Becoming a master requires becoming a life long learner…

… and that sometimes means going back to basics…

If there is one thing that has advanced my brewing knowledge at a rapid pace is re-visiting topics I think I already know…

There is nothing like having a new set of eyes to look at things…

Reading about an old or basic topic with newly gained knowledge gives you that new set of eyes…

Ever since I established the 5 fermentation profiles I cover in the latest version of Better Home Brew Formula, and since messing with yeast I am looking at lager brewing in a way I’ve never thought of before…

That’s what I’m going to talk about today… lager brewing… and I’m going to give you a sneak peek at what I’ve been finding with all the different yeast experiments I’ve been doing over the last 9 months or so…

One of the main things I am going to focus to improve my lagers this winter season is achieving yeast pitching temperature…

One of the things I found over the last few months of brewing is that temperature has a bigger effect on lag times than yeast pitching rates…

I’ll be talking more about my yeast findings in the coming months, but for now know that I have lost my fear of fermenting beer with low pitching rates…

As long as the wort is aerated and you pitch your yeast at fermentation temperature, then your lag times won’t be affected much…

To achieve yeast pitching rate I use a wort chiller and I recirculate ice cold water using a pump… as the ice melts, I replace it…

I know many brewers who just place their pot over snow outside, but in Arizona we’re still seeing temperatures in the mid 70’s… so we need to buy ice…

Next up… lager temperature control…

You can change the flavor of your beers simply by changing the temperature at which you ferment your beers…

By using different fermentation profiles I found how to get unique flavors from yeast I didn’t know I could get before…

… and this winter I’ll be exploring yeast strains to see what characteristics I can find with my new gained knowledge…

One of the things I teach in my training program is how to get yeast to produce flavors… and the first few days of fermentation is where the magic happens…

So if you don’t have a hands-off way to control temperature I recommend finding a way to control it even if it’s just for the first 2-4 days…

I use a Magic Chef wine cooler… which is good for fermenting and lagering…

I now also have a chest freezer and both are equipped with a Johnson Controls A419 temperature controller which allows me to keep the temperature from fluctuating much…

If I, for example, set the temperature at 52 °F it will stay there +/- 2 °F without me having to check up on it…

… if a mini fridge or chest freezer is out of the budget, then get a tub…

Placing the fermentor in a body of water helps to keep temperature constant for a longer period of time…

This can be done in a bath tub or in a big plastic storage container (they sell big round buckets with rope handles which are perfect size for this)…

… and if you live in a place that’s too cold then a warming belt or pad may be what you need…

I’ve never had the need to use one, but from talking to other brewers belts are pretty efficient…

Last… Making sure you don’t shock your yeast…

The advice of making yeast starters is even more common when it comes to brewing lager beers…

… but there is a bit of a problem… yeast starters are usually done near room temperatures (high 60’s, low 70’s °F)…

If you cool your wort down to lager fermentation temperature and pitch your yeast that’s at room temperature, you could shock your yeast and have long lag times or a stuck fermentation…

If you make a starter, cool down the yeast slowly to fermentation temperature before pitching… I would do this over a period of at least 6 to 8 hours…

The idea here is to get your yeast, wort and fermentation temperature in sync before pitching your yeast and that will allow you to better control the flavors of your yeast…

Have you started brewing lagers? Leave a comment below


    7 replies to "Brewing Lager Beers (Going Back To Basics)"

    • Lindsay

      G’day, Jorge.

      My son & I both brew and both of us have benefited from your newsletter over the past year. Many thanks for your tips.

      I reply with th recipe below in appreciation. Unfortunately my formatting has been lost but I hope you can work it out.

      I have brewed 2 lagers as best as our temperatures in Sydney allow. Even winter is not cold enough, but the results are passable. I copied below one recipe & method followed by comments on the beer.

