How to Increase ABV in Beer

How to Increase ABV in Beer

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The alcohol by volume number indicates how much volume of alcohol is available in beer. Many people believe they can increase the ABV of the beer by adding sugar during fermentation. However, adding sugar without following the tips below can change the beer’s flavor.

That’s why it’s important to learn how to increase ABV in beer effectively.

How to Increase ABV in Beer

The yeast in the beer eats the sugars from the malted grain and changes them to carbon dioxide and alcohol during the fermentation process. Typically, more sugars will mean more food for the yeast to eat, resulting in increased production of alcohol.

Adjusting these constituents during the fermentation process can result in a significant difference in the volume of alcohol. Fortunately, there are different methods to increase ABV in beer that you can try.

An image of different kinds of beer

Malt Extract

Considering that the malt extract is a product of barley, it is sweet like sugar and you can use it to increase the alcohol content in beer. You can make your own malt extract by milling some barley grains, adding them in hot water, and then leaving them in the hot water for a period.

Filter the resulting sweet mort to eliminate the grains of barley. Evaporate the solution to eliminate around 80% of the water so that you are left with a thick sticky liquid malt extract. You can then use the liquid dry malt extract to increase the ABV of the beer.

However, if your aim is to increase the ABV using the dry malt extract, you can centrifuge the liquid malt extract to completely eliminate the water, and you will be left with a dry malt extract powder. If you don’t want to go through the lengthy and tedious process of preparing your malt extract, you can get one from the home brewing stores.

Liquid Malt Extract Versus Dry Malt Extract

If you’re producing your own malt extract, it is preferable to use the liquid malt extract as you won’t need to go through the tedious centrifuging process. However, the shelf life of a liquid malt extract is less compared to that of the dry malt extract, and you can’t store it for future use.

However, the dry malt extract can become gummy or clump if exposed to humid conditions or water. Regardless of which type of malt extract you’re going to use, it will help improve the alcohol volume and the beer’s flavor. However, here are some other effects a malt extract can have on your beer.

  • Have a higher finishing gravity
  • Reduce bitterness
  • Increase the alcohol warmth
  • Increase body
  • Helps generate a pleasant malty flavor
  • Makes the beer darker in color

Keep in mind that you can purchase malt extracts in varying flavors and colors to try and see which one will suit your brewing style. The use of malt extract helps counteract the thinning that you might end up with when you use the other types of sugars.

Natural Sugars

You can use natural liquid sugars such as honey, agave, and maple syrup to increase the alcohol volume in your beer and bring out specific characteristics and flavor profiles. For instance, honey lightens the body and increases the alcohol volume.

Considering that around 95% of the sugars in honey are fermentable, honey can increase the ABV without leaving any residue sweetness or honey flavor at the end of the fermentation process.

You can also use honey to remove some bitterness from the beer and add floral notes. Remember that honey varies with location and the pollen available there, and so the flavor and color.

Extra Yeast

Considering that yeast helps to change sugars into alcohol, adjusting the amount of yeast during fermentation can affect the alcohol content. Typically, high alcohol content tends to kill the yeast, so you can save the situation by adding some yeast nutrients or extra yeast.

If you’re planning to have an excessively high ABV, it is advisable to purchase a brewer’s yeast specifically made for high alcohol tolerance. You can add the yeast during the earlier stages of the fermentation process to extend the fermentation duration, which results in higher alcohol content.

A man getting beer from the beer tap

You can also add yeast nutrients and high alcohol tolerance yeast as the fermentation process nears the end to reactivate the fermentation. Remember that adding yeast without brewing sugars might not result in a higher ABV as the extra yeast will not have sugars to eat.

Artificial Sugars

There are different types of artificial sugars, and all have varying effects on the resulting beer. Many people think of white granulated sugar every time they hear sugar.

However, the scientific description of sugar is a category of carbohydrates in milk and plants characterized by a sweet taste. Some sugars bind using multiple molecules and others single molecules.

Keep in mind that some fruits also contain sugars; if you add them to a fermenting beer, they’ll impact the resulting volume of alcohol. The way yeast breaks down the sugars into glucose and fructose also differs. Here are the different sugars you can add to a fermenting beer to increase the ABV.

White Sugar

Due to its availability, many people prefer using white sugar to increase beer’s ABV. White or regular sugar is available in both liquid and dry forms. Although it is not advisable to entirely use white sugar during brewing, it can help you increase the ABV in beer.

