Yeast Pitching Temps

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Samwise Gamgee

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If doing a Lager which is better fermenting at lower temps around 10-13C, do I pitch the yeast at these temps? Or does the initial temp need to be higher to get the yeast working properly?

Or do lager yeast thrive in the lower temp, hence why it should be brewed at low temp?

Well you've answered your own question really. There are two different thoughts on pitching lager yeast. One camp says pitch at around alle temps, let it get fermenting and then cool down. The rationale is that you get a good healthy fermentation going.

The other camp says pitch at lager fermentation temps, as once the yeast gets going you will have difficulty getting the wort down to your desired temperature. It might take 24-48 hours to get the wort down to lager temps, and by this time it might have already fermented out by 50% or maybe more and the beer would lack a clean lager taste. When following this method it pays to pitch a BIG starter and aerate well.

Myself, I pitch at lager temps. I don't brew a lot of lagers, but a few of my first attempts were pitched around 18C-20C, and I wasn't able to get the temps down to 10C before it had virtually finished fermenting.

Oh, then there is some crazy idiot that advocates pitching even warmer than ale temps, but he truly is on his own with that opinion.

My suggestion is try both methods and see what works for you. Or if you want to be cautious, just pitch at lager fermentation temps.

What Mah said...

All I'd add is that after brewing quite a few lagers now I'm firmly in the 'pitch at lager temp' camp. I usually put my fermenter in my fridge overnight after boiling and chilling the wort and pitch at 10-12 degrees the next morning with a 10 degree ferment. This works really well with liquid yeasts and decent starters, and allows you to 'drop' your beer again before pitching to aerate and remove trub. I think the warmer pitching technique works better with dry yeasts though if that is what you are using. I'm not really sure why but when I used to use dry lager yeasts and pitch cold the lag times were excessive. Don't be afraid to pitch more than one packet of dried yeast. Better still, just use the liquid variety. You'll be happier in the long run in my opinion.

Lagers are more stuffing around and take longer to brew, but are well worth the effort to get right IMO. As MAH said though, everyone has a different view on the best technique. Maybe try a dry yeast using the warmer pitching technique first and then try the colder pitch with a liquid yeast later?

Good luck,

I have had issues with the cool start where by the lag was long (i think the temp difference between starter and wort was to great putting the yeast to sleep) this was fixed buy letting the wort warm a few degrees and then once it fired i cooled it again....

however the best pils/lagers come from cool start to finish, longer but cleaner...

The last lager I made, I cooled the wort down to 10C overnight in the fridge. At the same time I took about 1 litre of wort that was about 22C and added this to my yeast (I had drained of the crapy malt extract starter leaving a nice thick layer of freash yeast). The next morning I pitched this new starter, which was very vigorous. The batch size was only 15 litres. This was a split batch and I followed this method for both 15 litre halves of the batch. These beers fermented out nicely, and suffered no ill effects from having no yeast pitched for 8 hours.

I think there are a number of brewers following the same method.

pitching cool is the way to go. you get much better control over ester levels, and also get less diacetyl produced with a cool start. in fact noonan recommends starting it off at 6-7 and letting it naturally rise to 10 but i've tried that and in practice i always find that the yeast wont do anything at all till you get to 9. so i do something between the two camps mah talks about and usually start it at 12-13 or so and then cool it down to 9-10 when i see a head starting to form.

if you're worried about leaving it in the fridge overnight you can always have 4 or 5 litres of frozen pre-boiled water in an icecream tub ready to shove in after your immersion chiller gets it down to 25 or 30, that way you get straight down to 12 or 13 degrees and you can pitch straight away. of course you have to compensate by making a stronger wort so when the ice dilutes it it gets down to the correct OG. eg boil up 15L of 1065 wort and dilute it down with the ice to 20 L of 1048.

i used to do that with the ice, but these days i just leave it overnight. ive never had any infections when an unpitched wort is in the fridge 12 hrs. just make sure you chuck in a big foaming starter and you'll be off and away.
happy lagering
Yep, no infections so far leaving overnight before pitching either. It usually works out about 8 or 9 hours before I pitch using this method and the results have been great. I guess the worst may happn someday, but so far so good. :)

sounds good, so you add some wort to the starter to really fire it up. Does the starter sit in the fridge with the main wort to slowly cool also (so when you pitch its the same temps? or the starter stays warmer and you throw the say 20deg starter into 10deg wort?

I pitch my starter at the same temp as the wort or as close as possible by keeping it in my temp controlled fridge - I haven't added any fresh wort in the past though. Usually just gently drain off the bulk of the starter liquid, swirl and pitch. No dramas to this point with lag times using this technique. Might give the 'wort addition' a try in future though.


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