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Guide to Fermentables (Sugars)

Started by LordEoin, December 16, 2012, 03:15:34 PM

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LordEoin

December 16, 2012, 03:15:34 PM Last Edit: March 19, 2019, 03:57:58 PM by LordEoin
BACKGROUND
In days of old, beer kits got a bad name for the 'homebrew twang' and hangover.
This is because people would use the beer kit + 1kg table sugar (kit&Kilo)
However, there is a huge range of fermentables out there now and easy to find and fairly cheap.
Using the right mix of fermentables will help make great beers to give the All Grainers a run for their money, while not subjecting yourself to hours of neglecting your family and slaving over a brew.

WHY DO I NEED THEM?
Yeast eat sugar and leave byproducts of alcohol(booze) and carbon dioxide(fizz).
If you use Coopers' Kits there's a guide to their yeasts and a few others HERE

IS TABLE SUGAR OK?
Table sugar (sucrose) can be used and will make alcoholic, thin beer.
It is super cheap and you only need 1kg (+ 1.7kg kit can)to have your beer at about 4.8%

The downside is that the cost benefit is usually far outweighed by the reduced quality of the end result beer.
Using table sugar exclusively will produce thinner beer (lacking 'mouthfeel'), with poor head retention and a lack of malty character.
However, it is recommended for some styles like the Coopers Ginger Beer or Brupaks Trappist Tripel to achieve a particular profile.

BREWING SUGAR MUST BE BETTER BECAUSE IT COSTS MORE AND SAYS 'BREWING', RIGHT?
Not really. Brewing sugar is generally just Dextrose.
Dextrose will also ferment out completely, leaving nothing behind but carbon dioxide and alcohol.
Again, it will leave your beer lacking mouthfeel and head retention.

It has its uses though, adding to the alcohol content.
It won't mess with the quality of your brew if you stick to less than 300grams per 23L brew (same for table sugar).
Again, more is recommended in some style recipes to achieve a particular result.

Coopers' Brewing Sugar is 80% dextrose, 20% maltodextrine.

Maltodextrine has virtually no taste (sweetness) and doesnt ferment much.
Because it mostly doesn't ferment, it 'thickens' up your beer with an increased Final Gravity, improving the head and mouthfeel a little.

ARE 'BREW ENHANCERS' BETTER?
Yes, they are better as they reduce the amount of dextrose in your brew and replace it with other fermentables.
They'll give better beer than dextrose alone, but at the price using mostly malt is better (in my opinion)

Coopers' Brew Enhancer 1 = 60% dextrose, 40% maltodextrin
Because the maltodextrine won't ferment out, Kit and kilo will end up at only about 4%
Mainly used for lighter beers like Lager, Draught and Pilsener.

Coopers' Brew Enhancer 2 = 50% dextrose, 25% maltodextrin, 25% light dry malt
The addition of light dry malt (maltose) 'will further add to the body and increase the malt character of your favorite brew. Great for use with any beer styles where a fuller, maltier flavor is preferred.'

LDM, DME, LME, LDME, WTF?
Malt extract will further add to the body and increase the malt character of your brew.

Dry Malt extract (DME) or spraymalt is malt that has been extracted from grains and dried into a very fine powder.
It is often called LDM (Light Dry Malt) but that can get confusing unless you actually mean the light one.
DME comes in extra light, light, amber and dark.
To keep it simple, you can match the color of the malt with the color of the beer (eg: extra light for pilsner, dark for stout)
Darker malts will also have a more roasted flavor because the grains are roasted

Liquid Malt Extract (LME) is pretty much the same, but it comes as a can of goop.
It's just like the contents of the beer kit, but with no hops added.
Because it is not fully dehydrated it can make fresher beer than DME, but it generally adds a few points to your FG, leaves extra sweetness in the beer, darkens the beer, and can leave a bit of a 'tang'
Coopers and Brewferm Cans are about 12euro for a 1.5kg Can, but don't overlook the less expensive €7 versions in homebrewwest and thehomebrewcompany which are getting great reviews and seem to be every bit as good.

Because LME and DME are prety much the same thing, they are interchangeable at the following conversion:
1.5Kg Liquid Malt Extract = 1.1Kg Dry Malt Extract (I round down to 1kg for convenience)
The other 400grams is just water

Wheat DME is a great addition for head retention (keeping a head on the beer).

MY DME CLUMPS WHEN I ADD THE WATER :-[
That's ok, the yeast will still munch it up later. It'll just put your OG reading off by a bit.
Here's an easy way to disolve DME:
- Put the DME into your FV
- Pour 2 liters of water off the boil onto it
- Pick up the FV and swirl it all in.
That will disolve all DME without clumping.

WHY CAN'T I JUST EXTRACT MY OWN MALT FROM GRAIN?
Grains need to be treated right to extract the good bits.
I'm not going to go into mashing grain to get your main body of fermentables (I'm sure you'll find plenty about that in the allgrain section), but I'll just quickly mention steeping grain to get some of that awesome freshness into your beer.

