Addition of water to wort: when?

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by Anoldshopteacher, Jan 13, 2020.

  1. Anoldshopteacher

    Anoldshopteacher Initiate (15) Jan 13, 2020 New Mexico

    I'm novice, following books by Dave Miller. I prepare 6 gallons of water in advance, boiled 15 minutes, put in sanitized glass jugs and refrigerated. Last two batches had water out of fridge, 3 gallons used for boiling wort, 2+ added at the end of the boil and then used an immersion wort chiller for cooldown. Got things down to 75 degrees, then even an ice water bath resulted in glacially slow progress down to 70. I am thinking about trying using the chiller just on my 2.5-3 gallon wort, getting it down to just above my tap water temp and THEN adding the water from the fridge to get it to 65 degrees. But I am wondering if the addition of water needs to happen at the higher temperature of the boil, or if water is water and dilution of wort can happen at any stage. I seek and will listen to the wisdom of those more experienced than I. And I thank you for your time in reply.
  2. VikeMan

    VikeMan Poo-Bah (1,591) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    From a dilution standpoint, it can happen at any time. From a sanitation standpoint, you need to be very sure that the water you're adding is very sanitary if not added to the boil. But fear not, I think that's the way most people do "partial boil" batches.

    But I don't know that you'll save much time, because your wort will be at near boiling when you begin chilling, instead of having its temp brought down initially by the cold water.

    (As an aside, if you have the kettle size and heat source to do full boils, you'll make better beer.)
    #2 VikeMan, Jan 13, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2020
  3. ssam

    ssam Aspirant (291) Dec 2, 2008 California

    As a partial boiler for years, I have always diluted the wort after removing the wort from cold break. I chill it in the kettle to under 80, filter out hop material and other stuff, then add water that is fridge cold. I typically use bottled water for sanitation reasons, though in a pinch have used filtered water in a sanitized container, neither have ever resulted in infection.

    My reasoning for adding the water when I do is that I've had the feeling that the cold break is better on the pure wort. At some points in the past I even made sanitized ice cubes of brewing water and added that directly to the hot wort to cool it, but nixed this practice for no logical reason.

    Those ice cubes as you can imagine chilled the wort fastest. But probably the best use of the dilution step is when the beer is under 100. You mentioned that under 70 was the slowest in the ice bath. By that time, most of my ice is gone. If you are diluting with enough water and its cold enough, you can go down 10 degrees in a second.
  4. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Poo-Bah (2,568) May 30, 2005 Michigan

    I do partial boils and have always added the top-off water to the hot wort. I don't think my wort chiller would be totally submerged unless I add the water. Your chiller's height may be the deciding factor.
    Anoldshopteacher and riptorn like this.
  5. HerbMeowing

    HerbMeowing Disciple (300) Nov 10, 2010 Virginia

    No need to pre-boil your wort's boil water.

    Seems to me ... 1) the 'top-off' issue goes away if you apply an 'evaporation rate' to your initial full-wort boil volume and 2) you're making more work for yourself than necessary.
  6. riptorn

    riptorn Aspirant (277) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    If you go the route of using the chiller only on the wort to 75° and then adding the chilled water from the fridge to get to 65°, you might reach 65° before you use up the chilled water (and be short of your final volume). Think about having a gallon of room-temp water on hand to get to final volume after reaching your target temp.
    Anoldshopteacher and PapaGoose03 like this.
  7. Anoldshopteacher

    Anoldshopteacher Initiate (15) Jan 13, 2020 New Mexico

    Thank you all for your help. Today is Brew Day and I feel like I won't be killing $30 of ingredients by deviating from Dave Miller's script. Vike Man brought up the issue of temperature differential of hot vs cooler wort and Papa Goose the reduction of surface for the wort chiller if I add the water later. Hadn't really thought of that. SSam kind of reassured me that I'll be okay by adding water later after I get it down below 100. And Riptorn cautioned me about cooling too much and having some room temp water available as I'm bringing things down. You all gave me some things to think about today and I'll be keeping it all in mind as I work. Maybe ice bath will even help at the end now that it's January. Sure didn't do much back in October and I had plenty of ice. Anyway, thanks again fellas. I appreciate it.
    PapaGoose03, VikeMan and riptorn like this.
  8. telejunkie

    telejunkie Aspirant (256) Sep 14, 2007 Vermont

    All sounds like solid only $0.02 is to not ever add water after fermentation is in full gallop....add beer or other fermented beverage if you need more volume.
    riptorn likes this.
  9. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,318) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Dave, I am curious here.

    Is the 'issue' that adding water while the beer is in "full gallop" that it will impact the fermentation process (e.g., you won't reach a 'low' final gravity)?

    Or is your concern here that adding water while fermenting will 'dilute' the beer (e.g., a lower effective OG)?


  10. billandsuz

    billandsuz Devotee (416) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    My $0.02 is that you are adding water with 8 ppm oxygen, which depending on where the fermentation is at could be a problem. Or not.
  11. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,479) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    The big brewers that add water to high gravity brews dilute to the final ABV with sterile water that has been stripped of O2.
  12. telejunkie

    telejunkie Aspirant (256) Sep 14, 2007 Vermont

    @JackHorzempa I probably should have just said "after fermentation" but those two above posts nailed it...when you talk about oxygen in beer, you're talking ppb...bottling lines brag about adding <5ppb oxygen. If you purposefully add in what Bill was talking about, you're talking about a healthy shot of brewers have very expensive deaeration systems to try to counter this...even boiling doesn't get you down as low as you may expect. So just a general...don't add water to sound advice.
    Singlefinpin likes this.
  13. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,318) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Ah, I understand you now.