Questions after taking beginner class

Hi all. My wife and I took a beginners brew class the other day. It was very informative. The instructor did what he considered an intermediate extract kit that called for a partial boil but he did a full boil with it instead. That was great because I have not done that yet. Two things came into question. When he steeped the grains he did it in the full six gallons he started with. I have read that the steeping should be done in the original amount of water the recipe called for in a partial boil and then added to the full boil amount. When asked he said it was OK to do it the way he did it. What are your thoughts on this? And what would be the reason not to do it the way he did? The other thing that came into question was when he talked about when fermentation was complete. Most things I’ve read say to check gravity 3 days apart after things settle in and if the reading is the same then fermentation is done. He said to do this 2 days in a row. What would be the reason for waiting 3 days? Thanks. This is a great forum for information and I appreciate the responses.


The reason not to steep your grains in the full 6 gallons is the risk of tannin extraction from the grain hulls. However, you’re not steeping that much grain, and tannin extraction is only an issue IF the temperature goes over 170F AND the pH is too high (which it will be with only a pound of grain or so in 6 gallons of liquid.) Keep the temperature under 170F and you’ll be fine steeping in the full volume. Might be marginally better to steep in a small amount of liquid, but IMHO not enough to bother.

Only reason not to take measurements 2 days in a row is in case your fermentation is proceeding slowly, you might not notice enough gravity drop 2 days in a row. You gain about 0.5 volumes of carbonation for every gravity point to drop, so if over the course of a week or two the yeast drops 3 points, this can quickly lead to over-carbonation and possible bottle bombs. As a beginner, it’s best to give it a few days between gravity measurements. In very few cases will it have a negative impact on your beer to give it a little more time before bottling.

There are two basic reasons that you can steep grains in half the volume of water when doing a partial boil or the full volume when you have the capability to do a full volume boil. Steeping the grains is for extracting color and flavors. There is very little tannin extraction from the grains below 170°F even though the pH of the water is above (approximately) 6.0. There is also some extraction of sugars during the steeping, but unlike all grain brewing, the starches have already been converted to sugars during the malting process. These sugars only need to be dissolved to contribute to the recipe OG.

edit: I didn’t even get to the part about SG readings before porkchop’s excellent reply…

Thanks for the answers guys. This is all new to me and I have only done one partial boil so far and just racked it to a secondary a couple days ago, so my primary is now free to do another batch. I started with the Caribou Slobber and all seems OK rt now. The only thing that bothers me is I did not calibrate my thermometer before I started and it may have been off on the light end by about 8 to 10 degrees. I have calibrated it since. The steeping temp crept up on me to the 170 mark towards the end of the steeping time so it may have been a little hotter.
As part of the class the other day I was able to get a discount of 20% off any purchases that day so I bought a burner and some other stuff so I can do a full boil now. Now I wish the 8 1/2 gal boil pot I purchased earlier had a spigot for transfer.

You can always add a spigot with a little work. It’s not hard.