Nearly all partial boil brewers will reach the point when making beer and ask themselves  “What can I do to make this beer taste better?”  Well, the first answer is to move from partial boils to full boils.  By this I mean that if you are brewing 5 gallon batches of beer but only boiling 2.5 gallons when making hop additions and then adding water after boiling you would be doing a partial boil.  The full boil gives the benefits outlined below:

  • With a partial boil the specific gravity of the wort is higher and the solubility of the wort decreases.  As a result the hop utilization also decreases, resulting in a less hoppy beer.  A full boil has a higher solubility therefore the utilization of the hops increases.
  • Carmelization is another problem with the partial boils.  This can result in flavors that don’t exactly fit the profile of the beer you are looking for.  On top of this, it can darken your beer.  With a full boil the wort is diluted more to prevent this from occurring.
  • Adding water at the end of the boil will increase the likelihood for contamination as the water being added is likely not sanitized.  If you are not holding that water above 160°F for at least a few minutes you are likely not killing all the bacteria that are in the water.  You might argue that your tap water is treated to kill bacteria but there may be growth in or near your plumbing or devices that dispense the water.  Assuming your water is perfectly clean because it is chlorinated read the next point.
  • If your adding into your partial boil tap water that is treated with chlorine, the boiling of this water helps volatilize the chlorine from your wort.  As this water is added at the end of the boil your chlorine content would be higher resulting in a medicinal flavor – yum.  If your water is treated with chloramine the only thing to watch out for is your yeast not performing well; this will have little effect on the overall taste of the beer.

So in the end it comes down to personal preference, what you are willing to pay, and ultimately how your beer tastes.  If you like your beer then keep doing what your doing but if you are looking for something better it just might be time to make the change to full boils.

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