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When fermenting a lager, what temperature should it be held at for best results?

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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

This is what I am doing...

  • Ferment at 50F.
  • When the beer is 60% attenuated allow the temperature to rise to 59F.
  • Leave at this temp for 48 hours for a diacetyl rest.
  • Rack to a secondary
  • Slowly bring the temperature of the beer down. 4F per day
  • Once at lagering temperature (mine is 35F), leave it alone for 20 days.
  • After 20 days, taste it, if it doesn't taste right I'll give it another week. When it tastes clean, I keg it.

There are many different ideas on which temperatures to use. You could ferement even lower, it will just take longer, warmer and it will be quicker but could produce esters. The diacetyl should be no more than 9 degrees above fermentaion temperature.

Ester production and the need for a diacetyl rest are based on yeast strain. You may not need either.

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How often do you check the gravity during fermentation? Including fermenter, what equipment do you use? –  Dean Brundage Mar 5 '10 at 14:01
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I wait a couple of days then start checking the gravity everyday until it reaches 60%. (takes between 4-7 days) I use a refractometer, I take about a 2oz sample or so,that way I can taste the sample as well. I have a smalled fridge with a temperature controller on it, I use this for primary fermention and bringing the beer to lager temp. Once it't at 35F I move it down to my lagering chamber. After the diacetyl rest I'll check the gravity too. –  Tim Weber Mar 8 '10 at 19:14
    
I'm no lager expert, but I believe the slow drop to lagering temps was done to keep the yeast healthy enough to clean up diacetyl when you aren't raising temps to achieve the same thing. So if you are sure you have no diacetyl at the end of the d-rest at elevated temps, then you can cold crash straight to lager temps without the slow drop. The slow drop HURTS NOTHING of course, but it add a few extra days and some unnecessary fiddling with the temp controller. However, my massive bank of evidence for this is the whopping 2 LAGERS I've done, so feel free to debunk me if you've got better info! –  Graham Apr 7 '11 at 14:09
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"Best results" really depend on your taste (or the judge's if you plan on entering competition).

Check with the supplier. WYeast and White Labs list preferred temperature ranges for all their strains. Most lager strains like 50° to 60° F. Many lagers also benefit from a diacetyl rest - raising the temperature to the high 60's F near the end of fermentation.

Like ales, there is much subtlety surrounding lager fermentation. Higher temperatures produce more esters, usually inappropriate in lagers. On the low end of the range the resulting beer is "cleaner".

The January 19, 2006 episode of Basic Brewing radio is all about lagering. Brew Strong did one too. Listen to those podcasts.

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I've never tried a lager myself, but most of the people I know that brew lager usually put it in even lower temperature than the one supllier suggest, about 40-45 degrees F. They say that in that way you can achieve better lagering.

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