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Homebrewing Lagers: Chilling Out

Learn how to get your wort chilled and maintain the ideal fermentation temperature to turn out excellent lagers.

Taylor Caron Apr 26, 2017 - 12 min read

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Homebrewers learn early on the importance of chilling their wort to the proper temperature and holding it there for a full, clean fermentation. Even for many ales, getting the wort chilled down and maintaining the ideal temperature can be a challenge without the proper equipment, but once you decide to tackle a lager, it becomes even more difficult. But with a bit of know-how and readily available equipment, the intrepid homebrewer can make lagers as good as any that are commercially available.

The first concern is getting the boiled wort chilled to the proper temperature for pitching the yeast. Most lager strains do great work in the 48–55°F (9–13°C) range, although there are some that give lager characteristics even a bit warmer. Here are some examples:

  • Wyeast 2035 American Lager: 58°F (14°C)
  • Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager: 68°F (20°C)
  • White Labs WLP810 San Francisco Lager: 65°F (18°C)
  • White Labs WLP862 Cry Havoc: 58°F (14°C)

But even when you’re aiming for the high-50s, the ice bath in the sink just doesn’t cut it. With an immersion chiller, you’ll still have a difficult time getting the temperature down to 50°F (10°C) except in the coldest months. Plate chillers truly shine in such instances. They are even more effective when you use one with an immersion chiller in a bucket of ice water to pre-chill the cooling water on the way to the plate chiller. Even in the heat of summer, this setup will quickly bring your wort’s temperature down to pitching range.

The Wort’s Chilled, Now What?

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