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August 11, 2014
Last updated

Adding Sugar for Higher Potential Alcohol

Owner of Clawhammer Supply

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.

Kyle Brown is the owner of Clawhammer Supply, a small scale distillation and brewing equipment company which he founded in 2009. His passion is teaching people about the many uses of distillation equipment as well as how to make beer at home. When he isn't brewing beer or writing about it, you can find him at his local gym or on the running trail.

  • 125lbs rye meal. Pour boiling water stir and let sit until crust forms. Then add cold water and 240 lbs sugar. Make sure this is 115 degrees F. Then add 1 lb bakers yeast and stir 50 more lbs rye meal. Break up all of the balls of rye and stir vigorously. Let sit for about 2 and 1/2 days or until the head clears off and then pour into the still “ steamer type. Boil water in the boiler go to the bottom of the still with a 1and 1/2 pipe. Made 3 of theses boil and run through a worm and you will have rye whisky

    Posted by Randy on May 14, 2024
  • Fermentation woES: To all brewing friends…
    1. Don’t overpower your yeast with high sugar
    2. Step feed if you must add sugar
    3. Temperature could be the stalling issue
    4. Use staggered nutrients
    5. Air leaking airlock/bucket may cause you to think it’s stalled
    6. Keep enjoying the hobby with new tools😎

    Posted by Moe on May 02, 2024
  • Thank you ALL for your posts! this helps me out tremendously! sugar content per gallon, temperature, yeast, ETC. above all thank you Kyle for your knowledge and helping people get it right.

    Posted by Shawn Coffelt on July 18, 2023
  • Hello

    I used a turbo yeast 25lbs sugar 6 gallon waster yeast is working but very slow

    had around 20 abv 7 days still bubbling but only dropped to 14 % abv
    Really slow

    Posted by KENT on December 05, 2022
  • I just started my first mash around 1 month ago, Corn, Barley, wheat and rye. Started seeing bubbling in air gap first night and it went crazy for 3 days then nothing, when I opened lid to fermenter it was still bubbling slowly. Started at SG at 1.080 and I tested it at 1.060. So read up on it and decided to just leave it alone and wait. Was fermenting at room temp (72°] never did see any bubbles in air gap again but mash was still slowly bubbling in fermenter. I opened fermenter after 1 month and tested sG at 0.095. My patience has been rewarded and I am glad I read up on everything I could before I started this adventure, it gets a little confusing with all the opinions and options but the more you research the more you can learn

    Posted by Mustang on August 31, 2022
  • 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

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