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Brewing Lagers - Homebrew vs Pro

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  • Brewing Lagers - Homebrew vs Pro

    As a homebrewer, my process for brewing lagers was as follows:

    - Ferment for 3 weeks in a glass carboy at 50 degrees
    - Transfer to secondary carboy for 4 weeks of lagering at roughly 32
    - Keg, carbonate, and serve

    From a professional perspective, how does this get handled? Primary fermentation for 3 weeks at 50, drop the yeast, crash cool/lager for 4 weeks in the fermenter, then transfer to keg/brite tank? Something else? Different methods?

    Any insights would be greatly appreciated!

  • #2
    What you are doing is ideal. In a production setting, however, tank time is money. The longer a beer has to sit in a tank the longer you have to wait to fill it. I've seen breweries put lagers out as early as 4 weeks after brew day. This is of course aided by filtration since it takes away any need for clarification time - which is what most of the lagering process is going to accomplish.

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    • #3
      however, tank time is money. The longer a beer has to sit in a tank the longer you have to wait to fill it. I've seen breweries put lagers out as early as 4 weeks after brew day.
      Yep, agree w/ all this.

      We've been turning around our Pils in 3-4 weeks, but w/o filtering our clarity has suffered a bit. Still very acceptable in our situation and the beer still tastes great, but for most breweries there's only so long you can leave beer in a tank w/o hemorrhaging money.

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      • #4
        Don't forget a diacetyl rest!

        Originally posted by yournotpeter View Post
        Primary fermentation for 3 weeks at 50, drop the yeast, crash cool/lager for 4 weeks in the fermenter
        The lower your fermentation temperature, the greater the need for a diacetyl rest at around 60-62 degrees at the end of primary. I've been told that if you ferment higher (55-57ish degrees) you won't get as much diacetyl production and a diacetyl rest becomes less critical, but I myself prefer the lower fermentation temp as well. Also, I would never crash cool a lager, but decrease the temp by 2-4 degrees a day until you hit lagering temp, especially if you're going to reuse the yeast.
        Charlie Magne Melhus
        Co-founder/Head Brewer
        Norway Brewing Company

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        • #5
          Originally posted by magnemelhus View Post
          The lower your fermentation temperature, the greater the need for a diacetyl rest at around 60-62 degrees at the end of primary. I've been told that if you ferment higher (55-57ish degrees) you won't get as much diacetyl production and a diacetyl rest becomes less critical, but I myself prefer the lower fermentation temp as well. Also, I would never crash cool a lager, but decrease the temp by 2-4 degrees a day until you hit lagering temp, especially if you're going to reuse the yeast.
          Begging to differ. In 25 years I have never done a warm diacetyl rest. While certain strains might have that issue, I have never encountered it. I tend to start my lagers around 60F and ramp down a few degrees per day to a fermentation temp between about 40 and 45 depending on the beer and the particular yeast I am using. Never had a diacetyl issue, and I am pretty sensitive to the stuff (I don't even like it in most ales where it is considered appropriate). Once primary ferment is complete, I give it about 4 to 7 days a ferment temps then on down to 32 for at least two weeks. Basically, if you don't rush it and let the yeast do what it knows how to do, it will take care of itself… again, that is in my experience with the strains I have used

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          • #6
            Originally posted by CharlosCarlies View Post
            We've been turning around our Pils in 3-4 weeks
            I don't even think that's compromising for an average-gravity lager. Pitch and begin fermentation at about 50°F, depending on fermenter size - in a large tank I've started as high as 56°F. Once fermentation is in the attenuative phase, >1°P/day, let the temperature come up into the low-mid 60s, and rest there until FG is reached, plus 2-3 days for a diacetyl rest if needed. This is when I would harvest yeast for repitching. Then drop to lagering temperatures over another 2-3 days, and lager for two weeks or as long as the tank is available.
            Sent from my Microsoft Bob

            Beer is like porn. You can buy it, but it's more fun to make your own.
            seanterrill.com/category/brewing | twomilebrewing.com

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            • #7
              I don't even think that's compromising for an average-gravity lager. Pitch and begin fermentation at about 50°F, depending on fermenter size - in a large tank I've started as high as 56°F. Once fermentation is in the attenuative phase, >1°P/day, let the temperature come up into the low-mid 60s, and rest there until FG is reached, plus 2-3 days for a diacetyl rest if needed. This is when I would harvest yeast for repitching. Then drop to lagering temperatures over another 2-3 days, and lager for two weeks or as long as the tank is available.
              Agreed it's not really compromising flavor, but when we had the time to keep it cold another week or two it really cleared up nicely w/o any filtering/finings.

