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Old 05-24-2007, 11:53 AM   #1
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Default Topping off...

I brewed my 4th batch the other day and took the advice of folks in this forum when I did a "vigorous boil" - put my stainless pot onto 2 burners on my stovetop and partially covered the wort during boiling so that the boil was really really rolling, unlike my previous 3. Problem was, a LOT of water boiled off, and we were left with about 4 gallons of wort to dump into the fermenter (starting gravity was 1.075), and my cousin (that's been learning this along with me) convinced me that we couldn't add water out of the tap after the boil because it's not sterile, or clean enough, or whatever. We used tap water for the wort in the first place and he thought that you have to boil it before you seal the whole mess off in the fermenter. Then I did a little reading right after and it seems to me we SHOULD have topped off to the 5 gallon point... am I right about this? That's question 1.

Question 2 is, now that I'm about to transfer into the secondary, is it okay to add water now? Should I boil water and add it? Should I boil water, cool it, THEN add it? Or should I just leave it alone and transfer just the 4 gallons?

For the record, we used the final kit that I still had lying around - an ESB from 7 Bridges whose recipe called for 5-5 1/4 gallons of water. Starting gravity should have been between 1.056-1.062 according to the recipe. I'm transferring to secondary today so any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks guys!

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Old 05-24-2007, 12:46 PM   #2
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What was the og- 1.075, right? since you only made 4 gallons instead of 5. The expected s.g would be for 5 gallons. I would have topped up to 5 gallons then, but I know I have very good tap water. If in doubt about your water, you'd have to used boiled and cooled water or bottled water. It would have been ok to add the water in primary.

I would NOT top up now in secondary. You would just be watering down your beer. At this point, I'd say taste it and see how it is when you transfer it!

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Old 05-24-2007, 12:52 PM   #3
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You could've added water to your primary along with your wort to "TOP OFF". I would recommend that it be boiled for atleast 15 min to sterilze and allowed to cool before adding to primary. Seems as though your starting gravity was 1.075 and it should have been between 1.056-1.062. If you would have topped off in the primary you would have probably reached your mark.

You can top off to secondary using more wort but that will increase your FG reading and you will have to wait for those yeasties to finish again. It all depends on how much more beer you want and how strong of a brew you like. It might even be better just to go ahead and do what you are doing. Transfer to secondary, wait, rack, bottle and condition. You can chalk this one up for experience. Try it again next time and top off as needed to get your correct volume. Either way you'll probably still have brewed a great beer.

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Old 05-24-2007, 01:04 PM   #4
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Those were sort of the answers I was expecting. I figure we'll just have a stronger beer, and use less bottles to bottle it this time around! It's a win-win, right?

As for NEXT time, so, it's okay to add unboiled tap water if I know I have good tap water, but otherwise, boil it and cool it, or just use bottled water, right? Also, wouldn't it be easier, if I have to go through all that, to just use maybe 6-6 1/2 gallons for my full boil instead of my usual 5?

Thanks again, this place has been very helpful many times.

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Old 05-24-2007, 01:22 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rockout
As for NEXT time, so, it's okay to add unboiled tap water if I know I have good tap water, but otherwise, boil it and cool it, or just use bottled water, right? Also, wouldn't it be easier, if I have to go through all that, to just use maybe 6-6 1/2 gallons for my full boil instead of my usual 5?.
I would boil my top off water while I boil my wort. I let it cool as my wort boiled and then add as my top off. To me it's better to be safe and boil the water. I've used bottled water (spring water), and added it straight to my primary without boiling. No problems.

You can do like you said and just increase your initial volume to 6 1/2 gallons and let it boil down instead of 5. If you have access to a software like Promash or BeerSmith those will be helpful too. It's your hobby and your beer. Do what will work best for you. This forum will give you some great feedback. It's good to get advice and learn what will work for you.
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Old 05-24-2007, 01:53 PM   #6
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I"ve never boiled my tap water in any of my brewing. Boiling does drive off oxygen, so if you are doing full boils or topping off with boiled water, make sure you oxygenate your wort before pitching the yeast. You can pour it through a strainer, shake it, stir it, etc. I invested in an aeration system (aquarium pump and filter with a diffusion stone) when I went with full boils.

