5 Things to Ask Yourself When Working With Adjuncts

Adjuncts can stir a lot of different emotions in the homebrewing world, but in this article you’re only going to find feelings of love, hope and potential for all the opportunities they provide you. To understand what we’re really talking about here, you need to think beyond the “American Adjunct Lager,” and think about any beer you haven’t been able to get the right flavor or mouth feel from with barley, hops, yeast and water alone. Many of the craft recipes you may be trying to clone are leveraging adjuncts to get a flavor profile you just can’t get from the basic ingredients.

This list should give you a good general knowledge about what to consider when working with adjuncts, and hopefully start a torrid love affair with them that leads you down the path to being a better brewer by having more options in you toolbox.

I should note though, that even I had to start with traditional beer styles to learn what a good base beer is. This allows you an understanding of the profile’s potential and process with the key ingredients and enables you to fine tune the right spice, sweetness, mouth-feel or any other quality you couldn’t get previously.

If you like to cook, working with adjuncts is like learning how to open the child proof locks on the baking supplies cupboard. Now that we’ve grown to this level of responsibility, it’s on us to make sure to add the right amount, and when to add it to the recipe to make mom proud. And with that on to the list!

When Do I Add My Adjunct?

Good luck finding an agreement on the exact definition of adjuncts, as it varies from source to source. At the surface level “Adjuncts are un-malted grains or grain products used in brewing beer which supplement the main mash ingredient (such as malted barley), often with the intention of cutting costs, but sometimes to create an additional feature, such as better foam retention, flavors, or nutritional value.

Let's cover the first question; Do I add it to the mash, or to the kettle? If you know the answer to this ahead of forming your recipe, you’ll be able to understand the qualities it will impart on the final product. how much is okay to use and what you need to help support it.

adjuncts 2

What Adjuncts Need To Be Converted In The Mash? Rice, corn, un-malted barley, sorghum, un-malted wheat, oats, rye, millet and buckwheat all need to be converted in the mash. You could also do potatoes, cassavas and other starches but let's not go crazy just yet! We’ll get there. Once you know what goes into the mash, you then need to ask yourself; Can the grain convert the starches to fermentable sugars for my yeast? This is where you get real deep into understanding Diastatic Power and why you probably have read recommendations when purchasing grains like “To be used as much as 30% of your grain bill”. One of the many reasons for that recommendation is because many adjuncts do not have a high enough, if any, Diastatic Power (a measure of enzymes), which is what gives grain the ability to convert starches into sugars. So be sure to follow the recommendations you’re seeing, and monitor your efficiencies when mashing. To many, adjuncts could be the reason you have a low efficiency. 6-Row malt has a very high Diastatic Power, and can help when making high adjunct brews.

Should I Consider A Cereal Mash?

In most adjuncts and malts you purchase, gelatinization has already been completed for you by the malster. But if it hasn’t you should make sure to do a cereal mash (gelatinize the starch) at the temperature appropriate for the adjunct. You’ll know you need to do this by reading the description of the malt you’re purchasing.

What happens if you don’t perform a cereal mash? Basically you will have a lower efficiency than you’re shooting for. A cereal mash essentially breaks down the starches prior to saccharification, and makes them more readily accessible for the enzymes to convert. All adjuncts have a different temperature range that you should consider performing a cereal mash at. Many times they’re performed to the adjunct and the adjunct alone, and the additional malts and water are added later to hit your saccharification rest temperature. Be sure to check what temperature you need to perform a cereal mash at, then plan your brew day accordingly. Some starches have a higher temperature than a saccrification rest, so getting that temperature back DOWN to a saccrification (which is why it's great to be able to add water and malt later to cool it down).

Wood Background Banner - candi sugar

What Adjuncts Are Added In The Kettle?

Sucrose, turbinado, demarara, dextrose, corn sugar/syrup, brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup, sorghum syrup, honey, belgian candy sugar/syrup, invert sugar syrup, black treacle, rice solids/syrup, agave syrup, and fruit Juices can all be added into the kettle. Many of the times we add a lot of these sugars for priming during bottling, but if you’re looking to increases your overall ABV, and a light “sweet” flavor to your beer, you can add any of these during the boil.

