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"Ugh, you want me to add another 30 minutes to my brew day?!?"
I know...brewing takes a long time already. It eats up the better part of a day. So it's no surprise the thought of extending your boil from 60 minutes to 90 minutes makes you grumble.
But if you hear me out, I'm willing to bet you will at least consider extending your boil. You may even do it on your very next batch!
Shall we begin? Great.
In my last article I talked about ways to alter your beer without altering the ingredients. One of those ways was by boiling the wort for more time.
What I didn't mention there were the other benefits of a longer boil (we'll assume 90 minutes from here on).
Like this:
Drive off DMS
Some say DMS is a boogey man. That it's rare in homebrews. Yet it comes up over and over again in homebrew competitions that I judge. Especially when I get assigned the pilsners. Category 2A always has plenty of corn to go around!

Yes, DMS gives the beer a corny aroma. It's usually cooked corn, creamed corn, or cabbage-like in character. In my opinion it's one of the worst off-flavors there is. Diacetyl? Meh, don't mind it so much. Acetaldehyde? Not pleasant, but I can deal with it. But creamed corn? Yuck.
Brief description - DMS comes from another chemical called SMM. When SMM heats up (like in the mash and boil), DMS is produced. DMS gets driven off in the boil so most of the time it's not an issue, even in a 60 minute boil. The occasions you want to extend the boil are those where you're using very light malts, like pilsner malt. It contains more SMM because it's not kilned as highly as other malts.
There is little debate (relatively speaking, for homebrewing) around this topic: Using pilsner malt? Do a 90 minute boil.
Ok, so you buy that argument. When you use pilsner malt you'll do a 90 minute boil. However, that could lead you into another issue consistency.
Always doing a 90 minute boil gives you consistency
My logic in switching from 60 to 90 minute boils went like this: "I use pilsner malts pretty often. I want to be consistent in my process and use the same boil length every time. Therefore, I'll just do a 90 minute boil for every batch."
Consistency in batches and hitting your numbers is one of the toughest things in homebrewing. "I can't hit my target gravity" is a recurring question from my students that learn to brew all-grain.
My advice to them is summed up by this: "Learn your system. Take detailed notes. Be consistent."
It's tough to learn your brew system when you're changing up the boil length every few batches. Not to mention the risk of choosing the wrong equipment profile in BeerSmith. Scary thought!
To keep things simple I decided to do 90 minute boils across the board. There's very little downside and now that my brew days are almost identical process-wise, I've become much better at brewing consistent batches and hitting my numbers.
There are other reasons too.
Use the 30 minutes to "take care of business" before adding the hops.
I add the first hop additions at 60 minutes, so I like to think of the first 30 minutes as time to get things in shape before adding the hops. It's like that mad scramble to clean your house right before your first party guest arrives.
Here's an interesting take from a Bavarian Brewing Tech article:
"From practical point of view, boiling should not take less than 90 minutes. The specific length depends on the hop schedule. The minimum time is explained by the following. Sterilization requires about 5 minutes. An additional 10 minutes (total of 15 minutes) will kill the enzymes. Another 15 minutes are needed to eliminate tannin originating from malt husks. This first half hour, in case of infusion mash, is to decompose and precipitate some of the proteins. This should be accomplished before hops are added, because otherwise the sticky hop resins will combine with the coarse protein flocks and precipitate out of solution."
Now, I don't agree with all of that. For example you can sanitize while you boil the hops. But I do like giving the hot break time to subside before adding the hops.
Plus this is a good time for another key step - gravity adjustment. If your efficiency came in a little low you can use these 30 minutes to make an adjustment. Take a gravity reading, figure out how much DME to add and bingo! You're back on track, just in time for the guests (hops) to arrive.
Now to address your biggest concern - the added time to brew day. Well I think if you look hard at your process you'll find there is a lot to keep you busy in those 30 minutes. Examine those tasks you perform after the boil and see if you can actually do them during those 30 minutes.
Here are some ideas:
  • Determine your efficiency and make any gravity adjustment, as mentioned above
  • Record your notes
  • Clean the mash tun
  • Clean up your brewing area
  • Put away equipment you're done with
  • Get your wort chiller and fermentation gear ready
Sometimes I have so much to do that I still feel rushed, even with a 90 minute boil. The extra time is welcome breathing room.
Do you already do a longer boil? Chime in down in the comments and let us know why you like it.
Billy Broas heads up The Homebrew Academy, where you can find tips, videos, and online courses for brewing world-class beer at home. He's co-author of the book Craft Beer for the Homebrewer, a certified BJCP beer judge, and his beer philosophy is that "we should all be beer geeks, not beer snobs."

I get 2l extra boil off, oh noes!
And using 1.5kWh extra electric energy, that is money to vapour!
I would not boil less then 90mins on any brew.
Good writing!
I've been using a longer boil more often myself. It helps increase my OG by boiling off some of the water, leaving more sugars behind. Also, I've been using more and more Pilsner malts these days. I run 7g to the BK and by the time it hits fermenter it's just above 5g. I agree, consistency is key. After reading this, I may just do 90 on everything.
Thanks for this more in depth look at the pros for 90min boil.
Interesting concept. Do you start the timer once the hot break subsides?
I usually start my timer after the hot break, but I keep it at 60mins.
