Monday, June 25, 2012

100% Lactobacillus Berliner Weisse

Making a large Lactobacillus starter is one of the keys to making a good Berliner weisse.About a 125 years ago when pure culturing techniques were developed it was originally intended to isolate and propagate pure ale and lager yeast cultures for breweries. In the last 10 years an increasing number of breweries have used those same techniques to produce 100% Brettanomyces beers. One brewery, Crooked Stave, is even basing their lineup nearly completely on Brett as a primary fermenter. While Brett is a different genus than brewer’s yeast, it is still yeast. For my most recent batch of Berliner weisse I decided to brew my first yeast-free beer, relying on only bacteria (Lactobacillus).

Lactobacillus is an interesting organism. It is known for its rapid fermentation in dairy products, producing all the required acidity for yogurt in just a few hours at high temperature (115-120 F). The problem with using Lacto is the huge range the genus comprises. For example, the strain sold by Wyeast (5335) is only capable of fermenting about 10-12% of the carbohydrates in a standard wort, not nearly enough attenuation for something resembling beer. Luckily White Labs’ 677 strain is capable of producing an enzyme which allows it to ferment maltose, maltotriose, and raffinose, ensuring a dry finished beer without aid. In addition to lactic acid, WLP677 also produces both alcohol and carbon-dioxide, so the result should be similar to a beer fermented with yeast. Even if my attempt to use this particular strain doesn’t work, it may just mean that I have to find a strain that is better suited for the task.

The confidence to try this technique was inspired by a conversation I had with Tyler King, of The Bruery, while researching my book about American sour beers. He told me that Hottenroth (their Berliner weisse) is fermented almost exclusively by Lacto. There is also a small amount of Brett in their house culture as well, but every time it is plated out the yeast represents a smaller and smaller share of the cells. For early batches it took about two months for reduction of the sulfur compounds to palatable levels, but the culture has adapted and now the beer only takes a month before it is ready for packaging.

That is what a 100% Lacto fermentation looks like 24 hours in.When I mentioned the idea to Chad Yakobson of Crooked Stave, he mentioned an interesting conversation he had with Burghard Meyer. Luckily for me, when I did a search for this respected VLB professor, I found a presentation he gave at CBC this year about Berliner weisse. The relevant point was that Lacto produces a protein degrading enzyme which is active at higher pH values. By lowering the pH (e.g., acid malt, or food grade acid) to 4.5-4.8 pre-pitching you can yield better foam stability. I decided to skip this technique on my first attempt however to see if it is a necessary step.

The large active starter I pitched produced rapid and energetic fermentation at a warm temperature (pitching close to 100 F). After the start of fermentation I left the fermentor in my basement where the ambient temperature this time of year is around 75 F. I did not apply any additional heat (as I did for the starter). Surprisingly though, after a couple weeks the beer has only minimal tartness. I was hoping to find a way to produce a brightly acidic beer relatively quickly, but the results so far are a bit puzzling. My initial plan was to add a large dose of citrus zest (orange and grapefruit) to the beer as it carbonated (and maybe a touch of citrusy hops) to create a craft shandy. Depending on how the flavor progresses I’ll make a determination on how to proceed.

This batch is yet another test batch for Modern Times Beer. As a result I did away with my usual decoction mash schedule because the necessary equipment isn’t part of the brewery plan. I made a 10 gallon batch, fermenting the other half with my usual combination of US-05, Lacto, and Brett. This will determine if skipping the decoction has a negative affect the final result. If it does, I may need to change from my standard no-boil to a short one as recommended by a number of brewers.

Berliner Four

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 11.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 12.75
Anticipated OG: 1.032
Anticipated SRM: 2.4
Anticipated IBU: 1.4
Brewhouse Efficiency: 71 %
Wort Boil Time: 0 Minutes

62.7% - 8.00 lbs. German Wheat Malt
37.3% -  4.75 lbs. German Pilsener

1.50 oz. Czech Saaz (Pellet, 3.00% AA) @ Mash Hop

Safale US-05 Chico
White Labs 677 Lactobacillus Bacteria

Water Profile
Profile: Washington DC

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest - 30 min @ 147 F

5/14/12 Made a 2 L starter with 4 oz of light DME and 1/2 tsp of yeast nutrient. Cooled to 115 and pitched a tube of Lacto. Applied a heating pad to keep the temperature warm. First visible signs of fermentation took 24 hours, not bad considering the amount of growth required.

Brewed 5/17/12 By myself

Switched from my usual single decoction to a single infusion to see if the same method would work on the commercial scale. Added pellet hops after doughing in.

Double batch sparged, collected 9 gallons of 1.040 wort. Enough for 11 gallons.

Heated wort to 210 F, then chilled.

5 gallons (including 1 gallon of spring water top-off), 100% Lacto (1 L of starter), pitch at 100 F. Left at ~75 F to ferment. Dry hop with Citra and orange and grapefruit zest? Serve on tap. Mimosa per Shaun Hill ~.5 g/L of zest, which is about 10 g in 5 gallons.

