In many kits I've used, the instructions recommend using brewing sugar. Of course it's okay to use other sources of sugar, but I was wondering whether there are any benefits of using brewing sugar over these other types?

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    This stack exchange model contiues to mystify me. Three answers and no up votes to the question.... even from a moderator! If its good enough to answer, is it not good enough to up vote? I thought this was a pretty good question. In fact I was left wondering, what is "brewing" sugar? – brewchez Jan 30 '12 at 0:34
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    I think Lewis Norton is probably referring to the "priming sugar" that comes with most kits. A friend of mine uses Brewers Best kits and the "priming sugar" that comes in the kit is simply corn sugar, and is used for carbonating in bottles. – jsmith Jan 7 '13 at 13:17
  • Either way, just make sure you weigh it instead of measuring by volume. The only time I ever had bottle bombs was measuring table sugar by volume! – paul Mar 14 '13 at 21:53

12 Answers 12

up vote 32 down vote accepted

AFAIK, there are no benefits. They're all basically the same. Brewing sugar is corn sugar and while there may be chemical differences between it and other types of sugar, the end result in your beer will be indistinguishable. Sugars like piloncillo or demarara can add a bit of flavor, but the result of adding corn, cane, beet, or brown sugar are pretty much identical.

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    there's also the old myth that adding table sugar can make the beer taste cidery. It's debunked here -… – mdma Jan 30 '12 at 20:44
  • I agree with both Denny and MDMA -- there's nothing to be concerned about. – Zach R Mar 24 '13 at 5:56
  • But why would you add sugar at all? – markus Apr 4 '13 at 8:27
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    Increase the alcohol, lighten the body, remain true to style if you're brewing a Belgian or British beer style. Or, in he case of candi syrups, to enhance flavor. – Denny Conn Apr 4 '13 at 15:21
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    Another thing to take into account is that Brewing sugar/Dextrose is easier to dissolve into your brew where as table sugar will need more mixing to dissolve. – WillNZ Oct 5 '13 at 1:12

I agree with Denny, except that I can taste brown sugar, especially when used for priming. It is very subtle and mostly an aroma, but tastes slightly different from cane/beet/corn sugar. Same is true of honey; it mostly ferments out but leaves a subtle residual flavor. I like to use brown sugar on bottle or keg conditioned stouts (oatmeal, milk) and I like to use honey on hefeweizens and blondes.

Edit: Just finished an old ale and used store-bought molasses. It has a strong molasses flavor that carried through to the finished beer. It is much stronger than honey or other sugars I've used.

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    There is brown sugar and there is brown sugar... One with large crystals only thinly covered with molasses (or food coloring!) will give next to nothing. One that's brown all the way will have impact. – Mołot Apr 13 '16 at 11:12

I noted that there are a few commenters above who appear to be confused about the question. Most brewers will know there is sugar at the brewing stage (eg during initial fermentation), and there is - sometimes, additional sugar added at the priming stage.

The original question was about the sugar used at PRIMARY fermentation. The addition of sugar or dextrose added for priming (making your beer or cider 'fizzy') will make no detectable difference.

I've read the debunking link mentioned in this post - and it pretty much sums it up (I'm reposting the link here: Home Brew Talk).

Personally - if you're just starting out with brewing, don't get stuck on what kind of sugar to use. Concentrate on good sanitation practices, steady temperature and being methodical with your process. Change only one thing at a time so that you can be scientific about your brew alterations over time. I've used normal table sugar for brewing Cider - and it came out very cidery (that's a joke sorry)... But I've also used normal sugar for brewing alcoholic ginger beer and it came out fine.

I'm about to do a whole bunch of beer using normal sugar rather than dextrose (which I've used for beer up until now). You'll see me post back here about the results in time. Thanks for reading.

