Crisp, clean, refined. The perfect balance of malt and hops. By definition, a lager is a beer made with bottom-fermenting yeast that prefers to work at a cooler, slower pace. Think: Pilsner, Oktoberfest, the coveted Bocks brewed by German monks for centuries.
Of course, most homebrewers begin with ales. Ales are safety nets for the new brewer: they mask off-flavors better than lagers and don’t require lagering’s scrupulous temperature control.
Unfortunately, this norm creates the myth that only expert brewers can lager. Nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone can lager. As long as you follow a few basic principles, you’ll be good to go.
Pick out your yeast and get ready to lager.
If your packaged yeast doesn’t have a sufficient cell count for lagering, you’ll need a starter. Think of a starter as protein powder for your yeast; it feeds the cells, letting them multiply and bulk up until they can better handle the sugar in your wort. The more cells at work, the healthier the fermentation.
In terms of quantities, follow this general rule: take the amount you use for an ale and double it.
Making a yeast starter is now easier than ever. As easy as popping a tab and pouring, in fact.
Get your wort temperature down. Chilling wort is always important. But, because lager yeast is so temperature-sensitive, it’s absolutely imperative here. Your brew must be at or below 60°F (15°C) before you pitch your yeast starter. No fudging.
Then, locate your temperature-stable chamber and start the 3 stages of fermentation.
Stages Of Lagering
Unlike ales, lagers ferment in 3 steps: Primary Fermentation, Diacetyl Rest, and Lagering (cold storage). Let’s walk through them one at a time.
1. Primary Fermentation
This is where sugar becomes CO2 and alcohol. We recommend pitching your yeast at a low temperature, which slows down fermentation and lengthens the time it takes for your yeast to metabolize the diacetyl. Your final brew is sure to be clean and clear.
2. Diacetyl Rest
For this stage, let your beer rise to room temperature and idle for three days. Diacetyl rest is where your yeast cleans up after itself. During Primary Fermentation, the yeast works hard, and as it does, it produces some off-flavors, including diacetyl, which gives a buttery/butterscotch flavor. Sounds yummy in theory, but it detracts from the crisp, clean profile of a lager.
During Diacetyl Rest (also known as maturation), the yeast breaks down these off-flavors, ensuring a purer flavor. Think of it as spring cleaning for your beer.
During this stage, the proteins, yeast, and other particles in your brew collect at the bottom of the fermentor. In terms of temperature, this is the most important step. To quickly and efficiently clarify your beer, try to keep it under 40°F. Commercial breweries tend to lager at just above freezing (32°F, 0°C). Now you have to wait. Lager fermentation has more stages than ale fermentation, so it takes longer. There’s nothing you can do about it. The good news?
It’s worth it.
Ready to lager?
Check out our Lager beer brewing equipment. It’s a complete lager brewing set that includes all the ingredients you need for your first beer brew.