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Brewing my first lagers, Mr. Malty confuses me

Well, I’m finally entering the world of lagers with two altbiers. I have one pack of liquid yeast.

Since I’ll be monopolizing one of our fridges for fermentation, I want to do two batches at once. So I guess I need to grow up a huge starter and split it, or perhaps grow up one starter, then split into two separate starters.

Mr. Malty won’t let me work with just one smack pack though. I have no shortage of starter wort - about 11 liters frozen right now.

I need 771 billion yeast cells. Is it just ridiculous for me to try to grow up a double starter? Should I just do the one batch and pitch onto the cake for batch 2? I’d really like to get both bubbling at once.

These lagers both have an OG of 1.050. Can I grow up enough yeast from one smack pack?

When I started making lagers, Ifound this post most helpful.

http://www.brew-wineforum.com/viewtopic ... 08&t=59851

My experience is that you need at least the equivalent of 4 smack packs for a 5 gallon batch. My O’fest took 3rd place at this year’s final round of the NHC. I used 2 smack packs and doubled them each in a 2 l starter. I have tried making the same recipe twice since then, with less yeast…it doesn’t turn out nearly as clean. My feeling is that trying to make a lager by shorting the yeast pitch is a waste of time YMMV!

BTW, my Alt beer is my most award wining beer and I make it with WY 1007 German Ale.

An alt is an ale not a lager. Just fermented at lower fermentation temps.

There ya go! That helps a bit I guess… :oops:

I’ll go back and look at the calcs again and see what shakes down.

What’s the difference between a stepped starter and a bigger initial pitch into starter wort? More chance of mutations? I would much prefer to step up a starter than get another smack pack, just because it would be pretty tough to get another pack without traveling a couple hours.

[quote=“El Capitan”]There ya go! That helps a bit I guess… :oops:

I’ll go back and look at the calcs again and see what shakes down.

What’s the difference between a stepped starter and a bigger initial pitch into starter wort? More chance of mutations? I would much prefer to step up a starter than get another smack pack, just because it would be pretty tough to get another pack without traveling a couple hours.[/quote]

What yeast are you using?

Ok, now that I actually know what kind of beer I’m brewing… (duh), it looks like I could grow yeast for one batch with a 3L starter. So what’s stopping me from making an initial 3L starter, then splitting that yeast into 2 separate 3L starters?

Maybe I’m just better off doing one batch first, then pitching some slurry into batch two, since I won’t actually need the lager fridge after all.

Note to self: review notes before posting questions on the web!

Thanks for the quick replies guys. :cheers:

I would make a two-gallon starter from the getgo, no hops, fermented at 70-80F, then split between the two fermenters (assuming OG is <1.060). If you’re going higher than 1.060, I would do a second starter, this time with half the yeast from the first (save the other half for later) in 3-4 gallons, again fermented at room temp, then split the cake for the bigger beer.

Strict adherence to Mr. Malty’s guidelines is difficult with lagers, yeast count gets crazy in a hurry.

Personally, I don’t have an easy way to brew a starter any larger than 1 gallon, so that’s what I use for “normal gravity” lagers, like less than 1050. For higher gravity stuff, rather than brew a crazy big starter, I brew a 5gal. batch of lightly hopped light lager (exact recipe varies depending on what I have lying around) at about 1040 and then use the resulting yeast cake for the high gravity beer. Basically a drinkable starter.

When you make a starter do you let it completely ferment? I guess a better way to ask is how do you know when its ready to decant and pitch?

[quote=“muddywater_grant”]

What yeast are you using?[/quote]

I’m using WY1007, German Ale. That should have been my first clue!

I do know what an alt is, but I guess I had kind of a brainfart this morning. Since this isn’t really a lager, I plan to ferment in my MOFC, so I’ll probably end up just doing one at a time and repitching slurry on batch 2.

Now that I have somewhat of a handle on water chemistry, I guess it’s time to delve a little deeper into yeast culture and propogation!

Personally, I try to make starters at least 24 hours before brew day, and more like 48 for big 1 gallon ones. After that I cold crash and don’t decant until right before I pitch. I don’t attempt to measure that fermentation is “done”, and it probably isn’t. But your yeast reproduction should be pretty much done, and you should have noticeable floculation after a day or two. Waiting longer wouldn’t hurt, but I would think you get diminishing returns.