Update 9 October 2014. As promised - I'm back. Over the past few months I've done 3 beer brews using stock standard home brew kits and... standard table sugar (sucrose), and at least three cider brews using table sugar. The ciders came out fine. The beers... well - lets just say they were 'ok'. Not great though. Certainly not up to the standard of some of the other beers I did last summer. Now, don't take this as conclusive evidence that Sucrose is 'no good' - as the results I had may be due to factors other than the type of sugar. For starters these brews of recent were done during winter using a heat pad at a higher temperature than the brews I did last summer with the dextrose. Another factor could be the yeast from the kit. If it's old, it will not give the same result. My last three beers have been on the flat side, (to spite using the same amount of priming) and ever so slightly sour. Clearly I've failed at my own earlier advice of only changing one thing at a time. For this I apologize. I'm about to embark on some further brewing, for which I'll go back to using Sucrose and I'll post back again with the results... might be a few months! :o

  • "Personally - if you're just starting out with brewing, don't get stuck on what kind of sugar to use. Concentrate on good sanitation practices, steady temperature and being methodical with your process" really good advice, thank you – mjp Feb 11 '17 at 17:11

Sorry to revive an old thread but my experience of 15 years is this - controls of the same kit, same temperature, same time, same everything except sucrose in one and dextrose in the other. Result - no distinguishable difference when drinking one of each, same ABV, only difference was that sucrose took an extra day to finish primary.

Bottom line - drink and enjoy, regardless of the type of sugar

Dextrose is 100% fermentable, but you need to slightly increase the amount of Dextrose to get the same result as Sugar, meaning for a ferment requiring 6kg of Sugar, you would use slightly more than 6 kilos of Dextrose. I cannot say how much extra because I'm not really sure myself. However in saying that, my first ferment with Dextrose produced a much cleaner ferment than the one with White Sugar. The wash with White Sugar produced a ring around the water level in the fermenter, but the wash with Dextrose did not, I used the same yeast, and the same process, so all I put it down too is from using White Sugar.

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    The corn sugar or dextrose used in brewing is dextrose monohydrate -- for each molecule of dextrose, there is one molocule of water. Because of the water, dextrose contributes only 95% of the fermentable sugars that an equal weight of sucrose would provide. – FishesCycle Apr 22 '12 at 15:37

You can break down sucrose into fructose and glucose by boiling with a little water and citric acid. Sucrose is a disacchride that's made from the two monosaccharides fructose and glucose bonded together. Boiling with water and citric acid helps break the molecular bonds between these 2 simpler sugars, so sucrose brecomes a form of brewing sugar or invert sugar that's amber in colour. One question is, if you invert or break down sucrose or table sugar, will it have additional flavours or disadvantages in comparison to white brewing sugar or dextrose/glucose?

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    You should create a new question for this - use the "ask question" link at the top right. – mdma Mar 11 '13 at 16:18
  • I've suggested an edit that turns your question into a sort of caveat/beware for the OP. – Mere Development Mar 20 '13 at 7:04
  • Belgium Candy Sugar! :) or inverting sugar. – Another Compiler Error Feb 23 '14 at 21:17

I am not sure how much this will help, but in my limited experience with sugars, plain table sugar (sucrose) just made my fermenting time a bit longer as compared to corn sugar (dextrose). As far as taste changes, very minimal in my experience with the more refined sugars. Now less refined sugars (light/dark brown sugars, honey, molasses, etc.) will definitely impart slightly more of a taste. However fermentation temperature variation, yeast variation (including yeast mutation), did factor significantly in flavor profile. I have always used what sugar was most easily available and did not worry - I do agree 100% with the other comments that the most noticeable effect is how quickly different types of sugars dissolve in solution.

There is much more to this question than how much sugar and how much alcohol ! It is about the taste of the beer. My 15 years of brewing has strongly borne out what is stated in "The Art of Making Beer"; Anderson & Hull; 1971 : "...cane sugar is a disaccharide. Yeast cannot act directly on a disaccharide. ...What happens if you use cane sugar for beer ? The yeast will produce an enzyme called invertase, that eventually inverts the sugar and allows fermentation to proceed. But for various reasons this process leaves a slightly sour aftertaste that cannot be eliminated from the beer. This sourness is one of the most common faults in home-brewed beer. "

Having made my share of mistakes, if I am going to the trouble and expense of brewing, sanitation, bottling, and all the rest, why would I not give my yeast the best possible chance to produce the beer I am expecting to get ? Makes no sense to handicap the yeast by cutting corners on the sugar I use ! If I want bad-tasting beer I can always buy a bud or a coors :)

Cheers, Bob

My understanding is that is has to do with the "fermentability" of the sugar, and the flavors left behind. Dextrose (corn sugar) is popular because it has a small influence on the flavor of the beer and the yeast can process it easily and completely. I do not know how many others can say the same, but I expect most of the simple carbohydrates are similar.