5 gallons standard, chilled to 72 F, topped off with 1 gallon cool spring water to chill it into the high 60s. Pitched 7 g of US-05 and .75 L of Lacto starter. Left at 70 F to ferment.

Good fermentation on both by 24 hours.

Lacto only version blew-off hard at 75 F ambient, clean version waited until after I left and as a result sat open to the air through most of primary.  At 65 F ambient.

7/1/12 Pitched about .1 L of Brett Trois starter into normal Berliner weisse and racked to secondary.

7/21/12 Racked the Lacto "only" version to a five gallon secondary.

11/10/12 Bottled 2 gallons of the Lacto-only portion with 2.5 oz of table sugar. Aiming for 3.4 volume of CO2. Racked the rest into keg with the remaining two gallons of the dry hopped wine barrel solera, and .5 oz of whole Comet hops.

12/10/12 Tasting of the blended and dry hopped version.

5/27/13 Tasting of the 100% Lacto version. Solid, but not too exciting. Sourness is lackluster, but otherwise the character of the fermentation is pleasant.

9/22/13 Bottled 2.6 gallons of the "normal" portion with 3.25 oz of table sugar. Aiming for 3.5 volumes of CO2. Racked the rest onto 3.25 lbs of defrosted rhubarb I'd cleaned/chopped/frozen a few months earlier. Originally planned to use it in Dark Saison V, but it was already tart enough.

12/7/13 Bottled the Rhubarb portion, 2.5 gallons, with 3 oz of table sugar and a gram of un-rehydrated Pasteur Champagne yeast. Aiming for 3.4 volumes of CO2.

1/14/14 Tasting of the rhubarb portion. Sensational! Great "fruit" flavor, beautiful color, quenching, interesting etc.

12/2/14 Tasting of the base beer, after so many variations. It really didn't hold up especially well.


sixbillionethans said...

Another great writeup. FYI - The Berliner Weisse I did last year (next in line for kegging) was fermented with lacto that I cultured from crushed grain. I was surprised that significant CO2 was produced and the gravity dropped to 1.010. The final starter pH was 3.6, taste was lemony and obvious alcohol was produced. Not sure if it was alcohol-producing lactobacillus or some wild yeast. I used that, along with some ale yeast, to ferment a barely boiled Berliner Weisse and was bummed by the relative lack of sourness in the finished product. When I checked it in March it had big lacto bubbles on the surface but was only slightly tart. So I guess that's a long winded way of saying that I've had similar results!

Anonymous said...

i'm not sure, but I thought big bubble pellicles = brett. I only have a limited use of a couple batches with lacto, but it generally left like a broken white proteiny looking layer on the surface.


TheHopyard said...

Great Write-up! thanks for all of the information, especially about sour and funky brews!

I recently came across a beer by Cisco brewers from Massachusetts, which is part of their "island reserve" line, made from all ingredients they could gather from the area, including yeast. Its VERY funky and awesome, and If you can find it in the area, would love to know what you think. here is the beeradvocate link:

anyways, thanks again for the great information!

Anonymous said...

Earlier this year I brewed a Berliner Weisse with great results. I grew a very large starter (around 2 liters) using apple juice. I pitched both lacto's from Wyeast and White Labs. I grew the bacteria for over a month, then put it in the fridge to let the bacteria settle out, then gently decanted the fine sediment at the bottom. I collected a few hundred ML of slurry, then pitched it first. Put a heat belt on, and set it to 100˚F for three days, then pitched US05 and let it finish. I did a no boil, and after a week it was done and WAY TOO SOUR and harsh! I pitched brett and let it sit for two months then bottled. Today it is much better, as the flavor is not harsh anymore, and the brett is developing some fruity esters off the lacto.

Aaron said...

I brewed a quick Berliner a month ago or so and it turned out very well. I went with a decoction mash, no-boil with a big lacto starter along with some S-05. I fermented it out in a week and added more lacto and yeast at bottling. Opened up the 1st bottle 2 weeks after "brew day" and it tastes great. A really nice sourness, extremely refreshing.

toddq said...

When the AHA posts the recordings from this years NHC, make sure to watch this one on Berliner Weisse. Jess is a great resource on this. Short story is he recommends pitching just lacto first at warm temps to ferment half the sugar, then pitching Wyeast 1007 on day 7 to finish it out. A little Bret at packaging time can be a nice touch.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

In my experience Brett on its own produces a powdery coating that looks a bit wrinkled. There are so many strains and conditional factors thought that it is hard to guess from the appearance of a pellicle what created it. Same thing with Lacto, some strains make pretty gnarly pellicles (like the one I harvested from grain) and some do not.

I'll be on the lookout for the Cisco, I've been hit or miss on their Woods series (and the prices are pretty steep for mediocre sour beer). Sounds like they are really growing their program, interested to see what comes out of it.

I know some people have fine results pre-pitching Lacto, but it is a bit of a risk. If your pH drops too far before pitching yeast you can run into severe fermentation issues. I’ve never had an issue with a simultaneous pitch, as long as the Lacto is active at pitching.

