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August 11, 2014

Adding Sugar for Higher Potential Alcohol

Adding sugar to a solution before fermentation may be done for a variety of reasons. For example, a lot of homebrew recipes call for sugar additions. The Double IPA we brewed a while ago, for example, called for a 12 ounce dextrose addition. Adding highly fermentable sugar, such as dextrose, as opposed to adding more grain, will increase the ABV of the final product without increasing sweetness and malt character.

The chart below shows how many pounds of sugar are required to reach a  particular potential alcohol percentage for a 1, 5, and 10 gallons of finished fermented beer, wine, etc. A couple of notes, this chart assumes that the fermentation will end at 1.000 specific gravity. This is possible, but keep in mind that many beer yeasts finish around 1.010. 

Also, the chart assumes a starting point of zero sugar in the solution. But it is also useful useful if you make an all grain mash or a fruit mash and you want to increase potential ABV to a specific amount. Examples below.

Let's pretend that we make 5 gallon batch of what is supposed to be a Double IPA. The ABV for such a style is somewhere north of 7.5%. Assuming you add enough grains to craft a 6.3% ABV beer, according to the chart, you'll need to add at least 1lb of sugar to hit a potential alcohol of 7.5%, because adding 1lb of sugar will increase the potential alcohol by 1.2% for a 5 gallon batch. 

Added Sugar vs. Potential Alcohol in 1, 5, and 10 Gallon Batches
Pounds of Sugar 1 Gallon 5 Gallons 10 Gallons
1 lb. 5.9% 1.2% 0.6%
2 lbs. 11.9% 2.3% 1.2%
3 lbs. 17.7% 3.6% 1.8%
3.5 lbs. 20.5% 4.1% 2.1%
4 lbs. x 4.8% 2.3%
5 lbs. x 5.9% 3.0%
6 lbs. x 7.1% 3.6%
7 lbs. x 8.3% 4.1%
8 lbs. x 9.5% 4.8%
9 lbs. x 10.7% 5.4%
10 lbs. x 11.9% 5.9%
11 lbs. x 13% 6.6%
12 lbs. x 14.2% 7.1%
13 lbs. x 15.4% 7.7%
14 lbs. x 16.5% 8.3%
15 lbs. x 17.7% 8.9%
16 lbs. x 18.8% 9.5%
17 lbs. x 20% 10.1%
18 lbs. x x 10.7%
19 lbs. x x 11.2%
20 lbs. x x 11.9%
21 lbs. x x 12.4%
22 lbs. x x 13%
23 lbs. x x 13.5%
24 lbs. x x 14.2%
25 lbs.  x x 14.7%
26 lbs. x x 15.4%
27 lbs. x x 15.9%
28 lbs. x x 16.5%
29 lbs. x x 17%
30 lbs. x x 17.7%
31 lbs. x x 18.2%
32 lbs. x x 18.8%
33 lbs. x x 19.5%
34 lbs. x x 20%
Remember, while brewing is legal in almost all US states, distilling alcohol is illegal without a federal fuel alcohol or distilled spirit plant permit as well as relevant state permits. Our distillation equipment is designed for legal uses only and the information in this article is for educational purposes only. Please read our complete legal summary for more information on the legalities of distillation.
  • thanks .

    Posted by KellyR. Wilson on February 03, 2022
  • Question
    So, my 1st wash, 10lb sugar, 4.5 gallons water, about 10 tsp yeast, 5 tsp nutrient, bubbled great through the airlock, for about 3 hours, then nothing.
    Any ideas?

    Your yeast needs more water if you are using 10lbs of sugar. Typically you can use 8 To 10 LBs to 5 gal of water and the yeast will have plenty of hydration. Once the H2O count reduces and is replaced with alcohol the yeast will stop producing and In Turn stop bubbling.
    Water temp that falls below 90deg will also stop fermentation.

    Posted by Jay on December 07, 2021
  • So, I have been making DIY co2 setups that I use i to infuse the co2 into a few planted aquariums that I have to help with plant growth. It dawned on me one day that at the same time, I’m also probably creating a very generic form of alcohol. I tased it one day. The smell and taste weren’t so good, slightly bitter, but damn it had a slight heat to it. LIke eating a good piece of rum cake and tasting the rum. So, my last batch I used 32oz of sugar to a half gallon of filtered water, and 7 gm of yeast. It bubbled like crazy within 24 hours, and did a great job for my 40 gal tank, but then when it stopped a few days later I was left with a very sweet, good tasting drink that I added grape flavoring to, but curious. There was a lot of settlement on the bottom, and the reaction was done. Did I ferment to the point that the yeast was killed off and I have a high volume of hooch now or was there not enough yeast nutrients to keep it alive, so it dies off and I should add more to continue to process?

    Posted by Cerafus on November 13, 2021
  • Mike,

    My guess would be no nitrogen source for the yeast. Try adding DAP to the wash.
    (Diammonium phosphate)

    Posted by CHris on November 13, 2021
  • Hi i am new to hombrew i see on you tube to start collecting hearts at 82c my new pot still only starts to run between 90-92c on a sugar wash ,it then makes it hard to judge when to start collecting heads stop then hearts ,i have tried on a gas ring and also a electric hot plate. Also on you tube i see people put out fore shot no heads just hearts. Please help.

