First batch: 5 gal partial vs. 3 gal full boil
First of all a general thanks for all the contributions to the site. I've read a lot of threads over the past couple weeks and they have been a big help. I recently bought the Northern Brewer 'essential' starter kit and I'm planning my first brew day for Friday, but I have some questions.
Some background: I'm going to be working from an American wheat extract kit, but I'm modifying it to meet my personal tastes by adding extra cascade hops. My hope is to make it more of a hoppy wheat IPA. The kit instructions are for a 2.5 gallon 60 minute boil and topping with 2+ gallons in the fermentor. BeerSmith is telling me I really need to up my hops to hit the numbers I want (50ish IBUs) which I believe is mainly due to the partial boil and top off. My recipe for review:
Boil size: 2.5 gal
Malt: 6 lbs Wheat Extract
60 mins: 2oz Willamette
15 mins: 2oz Cascade
5 mins: 2oz Cascade
Add 1 lb extract light DME at flameout to achieve slightly higher ABV
Top off with 2+ gallons to achieve 5 gal going into the fermenter (6.5G bucket).
BeerSmith stats: 48 IBUs, 5.3% abv, 1.052 OG
Now the alternative option I'm pondering. I'm not really tied to the 5 gal volume and actually it seems like a ton of beer for my drinking habits. If the homebrew thing goes well I could easily see myself settling on 2.5-3 gal batches long term. In BeerSmith I ran a recipe using the same 6 lbs of wheat extract, but with the higher boil volume and no top off in the fermenter and it was very close to my targets. With this change I wouldn't need the DME and could dial back the hop usage too. My updated recipe would be:
Boil size: 3.5-4 G (unsure of exact boil off rate)
Malt: 6 lbs Wheat extract
60 mins: 1oz Willamette
15 mins: 1oz Cascade
5 mins: 2 oz Cascade
Targeting 3G into fermenter (either 6.5G bucket or 5G glass carboy).
BeerSmith stats: 52 IBUs, 6.3% abv, 1.062 OG
So finally getting to my questions. Since I don't care about the final volume, will switching to a smaller full boil produce better results than the partial boil? Are there any other issues I may be missing or thoughts/recommendations/tips on this approach?
I think that everyone agrees that full boils are always better than topping off. If you are happy with a 3 gal batch than you should absolutely go for it. Personally, i always do partial boils because my stove can't handle full boils and i drink a lot of beer.
For a four gal boil on my gas stove i have an evap rate of 0.5gal/hr.
Nothing wrong with doing full boil small batches. In fact, this is exactly how I started doing all grain - I started with some 2.5 gallon batches (totally doable on a stovetop) and learned the process. 2.5 gallons of each batch yields about a case of beer, which is plenty. So I say go for it!
Thanks for the suggestions. I ended up going with the smaller full boil. Had a few issues, but expected as much being my 1st time. If it turns out I did really mess something up I'll be glad again that I only have 2.5 gallons instead of 5.
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