The earlier you add these to the boil, the less flavor will be left after fermentation. Additionally many of these flavors are very light and can be overpowered by highly hopped beers, with the exception of sugars processed at higher temperatures such as turbinado and molasses. Additionally if you’ve never made simple syrups or candy sugar yourself, you’ll want to be sure to stir very well when adding any sugars during the boil to avoid scorching. Some even go as far as to turn the heat off when adding sugars and make sure it’s dissolved prior to hitting it with the heat again. Others will wait until flame out to add additional sugars to help keep subtle aromas in the wort.

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What Hidden Sugars Am I Not Considering?

Don’t forget when you’re adding fruit to a beer there’s sugar in there! And yes fruit is an adjunct too. You might be shooting for a low ABV table beer with a nice peach or raspberry backbone, but if you’re adding several pounds of fruit to the boil, you’re going to find a much higher than anticipated OG when you’re done. This could have big impacts on your hop utilization as the higher the sugar concentration in the wort the less hop utilization you get. Since you may have been looking at a low ABV beer, you most likely weren’t adding many hops to start. Another thing to consider is pectin. When fruit is heated, it creates pectin (which is what makes jelly so thick), which can easily make your beer very cloudy. To combat this, add some pectic enzyme in after a few days of primary fermentation to combat the cloudiness. It may take a week to a week and a half to work completely.

So always ask yourself “What am I adding that has sugar in it?”. Additionally be warned about adding any of these adjuncts after fermentation is complete in primary and secondary. You’re adding sugar back into your vessel that your yeast will start to eat again and you could launch into a more active fermentation than you were expecting.

There is a lot more to consider when working with adjuncts and we haven’t even touched on the list of adjuncts that fall outside of malts and simple sugars. But regardless of the adjunct you’re working with, if you’re making your own recipes these 5 questions should be at the top of your list when considering to use them in your beer.

written by Frank Lockwood

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7 comments on “5 Things to Ask Yourself When Working With Adjuncts”

  • Here's a question. I'm making a raspberry hefeweizen and I'm planning on adding frozen blended raspberries to secondary, how can I determine in advance how much fermentable sugar it will add? I know it's mostly sucrose which is fully fermentable by ale yeast so I assume it will ferment out completely or close to it. Can I use the calories listed on the package and convert it somehow?

    Reply
    • David Doucette
      David Doucette April 12, 2016 at 9:45 am

      Yes, if you google the nutrition facts for a fruit you should be able to find the grams of sugar per serving. To convert to ounces, multiply by 0.035. Raspberries have ~0.2oz of sugar per 1/4 pound serving, or .8oz per pound. So if you're adding 3 pounds of raspberries, that will add 2.4oz of sugar. While this won't change OG math very much, it can greatly effect your final carbonation if bottled to early. Other fruits have more sugar that raspberries. For example peaches have 12.4 grams of sugar per 130gram serving compared to raspberries' 5.4grams per 123 gram serving.

      Hope that helped, Cheers.

      Reply
    • You can add potassium sorbet that will kill the yeast. So it will not change the abv .But you would have to keg it.

      Reply
  • For a good database on adjunct sugars and other nutrient values see the USDA standard reference: https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search

    dd

    Reply
  • MountainBrewer April 13, 2016 at 2:31 am

    Thank you for this article. While it did not specifically address my questions, it did spur thought concerning the addition of adjuncts to a brew.

    I am thinking of adding some honey to my Belgian ale to increase ABV, and have read that I should perhaps wait until secondary to allow the yeast to work on the more complex sugars in the wort first. Opinions welcome.

    Reply
    • David Doucette

      I agree with that sentiment. Let the yeast eat the more complex sugars first, then add the honey. You're pulling double duty by using that method as well, since you will also help to preserve honey's delicate aromas, which can get driven off in a vigorous primary.

      Reply
    • Frank Lockwood May 13, 2016 at 8:44 am

      @David has some good points you can definitely wait to add simple sugars if you want. But for Belgian styles specifically many brewers use Belgian Candi Sugar which is essentially the same thing but absolutely no flavor.

      It will just help you up the ABV, but also keep in mind simple sugars almost always completely ferment out making a dryer beer. So if you're looking to keep in more body or sweetness you may just want to adjust your recipe and add more malt and do a higher temp mash rest.

      Reply
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