Brewed my first batch last Friday evening (Caribou Slobber) with the Deluxe Brewing Starter kit. My 5-gal kettle is a ChefMate purchased at Target: flat bottom, and perhaps a little heavier duty than most of the brew kettles more specific to just brewing beer - this was necessary because I have a glasstop stove. I followed the recipe to the T with one exception: the wort never got to a full, rolling boil. I have a deep fry/candy thermometer that was submerged during the entire boil so I know I was close - I was steady between 208 - 210 degrees F (boiling is 212).
I’ve been concerned about this “boiling just-below boiling” might effect the final product, but everything that I have observed during the primary fermentation seems to be right on (aggressive fermentation with thick kraeusen beginning within 24 hrs, kraeusen receding after using blow-off hose, slowed bubbling for a few days). Basically, have I “damaged” my beer in any way?
At worst you might have slight off flavor. You want a decent rolling boil to drive off DMS precursors, which will give you a vegetable/sweet corn flavor or aroma. Having said that, there are plenty of threads around that debate the magnitude of DMS at the homebrew level. I’ve encountered it once; it was one of my first brews in which I didn’t realize I needed to leave the cover off the kettle. IMHO as long as you were at least boiling you were doing enough the drive it off. I’m sure others will chime in with various opinions though.
I had this same issue when attempting my first brew. I used an old gas stove and could never reach a good boil. My brew turned out pretty good but I did have some off flavors. Since then I have upgraded to a propane burner. Next time it may help to keep a lid on top of your kettle to help bring your brew to boil just be sure to watch it for boil overs. It’s important once you get a good rolling boil to remove the lid and try to keep it off for the remainder of your boil time to boil off DMS from your wort
If propane is not in the near future for you, look into buying or building a heatstick to augment your boil. Pretty inexpensive option for speeding up time to boil, and keeping it going vigorously.
What is a heatstick?
Here are a few links if you want to build your own:
Although I’ve heard you can just use a bucket heater, like this:
that heatstick is pretty cool. I have never seen anything like that for home brewing before. Does anyone know if there are issues with LME/DME sticking to/baking onto the heating element? Has anyone used something like this before?
boiling at just below boiling? boiling is boiling, what is your altitude, you know boiling at sealevel is 212 for every 1000 ft above you drop the boiling point about 1 or 2* i live at 2800 ft and my boil is 208-209
I meant that I was doing the boil process (adding extracts and hops), but my temperature was pretty steady just below 212 F. I live in FL, a stones-throw from the St. Johns River, so at best I’m about 35 feet above sea level.
[quote=“GeerBoggles”]that heatstick is pretty cool. I have never seen anything like that for home brewing before. Does anyone know if there are issues with LME/DME sticking to/baking onto the heating element? Has anyone used something like this before?
I personally have never used one, but I know brewers that do. They claim they haven’t had issues with scorching the element, but I believe there are different types of elements, so you might want to research which elements are less prone to scorching. As I understand it works great and there are many “E-brewers” out there that use an element in the boil kettle. Here’s an example:
Or here, if you want to get serious about it:
I meant that I was doing the boil process (adding extracts and hops), but my temperature was pretty steady just below 212 F. I live in FL, a stones-throw from the St. Johns River, so at best I’m about 35 feet above sea level.[/quote]
Sometimes the obvious is not so obvious, so we point things out. If you have a location listed in your profile we would know that you live close to sea level.
You might try covering 3/4 of the top of the pot with a sheet of aluminum foil. That should help keep the heat in to get a boil. Yet allow you to see inside in case you need to turn the heat down a notch to avoid a boil over. Also giving you a place to add hops.
I brew on my ceramic range top, and I get a lot of variability in the strength of my boil based on how much wort is in the pot, cleanliness of my burners, humidity, etc. My standard operating procedure is to leave the lid on fully while I’m bringing it up to a boil. Once I hit full boil, if it’s not going quite as hard as I’d like, then I lay the lid about 3/4 of the way across to help hold the heat in. It’s somewhat counterintuitive, but I actually get more boiloff when I leave the lid partway on my kettle than when it is fully off.
Note - I always use fermcap. If you try to boil with the lid on without some sort of foam control, you are just begging for a nasty boilover.
Thanks to all for you suggestions and reassurances about my beer. I’ll be utilizing these suggestions to make some modifications to the boil for my next batch.