Author Topic: increasing abv  (Read 469 times)

Offline aaspinall

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increasing abv
« on: March 27, 2019, 10:42:59 PM »
I'm making a smoked porter in which the OG is 1.080 with an FG of 1.020. The result is an ABV of 7.9%. I'd like to bump the ABV up a bit more, like 8.5 - 9.0% (trying to make it like an imperial porter). The recipe has no adjuncts. What might I add to make the increase - perhaps molasses or treacle. And if so how much should I add for a 5 gallon batch? I don't want to mess with the overall smokey flavor to the beer. Is it possible? Thanks for your suggestions.

Offline Brewtopalonian

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Re: increasing abv
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2019, 10:48:03 PM »
Yes it's absolutely possible any convertible sugar will suffice.  Most obviously, dextrose comes to mind.  If you want to increase your complexity, black strap molasses is a good idea, though be wary, it is a very strong flavor.  Maybe combine blackstrap molasses with some dextrose.  Honey is also another viable option that can add a lot of depth of flavor.  As for how much, you need to look up how many points per pound per gallon each will provide.  Most I believe are 35 ppg/p.  I don't know if I helped at all, but if it we're me I'd do a combination of both molasses and honey.  Bear in mind that a higher alcohol beer will require a longer aging/maturation period in order to smooth out.  Good luck and I look forward to hearing how it turns out and what you decided to do!

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Offline jeffy

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Re: increasing abv
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2019, 10:50:11 PM »
I'm making a smoked porter in which the OG is 1.080 with an FG of 1.020. The result is an ABV of 7.9%. I'd like to bump the ABV up a bit more, like 8.5 - 9.0% (trying to make it like an imperial porter). The recipe has no adjuncts. What might I add to make the increase - perhaps molasses or treacle. And if so how much should I add for a 5 gallon batch? I don't want to mess with the overall smokey flavor to the beer. Is it possible? Thanks for your suggestions.
You could use a more attenuating yeast to get the final gravity lower or add some sugar to help dry it out.  I think just regular sugar would be fine to limit the influence on the rest of the malts in the recipe.
Jeff Gladish, Tampa (989.3, 175.1 Apparent Rennarian)
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Offline Robert

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Re: increasing abv
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2019, 11:28:18 PM »
Blackstrap especially,  but even other types of molasses and treacle, are rather imbalanced, with way more impurities contributing strong flavors than you need and less fermentables than you probably want.  Semi-refined cane sugars like turbinado, Demerara and Muscovado are excellent (and traditional) brewing sugars, nearly entirely fermentable but still adding complex layers of luscious flavor and texture to beer.  I've never done a smoked porter, but I do like any of these sugars in a regular porter, and would encourage you to try this option.  As nearly pure sucrose, you can just count them as plain sugar in figuring gravity points, ~46 ppg.
Rob Stein
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Offline goose

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Re: increasing abv
« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2019, 01:31:17 PM »
I looked up the extract potentials in BeerSmith for various sugar/malt additions.
Molasses 36 points per gallon per pound (ppg/p), 1.036
Turbinado Sugar 44 ppg/p, 1.044
DME 44 ppg/p, 1.044
Dextrose (corn sugar) and Sucrose 46 ppg/p, 1.046


To calculate how much you would raise the OG in a 5 gallon batch using say dextrose, you divide 46/5 = 9.2 gravity points per pound of dextrose. So adding one pound will raise the OG from 1.080 to 1.089.  Keep in mind that the extract potentials are calculated at room temperature but this will get you close.

As has been noted, adding sugars will tend to dry out the beer a bit.  Molasses or brown sugar will also add flavor to the beer, just don't overdo it.  I tend to lean toward Dark DME in a porter or a stout since this will boost the gravity without drying out the beer.  I have done this in the past to get the pre-boil kettle gravity to where I want it if my mash extraction is a bit low.  Of course, you could just add a bit more base malt as well.
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Offline Robert

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Re: increasing abv
« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2019, 02:07:17 PM »
Those figures are at least in part incorrect.  All cane sugars, including the less refined turbinado, etc., contain such limited amounts of impurities that they all contribute virtually the same 46.2 ppg.   It's just that a minuscule portion of the total extract added by some will not be fermentable, but this effect won't even be measurable.   Tasteable, though.   Corn  sugar/dextrose/glucose is further off.  The solid form is, like the syrup, a partially hydrated sugar, only contributing about 90% of its weight in fermentable sugar, the water content having no impact; it contributes 41.5 ppg to wort (this is why you see different amounts of priming sugar listed depending on whether you are using corn sugar or one of the cane products.)  DME varies by brand, so there's no one correct figure.  Molasses looks to be in the  ballpark (plausible density for a sugar syrup,)  but besides its density, its degree of fermentability is variable too.  Once again I'm glad I don't use BeerSmith.
Rob Stein
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Offline goose

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Re: increasing abv
« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2019, 03:30:39 PM »
Those figures are at least in part incorrect.  All cane sugars, including the less refined turbinado, etc., contain such limited amounts of impurities that they all contribute virtually the same 46.2 ppg.   It's just that a minuscule portion of the total extract added by some will not be fermentable, but this effect won't even be measurable.   Tasteable, though.   Corn  sugar/dextrose/glucose is further off.  The solid form is, like the syrup, a partially hydrated sugar, only contributing about 90% of its weight in fermentable sugar, the water content having no impact; it contributes 41.5 ppg to wort (this is why you see different amounts of priming sugar listed depending on whether you are using corn sugar or one of the cane products.)  DME varies by brand, so there's no one correct figure.  Molasses looks to be in the  ballpark (plausible density for a sugar syrup,)  but besides its density, its degree of fermentability is variable too.  Once again I'm glad I don't use BeerSmith.

