Boil Issues

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Well-Known Member
Oct 21, 2010
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So I'm looking to brew batch #4 and in doing research to figure out what has gone wrong with my first 3 batches I've come to some conclusions as to how to improve my beer. At the forefront of this issue... as far as I can tell anyways has been my inability to maintain a rolling boil. Before I begin with my questions I will say that all of my beers have definitely been drinkable, and have definitely improved with each batch so far however they have not been top notch beers and in some cases they really haven't met the flavor criteria for the style that I was trying to create. So here we go... My home brew attempts and my home brew problems:

My first beer brewed from a 'kit' my LHBS hooked me up with when I bought my brewing set up. Notice this was not the typical 'all in one, hop extract, yeast packaged with malt extract' type of DIY homebrew you'd typically buy as a kit. It was something put together by the brewshop for first time home brewers that included specialty grains, hop pellets, some bulk malt extract, a fresh pack of yeast, ect.

Very mild tasting beer... did not have the robust porter taste or mouthfeel whatsoever. Slightly sweet aroma with a very mellow body and very light on flavor (tasted more like a pale than a porter for sure).

Brown Ale:
Used the recipe from 'The Complete Joy of Home Brewing' for the 'Elbro Nerkte brown Ale' (pg 196) and upped my black patent malt by 1/2 lb, added an extra pound of DME and adjusted the hop additions to my own liking. I also added 1/2 cup of brown sugar during boil (something I later learned wasn't the greatest idea ever). The result was again a drinkable beer but it lacked in flavor and was not full bodied. I'm quite certain now that the addition of the brown sugar played a key role in the light body of the beer even though it had a relatively high ABV.

Red IPA:
A recipe that was pieced together from multiple recipes and from some discussion with some local brewers. Definitely my best beer to date, steeped a lot more grains than I had in the past, had 6 lbs of extract in it, used hops with very high AA percentages and fermented for about 3 weeks. Unfortunately, the computer I saved my recipe on crashed so thats about as specific as I can get here.

SO... To make a long post longer, finally, here is my question/dilemma:
My setup stuggles like mad to maintain a rolling boil with any volume over 1.5 gallons and all of my previous beers have been brewed with at least 2.5 gallons at a sputtering boil (obviously I didn't understand the importance of the whole rolling boil part). However, the temp of the water has stayed between 210-212 degrees (at or very near boiling temp). I've seen some posts suggesting vigorously boiling the hops in a smaller pot separate from the wort in an attempt to increase utilization and then cooling the hop water and adding it as part of the top off water into the fermenter. Are there any problems associated with boiling 1-1.5 gallons of wort and then adding them into the fermenter with an extra gallon or so of chilled, pre-boiled hop water before topping off? Does my wort need to be in a rolling boil if my hops have already boiled in a separate vessel?

Thanks for reading through this absurdly long post. Any input is greatly appreciated!
I just hit up my local beer shop and loaded up on a bunch of holiday seasonal beers... And by big I mean the smallest one being an 8.7% abv, and by a couple I mean more than 5 :) so if I somehow pulled the classic drunk move of providing way too much info while at the same time providing way too little info I apologize and please feel free to ask further questions and/or ridicule me as you see fit!
Yep...get a turkey fryer. You'll get a 7.5 gallon pot in which you'll be able to do full boils. Full boils will also increase hop utilization. You'll also get a burner that you'll have no problem maintaining a rolling boil on.
If you can, I'd say go for the turkey fryer too. Bass Pro had them for about $40 a few weeks ago. They'll probably go on sale from that after turkey day. If you can't do that, have you thought of splitting your boil into two pots, and then combining? I've even seen some folks split the hops evenly into the two separate boiling pots, which would probably be a better way than using a smaller amount of water.

It was stated, several times, from science guys on this forum, that "material, such as sugar from grains, or flavor compounds from hops, moves from high concentration to areas of low concentrations." Okay, that's not a real quote but it's close. Anyways, it boils down to using as much water as you can to extract the goodness from grains or hops.

And, IIRC, the boil is really to not only sanitize the wort but also to release and change the bittering chemicals from the hops. And that change and flavor release peak at the 60 minute boil point.

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