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I'm living in a condo with no outdoors space and a mere 12" clearing on my stovetop. One-gallon all-grain batches are easy, but I'm trying to figure out some logistics for going larger... aside from buying a portable induction cooktop for use elsewhere in the kitchen! I've read a number of recipes that call for "topping off to X" in the fermenter (carboy in my case).

What are reasonable limits to making a concentrated wort (say, for a non-imperial, non-hop-bomb beer)? To what extent can I load up my pot with grain and produce the initial wort, then boil, chill, and add water?

Hopefully this doesn't broaden the question too much, but are there any notable drawbacks to brewing like this? I found this answer about full wort boils, but the comments refer to extract, whereas I'm thinking about all-grain.

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There are homebrewing shops that cater to small batch boils (in NYC for instance) and I bet there are homebrew clubs in those cities as well. You may want to see who you can meet in the area trying the same things. Plus its someone to taste beer with! –  uSlackr Jul 9 '13 at 12:51
    
Indeed. A friend has tipped me off to a club in my area that I've been meaning to check out. Thanks! –  object88 Jul 9 '13 at 15:20

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12 inches head-space is unimaginably tight!

The first big concern that comes to mind is efficiency of your mash. While the following example is impossible/impractical, imagine trying to mash the grains required for a 5 gallon batch of wort in a 2 gallon pot. Even if all the grains would fit, there's no way you'd have enough room for all the water, and your efficiency would plummet.

Instead of condensing on the stove-top, and then diluting after the fact, how many pots can you split your batch up with? What if you mashed in an igloo or other separate mash tun other than your stove, and evenly split your batch among two or three pots, one gallon each (we're talking 2.5 gallon batches, maybe more if you can fit it), boiled the three kettles separately, hopping them equally, then combining them in your carboy?

It would be a lot of wort to chill multiple kettles separately, but it sounds a bit more reasonable than trying to find a way to concentrate your wort only to expand it again once it goes into the carboy. Either way, you're going to need space, so I'd recommend mashing outside of your stove top with a cooler, and boiling the wart evenly across a couple of boil kettles.

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Excellent suggestions, thanks. There are many ways to skin a cat, as they say, and I think your suggestions make more sense than what I was thinking. –  object88 Jun 18 '13 at 18:21
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If you do decide to do the single-mash, multiple boil approach I recommended, just ensure that all the boil kettles are evenly distributed with wort, meaning that the OG of all the boil kettles are the same. This will impact the boil, and the hop utilization. –  Scott Jun 18 '13 at 19:54

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