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Is lagering worth the time and Effort?
Short Answer: Lagers are worth the time and effort!!!
So you finally invested in the refrigerator thermostat control and are ready to try your hand at lagering eh? Perhaps a word on fermentation will help demystify the whole deal and put the "grrr" back in "lager, baby! Yeah!"
Lager yeast differs from ale yeast in that it is a bottom fermenting strain. This simply means that when the yeast is engaged in anaerobic fermentation it tends to congregate closer to the bottom of the vessel. Lager yeast is notorious for producing markedly lower ester and diacetyl levels, resulting in a beer with a very clean finish and subdued fruitiness.
Before the brewing process has begun it is a good idea to prepare your fermentation environment a few days in advance to allow it a chance to stabilize.
The brew-day, you have boiled and chilled the wort and have transferred it to the primary fermentation vessel. If you can, thoroughly aerate the wort before pitching the yeast.
- One, you can pitch the yeast starter into the primary and leave it at room temperature until you see signs of fermentation and then remove it to the controlled environment.
- Two, you can pitch the yeast into the primary and then immediately remove it to the controlled environment.
- Three, you can remove the primary to the controlled environment and let it stabilize for 24 hours before pitching the yeast.
At home I go with option three and here’s why.
With option one you are pitching a temperature stabilized, actively fermenting yeast culture into a considerably warmer environment. This can have the adverse effect of shocking the yeast, which results in an extended lag time. By time the yeast recovers from this and begins fermenting at the warmer temperature it is slung back into the cooler, correct temperature and again it is shocked. This can result in more lag time and worse, peculiar and unintended flavors turning up in the finished product.
With option two a similar adverse effect can happen. The wort is chilled, at least with most tap water driven chillers, to roughly between 65-75 F depending on the season and the current groundwater temperature. This is quite a bit higher than the temperature the yeast starter had been stabilized at and shock, again, can come into play and along with off and unintended flavors.
With option three the yeast is pitched into the environment it has already been fermenting in. Shock is eliminated and if properly executed very little to no lag time can be experienced. The only thing is that it tends to make people nervous to leave their unfermented wort chilling overnight without yeast in it. If your sanitation technique is up-to-par and you are normally not plagued with infected batches of beer this method should prove quite effective when an adequate quantity of actively fermenting yeast is added. You should observe decreased lag time and decreased production of undesirable flavors.
Pitching sufficient quantities of yeast under the correct conditions should allow you to wrap up the primary fermentation in 7-10 days.