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Old 10-12-2011, 03:55 PM   #1
Jboggeye
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Default Top off water limit for Quality

Hi guys, I've been all grain brewing for the past two years, but having started grad school, I have less and less time to brew.
I'm planning an extract session, where I'd like to brew two batches out of the same wort.
I have an 8 gallon brewpot, and wanted to brew high gravity wort, split into 2, and top off.

What is the "limit" on topping off? Is two gallons too much? Will I notice the beer quality difference after 1 gallon?

Let me know what you guys think.

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Old 10-12-2011, 04:03 PM   #2
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I wouldn't top off each to more than 5G. Don't want to thin it out too much. Say,if you get 6G from the boil,topping each off to 5G is pushing it,imo. It'd have to have some serious gravity to get two 5G batches out of it to my thinking.
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Old 10-12-2011, 04:24 PM   #3
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thanks for the reply,

I'm planning on getting 6 gallons of "useable" wort out of the kettle (after trub left in kettle)
so, 3 gallons in each fermenter + X amount of top off.

So, where does X start to hurt the beer quality?

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Old 10-12-2011, 07:15 PM   #4
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If it's a high gravity wort,like 1.080 or so,then I wouldn't go more than 2G top off to where it'd come down to average gravity. Say,in the 1.04x's.
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Old 10-12-2011, 07:33 PM   #5
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Not being very familiar with extract brewing any more, and least of all with top off water, I'm wondering what could be the adverse effects of having too much water.

Is it simply a dilution of gravity thing, a concentrated boil thing, or is there something "lost" when extra water wasn't part of the boil?

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Old 10-12-2011, 07:48 PM   #6
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Well originally there was the argument that the wort boil volume effects the hop utilization. It still holds true somewhat but there quite a bit of debate and conflicting information on it. John Palmer recently changed his opinion on it after a brewing science conference and apparently it's not so much the volume of water but the difference in hotbreak material, or something to that effect. Don't quote me as I can't recall exactly. Anyhow, the basic agreement seems to be that boil volume does make a difference in hop utilization but that it's not as much as originally thought.

So, I would say don't worry about it. I've had many brews that were 50% wort 50% top off with no noticeable flavor issues - but then again I wasn't comparing those brews with full boil one's. From what I've personally read full boils also help contribute to a slightly lighter SRM due to less caramelization. Outside of that the only other negative aspects I can think of for small boil volumes are:

1. Possibly a greater chlorine taste if your communical water supply highly chlorinates the water
2. Increased risk of infection - faucets/hoses aren't typically the cleanest items.

I've done dozens of brews with top off water so I'd pretty much negate #2 as I have never had an infection nor problem with top off water. My water also isn't highly chlorinated. Anyhow, I wouldn't worry too much about it but I also personally wouldn't use more than 50% top off water.


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Old 10-12-2011, 08:43 PM   #7
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cool, I've settled for 1.5 gallons of top off per fermenter. So, 3.5 gallons wort + 1.5 water in each. If I get a less flavorful brew than the last time I made only 5 gallons of this recipe, I'll report back.

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Old 01-27-2012, 12:56 PM   #8
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FYI, for anyone interested, the beers turned out great- no problem diluting with 1.5 gallons. They aren't "quite" as good as earlier versions, but no one but me can tell the difference.

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Old 01-28-2012, 12:00 AM   #9
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Old 01-28-2012, 02:27 PM   #10
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Good to here. So it sounds like they're a little lighter,but not by much?
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