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This thread is not actually one single question, but a number of different ones.

  • When calculating sugars used in the wort, how much sugar does honey contain? Is it closer to dry malt extracts, raw cane sugar, dextrose?
  • When is it better to use it? Boiling time? Second fermentation?
  • How intense is the flavor it leaves in the beer? What if you use honey with herb aroma? Is there a maximum quantity of honey you should use so that it does not cover the primary flavors of your beer?
  • Do honey sugars create "sharp notes" in your beer, and thus "bad" alcohol?
  • Is it worth using it prior to bottling for CO2?
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3 Answers

When calculating sugars used in the wort, how much sugar does honey contain? Is it closer to dry malt extracts, raw cane sugar, dextrose?

Honey is loaded with fermentable sugar (think mead...), though not as much as malt extracts. There are "adjuncts" within the honey as well. But you can yet a near-even yield from honey as you could from dry malt/syrup, at least from my limited experience.

When is it better to use it? Boiling time? Second fermentation?

I've used it in the boil and I've used it (boiled) instead of corn sugar when bottling. But I've always boiled it first to sterilize. Honey--while it won't spoil--can contain pollen, yeast, and other elements that could potentially harbor the growth of nasties in an otherwise sanitary solution. Remember, honey is also an antitoxin, so on its own it won't be affected by anything potentially residing within it.

How intense is the flavor it leaves in the beer? What if you use honey with herb aroma? Is there a maximum quantity of honey you should use so that it does not cover the primary flavors of your beer?

It depends on the type on honey, the type of beer, and the amount of honey in the batch. I have used just a bit during bottling to give the beer a nice tacky sweetness, and have used a hefty dose (5 lbs honey and 6.5 lbs fermentable malt sugars) to be a main ingredient. Honey will lend any florals it contains to the flavor of your beer. Of course, if you're using supermarket honey you'll only be getting a mellow sweetness with some very faint florals. Personally, I try to find local wildflower honey from local keepers that hasn't been pasteurized. It lends an amazing bouquet along with the sweetness and spike to the ABV.

Do honey sugars create "sharp notes" in your beer, and thus "bad" alcohol?

Bad alcohol? No. Sharp notes? It could. It really depends on what you're making.

Is it worth using it prior to bottling for CO2?

I've used it, as I mentioned above. I've used 1/2 cup honey boiled in a cup or so of water.

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Remember to vote the question up if you think it is a good one. –  Dean Brundage Jan 31 '10 at 23:04
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I can only answer the first part of your question.

The sugars in honey vary depending on the type. If you really want to know the contributions you should make a measurement. Specific gravity is a measure of points per pound per gallon (ppg). All you need do is take a pound of honey, add pure water until you have a gallon and measure with a hydrometer. Instead of wasting a pound, you can get the equivalent concentration with two ounces honey by weight and pure water topped off until you have two cups by volume.

Now that you know the points per pound per gallon of your honey you calculate the specific gravity contribution it will make to your wort. Multiply ppg by pounds of honey then divide by gallons of wort.

For example, if your honey's ppg is 24 and you use 4 lbs in 5 gallons you have:

24 * 4 / 5 = 19.2

Your honey adds 19.2 points, or 1.0192 specific gravity, to the wort. Use software to figure the wort without honey (or do it by hand), then add 1.0192 to the SG.

This formula works for all fermentables provided you know their ppg rating.

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...but you won't have 2 cups volume anymore. You need to dissolve the weighed honey some water first, then add more water to hit a measured final volume; and do you math from there. –  brewchez Feb 1 '10 at 14:02
    
That's exactly what I said: start with 2oz honey by weight, then add water until you have 2 cups by volume. –  Dean Brundage Feb 1 '10 at 16:13
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-Not sure, actually, how much fermentable sugar is in honey. I just use it for the flavor, and whatever the OG is, it is. I know that doesn't help if you're trying to pre-calculate your OG range. When I use honey or maple syrup, I plan the beer to the specs I want (wheat, amber, whatever), and however much ABV the adjunct adds, so be it.

-Honey is the only food that doesn't spoil, but it does harbor wild yeasts. I always include it in the boil, to sterilize.

-Depends on the amount. I've used a pound for just a hint of flavor, and 5 pounds, which made a KILLER honey wheat. You will pick up the herbs if you use a really strong wild honey. Clover honey is usually pretty mild, others can be quite powerful.

-Not in my experience.

-I doubt it. If you're trying to achieve a specific gas density, I'd go with known quantities of sugar.

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Remember to vote the question up if you think it is a good one. –  Dean Brundage Jan 31 '10 at 5:39
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