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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.
  • Can i use wheat instead of yeasts?

    Posted by Pranto on March 04, 2018
  • I just did a 5 gallon sugar (dextrose) wash. I added 8 pounds of dextrose, 1 tablespoon of red star distillers yeast. Had a 1.050 og, and had some tiny bubbles a few hours after but this morning I got nothing. Is my sugar to yeast ratio way off? Help….. thanks

    Posted by Weepee on February 14, 2018
  • Re: Stressing of yeast,
    The awesome thing about using Corn sugar (dextrose), I have used 40 pounds in a 10 gallon wash with distillers yeast (red star – dady) and never even stall the yeast. It takes no time to disolve, it ferments completely in about a week and I let it settle for another 5-7 days. 20% abv. It will turn a little yellow but still very clean, absolutely neutral, no off flavor after running. Easily get 180-190 pr on a single reflux run. I also use fermax nutrient just to be safe.

    Posted by Jonnyshine on November 05, 2017
  • How much sugar and yeast do I add for just 1 gallon?

    Posted by Patrick on October 23, 2017
  • How much yeast will be adding to 15 lbs of sugar,it is make a difference or not??

    Posted by Vlad on March 30, 2017


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