I've switched ever since a BDSA I had a ton of Pilsner in, no there was no DMS. But I noticed I got the hot break done and still had 20 minutes to fritz around, clean up, pour a scotch, get my lawn chair ready and my book, and still had 5 minutes I was waiting to for the first hop addition.
95 minutes is my standard boil time. I like to boil for 5 minutes before adding hops to skim the scum. I like to clean and put away everything I can before flameout. Then when the wort is cooled and the yeast pitched, I can relax and have a homebrew without even thinking about cleanup.
Thank you. This is the hella ticket and just what I need for a reality check. For many homebrewing hobbyists, the temptation to rush is everywhere. I often start the process too early before I've sufficiently prepped, cleaned, sanitized, and checked the recipe numbers. I may pitch too early, not letting the wort sufficiently cool and aerate. I have rushed the primary fermentation and rack to the secondary (if at all) too early not letting the yeasties eat the sugars and by-products. I've bottle too early before the beer clears and settles. I have served the beer too early not letting it properly condition and carb up. I may have given up on bad batches too early not letting time the opportunity to heal the wounds. I suppose I also do my first hop addition too early. Going in on a 90-min boil is the answer to teach me patience from the beginning. If I'm going to spend the better part of the day to brew a batch, the 30 minute investment in a longer boil is a small price to pay to make the entire process result in better tasting beer. Thank you for posting.
So wondering how this jives with what I've recently been reading about - a resurgence of "first wort hopping" whereby one adds the majority of hops as the kettle receives wort from the tun. See John Palmer http://www.howtobrew.com/section1/chapter5-1.html or google it for lots about it.
This article above suggests adding hops before the hot break is not a good idea? I've been reading that first wort hopping can actually improve utilization by as much as perhaps 10%.
For some reason, I get clearer beer with a ~90 minute boil (same process and boil off as my 60 minute boils).
I also overshoot preboil volume by a bit, so I plan on boiling down until I get to my desired preboil volume before adding 60 minutes hops. Sometimes it's 10 minutes, sometimes it's 35 minutes. But it seems to help with clarity, and achieving my postboil volume and OG.
I've started doing 90 minute boils as well, but the only time it conflicts with the plans is when I want to do first wort hops. And in many beers, I really like the effects of FWH. So it is a tradeoff there...
Great article, and quite nicely done. Another beneficial aspect to a longer 90+ minute boil is the ability to coax additional flavors from the recipe's grain bill. Whether using primarily Pilsner Malt or any of the other base malts. I've found that the reduction in DMS and it's SMM precursor clears the way for the more favorable flavor components to take center stage.
Uhhh, you might have to find something more recent to base your article on than 1999 musings! Let's be honest, even the legendary John Palmer has been proved dead wrong recently on issues such as how quickly you need to chill post boil, given all the "no chill" going on around the homebrew world these days.
Oh, and does anyone know why it's perfectly fine to do a 'no boil' Berliner Weisse with 50% pilsner malt? Ever had a Berliner with DMS? Perhaps it's a pH thing.
The only thing constant is change!
I think there is a lot of merit to this idea. I started doing a minimum 75 minute boil for all beers a while ago, and I've noticed cleaner tasting brews. Anything with Pilsner malt gets 90 minutes though. Also it really helps to prevent boil overs. Hops and hot break are a violent combination!
I do a lot of first wort hopped brews. I'm not sure how that would work for a 90 min brew when most still add their hops with 60 min remaining when doing a 90 min boil.
I guess I would have to try it and see, maybe add a small amount of bittering hops at 60?
@Hunky I've been first wort hopping for a while now and doing it with 90 min. + boil times. I FWH without removing any of my late additions so the FWH is in addition to late additions and I love it. It hasn't added any perceived bitterness to my brews and I will never go back to not doing it in my IPA's.
@mnikkel and others..Thanks for the data points. I don't really know anything about it but have been seeing more of it in recent articles and books. I referenced Palmer simply because it came up first in a quick google. But whatever. This article above seemed to contradict that train of thought so thought I would ask. Simple as that.
I have always done 90 minute boils, and I do 80% ales. Stone does it and all their recipes I have followed call for 90 minute boils, so I figured if it is good enough for them it is good enough for me. I use the time to clean the mash tun and put it away. I FWH quite often and I find it makes a better beer, even with a 90 minute boil. YMMV. I switched to natural gas last year, so I don't worry about running out of propane anymore...one less headache.
@BansheeRider I start the timer as soon as the first bubbles appear, at the very beginning of the boil. Just another way for my to stay consistent.
Will using a 90 minute boil affect the first wort hop additions that I planned on for 60 minutes? Beersmith will show adjustments for IBUs but I don't know if this is realistic or worth worrying about.
Here's a recent article I had read that got me to thinking - could be useful for some on the FWH issue - but maybe too anecdotal for others:
I converted to doing 90 boils for a few different reason's. The first is because of DMS. The second because of caramelization of the wort, a slightly higher efficiency and lastly constancy throughout all my brews. So far i've loved it. Even on new recipe's i'm pretty much exact on my efficiency (unless my OG is over .070). I get a nice malty wort, it seems cleaner and i'm just more consistent.
I don't brew many IPA's...while they are a style I love, i don't enjoy brewing them. But, If an extra 30 minutes means a slightly higher quality of brew...it doesn't bother me!