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Slow fermentation 5 days

I have a question about extreme slow fermentation. I brewed a Heineken clone all grain beer. The grain was 18 lbs of German Pilsner and .5lb German Carafoam. The 18 lbs of grain was the last of a 55lb sack that I bought 13 months ago uncrushed. I crushed the grain on brew day.
The brew day went uneventful with a OG of 1.06 yielding about 11 gallons. Cooled the wort to around 70F, aerated with oxygen for two minutes and added Wyeast #2007 Pilsen Lager yeast. One 5 gallon fermentor starter to ferment about 24 hours later. This fermentor had the bottom wort from brew pot and had lots of hops and garbage in it. The second 5 gallon fermentor did nothing for 3 days. I didn’t do anything and was planning to dump it this weekend. Then 5 days after adding yeast it started to ferment. Today on day 6 the fermentation process is going strong, pushing wort through my airlocks.
So my question is, do you think the beer is ok? I have never had fermentation take 5 days to start. I thought the grain may be old but that doesn’t explain the first fermentation taking off and the second dormant for days. Off flavors? Should I dump it?

How did you pitch your yeast? Did you make a single starter and split it between the two fermenters, did you pitch separate packs of yeast into each fermenter, make two separate starters, etc.

I made two separate yeast starters about 24 hours before pitching. I made it with 600ml of water and 1/2 cup of DME. The yeast was purchased one week before starter was made and kept refrigerated.

If you made the starters from two separate smack packs, I would be suspicious that the second pack was possibly old and didn’t get going properly. In addition, a 1 liter starter isn’t really adequate for a lager. You need an absolute minimum of a 2 liter starter assuming you have fresh yeast, and a 2 stage 2 liter starter would be even better, with a 3 liter or 1 gallon being best. Nevertheless, you will still make beer, though you might wind up with some off flavors due to the underpitching. I think your second fermenter will be ok as long as it’s fermenting. It’ll be interesting to see if it turns out different than the first.

Yes the yeast starters were made from two separate yeast packs. I also thought 24 hours was a short amount of time for the starter to get going. I wanted to do it about 48 hours before brew day but couldn’t.

Next batch I will double up the yeast and make a 2 liter starter. I have a question about the 2 liter 2 stage starter you mentioned. Do you mean a total of 2 liters? By making the first pack of yeast starter (With water and DME), waiting about a day, decanting and adding the second yeast pack to build up to the 2 liter mark.

Looking back at the starter I made, it didn’t look as alive and vigorous compared to previous starters.
Thanks for the help Marty!

A 2-stage starter is one where you make a starter, let it run through, cold crash, decant the liquid, then add more fresh wort and let it ferment a 2nd time.
The ‘Yeast’ book has a good section (and a handy table) on stepping up starters. I don’t have the book on hand, but as an example, let’s say that your 1st starter will get you from 100M to 150M. Stepping it up will get you up to 225M. So it’s a way of increasing your starter #s without having to have a huge container.
I have 2 1l erlenmeyer flasks, so for this year’s lagers I did a standard 1 l starter, then split the starter to each flask and added new wort. Let that go, then decanted and added new wort. So I guess it was a 3-step starter. Calculations say it should have gotten me somewhere around 300M, which was what I was shooting for my 1.052 Vienna lager. Used the yeast slurry for the next two batches- that part was easy.
By the way, if you aren’t using a pitch calculator like ‘Mr. Malty’, I would suggest it as a good idea.

Recently I’ve been using Brewersfriend to calculate my starters because i like it a little better than mrmalty for using saved slurry. Plug in the amount and date to the liquid yeast tab to get viability percent then apply that to the amount and drop it down to the slurry tab to see how big your starter needs to be or how many steps you need. I use a 1 gallon glass jug for my starter so generally don’t go bigger than 2L.

For 6 gallon lager batch I use 2 smack packs or appropriate amount of saved slurry, and do a two stage 2L starter.

Make a 2L batch of 1.036ish wort with DME, pitch and swirl as often as possible for 48 hours or until the yeast appears to be settling out, chill overnight, decant and top with 2L of fresh brewed/cooled starter wort, repeat swirl and ferment process as above, chill decant and pitch into fresh cooled 48-50 degree lager wort.

Report back on how these beers turn out. They were severely under pitched so the fast starting one was really an overachiever. ... alculator/

Here you go. Eliminates some of the guessing involved. Probably won’t be 100% perfect but it should be close enough!

One thing I have always thought to be interesting, is that by calculations, you do not double your end yeast cell-count by doubling the number of smack packs or vials. You only increase the ending cell-count by the raw number of cells in that 2nd vial (smack pack). i.e a 2 L starter with 100B cells ends up with 388B, where as a 200B cells in 2 L yields 488B (not 2 x 388 = 776B).

So, I really do not see the need to spend the money on 2 smack packs. Just make up the diff with a slightly larger starter.

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