I have been vegan since 2000. So lactose is out for my brews. What would be a good substitute? I have seen people suggest maltodextrin as it is an unfermentable sugar, but it doesn't add any sweetness. Others have suggested adding an artificial sweetener to add some sweetness. Which basically means adding two things to get the effect of lactose. Anyone have any other ideas or experiences?

  • Along with the great ideas here I was also wondering if pulling off a bit of wort and caramelizing it as is suggested for some Scottish ales would help. The caramelization would convert some sugars into something that can't be utilized by the yeast thereby leaving some residual sweetness and body. But the extra taste might not be beneficial. Thoughts? Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 18:38
  • Not an answer, but a follow-up question... Are there vegan sources of lactose? Obviously dairy is the easiest source, but lactose a straightforward​ disaccharide of glucose and galactose. There must be SOME non-animal source of such a small sugar.
    – Nick
    Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 23:06
  • @Nick Apparently milk is the only natural source of lactose. This gives the strict vegan only non-natural sources, there are natural sources of galactose however and it should be possible to synthesize lactose from that. A non-strict vegan only concerned with the non-volentary exploitation of animals could consider human milk as a source (which is extracted with volentary consent).
    – skyking
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 13:21

4 Answers 4


Some options:

  • Mash at a higher temperature, around 158 F. This will decrease the fermentability of the wort and make it fuller-bodied and sweeter.
  • Add some carapils, maltodextrin, or carafoam. All of these increase head retention and body a bit.
  • Treat your water to favor the flavors. A 2/1 Chloride/Sulfate ratio with 100+ ppm of Chloride will help, as will some additional Sodium (but keep Sodium below 150 ppm)
  • Increase the amount of low lovibond crystal/caramel malt you use. For example, if you have some Crystal 20 at a rate of 5% of the batch, up that to more like 10%.
  • Reduce the astringency you introduce for dark grains (like chocolate malt and roasted barley). This can be done in a number of ways, including using Carafa Special (dehusked chocolate) or De-bittered black malt. Alternatively, you can steep your dark grains separately (below 170 F) or "cold brew" them like a coffee then add them after the mash to help avoid tannin extraction.

There's really a lot you can do. I actually stopped using lactose even in sweet stout so I didn't have to worry about it impacting lactose-intolerant friends, and I employ most of these techniques when making a sweet stout. If you're interested in a longer write-up, feel free to hit up an article on my site.


You might try bumping your OG and mash temp to increase the amount of non-fermentable sugars.

Depending on the style, you may need to look for other ways of adding some of the flavors that the lactose may have provided.


This would depend on you having a kegging system, but if you force carb, you could take a page from the winemakers books and kill off the yeast through whatever means (a combination of potassium sorbate and potassium metabisulfite being suggested by JackSmith as the winemakers approach), and then back sweeten with your choice of sweetener (e.g. some malt extract).

  • 3
    The idea is good, but winemakers don't kill yeast with campden (potassium metabisulfite). The yeast is stunned into submission using a combination of potassium sorbate and potassium metabisulfite. It's the sorbate that stops fermentation; the k-meta merely helps the sorbate to be more effective.
    – JackSmith
    Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 13:26
  • @JackSmith, thanks. I haven't done winemaking so I wasn't entirely clear on that approach, but felt it should be suggested. I've edited to show that.
    – fire.eagle
    Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 14:40

Think about what lactose provides to the beer, and adjust your recipe and processes to try to compensate for those things. You can reduce the bittering hops to increase the perceived sweetness. For a "thicker" mouthfeel, use Carapils or flaked oats or barley.

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