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Homebrewer: Beer Adjuncts

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Chris Bible guides us through alternative sources of fermentable sugars used in brewing.

Published Spring 2010

An adjunct is defined as any grain other than malted barley that is added to beer as a source of fermentable sugars. This definition is often stretched to include any fermentable substance that either contains starch that can be converted to sugars through the actions of enzymes, or something that  already contains sugar in a form that is able to be consumed by yeast. A substance that contains starch that is convertible to sugars via the action of enzymes is called a  cereal adjunct. A substance that already contains sugar in a form able to be consumed by yeast is called a sugar adjunct.

Cereal Adjuncts
The most common cereal adjuncts are corn (including flaked corn/maize and corn grits), oats (flaked oats and raw oats), rice (rice grits, rice flakes and rice syrup), sorghum, barley (unmalted flaked barley and raw barley), rye (flaked or raw) and wheat (flaked wheat and raw wheat). The corn and rice adjuncts are often used to produce light lager styles, while raw wheat is a key ingredient in Belgian white and lambic beers.

Sugar and Syrup Adjuncts
Sugar and syrup adjuncts include corn sugar (glucose or dextrose), table sugar (sucrose), invert sugar, brown sugar,  maple syrup, molasses, Belgian candy sugar, honey, lactose, licorice and maltodextrin. Syrups and sugars are frequently used when brewing British and Belgium beers.

Uses of Adjuncts
Adjuncts affect beer in many different ways. Adjunct use can result in beers with interesting flavours, enhanced physical stability, superior chill-proof qualities, greater brilliancy, improved head retention and enhanced mouth-feel. Rice has a very neutral aroma and taste and can lighten the flavour of beer without adding taste. Corn can impart a fuller flavour to beer. Wheat can impart a dryness to beer and enhances stability and head retention. Semi-refined and refined sugars add flavour to ales in ways that correspond to their specific molecular composition and coloration. Sugars and syrups that can add color, flavour and fermentables include molasses, maple syrup and licorice.

Adjuncts will also alter the carbohydrate and nitrogen ratio of the wort, thereby affecting formation of bi-products, such as esters and higher alcohols.

Adjuncts are often used to alter the fermentability of wort. Brewers may add sugars or syrups directly to the kettle as a way of adjusting fermentability as a simpler alternative to altering mash rest times and temperatures.

A brewer who understands how adjuncts affect the finished beer will be able to produce delicious beers in a wide  variety of styles. Mastering adjuncts is one step on the road to master brewing!


Barley, Flaked - Contributes protein that improves head retention and produces a full-bodied, creamy smoothness. Barley flakes will lend a rich, grainy taste and will increase head retention, creaminess and body. Can be used in amounts of up to 40% of grist total. Especially good in Porters and Stouts.

Barley, Raw Unmalted - Raw, unmalted barley can be used to increase beer body. Use in home brew requires very fine milling combined with a decoction or multi-stage mash. Works best when used in small quantities with well modified grains.

Belgian Candy Syrup - Belgian candy syrup is a bi-product of the candi sugar making process. Candy syrup has a more intense and complex flavour and deeper color than rock candy sugar.

Candy Sugar, Amber - Smooth taste, good head retention, sweet aroma and high gravity without being apparent. Use amber candy sugar in Belgian and Holiday Ales, especially Belgian Dubbels.

Candy Sugar, Clear - Smooth taste, good head retention, sweet aroma and high gravity without being apparent. Use clear candy sugar in Belgian and Holiday Ales, especially Belgian Tripels.

Candy Sugar, Dark - Smooth taste, good head retention, sweet aroma and high gravity without being apparent. Use dark candy sugar in Belgian and Holiday Ales, especially brown beer and Belgian strong Golden Ales.

Corn (Maize), Flaked - A mostly neutral flavour, used to reduce maltiness of beer. Produces beer with a less malty, milder flavour. Corn flakes can provide depth of character to lighter beers when used in moderate quantities. Use flaked corn in light Bohemian and Pilsner Lagers, British Bitters and Milds.

