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I've seen a few threads here and there saying that one thing to do as soon as possible is start doing a full boil (5 gallons in the boil instead of ~3 in the boil with ~2 of water added later). For reference, I'm considering this in the context of extract brewing.

So, I'm curious- what's your opinion? If you went to full boils, was it a significant improvement? Was it worth the cost of a bigger pot and heating method?

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In reference to cost of a larger pot, if you're willing to go with aluminum, you can get some pretty cheap ones (6 gal for ~$25 at Sam's) –  Room3 Nov 12 '10 at 2:22
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up vote 6 down vote accepted

The main problem that I ran in to with my partial boils was that the wort caramelized because I was using a pot that didn't evenly distribute the heat well enough. And since there was less water than a full boil, the sugar concentration was higher. So, I had hot spots on the bottom of the pot that would burn the sugar in my wort.

Also the higher the gravity of the boiling wort, you will need to add more hops to the wort in order to have the desired IBU level. The alpha acid in the hops need to isomerize in order to give us that bittering taste. The sugar concentration will inhibit that isomerization.

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I've had some damn good partial boiled homebrews, and some nasty full boils, so I don't think you're going to see a huge quality difference either way, just as long as you're not scorching or anything.

If you ever plan on going all grain , you'll need to do full boils. But you'll end up saving money every time you brew so you can almost think of it as a negative cost. The biggest negative I think is trying to cool it down, you can't really do any ice cube tricks, or add cold water or anything. One plus though, it that boil overs are was less common.

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