Jeffrey Crane said...

I'm looking into making an acid beer for blending purposes. What method would you recommend for producing the most lactic sour beer possible?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I haven't tried it, but how about 100% Pedio, and then pitch some Brett. Russian River just pitches their souring blend without any primary yeast into wort to make their acid beer.

mc said...

@Mike: I know Jess from Wyeast says in this video that he uses Wyeast 1007 + 2124 in his berliner weisses as they handled the lower pH produced by the lacto best.

The bigger issue with pitching lacto first is making sure that sanitation is super clean—at least with using Wyeast's strain. I experienced an infection (mostly due to having a low pH and lots of unfermented sugar) that turned my berliner weisse into a (bad) funky beer. I may want to try it again with White Labs's strain after reading that it ferments more than the 10-20% that Wyeast's strain does...

By the way, did you think of propagating any Hottenroth lacto (if you could find a bottle) to ferment this beer with? Sounds like that's the surest bet getting a good all lacto berliner weisse...

Matt said...


Did you get any indication as to whether or not Hottenroth is boiled? Thanks.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Yep. About 20 minutes, shortest of all their beers.

mad matt said...

I recently found a really quick way to brew Berliner using a modified sour mash. You can read about it here: This method works great for really quick Berliner that is very sour and very predictable. I've tried the lacto fermentation method but find it very unpredictable and never quite tart enough.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I like the concept. There are a number of breweries doing spontaneous fermentations that adjust the pH of their wort down to limit the activity of unwanted wild microbes. However, I have yet to have good luck with a "quick" souring method (sour worting, acid malt etc.). From my point of view there are two major issues with all of those techniques. First, if you get the beer really sour pre-fermentation, you can cause serious fermentation issues for the brewer’s yeast. Beer strains (unlike wine yeast and Brett) are not well adapted for fermenting below a pH of 3.5 or so (my standard Berliner recipe normally ends up in the low 3s). The other issue is the lack of complexity, without the long/slow Brett fermentation I find the beers lacking for my tastes.

[dave] said...

Eh, doesn't 100% lacto beer mean ZER0 alcohol is produced? Last time I checked the only byproduct of lacto was lactic acid and CO2.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

There are strains of Lacto that do produce only lactic acid that are referred to as homofermentative. However, the strain I used is heterofermentative, producing lactic acid as well as carbon dioxide and alcohol.

In addition to that, I recently found out that my beer wasn’t even 100% Lacto, White Labs includes 10% yeast along with WLP677.

Oddly after 6 weeks the beer is down to 1.008, and still doesn’t have much acidity. Very odd.

lylekarsen said...

I get great quick acting acidity from whatever lacto organism ferments my sauerkraut for me. I suually just get a starter going by dropping a few pieces of the cabbage into a very light (1020-ish) wort, but I've never tried a beer fermented with it only. For this kind of beer why not try the Kindl-Schultheiss procedure? It seems to work for me, because like I said if I don't take great pains during the months from April-September my house strain of Brett infects all my beers and it definitely gets a strong foothold in the non-sach half of my Berliner Weiss batches.

Anonymous said...

Any update? I brewed this recipe shortly after you posted it and fermented REALLY warm ~85. Mine too hasn't gotten very sour.

Have you bottled/kegged yours? letting it age in bulk? has it gotten any more sour?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

There was still not much acidity last time I tasted it. I’m letting it age in bulk since the gravity is still slowly dropping. The next time I try this it will have to be with a more aggressive strain of Lacto. Even if it ends up souring, at this point, it won't be any faster than my standard mixed-fermentation.

corey said...

I recently had an email exchange with someone from White Labs about 677. He confirmed it is heterofermentive, but says there is not any yeast in the vial, just lacto. According to him unless their vial says blend it is a 100% pure culture.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Odd. I got my info from the big man himself (Chris White), but I just sent an email to Neva Parker to double check.

Corey said...

Your info is probably more accurate than mine then. I sent an email asking for some clarifications about this strain because I've seen an awful lot of conflicting information online. I found out that it will consume longer chain sugars and should be tolerant up to about 8% ABV. Not to change the subject, but I fermented a no boil berliner weisse for 7 days with this and it had fairly strong banana esters when tasting before pitching yeast. I had not seen mention of hthis anywhere and was curious if you had experienced this.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Just correcting a comment above, WLP677 does NOT in fact contain any yeast. There was a miscommunication, sorry for the confusion.

Anonymous said...

I'm certain 5335 produces Co2. I made a starter using a 1 gallon ghetto wine jug. But I left the lid on too tight. The contents got jostled quite a bit and when I opened the cap, the shit just exploded out like a sour champagne. It was like a big bubble turd oozing out of the jug for at least 30 seconds. So yeah, it produces some gas. This was in a 1.020 gravity wort.

Heraclitus said...

Has anyone tried to make a Berlinner with just Brett L and Lacto? Seems like it might be a fun experiment.