I don't dispute you, Rob. At home, I normally take the extract potential values from the Brewmaster's Bible since it gives a range for extract potential.  I  use the median value when calculating what I need and get close enough to hit my gravity within a percent or two.  If I remember correctly, I think I used 40 ppg/lb as a rule of thumb for DME. Since I am not currently at home, i used the BeerSmith values off my laptop to give an idea of how to figure boosting the OG of the beer.
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Offline Robert

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Re: increasing abv
« Reply #7 on: March 28, 2019, 03:50:22 PM »
Those figures are at least in part incorrect.  All cane sugars, including the less refined turbinado, etc., contain such limited amounts of impurities that they all contribute virtually the same 46.2 ppg.   It's just that a minuscule portion of the total extract added by some will not be fermentable, but this effect won't even be measurable.   Tasteable, though.   Corn  sugar/dextrose/glucose is further off.  The solid form is, like the syrup, a partially hydrated sugar, only contributing about 90% of its weight in fermentable sugar, the water content having no impact; it contributes 41.5 ppg to wort (this is why you see different amounts of priming sugar listed depending on whether you are using corn sugar or one of the cane products.)  DME varies by brand, so there's no one correct figure.  Molasses looks to be in the  ballpark (plausible density for a sugar syrup,)  but besides its density, its degree of fermentability is variable too.  Once again I'm glad I don't use BeerSmith.

I don't dispute you, Rob. At home, I normally take the extract potential values from the Brewmaster's Bible since it gives a range for extract potential.  I  use the median value when calculating what I need and get close enough to hit my gravity within a percent or two.  If I remember correctly, I think I used 40 ppg/lb as a rule of thumb for DME. Since I am not currently at home, i used the BeerSmith values off my laptop to give an idea of how to figure boosting the OG of the beer.
Doing all your own calculations by hand is so much better than relying on somebody else's software; at least when something's wrong, you know who to blame!
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Offline flynnski

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Re: increasing abv
« Reply #8 on: March 28, 2019, 05:31:40 PM »
Rookie question, but wouldn't it make sense to increase the grain bill while keeping the target ferment volume?  Wouldn't this increase the ABV and keep the style flavor the same?

Offline Iliff Ave Brewhouse

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Re: increasing abv
« Reply #9 on: March 28, 2019, 05:34:35 PM »
Rookie question, but wouldn't it make sense to increase the grain bill while keeping the target ferment volume?  Wouldn't this increase the ABV and keep the style flavor the same?

Ha! That would be my suggestion as well. Any reason not to just add some more base malt? This hasn't been brewed yet right?
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Offline ynotbrusum

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Re: increasing abv
« Reply #10 on: March 28, 2019, 08:46:11 PM »
A small difference in grist composition will likely not affect the flavor, so adding base malt should be one way to boost OG.  Adding substantial amounts will affect flavor, of course...ultimately it becomes a compromise between mash tun capacity and ease of addition.  I know an award winning brewer that does a RIS with some DME.  I asked him why and he said “the grist maxes out my mash tun - so to do right, I have to boost it with DME”.  Reminds me of the roasting pan issue about cutting the end off the roast ... when asked by her granddaughter why the end is cutoff every time, grandma responds”Dear, that is how it fits in the pan!”
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Offline Robert

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Re: increasing abv
« Reply #11 on: March 28, 2019, 08:54:22 PM »
A small difference in grist composition will likely not affect the flavor, so adding base malt should be one way to boost OG.  Adding substantial amounts will affect flavor, of course...ultimately it becomes a compromise between mash tun capacity and ease of addition.  I know an award winning brewer that does a RIS with some DME.  I asked him why and he said “the grist maxes out my mash tun - so to do right, I have to boost it with DME”.  Reminds me of the roasting pan issue about cutting the end off the roast ... when asked by her granddaughter why the end is cutoff every time, grandma responds”Dear, that is how it fits in the pan!”
Commercial brewers, even big ones, have been known to use malt extract to boost gravity when the grain bill's maxed out, or just adjust gravity if the target proves elusive.
Rob Stein
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Offline Kevin

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Re: increasing abv
« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2019, 01:31:48 AM »
IMHO at 7.9% ABV you already have an imperial porter.
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Offline aaspinall

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Re: increasing abv
« Reply #13 on: March 29, 2019, 08:21:47 PM »
Thanks for all the suggestions.

Offline goose

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Re: increasing abv
« Reply #14 on: March 30, 2019, 01:10:23 PM »
A small difference in grist composition will likely not affect the flavor, so adding base malt should be one way to boost OG.  Adding substantial amounts will affect flavor, of course...ultimately it becomes a compromise between mash tun capacity and ease of addition.  I know an award winning brewer that does a RIS with some DME.  I asked him why and he said “the grist maxes out my mash tun - so to do right, I have to boost it with DME”.  Reminds me of the roasting pan issue about cutting the end off the roast ... when asked by her granddaughter why the end is cutoff every time, grandma responds”Dear, that is how it fits in the pan!”
Commercial brewers, even big ones, have been known to use malt extract to boost gravity when the grain bill's maxed out, or just adjust gravity if the target proves elusive.

Agreed!  Actual extract can change from lot to lot.  I saw this a lot when I was doing my pro-brewing gig.  There are other variables that will effect kettle gravity as well.  So a lot of the commercial guys use DME to get the kettle gravity right after runoff is complete.  Occasionally, we would add an extra bag of grain at the beginning but not very often.  Other times we would add water to the kettle to bring a high kettle gravity down.  Pros deal with the same things as us homebrewers, but they have to keep the ABV of the beers in the range with what their registered label says it is so their tolerances are tighter.
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