              Our fermentation schedule is pretty similar. We use W-34/70, pitch at ~50F and let rise up to 55F where it stays until we're 1-3P from expected final gravity. There we'll cap the tank and let the temp rise up to 65F for a 2-3 day diacetyl rest before crashing. We've been able to pull plenty of yeast immediately after hitting final gravity, but that could be strain dependent.

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              • #8
                Also, I would never crash cool a lager, but decrease the temp by 2-4 degrees a day until you hit lagering temp, especially if you're going to reuse the yeast.
                Other than sticking to traditional methods, can I ask what your reasoning is behind this? Our standard fermentation schedule for all our lagers involves going from D-Rest @ 65F to 32F sometimes as quickly as 12 hours. Even if not optimal, can't say it's affecting the beer as it's even won a few awards (not big ones mind you, but we're pretty new so we'll take it!).

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                • #9
                  I have never done a diacetyl rest on any of my German lagers. The whole point of lagering is to clean up the beer. if you raise the temp you can autolyze your yeast which is not good.

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                  • #10
                    If raising the temperature to 60F causes yeast autolysis at your brewery, I bet you have 99 problems and a diacetyl rest aint one.

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                    • #11
                      I never do a diacetyl rest on my lagers and have never had a diacetyl problem. I have been brewing lagers for 7 years.

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                      • #12
                        My guess is you guys are lagering much longer than some of us are, so yes that makes sense that a diacetyl rest wouldn't be necessary with your fermentation practices. While that's fine and I'll always give respect to traditional brewing methods, I also highly enjoy challenging those methods to see if it can be done better and/or faster. In my opinion, lagers can be turned around significantly faster w/ minimal to no loss of quality by doing a warm d-rest. If you don't agree, that's perfectly fine, and exactly what's made brewing so interesting to me: there are so many different ways to make great beer.

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                        • #13
                          if you raise the temp you can autolyze your yeast which is not good
                          While obviously not apples to apples, if temperature alone was such a risk for autolysis, why isn't this a problem for Belgian breweries that often let temps rise into the mid 70's/80's towards the end of fermentation? On top of that, they're bottle conditioning warm for extended periods of time.

                          Not trying to nit-pick, just something to think about.

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                          • #14
                            Crash vs. gradual cooling

                            Originally posted by CharlosCarlies View Post
                            Other than sticking to traditional methods, can I ask what your reasoning is behind this? Our standard fermentation schedule for all our lagers involves going from D-Rest @ 65F to 32F sometimes as quickly as 12 hours. Even if not optimal, can't say it's affecting the beer as it's even won a few awards (not big ones mind you, but we're pretty new so we'll take it!).
                            I'm just paranoid about my yeast... we harvest cone-to-cone after cooling, and I've read that stepping down the temp slowly helps avoid the yeast going dormant, in addition to preventing release of heat shock proteins before repitching. I don't think it has too much effect on the flavor of the beer itself, but I am definitely a bit overcautious when it comes to yeast health. Do you guys have a yeast handling system or are you reusing the yeast right away?
                            Charlie Magne Melhus
                            Co-founder/Head Brewer
                            Norway Brewing Company

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by magnemelhus View Post
                              I'm just paranoid about my yeast... we harvest cone-to-cone after cooling, and I've read that stepping down the temp slowly helps avoid the yeast going dormant, in addition to preventing release of heat shock proteins before repitching. I don't think it has too much effect on the flavor of the beer itself, but I am definitely a bit overcautious when it comes to yeast health. Do you guys have a yeast handling system or are you reusing the yeast right away?
                              At the moment right away, cone to cone. No special reason other than that is what works for me. If circumstances change, such as adding more than the 2 yeasts we are currently using, I may change my methods to suit the situation.

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