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04/07/11 09:24 AM  
Lacto starter
I'm planning on brewing a Berliner this Sunday. I have a nicely sour, 1 liter lacto starter that has been sitting still and clear on top of my fridge for a couple of weeks. My plan is to give the lacto a 1-2 day head start on the yeast. Any thoughts on whether the lacto starter is good to go (decant and pitch on brew day) or should be "woken up" first (decant a couple days ahead and top with new starter wort)? Thanks!
04/07/11 09:46 AM  
Re: Lacto starter
If you really want to nail this Berliner, I highly recommend decanting the best you can without disturbing the lacto sediment (which is very powdery). Then add 2 more liters of low gravity wort (1.025) to the lacto (try NOT to aerate). Put a stopper and airlock in and let it ferment out again as warm as possible (95 deg if you can).

Cold crash it for 48 hrs, then decant and pitch the sediment into your cooled wort (no oxygen) at about 100 deg. Let that rip (and it will!!) for about 48-60 hrs at 90+ deg then slowly cool the fermenter below 80 deg and pitch your neutral ale yeast to clean things up.

Don't rush this process and let the beer age for at least 4-6 mos to end up with a nicely, sour and tart Berliner.

I am currently drinking mine at 9 mos and it is placing well in comps around the state (1st in category). Sent it in to NHC so looking forward to the feedback there too!

04/07/11 12:09 PM  
Re: Lacto starter
In my experience with BWs (6 batches or so), I've concluded that a fresh, active lacto starter is essential. So I would do as brewinhard suggests and feed the starter one more time before pitching into your batch.

But I wonder whether you need to decant your lacto starter before pitching. I've done it both ways, and think the non-decanted batches came out better (although admittedly there were several other factors, which may have made a difference in those batches). While it's customary to decant yeast starters in order to remove oxygenated wort, fermentation byproduct off-flavors, etc., it seems that those same factors wouldn't apply to lacto starters. I mean, we're not relying on the lacto for alcohol production, but instead for lactic acid creation and pH adjustment. It seems to me that those things are present in the starter wort, so it doesn't make sense to pour that stuff out. When I've sampled my lacto starter, they taste pretty good, so why not add it?

Brewinhard, why do you decant your lacto starter? Do you think that decanting made a difference in your beer? Or stated another way, does anyone know of a reason that lacto starters should be decanted?

04/07/11 10:18 PM  
Re: Lacto starter
Thanks for the great feedback! I'll be doing a modified version of a combination of your suggestions. The bugs are now in 1 liter of fresh low OG wort, sitting in their warm happy place. The decanted liquid was nice and tart, with quite a bit of fruit character. I'll pitch the entire starter into warm wort on Sunday and "let 'er rip"! Neutral ale starter will be added 2-3 days later.

On another note, I'll be splitting the batch later and aging half on Brett. Any thoughts on when the Brett should come into play?

04/08/11 11:20 AM  
Re: Lacto starter
sl8w -

I decanted the spent wort so as not to add any possibly oxidized wort, but I guess (as you stated) that it probably would not make much of a difference. I just figured I would let the lacto work on the grain runoff instead of combining extract that has already completed fermentation. Many ways to skin a cat (and brew a good Berliner...)!!


I added the dregs of a fantome saison to mine when I added the ale yeast. It seemed to work quite well, but some judges have found the brett to be a bit too overpowering in flavor/aroma dept. Really depends what you are looking for in the finished product. I do like the addition of brett as it added a floral, hay like quality with some minimal funk.

What do you plan on aging in? Keg, carboy? You could always add your brett to the secondary upon transfering.

04/10/11 08:30 PM  
Re: Lacto starter
Brewed the Berliner today! Nailed my target OG at 1.030. I pitched the "refreshed" lacto starter and the carboy is sitting in my garage. Here in JAX, FL it's been in the upper 80s to low 90s so the garage should keep the bugs happy for a few days. I'm currently cold-crashing a WLP029 starter that I'll pitch after cooling the beer in a couple of days. My plan is to let the full batch sit in the primary for some yet-to-be-determined time (3 months? - comments?), then split into two 5 gallon glass carboys and add Brett to one.

Again, thanks for the suggestions - I'll keep you posted on progress!

04/13/11 02:49 PM  
Re: Lacto starter
I would personally not use the 029 in a berliner weisse. I would just use US05 dry yeast. You want a hardy strain (to hold up to the low pH) that won't throw off a bunch of off flavors when stressed.

The WLP029 could definitely make a nice berliner, but I think it is a little safer to go with something cleaner/hardier.

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