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I've heard that adding cleaned pennies to the wort can help prevent boil-overs. I guess they could provide nucleation points- I dunno.

Any truth to this, or is it just an old wives' tail?

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Where'd you hear this? (Out of curiosity more than anything else) –  hookedonwinter Nov 23 '10 at 23:51
    
Step 7 here –  Fishtoaster Nov 23 '10 at 23:55
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Adding pennies also has the benefit of contributing zinc, an essential nutrient, to the wort. –  Brandon Nov 24 '10 at 3:56
    
weird, I just keep a spray bottle of water beside my kettle –  Nathan Koop Nov 24 '10 at 15:10
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Pennies are ghetto, I only add quarters or higher. –  PMV Nov 24 '10 at 15:22

3 Answers 3

The effect that you are describing is that of adding a nucleation point (or site) to the kettle, as you said. A nucleation point provides a place for bubbles to form and release and will help to prevent boilovers. That being said, though, a penny (or a few pennies) will not have enough surface area to help a batch that large. At places that sell cooking gadgets, you can get a ceramic "boilover preventer". I have used these for cooking, and they work pretty well.

As for brewing, though, I have to recommend Fermcap-S. It is one of those things that once you use it, you will never know how you brewed without it. The cost is very minimal, when you determine how long a bottle lasts you. Last night's brew session, I realized I didn't have any and started without. I was having really bad foaming issues that was causing me to back off the boil, so I added a couple of Gas-X pills. In a pinch, this is something I have done a couple of times, and it works well - although not as good as Fermcap-S. Cost per batch will easily fall into favor of Fermcap-S, as well, when comparing the two.

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I tried it and didn't find it to prevent boilovers.

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Me too. I'd think that with all the manifolds and pick up tubes in so many kettles I see we already have plenty of nucleation sites. –  brewchez Nov 26 '10 at 3:00

In the fourth & final Brew Strong episode on high gravity brewing, Jamil, John, and Tasty touched briefly on using pre-1981 pennies in the boil to help provide minerals (Copper, Zinc) to the yeast to help them survive the stress of a big fermentation. (They mention it around the 30:00 mark.)

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This is about the only thing I would think pennies would help with in making beer (except buying ingredients). My MLT has a copper manifold and after every brew its bright and shiny from the copper being stripped by the acidic wort. –  KRock Nov 24 '10 at 20:51

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