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Getting a lager to ferment


My last lager did not want to start to ferment, I had it in the fridge at 50F. Nothing happend so I turned off the fridge, some 1,5 day later it started to ferment, at this time the temp was 65F. As soon as I noticed the activity I turned on the fridge again, but it took like 8 hours before the temp where bellow 57F (which i think is the upper limit for lagers).

Do I have a problem? I used two smackpacks Bavarian Lager #2206, OG 1.052. I guess that making a big started can be the solution to avoid this problem. Maybe i just should have waited and not turned the fridge off. Any suggestions?


Let me start out by saying, I have brewed only one lager. Due to the colder temps, It will take awhile for a lager to take off. Seemed like it took awhile for mine to take off. Yes making a starter with those two packs would have helped, and you did not say but, did you aeriate with O2 or just slosh around, I hear that makes a huge differance with a lager. Not sure what that yeast is like but I would check it every once in a while for off flavors and pull it just before it’s done to clean up any of those off flavors. Good luck and I"m sure if my advice is off someone else will chime in.

I made my my first lager back in August (an Octoberfest) and made a pretty big starter and it was a little slow to take off.

My last 4 batches have been lagers, so I have 5 total now. The last two, currently fermenting were made using half of the yeast cake of one of the previous batches that I had just racked. Even with that (which you would expect to take off fast) it took 3-4 days before I was airlock activity in one of them. At 48 hours, it was just starting to get a bit of foam at the top.

In reality, you probably should not have let it warm up. That is a lot of mass to cool back down and it will take time. I guess you just have to be real patient with Lagers

Make sure your wort pH is in the right range. I shoot for 5.4 - 5.3
Lots of healthy yeast. Minimum 4-5 liter starter. 4-5 billion cells.
The starter temperature should be within 5 degrees of the wort when you pitch it. I usually let the wort and starter sit in the frig overnight so the temps are the same prior to pitching.
If you can, use oxygen. 1 to 1.5 minutes with a .5 micron stone for an average gravity wort.
Accurate temperature control. Use a temp controller and a thermowell for the probe if possible.
You should get activity within 24 hours and fermentation will typically be complete in about 7 days.

How long did you wait? Due to the lower temperatures, lagers can take 24-48 hours to get started anyway, on top of which you under-pitched. Standard lager pitching rate for 5 gal would be four packs - so you can see why most people would make a starter. The nice thing about the smack packs is that if they swelled, you know you have viable yeast. At that point you can be almost certain that fermentation will start and finish given enough time at the proper temperature.

Other than the increased yeast quantity, pitching a lager is pretty much like an ale. You want to pitch at or slightly below fermentation temperature, and let the heat generated by fermentation warm the beer to the desired temperature. If time is a concern, you can increase the temperature into the high 50s or low 60s once fermentation is at least 2/3 complete.

Ok, there is a bunch of things I could do different.

First 48 hours is in some cases not enough time for the yeast to get activated. And that was how long I waited for before turning off the fridge.

Making a starter is better or as I’m so god damn rich, use more smack packs. :slight_smile:

I also think then I could have given the smack packs more time. I smacked them about 8 hours before pitching and they where not round like footballs.

I’m just so used the the ales that I make so I get a bit impatient with the lager. Patience and a healthy yeast seem to be very important and I keep that in mind for my next lager.

Next time I think I try to copy Don O’s smoked helles…

Thanks for all suggestions.

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