Yes, the easy answer is to just boil more wort! Once you know your evaporation rate, you can plan for it easily. If you are a little short, though, just add water! I started using a turkey fryer pot on top of my stove the last two brews, and I had too little wort the first time, too much yesterday even with software, etc to figure it out. Once you get your equipment and process down, you'll be able to just know how much to start with. But if you miss it, no big deal!

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Old 05-26-2007, 03:07 AM   #7
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Default questions 1 & 2

rockout, regarding your question 1, "yes" it is a common practice to top-off your original wort with water to get to the 5+ gallons into the fermenter. I say "5+" since some brewers recommend greater volume than 5 gallons since you will lose some volume by transfers to the secondary and/or bottling bucket. Boiled water is ok, but if it is a substantial volume you may want to take some extra effort to make sure it is aerated properly. Bottled water seems a safe choice in any case. And as Yooper mentioned, tap water is usually ok assuming you have reasonably good tap water.

Your question 2 is probably the less common question: "is it ok to top-off the secondary, or even the bottling bucket." Interestingly, I've read an article by a local home brewer (who seems quite experienced), that suggests that it is certainly ok to top-off the secondary or bottling bucket to reach the desired volume. He points out that if you did boil off too much of the wort, and for that or any other reason you find yourself with unexpectedly low volume in the secondary or bottling bucket, then your gravity will certainly be greater than intended by the recipe. Topping off will help restore the intended gravity (or at least make it closer to the intended gravity). According to him, there is no harm done. But, if there is a down-side to doing that, I haven't heard it yet. That said, if there is a down-side, I'm sure someone will chime in with the rationale, or hte counter-argument. Regarding what type of water to top-off with, I think the same answer given in question 1 applies.

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Old 06-08-2007, 08:10 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rockout
Those were sort of the answers I was expecting. I figure we'll just have a stronger beer, and use less bottles to bottle it this time around! It's a win-win, right?

As for NEXT time, so, it's okay to add unboiled tap water if I know I have good tap water, but otherwise, boil it and cool it, or just use bottled water, right? Also, wouldn't it be easier, if I have to go through all that, to just use maybe 6-6 1/2 gallons for my full boil instead of my usual 5?

Thanks again, this place has been very helpful many times.

If your tap water is fine, or you have a prepared amount of make up water, I would suggest that you don't boil more water. The reason is efficiency. You will be able to bring the smaller volume to a boil much quicker AND when you add the cool water to the wort after boil, you will be able to bring the wort down to pitching temperature much quicker. The first part is just a patience thing, but cooling your wort quickly can help with beer quality. I'm not an expert, but I read in a few places (Dave Miller's Homebrewing Guide for one) that the wort is suceptable to comprimise in the time between boil and pitch... (I think the worry is airborn bacteria, but I'll let the folks who know thier alpha amylase from thier beta amylase explain that)... All I know is, its better for the beer and better for me to cool it quickly.

There is some danger in going too low volume, at least one danger that I know of. It gets easier to burn the wort when it gets thick.

just my 2cents.
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Old 06-08-2007, 08:34 PM   #9
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I used bottled water until i forgot to buy some and just used tap and the beer was great. I use a sanitized milk jug to transfer the water to measure it out.

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Old 06-09-2007, 03:17 AM   #10
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It's been awhile since I last saw this thread. Was looking over some old posts and found it again.

There seems to be a different opinion to boil or not to boil top off water. Me personally, I still would boil it. Simply because it can help sterilize the water and also help remove the chloramines that are left in when your local water company added chlorine for sanitizing. There are those that seem to think that boiling drives off the oxygen and is not good when added as top off water. A quick question then. Why do we boil our worts for about 1- 1 1/2 hrs then? Doesn't this prolonged time also remove the oxygen in the water? But when being poured into the primary does it miraculously get reoxygenated as it's being poured? Or does the addition of the extracts, DME, Hops, Gypsum, Irish moss, or who knows what else help reoxygenate the wort?

Personally I would boil my top off water, let it cool and then add to primary. Only because I would want those chloramines taken out and also to help sanitize. But I do agree that it depends on your water source (well versus municipal) and you knowing the contents. As for me I aerate mine with O2 for about 20 minutes anyway. But to each his own. We can all agree to disagree.

Cheers!

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