I have a basic question that I can’t find a straightforward answer to.
I use beersmith or recipes that expect a final volume of 5 gallons for the batch. I never get 5 gallons of beer by the end.
Water is lost during the boil (I do 5 gallon boils), to the hops, during fermentation and some is lost in the yeast and trub. When and how should I recoup these water losses to maintain a finishing volume of 5 gallons without risking infection or altering the flavor? I see different ways and each has its problems:
Should I add water up to 5 gallons at the end of the boil at flame out?
Should I add water up to 5 gallons once primary fermentation is complete and I’ve racked to secondary?
Should I add water up to 5 gallons once I’m ready to bottle or keg?
I realize that for 1 and 2 I won’t be able to account for losses to hops and trub. For 3 I’m worried about adding water that late for sanitation and aeration issues.
I had an idea: I was going to try to make a very dilute solution for the bottling step. For example, I have 4 gallons in a 5 gallon batch on bottling day. I do the same amount of sugar, but with 1 gallon of water. That way its sterilized, has low oxygen, and has the sugar for bottle conditioning. Would this be a good strategy?