Getting a rolling boil on a kitchen stove

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by Crackerbarrel, Feb 16, 2015.

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  1. Crackerbarrel

    Crackerbarrel Initiate (87) Feb 10, 2014 New York

    I'm just getting started with homebrewing (about to do my third batch), and both times prior I've had trouble getting a good rolling boil on my gas kitchen stovetop.

    I'm not really doing a large batch, a little over 4 gallons in the kettle, but I understand even this is a lot for a stove.

    I can reach a good boil, but its usually after a good 30 minutes. Should I consider this point to be the start of my boil (i.e., let it go 60 minutes from this point, add my first bittering hops, etc), or does the fact that its been cooking (albeit not boiling) for about 30 mins already change things?

    edit: I've heard people tell me "you don't need a good rolling boil, just some bubbles/movement" but I don't even get close to that in the first half hour....the temp is usually about 180-190 degrees for a while.
  2. BeerMe330

    BeerMe330 Initiate (72) Dec 13, 2013 Ohio

    4 gallons is a lot to do on the stove you may want to drop that to 2-3 gallons. When I was stove top I started with 2.5 gallons and made some decent beer. Also do a quick search for drop in water heaters. That will cut the boil time down a little.
  3. billandsuz

    billandsuz Disciple (369) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    consistency is important. adding your bittering hops at the point you reach a full boil is best. you want to boil your wort for 60 minutes. so technically if your wort is 200F, it isn't boiling. it's just hot. but it is not a mistake if you were to toss in your bittering addition at 200 and ramp up to full boil.

    you may find that "boiling" for 60 minutes on a kitchen stove is really a 120 minute affair.

    as for having a full boil, the activity of the boil is important, not only the temp. you don't need a raging cauldron, but a good rolling boil is just that. it helps to do more than just extract ibu's.
  4. StevensBrewing

    StevensBrewing Initiate (86) Oct 13, 2014 Pennsylvania

    My first batch never came to a full rolling boil, I had a few bubbles here and there and that is when I started the timer for the 60 minutes, I feel like this was a mistake because my OG was pretty low and my ABV was a lot lower then I wanted it to be and what it should have been per the recipe. The beer still tasted great, but I wonder if I just stuck to 60 minutes regardless of a rolling boil or not, would it have been better? Lately, I partial cover the brew kettle and it boils no problem, I never go over 2.5 gallons, 3 when running some water through some specialty grains and I don't seem to have a problem at all getting it to boil. Depending on batch size, I generally stick to a strict schedule.
  5. OntheLambic

    OntheLambic Aspirant (250) Jan 9, 2015 Connecticut

    You want to start your 60 mins once the boil starts rolling, this will ensure you reach your target gravity, IBU's, and drive off DMS.
  6. CavemanBrau

    CavemanBrau Initiate (0) Apr 5, 2013 Iowa

    Gas or electric? I just did a 4 gallon boil on my stove top yesterday, and yes it took approx. 20-30 minutes for the wort to boil. It was a nice rolling boil, but nothing aggressive where it was splashing over the edge. My range is natural gas, which IMHO, is infinity times better than an electric range. Consider the wort boiling when it's boiling, even if it takes 30 minutes. If you add hops prior to the boil/60 min. consider it FWH.
  7. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Crusader (730) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    If you can find a pot/kettle that is wide enough to stradle 2 burners you can essentially double your BTU input. I have a 8 gal kettle that fits perfectly on 2 burners. Another thing you can do is use your lid until it's almost up to a boil. If making an IPA the extra time it takes to get to a boil can be an advantage with First Wort Hopping (FWH)...if you lay off the caramel specialty grains, your beer should stay pretty light, too. Cheers
    PortLargo likes this.
  8. Mothergoose03

    Mothergoose03 Poo-Bah (2,261) May 30, 2005 Michigan

    Consider too that the more aggressive the boil is that you'll probably have more water boiled off. So if you don't think you can get good bubbling during the boil (and you're doing a full boil for the size of your recipe), don't add too much extra water (if any) or you'll end up with a watered-down beer.
    inchrisin and GreenKrusty101 like this.
  9. PortLargo

    PortLargo Devotee (435) Oct 19, 2012 Florida

    “Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn, and caldron bubble.” . . . Shakespeare

    From the boil you want both heat and agitation. You want heat to isomerize your hop acids and the agitation helps proteins form (hot break). More is better but moderate amounts can be made to work. Example: New Belgium Brewery (Ft Collins, CO) never boils their wort over 203° and they achieve desired bitterness and clarity. Also, don't let those tiny bubbles hypnotize you, initially expect to find different temps at the top of kettle versus bottom (yes, I've measured). Ideally a good rolling boil eliminates this variation and maximizes your hop isomerization.

    From a practical point of view; I would start my hop-timer when the surface of the wort reaches 210'ish (assuming sea level) which is probably good enough. If you start the timer earlier (sub 200) I would consider this FWH . . . some isomerization but at a reduced rate. I find when lautering it's more efficient to drain to a small kettle (1 gallon or less) then transfer to Mr Big which has a fire underneath. You obviously will have multiple transfers to fill the kettle, the advantage is early wort is heating versus cooling down in a large kettle waiting for the last runnings. If you do a mash-out, the wort will go into the kettle in the 160'ish range versus no mash-out and wort typically in the 140'ish zone. Every little bit helps.

    For more science of boiling I found this article from BYO helpful.