Grains make the beer taste fresher, add flavor/aroma/mouthfeel and increase head retention and lacing.
So basically, it makes better beer all round.

Some grains can simply be steeped to get the bits you want into your wort.
When steeping, you just need to crack the grain (many people use freezer bags and a rolling pin), put it in a muslin bag, and steep in water.
You can steep in 2 or 3 liters cold water overnight, or for 30 minutes at about 65C.
Dunk occasionally like a teabag, but don't squeeze or you might extract some unwanted flavors.
Steeping grains at higher temperatures will also extract unwanted tannins and will kill enzymes in malts that have them (cooking the life out of them)
Once steeped, remove the grains and bring the liquid to the boil for a minute. This will help to remove any germs and also clump up and drop the cloudy matter out. The smell at this stage is great!

To begin with, some tried and tested favorites are:
Carapils       - Adds a great head and a fresh taste lighter beer
Crystal        - Adds fresh caramely flavor and beter head
Chocolate       - Adds hints of chocolate/vanilla/caramel, a nice roastiness, dark color.
Biscuit       - Adds toastiness to ales and lagers.
Smoked      - Does exactly what it says on the tin, adding smokiness to dark ales and porters

WHAT ELSE CAN I USE?
Is it mainly sugar and nothing in it that will kill yeast (eg preservatives)? Then it's pretty much Fair Game.
Honey, treacle, molasses, golden syrup, etc are all included in recipes you'll find all over the interwebs!

HOW MUCH OF EACH FERMENTABLE SHOULD I USE?
As much as you want really... It depends on what you're going for.

If you just want to get drunk for cheap and don't really care about good beer, just add table sugar.
If you want to get slightly better beer without much effort, use Brew enhancer.
If you want good beer, add Malt Extract.
If you want great beer, use a mix of everything and some grain.

A pretty foolproof basic generic guide (for about 5% ABV):
1.7kg  Beer Kit
1kg         DME (match beer style)
250g       Dextrose or table sugar (if you want to boost ABV)
300g       Carapils or Crystal (freshness and head)
(For dark Ales and Stouts you can also add 150-200 grams chocolate or other roasted malt)

ARE THERE ANY TOOLS TO HELP ME OUT?
There are a few sweet programs available online to help you design recipes.
My favorite is called 'BeerSmith'.
You can get a free trial or buy it at http://beersmith.com/

Otherwise, for simpler free software, there's brewmate from brewmate.net

Just clock the kit can as 1.7kg of Liquid Malt Extract and add in the rest.
They'll calculate the OG, expected FG, strength (ABV), colour(EBC), etc and also allow you to save your recipes.
Later on you'll find a shedload of other features hidden in both.

johnrm

December 16, 2012, 03:48:46 PM #1 Last Edit: December 16, 2012, 03:49:04 PM by johnrm
Good post Eoin!

LordEoin

Anyone know why I'm unable to edit the post?

Will_D

QuoteAnyone know why I'm unable to edit the post?

After a few (unspecified days) the ability to edit is lost!

Why?? I don't know - maybe the "Mighty Tub" can enlighten us

['Bout time he changed his name again]
Remember: The Nationals are just round the corner - time to get brewing

DEMPSEY

Does the new name reflect the size of the investment in your brewing shares,as carried by your belly. :D
Dei miscendarum discipulus
Forgive us our Hangovers as we forgive those who hangover against us

Robrew

great post Eoin lots of information and kept it very simple for the noobs  ;D

LordEoin

No worries, i'll add bits and pieces I left out as i go (thanks to the Mighty Tub)  :)

LordEoin

February 07, 2013, 05:44:16 AM #7 Last Edit: February 07, 2013, 05:51:05 AM by eoinlayton@hotmail
I've tweaked this a bit and included a link for the BrewMate program which is an awesome litle bit of kit (and free).

If any of you have not yet seen it, download it and have a poke about.
It will help you to gauge how much of each fermentable to add for your prefered strength beer, and the colour differences that additions will make.
Unfortunately though, it does not have a reading for treacle (you bunch of treacle loving freaks) ;D

When (not if) you start adding hops, it will also help you to calculate the bitterness.

You can download it from brewmate.net


As always, I'm open to suggestions if anyone thinks something should be changed, added or removed.
It's all about giving people a good foundation to build upon to start brewing great beer  :)

Will_D

February 07, 2013, 12:48:03 PM #8 Last Edit: February 07, 2013, 12:49:19 PM by Will_D
Quote
Unfortunately though, it does not have a reading for treacle (you bunch of treacle loving freaks) ;D

How much sugar is in Treacle?

Weigh out say 20 gms of tracle, add 180 gms (ml) of warm water. Stir to disolve the treacle.

