# Beer Kit - Adding Sugar

So, I did my Caribou Slobber yesterday and the OG (1.0480) was lighter than what it what the forecast was (1.0530). Thinking back to my Mr. Beer days (Booster pouches), It made me wonder…

1. Can I add sugar and How much sugar could I add to my out-of-the-box Beer Kit?

2. I measure my priming sugar for bottling and it seems the bags hold a lot more sugar than I need, can I use that left over priming sugar?

3. Does it affect the final taste of the beer?

4. Will I have to left it ferment (primary and secondary) longer? Will I have to let it condition longer?

1. Sure, you can add more sugar. Table sugar (sucrose) adds 45 gravity points per pound per gallon. So to raise the gravity by 5 points, you would need to use 5/45 = 1/9 = 0.11 lb/gallon. For 5 gallons that would be 0.55 lb sugar to add.

2. Sure, you can use some of the priming sugar for part of the sugar above. Or even all of it. You can prime any beer by using 2 tablespoons table sugar per gallon, or 5/8 cup table sugar per 5 gallons.

3. Negligible effect on taste. The only thing the simple sugar will do is ferment all the way out to jack up the alcohol where you wanted it.

4. It will ferment in the same timeframe with or without the added sugar.

Relax. No worries. :cheers:

[quote=“dmtaylo2”]1) Sure, you can add more sugar. Table sugar (sucrose) adds 45 gravity points per pound per gallon. So to raise the gravity by 5 points, you would need to use 5/45 = 1/9 = 0.11 lb/gallon. For 5 gallons that would be 0.55 lb sugar to add.
[/quote]

Thank you so much for all three of your responses. For the one I highlighted above, what is 5 points? Is that .005 points?

Yes, exactly.

Okay, this sounds easy. But there must be some limit regarding taste with more experienced brewers. For instance, would aiming for a 10% alcohol content be too aggressive? I usually drink Troeg’s Mad Elf in the December which is 11.9% and I think that is a reasonable alcohol content.

The malt and hops will help balance out the alcohol. So the more you add the boozier it will taste. For an already malty beer a pound or so of sugar won’t be huge but it will impact flavor. The higher you go the more the alcohol can overpower the limited malt/hops. It might be good and it might not, hard to say.

For me the maltier I want the beer the less sugar I would add. If you want a beer that is high in alcohol and low on malt flavor, such as with an IPA where the flavor comes from hops, you can add more sugar and get what you want.

Some beers like Dogfish Head 120 minute use massive amounts of sugar to get such a high alcohol content with some success. So the practical limits are more about what the yeast can handle. The trade off is the impact to flavor balance between alcohol and malt/hops. Taste is very subjective which makes it hard to answer beyond just opinion.

Many brewers will say never to use more than 20% of your fermentables as simple sugars, otherwise you’re kind of diluting the malt flavor and generating just plain alcohol. If you’re going to do that, at some point it might possibly become more cost effective to just dump a bunch of cheap vodka into your beer. No sense in doing that. The more delicious way to jack up alcohol is to use more malt instead of simple sugars. But for minor tweaks, a little table sugar is no bad thing.

Going back to the original question, sugar will definitely affect the taste of the beer. It will dry it out. In fact, when I use sugar I do it for that reason, not to boost the alcohol. The key is to aim to keep the OG the same, which you do by replacing some of the malt with sugar.

And Dave is right, as you add sugar, you also dilute out the malt flavor. So there is quite definitely a limit to how much sugar you should add. But what that limit is depends on personal taste and what you are trying to achieve.

Jobu,

Was this an extract kit? If so, the gravity readings are often off just a bit because it’s hard to get the wort/ top off water mixed well. If you’ve added all of your fermentables, the OG will be as stated in the instructions. Having that been said, I frequently add a half pound to a pound of table sugar to a lot of my beers to boost the ABV and dry the finish out.

Namaste!!!

[quote=“DrGonzo”]Jobu,

Was this an extract kit? If so, the gravity readings are often off just a bit because it’s hard to get the wort/ top off water mixed well. If you’ve added all of your fermentables, the OG will be as stated in the instructions. Having that been said, I frequently add a half pound to a pound of table sugar to a lot of my beers to boost the ABV and dry the finish out.

Namaste!!![/quote]

Thank you everybody. I am going to start with baby steps and just add a pound sugar as DrGonzo is doing and see how that goes.

[quote=“Jobu”][quote=“DrGonzo”]Jobu,

Was this an extract kit? If so, the gravity readings are often off just a bit because it’s hard to get the wort/ top off water mixed well. If you’ve added all of your fermentables, the OG will be as stated in the instructions. Having that been said, I frequently add a half pound to a pound of table sugar to a lot of my beers to boost the ABV and dry the finish out.

Namaste!!![/quote]

Thank you everybody. I am going to start with baby steps and just add a pound sugar as DrGonzo is doing and see how that goes.[/quote]

Reading back through this, maybe I just want to order more LME, or more of the same LME included in my kit. Could I simply buy a second 6 pound LME to add to my brew? Or should I try to find a 3 pound or 1 pound container of LME?

If you are adding LME, I wouldn’t add more than a pound or two. After all, most beer kits only come with a six lb jug, so It won’t take much.

I brewed the Sierra Madre Pale Ale yesterday and added 1 pound (2 1/4 cups of granulated sugar). The recipe indicated my OG should be 1.052 but with the added sugar, the OG came out to 1.060. We’ll see how it tastes in a few weeks, but it was nice to take a small step outside the out-of-the-box recipe.

Thanks!

I hate to ramble here on the same topic, but being a new brewer I just have a lot of questions. So, I guess another option to boosting my alcohol content in my 5 gallon batch would be to boil my 3-ish gallon wort and not top it off with water at the end (to push it to 5 gallons), no? I mean this makes sense as much as it would not make sense to cool my wort, take a hydrometer reading and then adding another 2 gallons of water before pitching the yeast.

You are correct, not topping up will boost your alcohol content. It will also leave you with less beer, and the beer would likely not be balanced for bitterness vs. residual sugar unless you adjusted your bittering rate.

In general, you can increase alcohol by increasing the concentration of sugar pre-fermentation. But there is a limit to how far the yeast will take that, with beer yeasts usually stopping at 9-11% ABV. Wine yeasts can go higher, and distillers yeast can get well above 20%.

Post fermentation, you can boost alcohol by ice concentration (read up on Eisbock), distilling (wiskey), or dumping in vodka. If you go the vodka route, don’t forget to also add powdered Kool-Aid mix. It’s traditional.

Snarky … and well played.

Sorry, didn’t mean to be snarky. Just a joke.

Sometimes tone is lost on a message board. When I read your comment I genuinely chuckled to myself. No offense taken at all.

I was just acknowledging a well placed joke. Here I am 42 and I am thinking like an 18 year old asking about boosting alcohol content. I suspect the majority of people here (like yourself) are more mature beer drinkers who are more interested in a well balanced taste. #shrug Just part of the maturation process of becoming a beer brewer.