New Home Brewer: Wort Volume Question

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by Manbeerpig90, Nov 17, 2021.

  1. Manbeerpig90

    Manbeerpig90 Initiate (5) Nov 17, 2021

    Hey All,

    Sorry, I'm pretty new to home brewing (Currently working on my first batch) and I had a quick inquiry. While conducting my initial brew I was under the impression that you should begin by boiling a total of 5 gallons of water to create your wort. I thought nothing of it at the time, but I've ended up with about 3.5 gallons of wort in my carboy, and now realize that this is far less then I should have. I'm nearing the 3 week mark (2 weeks primary, 1 week secondary) and I've been racking my brain trying to find a solution. Would the best practice be to add sanitized water or water bottles before bottling? Or should I just ride it out and take it as a lesson learned?

    Thank you!
    dmtaylor, PapaGoose03 and riptorn like this.
  2. VikeMan

    VikeMan Poo-Bah (2,004) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    Congratulations! You have determined your boil-off rate, which you can use in formulating future recipes.

    Assuming everything else in your brewday and fermentation went as planned, you're going to have about 43% more alcohol than you were expecting. For example, if you were expecting an ABV of 5.0%, you could expect about 7.1% ABV. You can also expect more body, higher hop bitterness, etc. But it will be beer.

    Adding water after fermentation isn't a good idea, unless you can get rid of the dissolved oxygen and then cool and transfer the deoxygenated water without picking up O2 from the air. Not a process for beginners.

    Also, if you haven't already, read "How to Brew." It will answer questions you don't know you have yet, and probably would have helped avoid the volume issue you had.
  3. riptorn

    riptorn Zealot (518) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    Welcome to BA @Manbeerpig90 :beers:

    Tagging onto VikeMan's recommendation to read How To Brew, there's a free online version at . Although a heavily pared version of the printed book, it's a good place to start.

    In retrospect I wish I'd bought the printed book from the git-go. There's a lot more info, you can make notes in the margins, and you don't need internet to use it as a reference.
    MrOH and PapaGoose03 like this.
  4. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Poo-Bah (3,485) May 30, 2005 Michigan

    I'll also welcome you to the BA site and to the Homebrewing forum. We're happy to have you here.

    The last two posts say a lot to help you in you quandary. So I will only ask a question -- what is the reason for you using a secondary fermentor? If you might be brewing a 'kit beer' sometimes the instructions that accompany a kit are lagging behind in currently accepted procedures and they tell you to transfer the beer to a secondary fermentor to condition it before bottling. Nowadays the practice is to use a secondary only if aging a beer on fruit, wood chips, or long term conditioning of a high abv beer. Transferring a beer for any other reason just opens the possibility of accidently introducing air/oxygen needlessly into your beer. It's okay to condition your beer or to make sure fermentation is complete by leaving it in your primary for extra time.

    I'll also recommend the book How to Brew. It's an easy read and packed full of information whether you are an extract brewer or are brewing with the all-grain method.
    JrGtr and riptorn like this.
  5. Manbeerpig90

    Manbeerpig90 Initiate (5) Nov 17, 2021

    Thank you all for the warm welcome! To answer your question Papa, I was informed that it might be a good idea to use a secondary fermentation at my local brew supply shop. I had originally purchased the equipment and ingredients from this shop, and on a second visit I mentioned that my beer (a hefeweizen) looked much darker than any hefeweizen I had seen before. I was told that it might need more than 2 weeks to mature, and the shop suggested another week in a secondary fermenter. At the time I had not realized it was probably a volume issue.
    Jasonja1474 and PapaGoose03 like this.
  6. jbakajust1

    jbakajust1 Crusader (771) Aug 25, 2009 Oregon

    What style/beer did you brew?

    How does it taste?

    What is the process you are using to package the beer?

    Do you have access to CO2 (CO2 tank with regulator, countertop soda stream, etc)?
  7. butterygold

    butterygold Initiate (48) May 12, 2020 Spain


    Another newb here. This place is great for folks like us.

    I calculated my boil-off rate a while ago, but lately, the boils have been 'getting away from me'. I've been trying to do a less-aggressive boil, but the last two batches have come up short.
    What I've done is put the wort into the fermenter, which has gallons/liters marked off, to see how short I am. I take a gravity reading and then use an online gravity calculator to see how much boiled water I need to add to get it up to the desired original gravity.

    Dilution And Boiloff Gravity Calculator | Brewer's Friend (

    For the last batch I made this worked like a charm, and the FG is right where it's supposed to be and with the desired volume.

    Good luck.
    PapaGoose03 likes this.
  8. dmtaylor

    dmtaylor Aspirant (237) Dec 30, 2003 Wisconsin

    Add distilled water. Some would be concerned about oxygen in this water, and thus oxidation of the beer. So if you want, you can remove much of the oxygen by boiling the water ahead and add a small amount of Campden a.k.a. sulfite, I am not sure the exact amount but I would use a tiny amount like 1/4 tablet. This too will remove oxygen. Then add the water, with or without oxygen, to your fermenter. This will reduce specific gravity and alcohol of course so keep that in mind. But I add water quite often to adjust for volume and do not see any real downsides assuming you just boiled too hard and over-concentrated your wort.
    PapaGoose03 likes this.
  9. VikeMan

    VikeMan Poo-Bah (2,004) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    You wait until after fermentation before adding water? Why?
  10. dmtaylor

    dmtaylor Aspirant (237) Dec 30, 2003 Wisconsin

    Usually I will adjust during or immediately after the boil. But I have added water after fermentation. Like this case: Usually I bottle, but on rare occasion I will keg for an event. Last time I went to fill a keg, it was a short fill, about 4.3 gallons, something like that, but I wanted all 5 gallons. So I filled the rest of the way with distilled water straight out of a jug. It turned out great. It didn't hurt anything that I could tell. A little less ABV but who cares, it turned an American lager into an American light lager.
  11. riptorn

    riptorn Zealot (518) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    @Manbeerpig90 just curious....have you decided to add water, or to let it ride?
  12. jbakajust1

    jbakajust1 Crusader (771) Aug 25, 2009 Oregon

    In a case like this (adding water to beer for immediate consumption) I'd say this probably isn't a huge issue. But I would never do this with a beer that was going to be around more than a few days.
    dmtaylor and VikeMan like this.
  13. VikeMan

    VikeMan Poo-Bah (2,004) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    ^ This is what I was going to say.
  14. jbakajust1

    jbakajust1 Crusader (771) Aug 25, 2009 Oregon

    I will say, I have successfully diluted a beer post fermentation. I brewed 8.5 gallons of Dopplebock, and diluted 3.5 gallons to 5 for a Munich Dopplebock. But I didn't simply add a jug of water. I boiled the water in my kettle, syphoned it to the bottom of a keg, avoiding splashing, and blasted CO2 through the diptube to the bottom of the keg bubbling it up through the water. After it chilled I repeated the CO2 bursting a couple more times. Then I racked the beer through the dip tube into the purged water, and burst CO2 once more to mix it. All done while cold. That keg lasted over a month and tasted amazing, but as you can see, I was extremely careful about any oxygen uptake.
  15. JrGtr

    JrGtr Devotee (470) Apr 13, 2006 Massachusetts

    POssibly late to this party, but if you're looking at your beer in the carboy, it's going to look much darker than in the glass, just because there's so much more there.
    Also, if you're using extract, especially liquid extract, the beer can and often does come out darker than usual, just because of the aging of the extract. And of course, if you have 70% of your expected volume, the extract will be much more concentrated than it should be, increasing the color.
    PapaGoose03 likes this.