Check the gravity of the dilute treacle, look up the sugar equivalent and multiply by 10

If the gravity is to low may be only dilute 1 to 4

Then you know the sugar equivalent of say 450 gms of treacle
Remember: The Nationals are just round the corner - time to get brewing

LordEoin

February 08, 2013, 02:26:45 AM #9 Last Edit: February 08, 2013, 02:57:43 AM by eoinlayton@hotmail
Quote
Quote
Unfortunately though, it does not have a reading for treacle (you bunch of treacle loving freaks) ;D

How much sugar is in Treacle?

Weigh out say 20 gms of tracle, add 180 gms (ml) of warm water. Stir to disolve the treacle.

Check the gravity of the dilute treacle, look up the sugar equivalent and multiply by 10

If the gravity is to low may be only dilute 1 to 4

Then you know the sugar equivalent of say 450 gms of treacle
Or you could look on the tin I suppose...  ;D
Google says 100g Treacle contains 65.2g sugar, 28.5 ml water, 1.2g protien, .8g fibre  source
So it's easy enough for figuring out OG andthere's so little other stuff in it that it'd probably get a similar FG to cane sugar or dextrose.

QuoteI think your bit on table sugar is not fully accurate. While it will not replace the malt aspect, and won't make your beer any more tasty, it is necessary and common in some styles.
I thought I had that covered with 'In fact it is recommended for some styles like the Coopers Ginger Beer Kit.'
I've juggled it up a bit and it seems to make more sense now :)
Any suggestion for more accurate wording?

LordEoin

February 09, 2013, 12:53:54 AM #10 Last Edit: February 09, 2013, 12:57:42 AM by eoinlayton@hotmail
Fair enough, both removed.
But any time i've used just kit + sugar, the hangovers were nasty even at the same strength and drinking less because they were less enjoyable. Maybe it's something to do with more remaining vitamins/minerals when using malt. Dunno, I'm no nutritionalist.
I suppose the cideriness could just be texture, not taste.

HomeBrewWest

Don't know if I can post here as a supplier, just delete of move if its deemed inappropriate.

Was just going to point out that LME is now much less that 12 euro per 1.5 Kg can, closer to half that actually.

Tube, do you more info on the "cidery" taste re sucrose Vs dextrose ? If you ferment pure sucrose and pure dextrose solutions (e.g. with the Alcotec yeast packs), they do taste different. I presume this taste difference carries over to beer mixes as well.

Other fermentables that come up often in posts are supermarket sugars. There seems to be some confusion with caster sugar, which is simply finely ground table sugar.

And then there are raw cane sugars, candy (aka candi) sugars and syrups, and fructose and glucose.

I'm not sure there is any difference between glucose and dextrose monohydrate (brewing sugar) when it comes to brewing.

"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer." Abraham Lincoln. www.homebrewwest.ie

LordEoin

March 05, 2013, 02:48:20 PM #12 Last Edit: March 05, 2013, 03:02:18 PM by eoinlayton@hotmail
@homebrewwest - I've changed the bit about pricing. Although coopers/brewferm/brupaks are generally around the 12 euro mark, I notice that you guys and also homebrewcompany have LME from Northern Europe for €6.95.
I was actually going to buy one last weekend but it looked too good to be true.
Has anyone tried these yet? if so, how was it?

@tube - I think it's a combination of all sugar and poor brewing technique (temp too high, bottled too soon) that creates 'cidery' beer. The sugar making a thinner beer and technique putting in some unwanted off flavors. i thought i had taken out the cider reference but didn't notice it in the brewing sugar section too. removed now.

The triple I entered was just what came in the brupaks kit (hopped goop+supplied candy sugar+supplied hopbag) and it got 30 points.
But they're 10liter kits, so although it is brewed with just candy sugar, less of the overall fermentables are plain sugar.

HomeBrewWest

Quote
The conclusion is that early kits were poor quality and contained a lot of sugar. The sugar was blamed for the cidery flavour whereas it was really the poor quality ingredients . . .
Mostly "syrup" or "barley syrup" as opposed to LME (barley malt extract). We know from our suppliers that, many moons ago, some kits replaced LME with barley syrup to reduce costs . . . its why the descriptions of many modern kits contain "no sugars, invert sugars, or barley syrups . . . . ". I can't be sure (although I can probably find out), but I believe this practice has been discontinued, and nearly all kits are now made from malt extract.
"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer." Abraham Lincoln. www.homebrewwest.ie

Damo

Hi

Homebrewwest,

I probably should have posted earlier regarding your LME.
(which was kindly donated)

I entered two catagories in the comp with extract brews using your LME. 
1) american pale ale 36pts
2) coconut stout 29pts

These extract beers were my first attempt at extract and overall I was happy with the results.
That said, I know I made some school boy errors.
both were bewed to 23l instead of 17l and 19l respectively,
on one brew I had some trouble with my thermometer so im not sure exactly what temp I steeped.  :-?

In my opinion, I would say Homebrewwests LME is up for the job.

Damian