    Finally, you ain't a brewer till you've had a boil over . . . the story goes that Tony Magee (Lagunitas) set his stove on FIRE!

    And what's with BA's spell-checker not being able to handle "isomerization"? . . . where's a Moderator when you need one?
  10. billandsuz

    billandsuz Disciple (369) Sep 1, 2004 New York


    if a boil over makes you a real brewer, I must be world class...

    isomerization? may as well add

    and if it is foreign...
    or taken directly from the BA glossary...

    and so forth.
    ChrisMyhre and inchrisin like this.
  11. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,756) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin

    Get a 2nd kettle and split your boil on two burners. Might save you some time. Depends a bit on your burners though.
    inchrisin likes this.
  12. wspscott

    wspscott Champion (855) May 25, 2006 Kentucky

    You might try leaving the lid on until you get to the boiling point. That would heat it up faster and the actual boil would take care of DMS issues. The lid will definitely increase the risk of a boil over.
    Mothergoose03 likes this.
  13. Monsone

    Monsone Initiate (0) Jun 5, 2006 Illinois

  14. Crackerbarrel

    Crackerbarrel Initiate (87) Feb 10, 2014 New York

    Thanks everyone. To answer a few questions:
    • its a gas stove
    • and I've had my first boil over already....15 years ago in my parents house while in college, and it wasn't pretty.
    ...sounds like i'm ok with just waiting until I hit a good boil and then starting the 60 minute timer. I don't mind the extra time, as long as I know that there aren't any ill side affects.

    I also leave the lid on about 3/4 of the way to get me to the boiling point and then I take it off. If I should have any concerns about DMS in doing that, please advise.

    Brewing again ASAP, I learned a shit ton of what to do and what not to do this past wknd.
    Mothergoose03 likes this.
  15. PortLargo

    PortLargo Devotee (435) Oct 19, 2012 Florida

    Looks like a brewer . . . talks like a brewer . . . acts like a brewer: must be a brewer
  16. wspscott

    wspscott Champion (855) May 25, 2006 Kentucky

    I leave my lid on all the way until I get a boil, then depending on the weather (I brew outside) I either remove it completely or leave it 1/2 way. Never had a DMS problem.
    Mothergoose03 likes this.
  17. HerbMeowing

    HerbMeowing Aspirant (291) Nov 10, 2010 Virginia

    Leave the lid full-on until you get a full rolling boil.

    Then ... place a (13") fry-pan splatter screen under the lid which allows steam to escape while holding in the heat needed to maintain a rolling boil.

    You'll need to tip the lid from time to time to drain off the condensate b/c you don't want it returning to the boil.
    Crackerbarrel and Mothergoose03 like this.
  18. inchrisin

    inchrisin Initiate (0) Sep 25, 2008 Indiana

    ^^^ What???
  19. inchrisin

    inchrisin Initiate (0) Sep 25, 2008 Indiana

  20. HerbMeowing

    HerbMeowing Aspirant (291) Nov 10, 2010 Virginia

    What what?
  21. inchrisin

    inchrisin Initiate (0) Sep 25, 2008 Indiana

    I've never heard of a screen being able to help hold temp for a boil. This is where a lid comes in and helps increase pressure. What's your angle? :slight_smile:
  22. minderbender

    minderbender Initiate (187) Jan 18, 2009 New York

    No, this is a real thing that people do. The screen holds hot air over the wort and prevents heat loss. However, you do have to be careful about the condensation. When I did this, I noticed my evaporation rate was much lower - maybe because water vapor was kept in place over the wort, but also maybe because some of that water vapor was condensing on the screen and dropping back into the wort.
  23. HerbMeowing

    HerbMeowing Aspirant (291) Nov 10, 2010 Virginia

    A fry-pan splatter screen placed under the lid keeps the lid from seating.
    This configuration allows some steam to escape freely while the lid helps retain heat and maintain a full rolling-boil.

    The lid does need to be lifted and tipped periodically to drain the cursed condensate.
    Bit of a PITA but IMO ... it's a small inconvenience for brewing year-round under climate controlled conditions.
  24. minderbender

    minderbender Initiate (187) Jan 18, 2009 New York

    So I guess this would work, although I don't see why you would specifically need a splatter screen to keep your lid from seating - just about anything heat-resistant could work. But in my experience, a splatter screen results in a more vigorous boil and less evaporation even if the lid isn't used at all. A splatter-screen by itself does a reasonable job of holding hot, humid air over the wort, reducing heat loss (and in my experience reducing evaporation as well).
  25. ChrisMyhre

    ChrisMyhre Initiate (0) Sep 15, 2013 Massachusetts

    I don't think you're truly initiated until you've had to take apart and clean a burner that is producing nothing but soot, not to mention the agitation you will cause by tracking said soot all over the house.
    PortLargo and Mothergoose03 like this.
  26. markdrinksbeer

    markdrinksbeer Initiate (0) Nov 14, 2013 Massachusetts

    That may be true, but that is because water boils at 202.9 degrees F at Fort Collins' elevation of 5,000 feet. At sea level, it would require 212 degrees F of temperature to boil.
    Mothergoose03 likes this.
  27. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Crusader (730) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    I think he (PortLargo) knows that.
    PortLargo likes this.
  28. HerbMeowing

    HerbMeowing Aspirant (291) Nov 10, 2010 Virginia

    Those who say something can't be done should get out of the way of those who are doing it.
    - Chinese proverb
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