I am a beginner brewing using extract recipes from my LHBS. Most call for 2 or 2.5 gallon wort boils. I am wondering what would happen if I boiled the same recipe with 3.5 or 4 gallons (while using same amount of extract, steeping grains, hops, etc)? Any thoughts on how this would impact the recipe? Is this a bad idea?
If you have the equipment to do full boils with extract, that would be great (think about doing partial mash and then AG!). Any top water you add is obviously not hopped. By doing a full boil, you can use hops without trying to figure out how to compensate for the dillution that the top water will bring to the final volume.
You'll get better hop utilization and caramelization will be reduced. You'll also need to figure out a way to cool the wort in a decent amount of time. 2 gallons of wort cools alot quicker than 4 gallons. Also, if your boiling 4 gallons of wort in a 5 gallon pot, boil over is almost guaranteed. If your boiling on your stovetop I'd recommend keeping your boil around 2 gallons. If your interested in full boils you'll need to look into a propane burner, large pot and a wort chiller.
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The bigger boil you do the better. You will get better hop utilization but I read you wont be able to taste anything different unless it is more than 5 IBUs. The Con as stated above is you need to cool more mass. I boil 3 g in a 4g pot and just put a fan facing the pot to control boil overs. At first I just blew on it and noticed it worked but had my fermcap on standy. Then the next batch I used fermcap. Then on my last batch I used a fan which I will be doing for now on which I got the idea from this site.