    Posted by Paul King on February 08, 2021
  • I have a faux Bourbon recipe that really kick-ass,
    One box of generic corn flakes and 2 cups of malted 6 row barley or wheat per gallon of water,
    I put the corn flakes barley in an ice chest,then I use hot strike water about 170-180degrees. 2gallons to start,pour the hot water on the corn and barely stir close the lid for 6- 8 hours add cool water to make 5gallons pitch really does make a fine Spirit

    Posted by Roninfrog on November 24, 2020
  • Why does clawhammer never help lol.

    Posted by Really on December 02, 2020
  • So, my 1st wash, 10lb sugar, 4.5 gallons water, about 10 tsp yeast, 5 tsp nutrient, bubbled great through the airlock, for about 3 hours, then nothing.
    Any ideas?

    Posted by Mike on July 28, 2020
  • cooked up a batch of thc/cbd infused hooch with 110 proof using shake and stem/root on the kicker.
    gonna have to let the batch rest a while in a reclaimed rye whiskey barrel.

    Base mash was corn/rye and sugar, turbo yeast/nutes taken to 13.4% before run.
    bit rough for first run, will see if aged results better, if not we got gallons of great hand sanitizer.

    remember to discard the heads, better safe it letting more off than not.

    Posted by northern BILL HILLY on May 18, 2020
  • Is this chart the same for corn sugar and cane sugar? Also can I use corn sugar along with corn syrup? If so do you have any suggested recipes? Thanks

    Posted by Don on January 29, 2020
  • loads of questions no answers ??

    Posted by graham on August 30, 2019
  • 100 pounds dextrose, 25 pounds cane sugar, 2 pounds yeast nutrient, 2 gallons high pulp Orange juice. Top off to 50 gallons. Let sit overnight to ambient air temp and add 1 cup disstilers yeast.

    Posted by Prepperdud on August 05, 2019
  • Hello,iam newbie in home wine making. I face the challenge of amount of sugar and yeast needed for 20l vessel..please help

    Posted by Terry on June 19, 2019
  • Hello, This is Freddy from Tanzania, Its my first time to start wine making at home..but i face the challenge of amount of sugar and yeast needed for 20L vessel.

    Posted by Freddy Terry on June 19, 2019
  • Can I use the same Chart to make a fruit based wine. I’m looking for strong alcohol yield.

    Posted by Edward on May 30, 2019
  • What us your opinion of…."liquor QUIK SUPER YEAST X-PRESS W/AG? FOR SUGAR WASH ONLY…..SO FAR

    Posted by Bart Simpson on March 25, 2019
  • 1.5 to 2 pounds of sugar per gallon

    Posted by Shawn on March 05, 2019
  • I like your blog…Your blog gives me information all about ABV Calculator. Please keep sharing.

    Posted by Brenden Martin on February 05, 2019
  • Weepee,
    I’m sure I’m late in replying, but in case anyone else does the same — you need yeast nutrient.

    And guy who was asking if he could substitute wheat for yeast — you’re not even remotely ready to do this — please go read up on what you are doing and why.

    Posted by BigD on November 12, 2018
  • this is a bang up chart!!! IM new to mash and hooch making. i’ve just started my first two, yes im doing two at a time, batches. i plan on small reserve batches from my still. my first batch is a pure sugar wash with 2.5 lbs of sugar per gallon. my learn the still batch. two days later i started a 3 gallon sugar nutmeg cin mash. at about 2.8 lbs per gallon. i’m using a yeast tht will go to 20%, but was told to make it taste better stop and run it before done. so my second batch will be run before completion of the ferment, ya live and learn, am i right. was told to keep my batch at about 15% to keep a flavor, less more means more flavor, more booze means less flavor. also told to run slow and low on my baby still. i just got my booze license a few days ago. about 5 days before my first run, which is now two days away. my second batch is based off this chart, my first was based on forums. i’m huge on good vodka, which is my first run plan, and scotch, which will be a synthetic ( scotch comes from Scotland) brew, for lack of a better term, because i love, love, love, love, love,love, me a good scotch. i plan to use this chart like a cheap hooker on Saturday night. just wanted to say thank for helping out, your charts are pretty on par with a old moonshiner i know. he’s become a red star dady fan because of the low flavor it imparts in his whiskey. told me to check out this site so he “don’t have to talk so god damned much”, i’m extremely detail orientated. fed gave me the permit for free, the state charged me $50 bucks. well tht $50 might turn into $500. for the right to sell my reserve batches. i’ve been wanted to make my own hooch for decades, now i can. by the way, my still is a 2.5 gallon double thumper with a space for a parrot to sqwauk, old man told me the second thumper makes awesome flavor when ran right. i’m not running the thumpers till my whiskey runs, which he will be here for. this site makes me wet my pant’s with the possibilities. might be the booze, but i’m pretty sure it’s the site. for f’n sakes, thanks for the chart and recipes, my new hobby will be with me till i die. thanks guys, your info is recommended by a guy thts been doing this for 60 years. he says you know what your talking about and it saves him his breath and all the time it takes to answer my unending questions.

    Posted by jimmy b. on May 26, 2018

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