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I've been all grain brewing for a couple years (23 batches), and can't figure out why my last two brews simply would not get through the hot break stage of the boil. Every time I tried to get through it would simply foam until about ready to boil over and I'd have to turn the flame down. I was forced to maintain a lower boil for the entire boil process. Nothing has changed in my process that I'm aware of.

Can anyone help?

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The only way to prevent a boil-over is either

  • larger volume kettle/ lower volume batch size
  • lower temperature
  • active negotiation (spray bottle, fermcap (see related here))

You can also scoop the foam as it comes to a rigorous boil before the hot break. This serves two purposes. It will (arguably) give you clearer beer and will keep you at the kettle when the risk of boil over is highest. I switched to a 75 (instead of 60) minute boil, initially to give me wiggle room with volumes, but I kept it as adding hops after the hot break helps prevent hops from initiating a boil over.

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  • Good to know. I guess it's just odd that I've never dealt with it before in any previous batches. I upgraded from a turkey fryer to a Blichmann burner recently though, so perhaps the extra power is the reason it'd never happened previously – ts_watson Jan 18 '17 at 13:42
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    Yeah, changes in altitude, humidity, air pressure as well as any change in the kettle or burner or even the composition of the grist may all play a role. – Wyrmwood Jan 18 '17 at 15:42
  • Cool I won't sweat it too much then, and maybe just try some fermcap or 5 Star defoamer. Any recommendations? p.s. Fermentation is vigorous on this one so that's a good sign too :). Thanks much for the help! – ts_watson Jan 18 '17 at 15:52
  • the spray bottle works amazingly well. – Wyrmwood Jan 18 '17 at 15:55
  • Agreed, I've been employing that for a while now. There are times when I walk away from the boil for a minute or two to do something else, just trying to ensure it doesn't happen I suppose – ts_watson Jan 18 '17 at 15:56
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I don't know what your expectations are or where you got them from, but I guarantee that if you are able to maintain a boil for 60 minutes you are getting plenty of hot break. It might not look like what you are expecting it to look like. (Unless you are boiling at altitude or something and can't get to 212F/100C.)

Have you ever turned the boil back up after 30-40minute to see what the foaming was like? I am sure it would have subsided. That being said it will always foam to some extent and boiling harder just makes it worse.

If that doesn't comfort you, I'd suggest getting your water tested and looking towards your pH and your calcium levels. I have found that with more calcium in the wort the break in the early part of the boil is big and flakey chunks of protein. When I don't adjust for calcium the break is much finer; almost looks like pellet hop debris. (and these observations are made prior to adding hops)

Lastly, if you see plenty of flakey trub material in the fermentor post chill then that is also a sign that there was good hot break.

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  • I may have used the wrong term, if so I apologize...all of the descriptors you give indicate I've had a great hot break-both floating in the boil and also quite a bit in the fermenter post chill. The main concern is the fact that I can't stop the potential for boil over with the foaming. In past brews there was a point where I could boil aggressively and "push through" this phase and the boil would fall back down and roll aggressively without all the foam. But even at 50 minutes when I dropped my chiller and increased heat to get the boil back, the foam returned and was ready to boil over – ts_watson Jan 17 '17 at 12:25
  • Is it with the same recipe as before? It could simply be different ingredients acting differently than you are used to either in maltster or by amount. Lot variations in protein content could be an issue too. – brewchez Jan 17 '17 at 14:29
  • It's happened twice in a row now which makes me wonder what changed :( 1st time was a fairly standard porter recipe, no grains I haven't used before. Latest was an IPA, first time ever using flaked wheat...the only other variable that changes was a new can of pH 5.2 stabilizer, I've always added that to my mash water – ts_watson Jan 17 '17 at 14:38

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