I've heard anecdotal accounts of people adding extra sugar (more than the recommended amounts) to their secondary fermentation when brewing dark ales such as stouts and porters. Apparently this can be even better if brown sugar is used. I have heard that some added up to 1Kg extra!

Have people tried this? How much can be considered the 'right' amount to add?

Thanks for your time

  • 1
    I've heard a lot of guys who make a lot of British styles advocate an 80/10/10 ration of base malt/sugar/crystal malt for their beers, so a lot of traditional porters and stouts have that sugar in there to lighten them up a bit.
    – GHP
    May 7, 2012 at 13:24
  • in my latest homebrew i put a jar of horlicks, (added to boiling water to make about a litre of thick syrup. a kg of brewers sugar, a jar of honey, and a jar of black treacle as well as a tin of the newkie brown ale home brew from wilko. i will let you know how it turns out
    – user8317
    Oct 12, 2014 at 5:42

2 Answers 2


I think its a function of whether one likes the flavors it contributes. Its pretty subjective person to person. I for one think my dark ales are fine without the need of sugars. Using things like brown sugar, maple syrup, honey or molasses can add a different dimension. But straight up sugar really doesn't do anything for the beer.
If your fermentation practices are spot on simple table sugars come out basically flavorless, as they are nearly 100% fermentable under the right conditions.

Adding sugar to the secondary might be asking for trouble as well. If your yeast have already pooped out or the alcohol level is fairly strong (>8%) then the sugar might not ferment out enough and that will leave the beer sweeter than it should be.

I don't think there is a right answer to this question though. Try it with a side by side and decide for yourself.


Sugar adds alcohol and lowers body. Small amounts of table sugar won't affect flavor much, but large amounts can yield a taste that's described as "cidery". Brown sugar will add some small amount of flavor, but not as much as you might expect.

If you like your dark ales light bodied and high alcohol, go ahead and add some sugar. It's not, as far as I know, traditional for any dark ales to be brewed with sugar. Myself, I add table sugar to my Belgian tripel and saison beers, but nothing else.

The guideline is usually to have sugar contribute no more than 20% of fermentables. For example, if the starting graviy of your beer is 1.080, no more than 16 points of gravity should come from sugar. Sugar provides 46 points per pound per gallon. So for 5 gallons, that works out to about 1.7 pounds of sugar.

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    Sugar doesn't lower body. If sugar is used to replace some of the base malt then the body is thinned out. But if you were going to make a 1.055OG stout it would still finish with the same body if you added 5-10 points of table sugar to it. If you replaced base malt with sugar so that the OG of the base malt additions was 1.045, then the beer would be thinner. The OP is referring to adding sugar as an extra not a replacement. And sugar additions don't = cider flavors.
    – brewchez
    May 5, 2012 at 12:46
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    True. What I should have said is that a beer made with sugar will have less body than an all malt beer of the same strength. May 5, 2012 at 14:10
  • Thanks for the answer - it is an interesting topic I think, and of course incredibly subjective. I was just wondering whether anyone had done this themselves (not necessarily sugar as the 'extra' in the secondary fermentation stage - but anything like that really).
    – Luke
    May 17, 2012 at 12:36

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