I used Wyeast Lacto in my Berlinner and after a month at room temp it was perfect. Then I pitched yeast and had a fantastic beer in about two months total. That's a pretty fast turn around for a sour beer.

Anonymous said...

I just pitched a 1L starter of Wyeast 5335 into a 1.030 wort. It dropped the gravity to 1.010 in less than 24 hours. Hella furious fermentation. So I am going to disagree on the 10-12% utilization of the 5335 strain. I found some information saying that it's L. Buchneri. I don't know specifically which L Buchneri. It was hard to find out much about this bacteria, but I did find a USDA study where one specific strain of L Buchneri was able to ferment glucose and produce alcohol. Another study found that L Buchneri was able to take acetaldehyde from yeast and convert into ethanol and other products.

I don't know if the wyeast 5335 actually produces alcohol or just co2 and something else. I don't know how it works. But I do know that whatever its doing dropped the gravity 0.020 points with no change in volume so obviously it is taking more dense and making less dense suggesting alcohol production.

Anonymous said...

I just pitched a 1L starter of Wyeast 5335 into a 1.030 wort. It dropped the gravity to 1.010 in less than 24 hours. Hella furious fermentation. So I am going to disagree on the 10-12% utilization of the 5335 strain. I found some information saying that it's L. Buchneri. I don't know specifically which L Buchneri. It was hard to find out much about this bacteria, but I did find a USDA study where one specific strain of L Buchneri was able to ferment glucose and produce alcohol. Another study found that L Buchneri was able to take acetaldehyde from yeast and convert into ethanol and other products.

I don't know if the wyeast 5335 actually produces alcohol or just co2 and something else. I don't know how it works. But I do know that whatever its doing dropped the gravity 0.020 points with no change in volume so obviously it is taking more dense and making less dense suggesting alcohol production.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I've heard similar stories from several people about the Wyeast Lacto. Thanks for adding a data-point. How sour is your beer?

Maybe next time I'll pitch a blend of a couple Lacto strains...

Heraclitus said...

I saw this presentation at NHC. Lots of good info.

Anonymous said...

I have not yet tasted it to see how sour. It's only been a week since I started. I contact Wyeast to ask them about the lacto since my experience was contrary from what their own people said.

I was assured that it is not likely due to the lacto but due to poor sanitation. I'm not entirely sold on this.

Perhaps possible. I'm usually very diligent about cleaning and sanitizing. It is possible that the lacto can't compete with sacchromyces. When I pitch a typical starter of yeast, it could steamroll any other organisms and kill them off. Perhaps the lacto isn't doing that.

I don't know. A lot of people I read on forums had an identical experience. I used a 1.020 DME starter, 1L of it, 4 days prior to pitching into the fermenter.

Nick said...

Has anyone figured out what exactly the deal is with WLP677?

If WL said that they include no yeast, and it is supposed to be a pure culture, then one of those must not be true right?

If I understand correctly, L delbrueckii is homofermentative, so there should be no CO2 released. The vials foamed upon opening so it's not a contamination issue outside WL.

Corey's post said they told him theirs is heterofermentative. I'm not a microbiologist for a living, but this doesn't make sense given what I learned in school.

For now I'm gonna assume its just a mislabeled blend of lacto varieties. They probably cultured it from a berliner weisse somewhere and are assuming its mostly pure delbrueckii.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Why? A 100% Lacto culture would be a pure culture that contains no yeast.

Most, but not all strains of L. delbrueckii are homofermentative, theirs is heterofermentative.

At a certain point it doesn’t really matter to me what the species is, I’m more concerned with how it actually performs in wort/beer.

This one did a fine job fermenting, but didn’t produce enough acid to really be useful with this process. I might give a blend of it and Wyeast’s strain a shot, to get acid and keep it 100% Lacto.

Nick said...

That's interesting, did you hear that from Chris White?

When I emailed white labs they told me that their strain is homofermentative, and that there should be no CO2 released.

I also read what others said that wyeast switched to using L buchneri (so now it's just labeled as Lactobacillus) so who knows how much better that would be.

I'm having fun learning how to use these bugs, and it's great that they're available. I am just curious if anyone reading had any idea what is actually in the tubes I bought.

Shaun said...

My first time posting, but I have used your blog countless times to help improve my homebrew. All the info is greatly appreciated.

A bit off topic, but you mentioned that allowing the wort to sour too much would cause fermentation issues with Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Do you have specifics on how lower PHs of soured wort (say 3.1-3.3) inhibit a brewer's yeast fermentation?

I definitely have noticed this as well, my raspberry wheat always finishes a few points higher than my sour raspberry wheat, which is "kettle soured" w/ a starter of WLP677 until PH hits 3.1.

The low PH must prevent the yeast from reproducing, rather than killing the yeast that already exists, right? I'm assuming this only because acid washing a yeast slurry drops the PH to 2.2 and the existing yeast survive just fine. Is it possible that "over-pitching" or doing a two-stage pitch could solve any fermentation issues?

Shaun said...

