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Old 02-01-2011, 12:50 PM   #1
meirick
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Default Issue with doing half batches

Okay, first off, I've decided I want to do half batches (2.5gal), so don't bother trying to convince me otherwise. Maybe I will switch to full batches some day, but based on my living situation and the ease of use, I decided to use a Mr. Beer container for primary and two different carboys for secondaries (one for long-term hibernation like Belgians and one for normal beers).

Anyways, here is my dilemma. I'm only 3 batches into doing extract beers. The first one, the ratio of wort to water that was in the Mr. Beer was high so I started out with a pretty hot primary and I was worried, both because you're not supposed to have it that hot for the Mr. Beer containers as well as of course, I can kill yeast that way. So far so good with that, 3 weeks in and it looks like things are working okay with that beer, but it was close. My thinking of course is that I need to make my boil smaller.

Now the last two beers, I've been burning my wort. I assume because the amount of water is too low. The second time I switched to all DME, I made sure I stirred a ton, and I took it off the heat occasionally (based on suggestions on boards), but I still started to burn it about 40min into the boil, and so I just ended the boil early. I've been finding various posts concerning burning of wort, but I feel like part of my problem is the smaller batch and the small boil that I am cooking the wort in. I think I could stir it like crazy and still end up with burnt wort.

By burnt, I mean the entire thing begins to darken (more than I think is normal, though I admit I'm new) as well as I start smelling burnt malt, rather than just malt. The first one, I have moved to the secondary and it has a lot of extra trub that I decided not to carry over because I figured it was a result of the burnt wort, as well as it was recommended on posts here that talked about burnt wort. Overall, I think that beer might turn out okay or at least not ruined, but still, this isn't ideal. The current batch will probably be the same, hopefully slightly better because I didn't let it burn much.

It seems to me that here are my options, but let me know if I am forgetting something obvious.

1. My recipes are basically half of a full batch. Roughly 5 lbs of DME/LME, maybe 1 lbs of specialty grain, 1.5-3 oz of hops. Maybe I should be going even smaller, thus the amount of water in my boil will be okay?

2. Add half of the fermentables late-ish in the boil? Say 2.5 lbs of DME/LME at the beginning and the other 2.5 lbs in the last twenty minutes?

3. Just abbreviate the entire boil to 30min or 40min? While most people do a 60min boil, I always figure that is somewhat arbitrary. I could just amend everything around a 40min, or even 30min to be safe. I know there might be repercussions, but I'm not sure it would have a huge effect on my finished product.

4. Boil roughly the entire 2.5gal and do some kind of crash cool at the end?

I'd appreciate any advice or suggestions on which one of these are better or worse things to try, or if there is something altogether different that is the main issue. Let me know if you need more info. So far I don't think I've completely ruined any beers, but I'd like to find a solution for next time, or at least have some good ideas of things to try. Thanks.

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Old 02-01-2011, 01:04 PM   #2
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5# of lme and 3 ounces of hops in a 2.5 gallon primary, is that correct?

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Old 02-01-2011, 01:30 PM   #3
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Last time it was 3# lme, 2# dme, 3oz hops. This time all 5# was dme, 3oz hops. Both times .5-1# specialty grain.

Oh, and both are IPAs, so the hops should be appropriate.

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Old 02-01-2011, 01:40 PM   #4
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What kind of boil kettle are you using and what kind of heat source? If you have a thin bottom pot on a electric stove top maybe you are getting hot spots.

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Old 02-01-2011, 01:45 PM   #5
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Gas stove. I admit the pot is nothing special. I didn't list that as a possibility because I figured it could result in burnt wort on the bottom, but not the whole wort getting burnt. Could it make that much of a difference, just getting a better pot?

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Old 02-01-2011, 01:54 PM   #6
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Make sure the extract is completely dissolved in the water before you bring it to boil. When I do it, I get the water hot, take it OFF the heat, mix in the extract (and take your time here to do it completely), and then put it back on the hear and bring it to boil.

Try stirring during the boil periodically, to make sure no extract is concentrating on the bottom of the pot.

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Old 02-01-2011, 01:56 PM   #7
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I would wonder if maybe you are getting some burning on the bottom but because you are doing a lot of stirring it never actually chars the bottom but it still ends up being stirred into your wort. Have you tried turning the flame down once you hit boil. I know with my gas stove I can turn the flame down to about 3/4 once the boil starts.

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Old 02-01-2011, 02:56 PM   #8
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Thanks guys, but I still don't think just mixing the wort more or better is it. I thought it was the case after the first burnt wort, so this time I stirred like crazy and I slowly brought it to a boil, I took it off the flame several times, I really was stirring almost the entire time. I think the dme was fully mixed in.

Yes, maybe it was still getting burnt at the bottom in small amounts and my mixing over time just resulted in a lot of charred malt. Hard to tell. Is the insinuation with that is that a better pot will make a difference?

I didn't have the heat that high. At periods of time I had it under boiling. I could have the first 15min at a boil and then the rest a bit under boil? That would require me to gauge my temp more than I have been... I'm still worried that won't solve it.

Any idea rough % of water to extract in a normal wort? I'd say mine is close to 75% extract. Any more water and it takes up a lot of my primary, thus the really hot primary issue.

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Old 02-01-2011, 03:38 PM   #9
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That is a fairly high gravity beer, five pounds of extract for a half batch.

I would definitely add at least half of it near the end of the boil. How large is your pot? And maybe you do need a higher quality one.

With half batches, you either do a full boil, in which case you can't use top off water to cool, or you do a partial boil, which in your case is not a lot of water for the wort. Full boil is generally better, but you need to cool before pitching.

BTW, shortening the boil length would be fine but may mess up your bittering hop calculations. So you can still boil for 60 minutes, but as mentioned, add half or more of the extract late.

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Old 02-01-2011, 03:41 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by meirick View Post
Any idea rough % of water to extract in a normal wort? I'd say mine is close to 75% extract. Any more water and it takes up a lot of my primary, thus the really hot primary issue.
Also, if you mean in terms of volume you have 75% extract, 25% water, that's ridiculously thick. I'd guess it's more normal to have, say, 2 quarts of extract in 3 gallons of water.
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