Author Topic: Topping off wort  (Read 2107 times)

Offline In The Sand

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Topping off wort
« on: November 26, 2012, 11:29:57 AM »
I brew 5 gallon batches, full boil, in an 8-gallon BK.  I like IPA's and typically have a small boil over no matter how hard I try not to.  Also, the last two batches I did a 75 minute and a 90 minute boil and boiled off a ton of wort.  When that happens, I usually top off before I pitch my yeast with filtered water.  However, I had someone notice a sour taste in my most recent IPA (I didn't taste it due to the hops, but he claimed he did).  So I'm wondering if it may have been from the filtered water.  I have it in a Brita pitcher, so the pitcher and the water haven't been sanitized.  I'm wondering if it got an infection from this.  I noticed some people add water to the boil if too much is lost, which makes since unless you're worried about hop utilization.  I'm not really worried about that at this point.  I've only brewed 7 batches.  Any ideas?
Trey W.

Offline mtnrockhopper

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Re: Topping off wort
« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2012, 11:35:10 AM »
I've done that with water out of the tap, but I do sanitize the jug I'm filling. I wouldn't add water that's been sitting in a britta filter, but I can't really say if that's causing a problem.
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Offline morticaixavier

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Re: Topping off wort
« Reply #2 on: November 26, 2012, 11:35:42 AM »
You certainly could have introduced an infection using un-sanitized/sterilized water to top off on the cold side. If you are regularly topping off I would either boil some water the night before and leave it in a sanitized container to cool so it is available for the brew day. Or do what I do and buy some UV sanitized RO water from a machine or bottles for top off. Tap water is generally safe to drink because it has a low biological load but it is far from sterile.
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Topping off wort
« Reply #3 on: November 26, 2012, 12:00:11 PM »
I think the problem is you are boiling too hard.  If you can't avoid boilovers and boil off a ton of wort, turn the burner down.  A light rolling boil is fine.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline mihalybaci

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Re: Topping off wort
« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2012, 12:36:42 PM »
I can only do a partial boil so I always top off with ~1.5 gallons of cold water, usually straight from the kitchen faucet, for a 5 gallon batch and I have never had a sanitation problem. For my situation, if the 3.5 gallons of boiled wort has cooled to ~200F by the time I add 1.5 gallons of cold water (60F), then the final temp should be 200*3.5+60*1.5 = (final temp)*5, or ~158F if my math is right, which may be high enough to kill some bacteria but certainly won't get everything. If you're worried, best practice is certainly to pre-boil and chill enough water to cover your losses, but I would guess the sourness isn't from the top-off water.

Offline euge

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Re: Topping off wort
« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2012, 03:33:01 PM »
I'd add it at flame out as mihalybaci suggests to be really sure. FWIW I routinely top up cooled wort with no problems. But everyone says not to do this. I do it anyway. Beer is fine...

As far as a boil-over goes some 5-star or fermcap does wonders even with an assload of hops.
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Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: Topping off wort
« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2012, 03:50:47 PM »
I do partial boils and top up every batch.  As I have for almost 20 years.  So I obviously don't think it's a problem.

Did only one person comment on a sour flavor?  Have you noticed it?  I get a "tart" flavor from certain yeasts, but it seems to mellow with age.

If you had an infection, I would expect the sourness to increase with time.

I would get more tasters to try the beer and not worry too much about topping up.
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Offline In The Sand

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Topping off wort
« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2012, 04:28:29 PM »
I do partial boils and top up every batch.  As I have for almost 20 years.  So I obviously don't think it's a problem.

Did only one person comment on a sour flavor?  Have you noticed it?  I get a "tart" flavor from certain yeasts, but it seems to mellow with age.

If you had an infection, I would expect the sourness to increase with time.

I would get more tasters to try the beer and not worry too much about topping up.

Only one person tasted it. I'm thinking he is a self-proclaimed expert because he's been in a home brewing group for 5 months where he doesn't even do the actual brewing. Like I said, I can't get past the hops. Like I like it!
Trey W.

Offline gymrat

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Re: Topping off wort
« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2012, 05:42:12 PM »
I usually pour a little more water into my mashtun at the end of my sparge if I think I need to too off. I feel like this deludes my beer less.
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Offline In The Sand

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Topping off wort
« Reply #9 on: November 26, 2012, 06:29:12 PM »
I usually pour a little more water into my mashtun at the end of my sparge if I think I need to too off. I feel like this deludes my beer less.

But the loss in wort occurs during boiling. So adding to my mash tun doesn't help. Especially when preboil volume is 6.5 gallons in an 8-gallon BK. I'm converting to 10-gallon batches in a 15-gal BK so shouldn't be a problem anymore, but I like what was said about adding list volume to the end of the boil, and/or fermcap or spray bottle. Will keep that in mind this weekend when I add my 8 oz pellet hops to my 5-gal batch.
Trey W.

Offline santoch

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Re: Topping off wort
« Reply #10 on: November 26, 2012, 09:44:18 PM »
One of the most common off-flavors that I run into when judging is chloro-phenols.  They taste like band-aids or have a medicinal quality to them, like chloro-septic.  A very common way to produce this off-flavor is to top up using chlorinated water right out of the tap, or to introduce chlorine through other means such as sanitizing with bleach (which used to be common but is far less common now).

Boiling is usually enough to drive off chlorine, but some cities use chloramine, which cannot be driven off even in the most vigorous boil.  A charcoal filter will remove chloramine, but only if it is filtered slowly enough.  Campden tablets will take both chlorine and chloramine out of the water.  They are extremely inexpensive.  One aspirin-sized tablet is enough to treat 20 gallons of water.

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Offline leejoreilly

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Re: Topping off wort
« Reply #11 on: November 27, 2012, 07:57:06 AM »
I heat all my water on my kitchen stove (gas range, major BTUs, close to the TV and frig). I always have an extra pot with a couple of gallons of treated (campden) hot/boiling water available to make up for any deficits in my water volumes for mashing, sparging or final volume. Before mashing, I get it to pre-mash temp; before sparging to about 170, and then boil the remainder in case I need it to top up.