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    Dextrose and sucrose are both fully fermentable. Sucrose, like maltose, is a disaccharide, and so not directly fermentable. But yeast can reduce disaccharides to simple sugars through the use of the enzyme invertase. – FishesCycle Jan 29 '12 at 23:59

I must admit , firstly I am not a scientist, in fact have little qualification. However I can attest to the following after many years of brewing both beer and spirits

Plain sugar and dextrose add little to the flavour test

Constant recommended fermented temperature is crucial to the consistant quality of your wort.

When temperatures vary above and below the recommended brewing range it causes some and in some cases all of the the yeast to die.

We all know when something dies or part there of dies it begins to decompose , this has a tendency to create odours and undesirable flavours.

For example - eat a fresh piece of meat or one that has started to decompose, trust me you will taste and smell the difference

So for me sugar is sugar there is little discernible difference between brews, if you " ensure the recommended fermenting temperature range is maintained

cheers , drink up , and buy a bloody thermostat and put it in a old chest freezer to ferment and prove your beer

cheers g

My understanding is that different kinds of sugar have different levels of "sweetness", thus the type of sugar you use affects how much sugar you need to achieve the same effects.

Brewing sugar is Dextrose, while table sure is sucrose. Sucrose is actually a much larger molecule, being about twice the size of dextrose. So I believe you need more of it to achieve the same effects (as I understand it).


Actually, a little more research proves that it's the reverse. Sucrose is sweeter than Dextrose, but... by mass sucrose and dextrose will be equally as sweet. By volume, however there is a difference as Sucrose is a larger molecule, thus taking up more space. 1lb of Sucrose should be the same as 1lb of dextrose, but they will occupy different volumes.

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    While it's true that dextrose is more sweet than sucrose, that doesn't make much difference in brewing, as all the sugar molecules will be turned into alcohol and carbon dioxide. – FishesCycle Jan 29 '12 at 23:54
  • @TobiasPatton - it absolutely matters, becuase 1lb of sucrose will not have as many carbohydrates as 1lb of dextrose. Thus, it won't convert to as much alcohol. Thus, you need more sucrose to get the same amount of alcohol as dextrose. – Erik Funkenbusch Jan 30 '12 at 0:23
  • Sweetness and fermentability are not related. Fermentability by yeast and sweetness on the human palette are very different units of measure. – brewchez Jan 30 '12 at 0:36
  • @brewchez - I didn't say they were related. I was talking about how much (volume) of sugar is needed for the same level of fermentation, not how much of the sugar will be converted. – Erik Funkenbusch Jan 30 '12 at 0:46
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    @Mystere Man Sorry but that's just not right. 1 pound of sucrose contains half as many molecules as 1 pound of dextrose (a monosaccharide), but each molecule of sucrose can be split into two monosaccharides (glucose and fructose). So equal weights of sucrose and dextrose yield equal amounts of alcohol when fermented. This is why both are rated by brewing software as 46 gravity points, per pound, per gallon. – FishesCycle Jan 30 '12 at 3:21

many incorrect statements here. Here are the simple facts. You need a 5 carbon molecule sugar to brew beer. For ex, Maltose is the sugar in malt syrup. lighter beers have other 5 carbon sugars added to the wort such as fructose or dextrose. Table sugar (Sucrose) WILL NOT WORK!!!. It is a SIX carbon molecule sugar and consequently the molecule is literally TOO LARGE for the yeast to break down. This is not an opinion, it is a basic fact of brewing.

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    What you write here is not looking at the complete picture. While the yeast cannot directly metabolize sucrose, they synthesize and secrete invertase into their environment which hydrolyzes the sucrose into glucose and fructose which can then be absorbed through the cell membrane. So while the yeast cannot metabolize sucrose directly, they can introduce enzymes to their environment to turn the sugars into something they can use. Consequently, adding sucrose to a brew or for priming is not a problem. – mdma Oct 5 '13 at 11:55
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    see… - particularly Table 3-3 Disaccharides as substrates in yeast. – mdma Oct 5 '13 at 12:15
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    If it's a fact of brewing, then a LOT of Belgian breweries are doing it wrong. Not to mention my own experience where table sugar has been successfully used in dozens of batches. – Denny Conn Oct 5 '13 at 16:12

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