You will need to be careful when using white sugar to increase the ABV in beer, as adding a large amount can make you end up with an excessively sweet batch. Here are some other effects that white sugar might have on your beer.

  • Decreases body
  • Increases dryness
  • Increases bitterness
  • Lightens color

Brown Sugar

There are many varieties of brown sugar, including molasses, turbinado, treacle, dark brown sugar, and light brown sugar. These varieties of brown sugar differ in color depending on the molasses content.

Since dark brown sugars can overpower lighter beers, it is advisable to add ABV to dark beers such as porters, brown ales, and stouts. Like white sugar, brown sugar is also readily available. Here are some other effects that brown sugar can have on your beer.

  • Decreases body
  • Adds molasses, rum, caramel, and fruity flavors
  • The darker varieties add some bitterness
  • Increases sweetness
  • Darkens the color slightly

Finely Ground Grains

You can increase the ABV by finely grinding the grains if you use them to brew. Typically, sugars can be extracted better from a finely ground grain than a coarse one during fermentation.

You should, however, not ground the grains so finely as they can lead to a sticky mess when sparging. You will need to have a mixture of fine grains and coarse ones so that the water can flow through the mixture without clogging.

Brewers Crystals

The Brewers crystals are prepared specifically for beer makers by combining glucose solids with corn syrup. They function the same way as the malt extract, only that they use corn in place of barley. Like malt extracts, they can help increase the alcohol content in a beer without affecting the body and flavor of the original recipe.

Syrups

You can use specialty sweeteners from rice and corn as sugar to increase the alcohol content in your beer. The specialty sweetness can come in both syrup solids and syrup form. Although all syrups can ferment easily, it is advisable to use them as an adjunct for lager or light ale because they result in a light-bodied and clear beer.

Remember that you can only use syrups to increase the alcohol volume but not improve the beer’s flavor. That means you won’t get any rice or corn flavor after adding these syrups.

However, they can alter the beer’s flavor if you overuse them, so avoid adding them in large quantities. Besides increasing the ABV in beer, syrups and syrup solids can lead to the following effects.

  • May lead to a honey or caramel flavor
  • Decreases body
  • Darkens the color of the beer
Different kinds of beer near a beer tap

Belgian Candi Sugars and Syrups

Instead of using rice and corn syrups, you can use Belgian Candi sugars and syrups. Belgian Candi sugars and syrups are specialty products made from sugar beets, specifically designed to brew strong Belgian beers.

These syrups can increase the ABV in beer without much change in the body. Typically, Candi sugars come in dark and light varieties, with the dark varieties giving more body and flavor to the beer than the light variety.

The results when using the darker candy syrup are almost the same as when using roasted malt, but the flavor is completely different. Here are some impacts the Belgian Candi sugars and syrups will have on your beer.

  • Adds fruit and toffee flavors
  • Decreases body
  • The dark varieties make the beer dark

Extended Fermentation

Extending the fermentation time will allow the sugars to ferment and produce alcohol, which results in higher alcohol content. In most cases, the secondary fermentation will take one year or longer for a significant increase in the alcohol content.

Mash Temperature Adjustment

Usually, warmer mashing temperatures cause low ABV in beer. In most cases, the complex sugars can’t break down at higher temperatures, resulting in fewer fermentable.

You can therefore reduce the sweetness and increase the alcohol content of the beer by cooling the mash and allowing it to ferment at a temperature of around 143 degrees Fahrenheit to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Remember that the mash temperature will also affect the beer’s body, therefore, balance accordingly.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Average Alcohol Content in One Serving of Beer?

In most cases, the standard serving of beer is the size of a beer bottle or 12 ounces. Considering that beer contains an alcohol content of around 4% to 7%, with the average ABV being 5%, it means when drinking one standard bottle of beer, you will be drinking about 0.6 ounces of alcohol.

Can I Use a Refractometer to Measure the Alcohol Content in Beer?

Yes, it is possible to use a refractometer to measure the alcohol content in beer. However, the refractometer doesn’t measure the alcohol content itself but measures the sugars in the beer. You will then need to use the sugars to determine the ABV.

Final Thoughts

The most straightforward way of increasing the alcohol content in beer is by adding fermentable sugars or prolonging the fermentation time. With the above guide on how to increase ABV in beer, you’ll be able to choose which method suits your brewing style best.