of getting infected, but in terms of losing that "freshness" that European lagers seem to have).
     
  34. VikeMan

    VikeMan Poo-Bah (2,032) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
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    It sounds like you're describing oxidation.
     
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  35. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Disciple (312) Jan 13, 2016 Canada (ON)

    That's very possible, since I don't use the extreme oxidation-free type of brewing process, but I do try to prevent it as much as possible using the common way. Perhaps even that is not enough.

    The lager seems to get more of that off-taste, the longer it stays carbonized.
     
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  36. beershrine

    beershrine Aspirant (259) May 29, 2004 Idaho

    Do what you like to drink. I like Dunkle but that's just me. I will suggest using Fermentis 34/70 dry yeast it works very well.
     
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