Meant to say my Raspberry Wheat finishes a few points LOWER than my Sour Raspberry bad

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Neva Parker (Head of Laboratory Operations) told me that their Lactobacillus strain is heterofermentative.

A pH of 3.5 pre-fermentation is where you can start running into issues. The lower you go, the larger the chances. Extra yeast nutrients, over-pitching, and a more acid tolerant strain are a good idea. Not sure if it blocks reproduction, disrupts metabolism, or something else.

Haputanlas said...

How is this coming along? I haven't seen any tastings since you bottled those 2.5 gallons?

I'm curious because I will be making a BW soon and was considering either something very similar (100% lacto) or something on the other spectrum (Lots of acid malt with no lacto).

Thanks for the updates!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

It has been pretty bland, only opened a bottle or two. With this strain of Lacto at least this isn't a good method.

Why not do a more traditional pitch (Lacto, ale yeast, and Brett)? I've always had good luck with that, if you don't mind waiting a couple months.

barfdiggs said...

"The relevant point was that Lacto produces a protein degrading enzyme which is active at higher pH values. By lowering the pH (e.g., acid malt, or food grade acid) to 4.5-4.8 pre-pitching you can yield better foam stability. I decided to skip this technique on my first attempt however to see if it is a necessary step."

Interestingly, the proteolytic activity you cited its of critical importance for lactobacillus survival, and is important in flavor development in cheese production. In order to grow to high cell density some strains of lactobacillus require amino acids in quantities not available in their growth medium and thus must secrete proteases to liberate the amino acids from proteins. In cheese making this apparently is responsible for the production of desirable flavor tones.

I'm curious if the strains available to homebrewers are auxotrophs (Protorophs can synthesize all required amino acids themselves) and are required to secrete proteases for cell growth and survival.

Anonymous said...

An idea!
50 litres is a big shot when approximating an outcome with these variables.
How about: Produce three worts in timing and adjust their ph's according to their best development for Bret, lactose and sacc alike.
Blend them as neccessary and split the batch proportions again to monitor the differences just as time will result with the sour, tart, early development and complexity you might wish to create.
Go hard with numerous 4l glass carboys to moniter and keep cross contamination to a nil.
Lambics and the like are a new territory for me just now so your discussions are appealing.
For the BW I like the idea what fruit can achieve to enhance a hotter beer without syrup additions.
The traditional style is likely to remain a heritage as modern funked versions set a new course for crafting.
Who knows at the end which cake blends could cut the cake?

Travis said...

What is the effect of a no-boil beer? Is there a noticeable difference in flavor or body? i would think that without a hot or cold break a lot of dissolved proteins would add quite a bit of body. Or am I wrong on this?


The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

No boil leaves a doughier/grainier flavor and aroma in my experience. A nice addition to a beer as "plain" as a Berliner weisse. It may leave some additional protein uncoagulated as well, although considering I bring it nearly to a boil, there is a reasonable amount of break material produced.

fogley said...

Hey there. Have you reached any conclusions on the effects of switching to a single infusion from your normal procedure of decoction?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

The malt profile on this batch is slightly less substantial than it was on previous batches. Very minor, probably not worth the effort if a decoction mash is difficult with your setup.

Unknown said...

Interesting comments about the WLP677 "not being that good". I brewed a Berliner Weisse 1.5 years ago with it; left the Lacto in the wort for 7 days at 85-95 ambient Vegas temps, then crashed to 68F and added US-05. It's probably too sour for the style, but pretty good. It was also around 1.040 OG. I wonder if a higher gravity effects how sour the Lacto can get it with this method?

Ryan said...

I know one guy that has had success with wlp677. So it must be possible, right?

I just opened a new vial of wlp677 and did a starter of 1.020. I held it at 95F for about 6 days. I tasted the starter and get ZERO sour, tang, or tartness what-so-ever. I'm very confused. It basically tastes like a belgian yeast (hefe like).

I limited oxygen and used an airlock. I never saw krausen or the air lock bubbling at all.

This is about he 4th time trying wlp677 and getting this same kind of result. I just can't figure out what I'm doing wrong... Is it a SG thing? Does it only perform at a certain SG? My buddy that has had success with a 1.035 wort of 60/40 pils/wheat and using mash hops. He pitches a liter starter high ~90 and holds for 5 days and then follows up with brett and lets it go for 4-6 months where he then might add fruit juices or fruit. His is super sour.

So, what is the key? Pitch rate? SG of 1.035? Time?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Higher gravity would be more food for the Lacto, but it wouldn't be the difference between no sourness and lots of sourness.

Ryan, it could be that he is getting sourness from another microbe. Maybe something introduced from the gear, fruit, or mixed in with the Brett?

I've had and heard heard enough disappointing results to give a blanket "avoid" when it comes to White Labs Lacto. There are a few counter-examples, but the risk isn't worth it for me. Try Wyeast's, or a probiotic.

Unknown said...

