Extract- full boil and distilled water?


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Feb 14, 2013
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just to start off, I started brewing last March... I did 2 extract kits and then started all grain brewing. I've done probably 10 all grain beers with pretty good success.

Anyways for my question. My home brew club is having a competition and the them for April is extract beers. I figured I would try my hand at extracts again. When I did extracts before, I had a kit and just followed the directions. Since them, I've heard (either in John Palmer's How to Brew or the Brew Strong podcast... can't remember) that it's best to do a full boil with extracts instead of going by the directions and boiling 2 gallons and then topping off. Is doing a full boil the recommended way of doing extract beers? Question 2- Since the malt extract has all of the minerals necessary, is is best to use distilled water for extract beers?

Thanks for the help!
I would not use distilled water. If you are worried about your tap water, I would stop by the local supermarket and pick out cheaply priced spring water. Also all a full boil is doing for you (if you don't have any steeping grains) is killing anything that maybe in your top off water, and really if your water is safe to drink it is most likely not going to contaminate your beer. My father does Mr. Beer kits all the time using well water to top off, and has never had contaminated beer that I know of, and if you were going to get contamination from non-boiled water, I would think untreated well water would be the first to do it.

What are you trying to achieve by using distilled water? It is not going to ruin your beer, but it will not be the best that it could be.
My tap water is fine... I just remember reading somewhere about using distilled water for extract since the minerals were already in the malt extract. I'd like to make a better extract than my early days so I'm just covering my bases.
jasonclick said:
I'd like to make a better extract than my early days so I'm just covering my bases.

If you want to focus on the water, I would ensure any top off water has been properly dechlorinated. Then you could use the water profile tool on this site and adjust your water profile to match the style of beer you are brewing. If you do not have access to your water profile, you could then start with distilled and added the appropriate items in to get the profile that you want.

Happy brewing and I am sure your beer is much better that you think it is. You will always be your worst critic.
I'd go with Spring water over distilled water, but you could always add some brewing salts into compensate.

As for the full boil, provided you are topping off with high quality water, I don't think it matters. It would require a side by side experiment to be sure. I'd be interested to know if there is any IBU difference, since the boil gravities would be different. Let's say for the sake of the experiment, keep the hop schedule exactly the same.
Before you worry about water and full volume boil, be sure you have a healthy yeast pitch of proper quantity, and your fermentation temperatures are at the cool end of the yeast tolerance. When you have Yeast and ferment temps under control, then you can worry about water. My 2 cents.
Agreed with above. Water is a very small contribution to the overall outcome unless your water is fairly radically off, as in very hard, high in iron or highly chlorinated. There are way too many factors to troubleshoot before you get to water. In fact, it's probably the LAST thing you should concern yourself with. As I've written before, know why before you do a thing, don't just trust blindly some yahoo on a website (present company included).