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I have been brewing extract kits and was wondering if it'd be al right to top off at 5.25 gallons?

Directions say 5 but I have never kegged a full 5 gallons, was hoping the extra quarter would get me closer to kegging 5 gallons since some is left behind in the carboy because it has too much sludge mixed in with it.

Let me know your thoughts, thanks.

  • Are you topping off with more water, as in you're adding water to the carboy to bring up your final volume? – BBS May 1 '15 at 15:42
  • @BBS correct. Most recipes call for 2.5 gals in the kettle, then to top it off at 5 gals, after the wort is cooled to 100 degrees. – Brad May 1 '15 at 16:15
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There's certainly nothing that's going to stop you, and everything will probably turn out fine if you make no changes to your recipe and just throw in an extra 1/4 gallon at the end.

But you are diluting your wort a bit, so you're decreasing your OG. You could attempt to increase your OG by a minor amount, but that will be a little more difficult since you're not doing a full boil. You would have to calculate the OG for the reduced boil, and calculate the amount of extract you need to add for a 1/4 gallon. I don't think it would be worth it to try and be exact on this.

If it was me, I probably wouldn't bother adding the extra water, but if I was to add water; I would just guess at it. If you have extract leftover you could add a small amount, if you don't have the extract I wouldn't bother worrying about it.

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In addition to BBS's answer (this will lower your OG), filling past the 5 gallon mark will further reduce the amount of headspace in your carboy/bucket. Some yeast require more room than others, and you could end up clogging up your airlock or losing more beer out a blowoff tube.

My advice would be to target a specific gravity rather than a specific volume. I don't always hit the 5 gallon line before I've hit my target gravity, but I'd rather have my beer turn out the way I want than fill a few more bottles.

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I have made quite a few batches of beer from extract kits and it started to annoy me when bottling day came that I didn't fill 48 bottles, so I started adding a little extra in primary to make sure I got 48 bottles on bottling day. BBS is totally correct, you are going to lower your OG and possibly alter the flavor profile of your wort, but for me, I prefer having the full 5 gallons of finished beer.

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As others have said, there's nothing inherently wrong with topping off past 5 gallons but you will alter the profile of the beer. You'll change your OG and probably your final IBUs. Probably not the color with just a quarter of a gallon, but you'll have a different-tasting beer in exchange for like two extra bottles of beer.

Losing volume between the fermentation and bottling is pretty normal, so I wouldn't sweat it too hard. The main thing you'll want to focus on is reaching a target OG. If you're doing that and you're hitting 4.75 gallons routinely then you're doing it right.

If it's really something that bothers you, use something like BeerSmith 2 or any of the various calculators to find your optimal pre-boil gravity and change your recipe accordingly by adding more extract. I think you're better off avoiding adding extract after the boil. Also, you might want to use DME rather than LME for this since DME's typically aren't hopped and won't affect your color, where LME's will make your beer darker and hoppier.

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  • LME's are hopped? Had never heard that. Do you have a citation? – 42- Nov 29 '18 at 19:16
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I always up my liquid to finish a bit over the planned 5 gallon standard, before separating the beer from the trub. Mainly because of priming concerns, most of my beers require 1oz of corn sugar per gallon. When I first started I ended up with just over 4 gallons and then added the kit's allotment of priming sugar, not bottle bombs, but definitely over carbed.

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