Your brewing procedure is planned, your equipment is cleaned and sanitized, and you are ready to make beer. It’s time to heat water, steep the specialty grains, and boil the malt and hops. You have reached the heart of the brewing process, but this is where many of the big mistakes can be made. Here are five common mistakes that are made during the boil:
1. Burning the Specialty Grain Bag
If you are steeping specialty grains to start your brew be aware that the mesh bags used to hold the grain can burn against the hot metal sides and bottom of the brew kettle. I vividly remember lifting the bag out of the water once and seeing a tennis ball-sized hole in the bottom that had allowed the grains the spill out. Oops.
2. Steeping Grains In Water That Is Too Hot
While the specialty grains are steeping the water needs to be under 170 degrees F. If the water gets any warmer than this the grains begin releasing substances that you do not want in your beer. Use a thermometer and watch it closely.
3. Allowing the Wort to Boil Over
If the wort boils over the beer itself won’t be ruined but you will have a major mess to clean up (more first-hand experience here). They say that beer brewing is just glamorized janitorial work, but you don’t want to create any more cleaning for yourself than you need to. After the malt extract is added to the water watch the kettle like a hawk and stir it occasionally until it changes from frothy to a rolling boil. There is also a chance of boil over when the hops are added.
4. Covering the Kettle During the Entire Boil
Keeping the cover on the brew kettle will help it to boil more quickly, but once that rolling boil has been reached at least partially uncover the wort. Compounds of sulfur boil off and can cause off-flavors such as cooked cabbage in your beer if they are trapped in the kettle. Yuck.
5. Not Boiling Long Enough
It takes 60 to 90 minutes of boiling to release the chemicals in hops that lend the flavor and aroma to beer that you are looking for. If you cut your boil short you will be missing out on one of the main elements of the beer’s flavor.
What are some mistakes you have made during the boil?