Corn Grits - Imparts a corn/grain taste. Use corn grits in American Lagers.

Corn Sugar - Used to add fermentables without increasing body or flavour. May be used in extract recipes where flaked maize would (Glucose or Dextrose) be used in a mash. Commonly used as priming sugar to carbonate beer.

Brown Sugar, Dark - Adds fermentables and flavour. Imparts a rich, sweet flavour that works well in Scottish Ales, Old Ales and Holiday beers.

Brown Sugar, Light - Adds fermentables and flavour. Imparts a rich, sweet flavour that is less intense than that of dark brown sugar. Use in Scottish ales, Old Ales and Holiday beers.

Honey - Imparts sweet, dry taste that is more complex than is usually derived from simple sugars. Honey is a common adjunct in specialty beers, and although it contributes some aromatics, the high sugar content tends to make a beer thinner and more alcoholic than an all-malt beer. Use in honey-ales and Brown Ales. Also good for use in specialty ales.

Invert Sugar - Used to add fermentables without increasing body or flavour. Use in some Belgian and English Ales.

Lactose - Adds sweetness and body without increasing fermentability of wort. Use in sweet stouts and Milk Stouts.

Lyle’s Golden Syrup - Used to add fermentables without increasing body or flavour. This is a liquid form of invert sugar (sugar solution).

Maltodextrin - Increases wort viscosity and adds smoothness to low-malt beers. Adds body and mouth-feel. Lactose is not fermentable, so it does not increase the alcohol content of beer. Use in any extract beer in which a fuller body is desired.

Maple Syrup - Produces a dry, woodsy flavour if used in the boil. If used when bottling, it produces a smooth sweet, maple taste. Use in specialty beers, Pale Ales, Brown Ales and Porters.

Molasses - Produces a strong sweet fl avour and increases fermentability of wort. Use in Stouts and Porters.

Oats, Flaked - Oat flakes will add a distinct flavour and create a smooth, silky, full-bodied and creamy texture in beer. An especially good flavour is produced when oats are lightly toasted prior to use. Oats will also improve head retention. Use in Belgian White Ale, Oatmeal Stouts and other specialty beers.

Rice, Flaked - Used to add fermentables without increasing body or flavour. Produces a milder, less grainy tasting beer. Rice flakes will provide a light, crisp, dry finish to your beer. Good for use in all lite Lagers including Australian Lagers, Asian Lagers, American Lagers, Bohemian Lagers, and Pilsners.

Rice Syrup - Used like flaked rice in lite lagers to provide a dry, clean taste and light body. Increases fermentability of wort without changing body or fl avour substantially. Use in place of corn sugar in small quantities.

Rye, Flaked - Rye flakes will impart a dry, crisp character and a strong rye flavour to beer. Use in rye beers or specialty beers.

Rye, Raw - Contributes glyco-proteins to beer that enhance foam stability and improves head retention.

Table Sugar - Common household sugar. Used to add fermentables without increasing body or flavour. Lightens flavour and body of (Sucrose or White Sugar) beer. Can contribute a cider-like flavour to the beer if used in large amounts.

Treacle - Imparts intense, sweet flavour. A British mixture of molasses, invert sugar and golden syrup (corn syrup). Good for use in dark English Ales.

Wheat, Flaked - Wheat flakes improve head retention and body in beer. Good for use in Belgian White Ales, specialty beers, American Wheat beers, and Bavarian Weisse. It is also essential to Belgian Lambic and Wit beers. Wheat adds starch haze and high levels of protein. Flaked wheat adds more wheat flavour ‘sharpness’ than malted wheat.

Wheat, Raw - Contributes glyco-proteins to enhance foam stability and improves head retention.
Wheat, Torrified - Improves head retention and increases mouth-feel of beer. Used in some Pale Ales.

1) Rhodes, Christine, Encyclopedia of Beer, Storey Communications, 1995
4) Briggs, D.E.,, Malting and Brewing Science Volume 1, Malt and Sweet Wort, Chapman Hall, 1981
5) Briggs, D.E., et al, Brewing Science and Practice, CRC Press, 2004


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