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5 Gal. Extract Kits- Full Volume Boil or Top-Off?

I’m getting ready to jump from the 1 gal. to the 5 gal. extract kits. I was wondering why the instructions call to boil 2.5 gallons of wort, then add 2 gallons of water to the fermentor and finish by topping-off to 5 gallons? Why not just start with 5.5 gallons and do a full volume boil?

Is there any measureable difference in taste/clarity/shelf life between the two methods? Is a full volume boil the preferred method, and if so, why?

Full boils allow for better hop utilization and better color (rather than “dark” everything). If you decide to go 5 gals go for full boils. You will need a propane burner and a wort chiller but you’ll be happier.

Thank you, sir- will do.

Been thinking about this- if the 5 gal. kit recipes are set up for partial boils, wouldn’t doing a full boil bring out too much of the hops? Not sure how much extra hop utilization would bump up the hoppiness- 20%? 50%

I really don’t mind if the beer is darker than it should be, but I would mind if it becomes unbalanced in favor of the hops.

In this regard the difference is negligible and I doubt you would notice. If you have a program like Beersmith you could enter it both ways and see the difference. If you find a big difference you could weigh the hops for the amount you need. Then vacuum pack the remainder for use later.

Gotcha. I’ll have to check that out.

Seconded on needing to get a burner and wort chiller if you’re wanting to go full boil. I did full boils for my extract brews for a while, but ended up going back to partial because I don’t have a burner and my stove can just baaaaarely maintain a full-volume boil if I put the kettle on both burners.

To help with the color and hop utilization I add half the malt at the beginning of the boil and save the other half for shortly before the end. That may or may not work as well as doing a full boil; I don’t think my beer’s consistent enough for me to really be able to tell.

I like the partial boil. I don’t have a wort chiller. I boil my topoff water the day before, cover it and set it outside. This time of year it is plenty cold the next day when I brew and chills the wort down.

Is it necessary to boil the top-off water?

Is it necessary to boil the top-off water?[/quote]

Opinions differ. A lot of folks always do, for any number of good reasons. I never do, and haven’t had a problem. I’m sure there are all sorts of bugs living in my house’s plumbing, but lactobacillus apparently isn’t one of them.

[quote=“Helvetica”]Been thinking about this- if the 5 gal. kit recipes are set up for partial boils, wouldn’t doing a full boil bring out too much of the hops? Not sure how much extra hop utilization would bump up the hoppiness- 20%? 50%

I really don’t mind if the beer is darker than it should be, but I would mind if it becomes unbalanced in favor of the hops.[/quote]

Just got off the phone with an NB rep on this exact issue/question. He said for extract kits, any hops that go into a full boil between the 60 min mark up to the 30 min mark should be reduced by 20%. That’s all you have to do…

You’ll find many people do nothing to convert for a full boil and their beer turns out just fine. Increased bitterness is the typical result if you don’t alter the recipe, but as someone else mentioned, depending on the recipe and hop type, you may not even notice a difference.

[quote]Just got off the phone with an NB rep on this exact issue/question. He said for extract kits, any hops that go into a full boil between the 60 min mark up to the 30 min mark should be reduced by 20%. That’s all you have to do…
[/quote]

Thanks for sharing your info. I’d rather adjust the recipe every time rather than risk having extra bitterness since I’m not exactly a HopHead.

:cheers:

If I jump to 5 gal boils, where I use a burner, but not a wort chiller, do you think that’d be a problem? I welcome your thoughts. Thanks, Grant

If you’re doing a small batch (1 gal.), you can get away with cooling it off in an ice bath. Since you’re doing 5 gal. batches, it’s highly recommended that you use a wort chiller (immersion chiller). It gets your wort down to yeast-pitching temps. much quicker and helps prevent infection (the shorter amount of time your wort sits between 140* and yeast-pitching temp., the better).

The quicker you can chill your wort, the better odds you have of creating a “cold break”, which prevents proteins from reforming. This will give you a clearer beer.

:cheers:

If you’re doing a small batch (1 gal.), you can get away with cooling it off in an ice bath. Since you’re doing 5 gal. batches, it’s highly recommended that you use a wort chiller (immersion chiller). It gets your wort down to yeast-pitching temps. much quicker and helps prevent infection (the shorter amount of time your wort sits between 140* and yeast-pitching temp., the better).

The quicker you can chill your wort, the better odds you have of creating a “cold break”, which prevents proteins from reforming. This will give you a clearer beer.

:cheers: [/quote]
Many thanks!

There are brewers out there doing “no chill” brews, often along with BIAB. They generally run the hot wort into a fermenter (which is assumed to sanitize the fermenter) and let it cool to pitching temperature either at room temp or in a refrigerator. Be careful running 200 F wort into some clear plastic; apparently they deform badly at that temp. Others cool in the boiling kettle.

I’ve had chiller problems - actually I forgot to get ice for the chiller - and done this successfully. Some claim you don’t get a good cold break or will get off-flavors from fermenting on the cold break. Obviously, you can rack the cooled wort off the sediment or you can just ferment as-is and not worry about it. I’m not so discerning that I could detect a problem fermenting on the sediment.

If you’re feeling adventurous, give it a try. Google “no-chill brewing” if you want to expend the time to research it further.

The main reason for doing a partial boil with top off vs. a full volume boil is equipment. You need a larger kettle, more powerful burner and either a chiller (or a fermentor that you can pour boiling wort into). The biggest advantage of a full volume boil is reduced darkening of the wort.

One important point about using extract kits with steeping grains: you want to steep the grains in a smaller volume of water, not a full batch amount. You can get tannin extractions if the water/grain ratio is too high. So steep the grains as per the kit instructions, and then add the rest of the water and the extract if you want to go to full volume.

I’ve never tried no-chill, but it seems clear based on what I’ve read that at least some cold break will happen; it is unclear if you get as much as you do from active chilling.

I use a plate chiller, and run the cooled wort (complete with cold break) directly into my fermentor. No off flavors from that, and I often brew light lagers, so if there was I problem with that I’d know it.

This is just my experience, but I’ve never had a OG that met the target OG doing a partial boil, and I’ve never not hit the taget OG doing a full boil.

If you’re doing a small batch (1 gal.), you can get away with cooling it off in an ice bath. Since you’re doing 5 gal. batches, it’s highly recommended that you use a wort chiller (immersion chiller). It gets your wort down to yeast-pitching temps. much quicker and helps prevent infection (the shorter amount of time your wort sits between 140* and yeast-pitching temp., the better).

The quicker you can chill your wort, the better odds you have of creating a “cold break”, which prevents proteins from reforming. This will give you a clearer beer.

:cheers: [/quote]

This is great advice. I did my second batch of Irish Red Ale in my new stainless 8 gal kettle. Even with an ice bath and even with it being 40 degrees outside, it took hours to chill down. I still pitched at probably 90 degrees and forgot to aerate the wort. I know I’ve made a couple of critical mistakes on this batch, but next time, I will have a wort chiller ready to go and will make sure to exercise some patience…

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