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I'm currently extract brewing. I have a large (~8 gal) pot and a good burner, so I've got the capability to brew full-wort.

However, I find that chilling 4-5 gallons in an ice bath is very difficult (i.e. takes forever!)
As I'm not ready to invest in a proper chilling solution yet, I was wondering if it would be better to brew smaller (say ~3 gal) worts and then make up the extra 2 gal with very cold water.

I've heard this technique mentioned, but I don't understand the details. What affect might it have on the beer? Can cold water be used to induce cold break?

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This isn't relevant to you question but are you currently brewing batches from extract ingredient kits? If so and you are doing full 5 gallon boils, check the recipe, if it is formulated for a 2.5 or 3g boil then doing a full boil is going to change the results of the beer, specifically the hop utilization. Hop utilization increases as the boil SG decreases, so if the recipe is formulated for a 3 gallon boil and you are doing a 5g boil, then you can use less hops to achieve the IBUs of the recipe. Not sure the conversion formula, just figured I'd mention it. –  tomcocca Jun 9 '12 at 22:18
    
Interesting... I remember reading that about hops, actually. Something to do with the saturation of the alpha acids in smaller batches? That might explain why my beer is a tad more bitter than I was expecting! –  chase Jun 10 '12 at 17:52
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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

When I was extract brewing, that's exactly how I did every batch. I put 2 gallons of Poland Spring in the fridge, then added that to the wort that I cooled down to 120F or so in the sink. Really worked a treat, and still made great beer.

As for inducing cold break, I can't say if it's better or worse than using an immersion chiller, but I definitely got a good break with that technique.

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Great! I'll try it on my next batch. –  chase Jun 10 '12 at 17:50
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You may also find that an immersion chiller does not have to be a major investment. Where I live, my ground water stays fairly cool year round. So a simple immersion chiller is all I need to cool 6 gallons in about 15 min. I just purchased; 20' of 1/2" ID soft copper tubing (in a roll), a 10' roll of 1/2" ID clear vinyl tubing, a connection for a garden hose with a 1/2" barbed end and 3 hose clamps. All from Home Depot. You can very carefully bend the copper over large round objects (coffee can), bend as little as possible. Just attached the tubing and garden hose connection, tighten the clamps really well and give it a test run to check for leaks. Where I live, that set up cost me about $28.00 Canadian. The same set up is sold at my LHBS for $84.99.

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