So i have you found any way of getting a more hop/ibu tolerant strain of lacto. I am really looking for as many strains of lacto as I can get. I know there are commercial examples of lacto that can handle much higher ibu levels and higher abv. Do you know of anyway to purchase such strains. Tried to read what I could about using probiotics but I am looking to use it post fermentation, and every write up is about Sour Worting. Any help would be great.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Why do you want to sour a more bitter beer? Sourness and bitterness tend to clash. You can slowly increase the IBUs as you reculture to improve hop tolerance if you really want to.

You'd also need a more attenuative Lacto strain. Most of the ones sold to brewers won't have much to ferment after the yeast is finished.

I don't have a great suggestion on where to buy a strain like that. Maybe the Lacto brevis from a bottle of one of Cascade's sour beer?

For your purposes it sounds like Pediococcus might be the right choice. It is more hop-tolerant, and plenty attenuative to work after primary fermentation is complete. However, it needs to be paired with Brett, which cleans up the diacetyl the Pedio leaves behind.

Red said...

Great blog post; I'm looking forward to your book.

I've now done a couple Berliner Weisse brews that have turned out pretty well. For each, I've cultured lacto from grains, stepping up the starter several times to lower the pH and kill off unwanted microbes, limited oxygen, and keeping the starter around 110. The first batch I used (for 5 gallons) 2.5 lbs. 2-row, 3 lbs. white wheat malt, and 0.5 lbs. acidulated malt (added towards the end of the mash). No boil, but heated to 180 for a few minutes before cooling to 110 and pitching the lacto starter. With an OG of 1.033, the beer fermented down within a couple days to around 1.015, at which point I pitched Brett drie. Within a week or two the gravity was around 1.001. I bottled, and afraid of overcarbing I ended up slightly undercarbing; good tartness which has developed nicely over several months, although I would have rather more tartness and carbonation.

More recently I did a "double" Berliner Weisse, OG of around 1.045. I added lots of citrus zest when the wort was at 180. The ambient temperature wasn't as warm this time, so I found it more difficult to keep the fermenter close to 110 (I put the fermenter inside a kettle filled with warm water). The lacto took a little longer to take off, but again I waited a bit, added Brett drie (and later a mixture of several Belgian sacc strains and another unknown Brett strain). After four weeks the gravity was at 1.003. I bottled, this time adding appropriate priming sugar aiming for 3.2 volumes. After two weeks, the beer is not just tart but downright sour, with the citrus coming through nicely, and the carbonation is right on.

I'm now working on adapting the method (based also on some of your other posts) for other sour styles. One question: can I be sure that the lacto I'm culturing from grains is indeed heterofermentative and therefore producing alcohol?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Sounds like a great process.

If a strain is heterofermentative it will produce CO2 and lower the gravity of the starter. If it is homofermentative, you won't see either of those things. It is also possible you'd have a mix of strains, some of each.

Unknown said...

Hi Mike,

Long time reader, but this is my first post.

I brewed my first Berliner about a month and a half ago using a semi traditional method - a 2 quart starter of 677 fermented warm (95*F) was pitched 24 hours prior to cooling the wort to 68*F and pitching US-05. This was followed up by Brett C, 5 days later. OG was 1.040, it's currently sitting at 1.000 4 weeks later. The hydro sample was only mildly tart at 4 weeks. I'll update you on the sourness as it ages.

The main reason I was posting was to ask if you had any experience with WLP672 Lactobacillus Brevis. Not sure if this is a traditional addition to a Berliner but based on WL's description seemed interesting as it is noted as producing higher levels of lactic acid.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Interesting, hadn't seen that that White Labs was selling an L. brevis. Cascade uses the same species for their sours.

Good luck, I've had a couple people report adequate tartness from WLP677, but the overwhelming experience seems to be lacking lactic acid.

san Diego sour beer mongor said...

Hey Mike,
First of all, great website! Just bottled my first Berliner weisse. It came out amazing! My first 6 gallon batch was a no boil wort, I pitched lacto when the wort had cooled down too much and it hasn't soured that much. My second batch was nailed by pitching the lacto when the wort was 110 degrees and then pitching yeast 48 hours later. Lacto sours thrive in that heat though. My second batch actually soured way before my first batch and I ended up bottling my second batch first and
I threw apricots and peach juice on my non sour batch and I'm just gonna blend another fast lacto beer with this not so sour beer.
Thanks for the tips guys!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Temperature affects the rate of souring, but shouldn't affect the total acidity produced. If you used White Lab's 677, that is a chief culprit. I was recently told that growth is correlated with lactic acid production, so maybe a big starter isn't the answer?

Unknown said...


I noticed in your notes there was no mention of adding yeast to the 100% lacto version at bottling. Did you carb this with lacto? If so, how did the carb level compare to what you were aiming for? There isn't much info on lacto's ethanol or co2 production as compared to yeast.

I'm looking to pitch an active L Brevis starter at bottling to carb up in a last attempt to increase the acidity.


