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The starting postion for most new extract brewers is to use a partial boil set up. Defined as using a pot smaller than the intended batch size, all the ingredients are boiled in a smaller volume. Then the wort is diluted to the final desired batch size. (Often the dilution step is used as part of a cooling step)

What are the Ups and Downs of both Partial vs. Full boils?

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This might be a good place to start, I asked something similar and got some good answers: homebrew.stackexchange.com/questions/971/… –  WhatsBillDoing Jan 9 '10 at 16:27
    
I always wondered why my brews were always drarker, thanks for the post! –  user2449 Jun 2 '12 at 18:11

1 Answer 1

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Boiling is a fairly poorly understood process. That being said here is what I know.

Partial-wort Boil

Ups

  • You probably already have all the necessary equipment
  • Small footprint
  • Easy to manage
  • You can use your kettle for other things

Downs

  • Hop utilization suffers, meaning you must use more hops to get the same level of bitterness
  • There is a limit to iso-alpha acid concentration in wort - might have trouble making your favorite imperial double IPA. citation needed
  • It is much more difficult to accommodate all-grain batches because they necessitate full-wort boils
  • Boil-overs make a mess on the stove
  • You should sanitize top-off water to minimize infection risk, giving you another process to mind
  • Wort-darkening reactions happen faster at higher concentration, so your beer comes out darker than expected

Full-wort Boil

Ups

  • You can handle a full batch of wort from a mash tun
  • Hop utilization is better
  • Wort-darkening reactions happen at an expected concentration
  • You can size your kettle to minimize the possibility of boil-over

Downs

  • It is very difficult to boil a full batch on the stove, making it necessary to buy a burner in addition to a large pot
  • Boil-overs make a mess on the deck/garage/sidewalk
  • More (large) equipment to manage & store
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Very nice summary. –  brewchez Jan 10 '10 at 16:35

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