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I'm in the final stages of my very first beer, which is a Belgian wit. Everything has gone great so far, and I will be bottling in just a few days. I have a pretty high alcohol content (around 8.2%, which I would like to bring down), and I think my volume is the reason; I only have maybe 4 gallons of beer.

When bottling day comes, I will be boiling some sugar and adding that to my beer before I bottle. My question is, can I boil the sugar in say a gallon of water, and add that? I want to bring my alcohol content down a bit, and hopefully lighten the color of the beer.

It would make sense to me that I could do this, since what I have right now is essentially a "slightly dehydrated" beer. If I can do this, then at what point do I take my "final" hydrometer reading?

So the questions again, in quick and to the point form: 1. Can I add a gallon of water to my beer before bottling? 2. If I do this, when do I take a "final" hydrometer reading?

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Quick follow up: I went ahead and added 1 gallon of boiled water. I boiled about 1.25 gallons for 45 minutes, which reduced to 1 gallon. After cooling, I added it to my 4 gallons of beer, took a gravity reading, and then added the priming sugar. I think doing this worked just fine. Obviously, we will know for sure when the bottle conditioning is complete. –  3rasmus Feb 18 '11 at 1:52
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I'd be interested in the follow-up. How did it turn out? –  Ray Aug 10 '11 at 15:18
    
Looks like you've got some reasonable answers below, but I thought I'd add this: you're better off correcting the volume before fermentation begins. If you'd added a gallon of boiled and cooled water before pitching the yeast, your beer would have had the right starting gravity and colour. –  Tobias Patton Oct 22 '11 at 15:52

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

There certainly isn't any harm on doing it at bottling. You just don't want to do it prior to bottling. Adding straight water to the beer might oxidize the beer. I'd just recommend that you boil the water for a good 15 minutes first to drive off any oxygen that's in the water. If you don't then that O2 will mix and oxidize the beer. I'd boil for 15, then kill the heat and add your sugar. That will be more then enough to sanitize and dissolve the sugar.

Be very mindful of your volumes. You need to boil more than 1 gallon of water because you'll lose some to evaporation. You want to also be sure you have 4 gallons of beer. The volumes are important just so you can accurately track what you are doing and how the gravity and ABV gets effected.

I'd leave it alone if it was me. But I hope I provided a decent idea of how to go about what you want to do. Shouldn't be a problem.

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Great, thank you all for the help! –  3rasmus Feb 15 '11 at 19:22
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Make sure to calculate your priming sugar based on the final volume of wort + water. –  Dustin Rasener Oct 30 '11 at 3:31

I would think that would be fine so long as you cool it sufficiently before adding it, which you ought to be doing regardless of how much you're adding with the priming. As far as the hydrometer reading, that's a tough one. You'd ideally want the pre-primed reading, but if you're using the water to dilute the strong beer you don't have an opportunity. Maybe boil your 1+ gallon of water, dissolve the priming sugar in a small quantity (just enough for the sugar/DME to dissolve in), dilute the beer with the plain (boiled/cooled) water, take your hydrometer reading, and then add the priming sugar and bottle. That said, I don't know how crucial the final reading is, or if you might be able to do the math based on current reading, existing volume, and the volume after diluting. I don't generally take a reading before bottling (though I suppose probably ought to).

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You could just not worry about the final gravity reading this time and just drink your beer. You can definitely add the water the way you're wanting to do, though.

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