The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I didn't pitch any yeast to that portion and the carbonation seemed to be what I would have expected with brewer's yeast. However, this strain seemed to produce nearly no lactic acid. For every ethanol molecule heterofermentative Lactobacillus produces one CO2 is released (just like yeast), but this isn't the case wit lactic acid. If L. brevis turns out to produce more lactic acid, you'd expect CO2 production to be maybe 50% of the usual.

Alex said...

Wanted to add my most recent 100%-lacto experience to this.

I did a combo of Wyeast's Lacto pack and the WL 677. I have only used Wyeast's in the past. I did a 500ml starter that I steeped up to 1L, fermented the starter warm for 4 days (~85F).

I pitched this into my wort and fermented in a controlled chamber at 85F for 2 days that I stepped up to 95F for 5 more days. No beer yeast added.

My gravity is now reading 1.000 on my hydrometer. pH is around 3.8-4
I get no sourness in the taster.

My intention was to add Brett Trois to finish but I will likely have to rethink this if that hydrometer reading is correct. Considering adding some boiled malt extract and/or maltodextrin

Unknown said...

I am planning a Berliner Weisse soon. Wish I would have read these posts before I bought the White Lab 677. I was going to do a 1qt starter 7 days before brewing, but after reading Mike's post "I was recently told that growth is correlated with lactic acid production, so maybe a big starter isn't the answer?" , i wonder if i should skip the start and just pitch the vial at say 100F. I plan on using Wyeast German Ale yeast and also pitch a vial of White Labs Brett L. maybe a few days after primary fermentation slows. Does anyone have any further thoughts on skipping the Lacto starter?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Considering the complaints I keep hearing about 677, it wouldn't hurt... but I think you might do best to pick up a vial of L. brevis. I made a starter with Wyeast's L. brevis and it imparted substantial acidity to my most recent Berliner weisse within only a few days.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the feedback Mike. I ordered a pack of L. Brevis. I plan on making a starter and pitching the L. Brevis at about 95F. Then 2 days later pitch a starter of Wyeast German Ale yeast. Then when fermentation slows I am going to also pitch a vial of Brett L.

Unknown said...

Great article and great comment thread! I thought I'd add my experience with a 100% lacto BW to this as well seeing all the comments in this thread have helped my greatly.

Wyeast 5223 Lactobacillus Brevis attenuates and sours really well! I was shocked that after one week my gravity was down from 1.031 to 1.005 and the beer had a nice level of sourness. Not puckering but well balanced.

I pitched a lacto starter that had been at around 86 and fermented the beer at 86 for a while before pushing it up to 91. I had been planning to pitch some ale yeast into this beer but by the time I was going to pitch the yeast the beer had already fermented out and tasted great.

I have a feeling that pitching an ale yeast after the lacto has been fermenting for a couple of days may make a BW with this lacto a little bit short on the sourness but each to their own.

I am bottling today and am fairly wary of how much priming sugar to go with as I'm unsure whether L. brevis will produce a similar amount of CO2 or not... interesting experiment though and my kegging system will be together soon anyway.

Thanks for all the help!

Unknown said...

Hi, I've had a crack at brewing one of these an have found that now after a few weeks the beer has reduced from 1.032 to 1.004, but there is no obvious sourness in the flavour. I pitched a full packet of wyeast 5335 and 5 grams of US-05 which would have provided the 5:1 ratio. I didn't use a starter for the lacto and didn't rehydrate the yeast. I figured the lacto would have been in good condition and was happy for the yeast to catch up (perhaps I should have made a starter for the lacto). From what I have read I expected a more obvious sourness even after only a couple of weeks. Do you think the sourness will increase over time? Since it's such a cheap beer to brew I'd rather start again than wait months to find it hasn't changed.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Sounds like you may have had Kristen's ratio backwards? He suggests 5:1 in favor of the bacteria. Wyeast packs about 15 billion cells fresh, 5 g of dried US-05 will have about 5 times that amount. With that said, Lacto can grow very quickly, so I'm less concerned with the ratio than having the Lacto ready to start fermenting when pitched (i.e., in an active starter).

With the gravity already down to 1.004, odds are you won't get a lot more acidity. Might make a nice base for a fruit beer though!

Next time I'd opt for a more aggressive Lacto strain. I've had much better luck with the L. brevis cultures than either of the "stock" strains from Wyeast or White Labs.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the feedback. I really appreciate it. I figured there was something up. Will try again with one of the brevis cultures in a proper starter. I'll let you know how it turns out. Cheers.

Unknown said...

Hi Mike, a month on and the sourness has started to develop nicely so I guess patience is a virtue...

I'm going to bottle it in the next few weeks and am hoping for some guidance again. Should I add yeast at bottling or just allow a longer conditioning period. I'm worried that the yeast remaining in the beer may not be up to it. Is there a recommended wine or champagne yeast or does that not really matter? Thanks again.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

There is no harm in some insurance yeast, but I usually don't re-yeast my Berliners. If nothing else, the Brett in mine will carbonate. Wine/Champagne has worked well for other sour beers, not a bad choice at all.

Unknown said...

Been following along with this thread / your book trying my hand at my first berliner, and thought I'd share my findings.

