I just wanted to share my experience on my first brew with you all. I made http://tastybrew.com/newrcp/detail/410 yesterday. I actually did start with a 3.5 gal boil as my pot could handle it and figured that i would benefit from more water in contact with the grains steeping and the hops boiling (not sure if that was a mistake or a positive choice)
I hydrated and proofed 1 package of Safale US-05 in a cup of pre-boiled water mixed with 1 tsp of extract. That turned out nice when I pitched at 72F.
My chill took 25 minutes in a tub full of Ice. I discovered that if you move the ice around in the tub the wort chills out faster.
So here is where I got stunned! I had boiled 3 gal of water prior to everything to top off in my fermentor so that I could could get to 5.5 Gal as the recipe suggested.
That is where my surprise happened. I topped off and hit the 4.5 gal mark! what? So this means I lost a total 2 gal during the steep, and the boil. I could not believe it. Well I was 45 min late to a super we where going to so I did not have the time to prepare enough water to top off at this time.
So I pitched at 72F and hoped for the best and the OG was 1.062
This morning I took at look at is, what a beautiful and creamy krausen on top. Oh and you can smell the hops...NICE!
Would anyone suggest adding more water to bring the volume to 5.5 gal or just leave as is?
1. Start in the morning and do no commit to plans as this takes some time
2. Boil more water then you need for when you top off
3. Hops smell wonderful
4. THIS IS FUN!
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I have had beers overshoot and undershoot the gravity, and that is just the way it goes when you are developing a recipe. I am of the mind that it will turn out great anyhow, and the numbers combined with the tasting notes are the correct way to develop proper brewing technique, with regards to recipe development. Learn all you can from this, and make a decision to either change the procedure next brew... or you may decide that it is perfect the way it is.
There is much more information to be gleaned by sticking it out and not trying to meet some arbitrary number. Look at it this way: If you DID mess with your wort post boil, and it turned out horrible, where do you even start in finding the culprit?
Keep your brewing consistent, is my opinion; and for me, that does not include messing with a properly finished wort, even when the numbers aren't exactly what you were expecting...