      52 My Brewers Choice Nappstein Lager 52

      Brew Kit Malt Grain Hops Yeast
      Morgans Pilsner: 1k LDME 1k Light grain Nelsons Sauvign @ 0th S-23 Lager
      ‘Golden Saaz’ 500g Glucose 250g Caramalt 15g @ 45th min
      (low gravity boil) 515g 200 (cracked) 15g @ 60th min
      Method Bottled 9th Sept 11% ABV
      1. Before brewing, cool 10 litres of water in fridge for pitching. Boil water & set some aside to dissolve 1 heaped teaspoon of Glucose and allow this to cool to rehydrate yeast once it reaches room temperature or cooler. Cover and check for activity after 30 minutes. Leave for at least an hour before pitching at Step 8 below.
      2. Use the remaining boiled water to dissolve Morgans Pilsner Golden Saaz, (stand some hot wort in can) LDME & glucose in fermenter. Stand to cool.
      3. Bring 3 litres of water to 50°C in urn (Thermostat 37.5°C). Steep grain in grain bag for 20mins. Heat to 70°C and mash for 20mins, dunking the grain bag frequently to leach sugars.
      4. Sparge the grain into boiler with another 3 litres of water at 65°C, hold for a while at 65°C, dunking the grain bag frequently, then drain this and add to the boiler. Do not squeeze the grains. Discard the grain after sparging.
      5. Heat the wort to a roiling boil uncovered for 60 mins (watch continually to avoid boil over). During the ‘hot break,’ 15-20mins watch for boil over & stir vigorously, manipulating temperature as needed. AFTER foam of the hot break subsides stir occasionally for the rest of the hour to release sulphur compounds from the wort. In bag add 15g of the Sauvin hops to wort15mins from end of boil.
      6. Remove from heat and add the remaining 15g of Sauvin hops to hops bag. Place this in fermenter and pour boiled wort in also.
      7. Pour the chilled water from the fridge to the fermenter vigorously so that it splashes and churns for an oxygen-rich wort. Top up to 26 bottles using tap water to achieve a final temperature between 20-25°C
      8. Pitch the yeast and ferment at 15-18°C for the best results.
      Brewed: 2nd Aug
      Brewing Notes:
      This yeast likes to ferment around 15-20˚ and may take up to 14 days to finish to a SG of 1010 at this temperature range. Check regularly. Lagers typically take 2 to 3 weeks to finish fermenting, between 10 and 15°C and require at least a month of lagering. Age in bottles at least four weeks before sampling, longer if you can.
      No enzymes: Caramalt may produce sweetness.
      Boil did not produce the dense foam of a high gravity boil, even at hot break. (didn’t seem to be 6 litres)
      Boiling reduced quantity of wort from about 4cm deep in boiler to about 2cm deep. Colour darkened.
      Filled to 28 bottles-mark, pitched @ 14-16°C (small volume of hot water advantage here)
      SG 1095 syrupy sweet with pronounced back-palate bitterness
      3rd Aug 6am 14°C ambient 14°C krausen 1cm up sides. Occasional burp
      6pm 16-18°C ambient 20°C burps 10 secs
      14th Aug 16°C ambient 18°C still burping occasionally
      7th Sept Clogged with yeast sediment & tasted sour. Transferred to secondary, removed hop bag = 2 bottles less volume.
      Bottled 9th Sept Racked & bulk primed 160g Glucose (6g/bottle). SG 1010 = 11% ABV. Clear with a beautiful malt-sweet and an enduring bitterness. Not yet balanced, has a lot of promise!
      Tasting Notes:
      12th Oct Golden and hazy, but a firm yeast cake. Easy-pouring and working well to maintain a shallow white head with some lacing on the glass. A really well-balanced flavour in which no element dominates but there is a gentle bitterness overlain by floweriness and a fruity aroma. No sparkle and little alcoholic warmth (question the accuracy of the ABV calculation?). Light-bodied with a short-lived metallic finish.

      • Jorge

        @Lindsay Thanks for sharing the recipe. Did you dry hop the beer?

    • Lindsay

      Jorge,

      I replied to your email comment but got the following msg:

      The original message was received at Sat, 8 Dec 2012 08:10:59 +1100 from mail10.syd.optusnet.com.au [211.29.132.191]

      —– The following addresses had permanent fatal errors —–
      (reason: 550 Host unknown)

      Dunno why this happened but I am replying again here, in the hope you get this:

      I dry-hopped in a fashion.
      Because I don’t know what bittering hopping was done in the production of the Morgans kit, I added the first 15g Sauvin for the last 15mins of the boil for flavour and the second 15g sauvin on removal from heat for aroma.

      Pls note, contrary to common practice, in my recipes I time the hops schedule from the start of boil, being 0mins and the removal from heat as 60mins.

      FYI, I also tried your recipe of American ale (My Quiet American) that I derived from one of your Net videos and it was a stunning beer! A bit high on ABV but the complexity of flavours have made it one of my ‘must-repeat’ all-time favourites.

      Again, many thanks.

      Lindsay

    • Jorge

      @Lindsay – Good to know…
      Not sure about that error message (I’m not much of a techie)…

      Glad you liked the recipe!!

    • Woody Robertson

      Brewing largers! I feel it’s beyond me, because of all the temp. controlling. Woody

      • Jorge

        I guess having a wine fridge for fermentation and a kegerator helps… It took a while for me to build up my equipment. Cheers!

    • Joe From Hell

      I use to lager my beer in my garage in the winter back in NJ… does not get cold enough here in southern coastal Oregon… but I do have a nice fridge for a keg or ator..so here we go!

      ps I “like” your ideas on beer….

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