I used the WLP677 (1L starter), and had WLP005 as a backup. After 3 days the WLP677 had fermented down to my target gravity, so I never pitched the 005. I have a reptile heater wrapped around the carboy, and I have it all wrapped in blankets. Infrared thermometer puts it at about 95. When I took gravity after 3 days, there was almost no sourness at all. I decided to just let it sit with the reptile heater until who knows when. Now, after just over a week I took a sample again. The sourness has definitely started to develop (it's not INTENSELY sour yet, but i've definitely had berliners with less sour character).

I'm going to let it sit like this for a while and see what happens. I'll post back with more findings!

Does anyone see any issues with me maintaining these temperatures for prolonged periods of time?

pink1212 said...

I have recently attempted to make a Berliner Weiss. I made a lacto starter off of some pale malt and pitched in to pasteurized wort for 4 days and came out with a crazy lemony sour wort. I then boiled and added hops while during that time I sanitized the glass wide-mouth carboy I had been using. I then racked it back into the carboy and added yeast. I tasted it the other day and it is quite good.

My problem now is that it has formed a pellicle within a couple of days since pulling off a sample. Obviously I got oxygen in the head space and obviously their is still live lacto in the beer. So I guess I will put it back on the burner to try and kill of the lacto....again

So I apparently did not sanitize my carboy thoroughly enough. What suggestions do you have to get this thing clean? I assume running it through the dishwasher and using the heat drying on it would sterilize it? Thoughts?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Lacto is so quick, it doesn't take many cells to cause serious problems. You'd need to thoroughly clean all the gear (soak in hot water and PBW/Oxiclean) and then sanitize. Ideally you'd have a set for the souring, and one for after pasteurizing. At this stage you may just be better off letting the Lacto live, unless you are worried about contaminating your bottling gear?

pink1212 said...

I should have been more careful. Its definitely been a learning experience. But I have found that when something gets screwed up its usually a happy accident and creates something amazing and totally unexpected. Thanks for the feedback.

Kara said...

Should you be able to see any activity happening in the flask of a lacto starter after 48 hours? I don't see anything going on. I guess I should've taken a gravity reading at the start?
This is my first attempt at a lacto starter :)

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Without more details it is hard to say with any certainty. Did you make a starter from grain? What temperature are you holding it at? Lacto doesn't have the aggressive CO2 production, krausen, or gravity drop of yeast, so it can be tricky to know for sure what is going on without a pH reading.

Kara said...

I used wyeast 5335 rather than grain. I've been keeping it around 82 degrees based on something else I read, but I just saw your book recommends 110 degrees. The pH was at 4.1 after 48 hours. Thanks for your help!

rrenaud said...

FWIW, I definitely think this is worth reading, which says that no pure lacto culture is going to get close to a complete fermentation of wort.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Yep, I probably should have linked Lance's experiment here when he sent it to me last year. That's always the issue with a blog, it's a snapshot of my understanding when I write a post!

Jordan said...

I'm planning on doing a lacto (possibly a Pedio mix?) and Brett mixed culture secondary fermentation in a used wine or spirit barrel. The beer will prob be around 3-5 P going into the barrel. I have found some info on pitch rate for Brett, but most of the pitch rates for bacteria are anecdotal. Do you happen to know any pitch rates per wooden barrel that you would suggest adding from an active bacteria starter? I read in your awesome American Sour book that Tomme A from lost abbey uses a 1.25L starter to his beers. However, from a cell count point of view, how much should I really be adding to get the best result?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

As I responded by email (but for other's benefit): I don't worry too much about pitching rate. For a large commercial brewery it could be worthwhile to investigate how to shave off aging time, but I don't mind waiting a little longer. You won't get the flavor changes that Sacch pitching rates provide (at least not within a couple orders of magnitude). I worry more about the viability of the microbes.

MilesMcL said...

Gonna try WLP672 in kettle sour Berliner Weisse. Any advice on the lacto starter? Do I make this the same way as any other starter except crank the temp to 100 degrees or so? After 24-36 hours, can I stick in the fridge overnight and decant as I would for yeast, or no?



The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Make a small starter without hops. Lacto grows quickly so no need for more than a cup or two. I'd just pitch it directly rather than try to decant (Lactobacillus doesn't flocculate like brewer's yeast).

Anonymous said...

I’ve investigated 100% bacteria fermentation and it’s not possible to ferment wort, getting something you would call beer, by only fermenting with bacteria (like WLP677). Bacteria is not producing enough alcohol during fermentation and you’ll get only a small drop in gravity.
I’ve confirmed that with White Labs and a microbiologist.
So, how did the original poster have success with a 100% bacteria fermentation?
a.) The White Labs vial had some yeast in it. That’s a valid possibility as they did not use Pure Pitch packaging back in the day.
b.) Wild yeast, or other yeast came in contact with the wort
One thing is sure, there was some yeast involved.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Yep, if you go through the comments you'll see similar discussion about yeast, experiments etc. I've learned quite a bit in the five years since writing this post!