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Old 04-19-2011, 12:23 AM   #1
winnph
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Default Why no late additions of sugars to bump alcohol?

I've wondered for awhile why most fermentation techniques discourage late infusions of sugar/wort. In other words, why can't I take a finished beer or mead, decide I want to bump up the alcohol a bit, and just add a half-gallon of high gravity wort? Is it because there's a risk of oxygenation, even though the yeast should be using up some of that oxygen to consume the new sugar? Or is it one of those traditional things that doesn't have any basis in actual results? Or something else?

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Old 04-19-2011, 12:27 AM   #2
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If the beer is finished, it won't ferment properly and will be sweet. Many beers are made with sugar, honey, syrup additions near the end of fermentation, but you can't do that to a "finished" beer. Mainly due to the high alcohol content and the lack of active yeast. Its not a very hospital environment for them when they are swimming in their own waste.. (alcohol)

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Old 04-19-2011, 12:42 AM   #3
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I mean if there's still a yeast cake, seems like a little rousing would do the trick on that front. If the issue is high alcohol, then the issue should be the particular strain's tolerance, and I'm not talking about going beyond the yeast's tolerance.

I guess I've just never seen these beers that are made with late additions. The only times I've seen people ask about adding more wort or sugar near the end of fermentation, the responses are all discouraging it.

So, if my question was starting with a faulty premise, then I apologize and withdraw it.

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Old 04-19-2011, 01:10 AM   #4
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Lots of brewers add some sort of sugar after initial fermentation. Many lambics have fruit added to the secondary. Other brewers might add table sugar later on to get a dryer final product, or non fermentable sugars to get a sweeter product. As long as you aren't going past the yeasts tolerance or overly agitating the beer when you add the extra sugar, then you should be fine.

I think a lot of the replies you've seen might be when someone is trying to salvage a beer that they think might not turn out good. Most of the replies for those types of questions say not to add anything because the beer will probably turn out fine. Kind of a RDWHAHB type of reply.

If you brew a beer with the intent of adding more fermentables later on, then I don't think there is a problem with that.

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Old 04-19-2011, 01:13 AM   #5
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I've seen people ask about adding more wort or sugar near the end of fermentation, the responses are all discouraging it.
.
You may be using the wrong search terms. I find negative responses are sometimes from people who just repeat what they have read. If you want to try boosting..I say go for it ...you will learn more about yeast then someone who say's ..."you can't do that"..
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Old 04-19-2011, 03:35 AM   #6
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FYI, really high alcohol beers sometimes involve adding fermentable sugars a little at a time throughout primary fermentation.... Some even involve adding a second more tolerant yeast after the first one goes dormant.

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Old 04-19-2011, 11:45 AM   #7
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Thanks for the responses... I don't really have a desire to boost alcohol at this point, but I was pondering doing a brew where I slowly step up from a 2 gallon batch to a 6 gallon batch, with higher and higher gravity additions at each step.

I've definitely heard of adding more tolerant yeasts when your initial one craps out, but I've just never seen anyone employ a process like the one I'm considering.

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Old 04-19-2011, 12:07 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by winnph View Post
Thanks for the responses... I don't really have a desire to boost alcohol at this point, but I was pondering doing a brew where I slowly step up from a 2 gallon batch to a 6 gallon batch, with higher and higher gravity additions at each step.

I've definitely heard of adding more tolerant yeasts when your initial one craps out, but I've just never seen anyone employ a process like the one I'm considering.
I wouldn't boost the volume of the beer that drastically. I would imagine your flavor profile would be quite skewed if you do that, in part because your yeast won't propagate sufficiently to handle the later increase in gravity and volume (unless you keep adding yeast as well, which would get expensive). A more standard practice is to brew 4+ gallons, and then feed the yeast daily with a very concentrated sugar solution (just enough water to dissolve the sugar or DME) until you have achieved your objective. Your proposal is worth a try though, maybe in a side-by-side experiment with the more traditional method.
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Old 04-19-2011, 02:36 PM   #9
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Here's a recipe for a 120 Minute IPA clone. Major boosting going on there.

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Old 04-19-2011, 02:54 PM   #10
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I wouldn't boost the volume of the beer that drastically. I would imagine your flavor profile would be quite skewed if you do that, in part because your yeast won't propagate sufficiently to handle the later increase in gravity and volume (unless you keep adding yeast as well, which would get expensive). A more standard practice is to brew 4+ gallons, and then feed the yeast daily with a very concentrated sugar solution (just enough water to dissolve the sugar or DME) until you have achieved your objective. Your proposal is worth a try though, maybe in a side-by-side experiment with the more traditional method.

I guess my question is how is a large increase in volume here any different from bumping up bottle dregs from 50ml to 1.5L for pitching into a 5-gal batch? Why won't the yeast reproduce and increase, just like when you add wort to a starter?

Or, viewed another way, wouldn't the yeast cake under a 2-gallon batch be plenty of yeast for pitching into a later 4-gallon batch? What's the difference between pitching that yeast cake into a later batch and adding enough wort that the current 2-gallon batch "becomes" a lower-gravity 4-gallon batch? The only difference I see is the alcohol in the beer, so is the answer that the presence of alcohol inhibits yeast reproduction?
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