BTW, lager starters can be fermented at room temp, which helps them finish faster. Don’t do it at lager temp, it takes forever.

[quote=“El Capitan”][quote=“muddywater_grant”]

What yeast are you using?[/quote]

I’m using WY1007, German Ale. That should have been my first clue!

I do know what an alt is, but I guess I had kind of a brainfart this morning. Since this isn’t really a lager, I plan to ferment in my MOFC, so I’ll probably end up just doing one at a time and repitching slurry on batch 2.

Now that I have somewhat of a handle on water chemistry, I guess it’s time to delve a little deeper into yeast culture and propogation![/quote]

The reason you need more yeast for lagers is because the lower temp slows down yeast activity. I would think the same would be true for an alt as well, even though it is technically an ale yeast. I would recommend you still pitch more than you would for a standard ale, if you can. I’ve never actually brewed an alt, just thinking out loud.

If you want to make stepped starters I have found this website to be very helpful: yeastcalc.com

I hope this doesn’t add to the confusion, but I found this:

http://seanterrill.com/2010/03/08/two-s ... culations/

extremely helpful when considering multi-step or especially large starters and high multiplication rates.

It’s discussed further in this thread:

viewtopic.php?f=26&t=94813&p=863706&hilit=stepping+up#p863706

Great link! Thanks for posting…

Duxx (or any knowledgable person) - I have a question: did you mean that you pitched both packs into a 2L starter and then decanted and stepped up with another 2L, or did you pitch one pack into a 2L starter, step it up, and then repeat seperately with the other pack?

The basis of my question is this: can one pitch 2 packs into 2L and then step up again, or is 2L too small of a wort volume to effectively step up 2 packs at once? I’ve read that there are diminishing returns when pitching too many yeast cells into too small a volume of wort, but have no knowledge of how little is too little.

Unless you increase the starter size after the first starter, you will get diminished return. Same amount of food but more people eating! :slight_smile:

Try the yeast calc site, it’s awesome for planning out your starter situation and stepping up.

http://www.yeastcalc.com/index.html

Duxx (or any knowledgable person) - I have a question: did you mean that you pitched both packs into a 2L starter and then decanted and stepped up with another 2L, or did you pitch one pack into a 2L starter, step it up, and then repeat seperately with the other pack? [/quote]

I made a gallon of 1.040 wort. Poured 1/2 gallon into 2 separate gallon jugs and pitched a single smack pack into each of the gallon jugs. I let these 2 jugs ferment at room temperature for 3 days. Crash cooled them in the fridge for 24 hours. Poured off most of the liquid, left just enough to get all the flocculated yeast back into suspension and then poured the contents of both jugs into my 5 gallon batch of beer that was pre-chilled to 44F. I let the beer free rise to 49F in the chest cooler. Fermented for 4 weeks then kegged.

Duxx (or any knowledgable person) - I have a question: did you mean that you pitched both packs into a 2L starter and then decanted and stepped up with another 2L, or did you pitch one pack into a 2L starter, step it up, and then repeat seperately with the other pack? [/quote]

I made a gallon of 1.040 wort. Poured 1/2 gallon into 2 separate gallon jugs and pitched a single smack pack into each of the gallon jugs. I let these 2 jugs ferment at room temperature for 3 days. Crash cooled them in the fridge for 24 hours. Poured off most of the liquid, left just enough to get all the flocculated yeast back into suspension and then poured the contents of both jugs into my 5 gallon batch of beer that was pre-chilled to 44F. I let the beer free rise to 49F in the chest cooler. Fermented for 4 weeks then kegged.[/quote]

The way I calculate these things, according to Mr. Malty’s advise on lager pitch rates, that would get you there with no problem as long as the OG of your 5-gallon batch was 1.060 or lower and your original smackpacks were nice and fresh.

Sound about right?

Thanks, Duxx - I thought that might have been the case.

I’m gearing up to brew a Doppelbock estimated to come in at around 1.090 and was worried that I might not get the cell growth I was looking for by using a 2L starter stepped up with another 2L, due to the ratio of wort to yeast cells. When I plug all of the info into yeastcalc (thanks, mvsawyer!), however, I see that it should be possible to eek out the 642 billion cells necessary if I pitch two smack packs and use a stir plate, provided that the yeast is fairly new. That calculator certainly does make the whole step up process much more understandable.

[Edit: Sorry – I didn’t mean to hijack this thread!]

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