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New to brewing. I'm trying to understand when and where it makes sense to intentionally add sugar. Based on what I've read/researched so far, I can think of three places where it makes sense:

  1. As part of the grain bill, there will be grains and perhaps other ingredients that contain sugar in them. Some of these sugars will be fermentable, and some of them will not be. The ones that are fermentable will (hopefully) go on to be consumed in the production of alcohol. The ones that are not fermentable will be left behind and will contribute to the taste & sweetness of the finished product. So these are present prior to mashing in the grain bill itself.
  2. After fermentation, unfermentable sugar can be added simply for the purpose of affecting taste/sweetness of the finished product.
  3. After fermentation, fermentable sugar can also be added to help prime the beer and carbonate it.

Is my understanding above correct, or is it misled in any way? Are there any other conditions or stages when I would want to add fermentable/unfermentable sugar, and why?

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Point 1 needs some more elaboration actually. In the mash, part of starches are indeed turned into fermentable sugars, and unfermentable sugars. But you would not add sugar adjuncts directly to the mash.

Extra sugars (sucrose (castor sugar) or glucose/dextrose, cane sugar, sugar syrups), would be added either during the boil, or when racking to a secondary fermenter.

The reason to do this is to lighten the body of the beer or to increase the ABV.

When done during the boil, the OG of the wort increases, and more yeast should be pitched. When done after primary fermentation, it is possible to start with less yeast, the yeast will grow, and then there should be enough to consume the added sugars.

Points 2 and 3 are correct. Point 2 is exemplified by lactose stout. In point 3, this would mostly be done when bottling. It is possible in kegs, but you can see on most homebrew forums that people who use kegs also use CO2 cylinders.

One further note: adding sugar to your homebrew does not result in cider taste.

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  • Thanks @chthon (+1) just to confirm: (1) I would add sugar adjuncts to the boil to lighten the body and increase the OG of the wort in general, (2) and I would add after the primary fermentation to help increase the ABV, correct? Also (3) why not add sugar after the boil and before the primary fermentation? Thanks again! Jul 29 at 17:46
  • @hotmeatballsoup: Points (1) and (2) actually do the same. E.g. you can brew a beer of 5,5% ABV with malt only, or the same with malt and sugar. In the second case you will need less malt, and the body of the beer will be lighter. But, you can also brew a big beer, with body, and a higher ABV by adding extra sugar.
    – chthon
    Jul 29 at 18:59
  • @hotmeatballsoup: You add the sugar in the boil (last 10 minutes) to make sure that it dissolves well. That is actually the same as before primary fermentation. But what I sometimes do is dissolve the sugar in a part of my wort, that I only add after four days of primary fermentation. I do this mostly during racking to a secondary fermenter so that I have less trub before bottling.
    – chthon
    Jul 29 at 19:03

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