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Next weekend I’m planning to brew a tripel and the recipe includes some table sugar. I usually add the sugar a few days in, after high krausen to reduce the stress on the yeast (= no starter required) in the form of a boiled-cooled sugar solution. But this brew is going to take place at my parents and myself won’t be around during the week(s) after to make the solution. I don’t want to bother the old folks with the amount of work and responsibility to make the solution, so I was wondering, why not add the sugar to the beer in its solid, powder form? It is much less work to dump it straight in.

There are a few drawbacks I could think of. One is the sugar not dissolving. When it is dumped in, it will probably make a pile at the bottom of the fermenter. I think it eventually will all dissolve and due to the activity of the yeast there is a ‘flow’ in the liquid. The other one is sanitation.

What are your thoughts? Go or no-go?

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Another issue with dumping dry sugar in is that you'll get a big foam up. I made this mistake once on a 6 hectoliter scale. Not recommended. I would recommend doing your usual boiled/cooled solution (I do this as well), but just prepare it ahead of time, store it in a convenient bottle or bottles, and keep it in a cool place. It shouldn't be any more effort for your parents to open the lid and pour the solution in than it would to dump sugar in, and there'll certainly be a lot less cleanup.

  • Ah did not think of that. Is it comparable to putting sugar in carbonated drinks like coke of fanta? What about the risks of infections? A sugar solution is much more likely to grab some mold or bacteria than its dry form right? – JesseB1234 Mar 12 at 14:27
  • I've never added sugar to soft drink, so can't say. I can say it took me hours to clean up the mess though. In terms of infection, if you use good clean glass bottles, fill them with the solution when still near boiling, and let cool, you'll be fine. Don't open the jars until you're ready to use the syrup. – Frazbro Mar 12 at 20:53
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The sugar will initially sit on the bottom and eventually dissolve and ferment out, but this will take some time. How long depends on the amount of sugar, its distribution in the fermenter and the amount of active yeast present. Sanitation should not be an issue, since it's difficult to get an infection from sugar (which dehydrates any bacteria that comes into contact with it).

Frazbro has a point: depending on the CO2 content of the beer under ambient pressure (which is an inverse of temperature) there will probably be some foaming. But given the low amount of CO2 this should not be a problem. I'd advocate sprinkling in a few tablespoons of sugar, giving it 10 minute or so, then add the rest.

Also, care should be taken to minimize the amount of oxygen ingress into the beer. Pour the sugar in slowly rather than dump it all into the beer on one big splash.

  • I think headspace should be a key consideration in the dry sugar approach. The 600L batch that I added the sugar too was at around 20C, and chucked its guts up everywhere. Of course, if you had 50% headspace that would probably be ok. All things considered, I think the solution is by far the best approach, as it sidesteps any issues of settling, failure to dissolve, and foamover. It's also easy enough to set up for the parents, and easy to give instructions for: "open fermenter, open bottle, add entire contents of bottle to fermenter, close fermenter, rinse bottle." – Frazbro Mar 14 at 21:39
  • Thank you both for the tips and advice. Due to some tweaks in the recipe and some miscalculations on my part, I’m going to make a yeast starter and dissolve the sugar during the boil. I’m not around, so I can’t keep an eye on the status of the fermentation and thus the best time to add it. If I wouldn’t make a starter I would probably make a solution to add, I think the solid sugar approach has a bit too much downsides. Plus I must agree, I amount of effort it takes to make a sugar solution (compared to the rest of the brew day) is nihil. – JesseB1234 Mar 15 at 10:20
  • Maybe in the future I am going to try it on a smaller batch. – JesseB1234 Mar 15 at 10:20

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