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Kolsch & Common - Need experienced advice asap

Multiple questions here guys so please bare with me. I am preparing to brew a Kolsch & Cali Common (Both 5 Gal. extract batches). I have never brewed either before and am not experienced with lager style ale yeast strains. Thought these would be good to do together because according to the information at Wyeast, they ferment at very comparable temperatures. What is important for me to note is that I will not be able to brew these on the same day due to lack of equipment, but will brew them back to back after the first one goes to the secondary. So my questions are as follows:

  1. I know I need a starter for the Kolsch. Is it safe to assume one is needed for the common?
  2. I’m new to starters. How much of a starter would you recommend for each? I watched this on NBTV and am confused. Is Wyeast recommending a two liter starter?
  3. What temp range do you propagate the starter with this type of yeast strains?
  4. When fermenting these styles, do you maintain the same temp during primary and secondary? I’ve read that some people are cold crashing immediately after primary. My plan was to keep them at 59-60 degrees during both and then cold crash just a few days before kegging.
  5. Finally, which one do you recommend brewing first as I want them to be ready about the same time? My thoughts were to go with the Kolsch first.

Any feedback or experiences that you have had with these styles will be helpful.

I know this is ALOT of questions but I also know there are some great home brewers in this forum who can put me on the right track. Thanks in advance for your advice and help!

  1. Wouldn’t hurt to have a starter for both. Check out to see what size, it depends on how fresh your yeast is.
  2. See answer #1.
  3. Room temp is fine for starters, yeast like it warm. YOu aren’t making beer you’re making yeast.
  4. You can warm up for secondary since the ester profile is set at that point, warming helps the yeast finish up. I definitely wouldn’t crash before secondary, maybe after.
  5. I’d say the kolsch would benefit more form an extended lagering time so I agree with your notion to brew it first.

I brewed the steam kit last year, and did the Kolsch kit earlier this year. I don’t think the gravities are that high that you really need a starter.

For the Kolsch kit I fermented at about 61 degrees and it tastes like a great beer. I did not use a starter, and it kicked off with a really short lag. I let it ferment for about 3 weeks or so, there are others here who have also noted that the Kolsch yeast takes a long secondary phase. At the month mark in the bottles they are fantastic, the NB kit seems to be on the bitter side, but still great.

The Cali Common fermented at a higher temp, probably at the higher end of the range, and it turned out fantastic. My logic at the time was that “steam” beers were fermented at higher temps, so that would bring out more of the characteristic flavor. The yeast definitely had the lager characteristics. In fact a lot of my friends preferred it to Sam Adams (sure, different style, but still preferred.)

Thanks twdjr1. Very good point made on the Common. According to Wyeast, the temp range on the Kolsch is 56 to 70 degrees and the Cali Common is 58 to 68 degrees. I’m thinking I’ll ferment around 63 which would put me in the middle for both. Hopefully, at this temp, I won’t develop any off flavors in either.

As far as the starter, I’ve read in several posts and forums that the Kolsch yeast needs a starter. Thats interesting that you didn’t need one and it came out tasting great. Hmmm, I’ll have to wait for more input on this.

Thanks again for sharing your experience and info!

Thank you Tom Sawyer! I’m leaning toward using a starter and I will definitely be using the pitching calculator at Mr. Malty. I’ve read too many recommendations that state this yeast style really need the starter due to the cooler ferm temps.

All great info and advice. Thanks again!

I just brewed the kolsch a month ago. I didn’t use a starter and I had a very vigorous fermentation. Had to change out the airlock a couple of times.

This is my advice, given with the caveat that I’m still a brewing newlywed. The kolsch relies on the yeast for its unique flavor. If you use a starter, you’ll over pitch and the yeast will ferment the beer too fast to impart its flavor. Pitch one packet and let them take their time. Again, though, yeast are still pretty much mysterious to me. And I haven’t tasted my kolsch yet…

johngreg2, what was your ferm temp?

using my very sophisticated set up, I can tell you with confidence that it fermented exactly at “smelly basement” degrees. The ambient temp was 58 so the yeast was probably near the high end of their range. That was back when the temperatures were all crazy everywhere. waaaaaay warmer than I had expected for early March.

I’m pretty curious about how this is going to turn out. This is my first attempt at a beer that needs a bit of TLC. We’ll see…

I will defer to the others’ answers on this post, but wanted to mention that if you are using true Kolsch yeast, be ready for that one to blow! I usually use 2565 and it’s messy every time. If you use carboys, use a blowoff tube. If you have buckets, a 3-piece airlock is probably best. The last two times i brewed with it, it popped the lid off my bucket!

starters are way too easy to do and thus why not. doing a 1L starter is not going to result in an overpitch, hell based on malty and other calculators, you probably have to do even more than a 1L starter. I have found that blow offs occur less when you ferment at the lower end of the temp range as it slows the process. I have found from reading many sources that the kolsch should be lagered as well. This is what i did with my kolsch and it was the best beer that i have ever made.

One last thing, i feel that many home brewers hang their hat on the fact that they are a homebrewer and thus don’t need to try to brew a beer consistent with its style. For me this is very unappealing and i want to try to brew the best possible example of a beer that I can. Research the style and brew it that way.

The colder the fermentation, the more yeast you need. Both of these are usually fermented (wort temperature, not room temperature) at 60F.

For the best beers, I would review’s info on starters and go with his recommendations. And you won’t be overpitching.

IAHysell - I’ve never brewed anything with an ultra vigorous fermentation so I’ll plan to watch this one close. Thanks for the heads up.

mppatriots - I plan to follow Maltys recommendation and am going to keep it on the cooler side. I also agree and think you bring up a good point. There is a lot to be said for beers brewed to style.

TG - Thanks. Hopefully, Malty won’t lead me wrong.

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