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Old 06-03-2012, 12:56 PM   #1
damashiuchi
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Default Adding Sugar / DME to low grav wort

Hello,

I brewed my first AG batch a few weeks ago (Yooper's Cream Ale recipe...YUM!), but missed my gravity by a few points - came in at 1.044 instead of 1.052 - I chalked it up to inexperience with mashing/sparging and just went with it, and the beer turned out pretty good.

But I did some reading and saw that a lot of people add sugar or DME near the end of the boil if they miss their target gravity. So my question is what are the advantages of doing this, other than getting a higher ABV? DME I can sort of understand because you still get some malt character, but sugar has me baffled ... If one really doesn't care about 1/2% or so of lower ABV, are there any advantages to adding fermentables like this?

Oh, and while i have you, i want to thank all the experts on here, you've all really taught me a lot about brewing just from reading your posts!

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Old 06-03-2012, 01:03 PM   #2
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Adding a bit of malt extract will not hurt anything. Adding a low percentage of sugar will work to bring up the ABV but will not contribute any malt flavor.

Everyone has their own reasons for doing this. I personally do not try to change the beer by adding any malt extract. I chalk it up to a mistake and change the process on the next brew to avoid the issue.

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Old 06-03-2012, 01:06 PM   #3
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I wouldn't add sugar to reach my OG, but I would use DME without question.

There is more to it than the ABV. A beer that tastes great is balanced. That is, balanced between sweet malt, bitterness from the hops, the amount of body, the flavor/aroma hops and the amount of alcohol. If one or two of those parts of the recipe is lacking, the beer won't be the same.

Sometimes that's fine, especially if you only "miss" by a few gravity points. But in a highly hopped beer, that could make the beer off balanced. That is when it's appropriate to add DME (to replace the malt SG points that were "lost").

It's really nice to check your preboil gravity so that you know if you're going to hit your intended OG or not. If not, you can add DME OR lower your bittering hops so that you don't over bitter your beer. If you're too high, you can add more hops or add some water so that you are still in the ballpark.

When I upgraded to my current brewing system, my efficiency was all over the place- from 58% to 85% the first few times! I had to recalculate the recipe's preboil to try to keep the balance the same.

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Old 06-03-2012, 01:31 PM   #4
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Wow, you guys are quick!
That makes sense ... I guess a lot of it is just experience and knowing how to make corrections on the fly to get the results you're looking for ... I'm still in the mindset that recipes are meant to be followed to a T, so i need to work o that!

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Old 06-03-2012, 01:39 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by damashiuchi View Post
Wow, you guys are quick!
That makes sense ... I guess a lot of it is just experience and knowing how to make corrections on the fly to get the results you're looking for ... I'm still in the mindset that recipes are meant to be followed to a T, so i need to work o that!
Well, I'm of the same mindset usually, too. I'm sort of an OCD type of person and I want everything 'right'.

Maybe that's why I worry about preboil gravity when so many other brewers don't? Maybe I should shut up and RDWHAHB?
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Old 06-03-2012, 01:54 PM   #6
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My question is, how do you check the gravity so you know ahead of time if you are good or not?

Hydrometers don't work well at boiling temperatures, or even at mashing temperatures.

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Old 06-03-2012, 01:55 PM   #7
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Maybe I should shut up and RDWHAHB?
that, so far, has been the hardest - but most rewarding - lesson i've tried to learn! Thanks again for all the help ...
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Old 06-03-2012, 02:21 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BetterSense View Post
My question is, how do you check the gravity so you know ahead of time if you are good or not?

Hydrometers don't work well at boiling temperatures, or even at mashing temperatures.
i did actually take a preboil reading - just for my notes - just took 4 oz out after sparge and let it cool for a while ... Took the reading and adjusted for the higher temp ... Didn't do anything with it, but it did match up with my post boil after boil off losses, etc. Wort was just getting up to a boil by then, so i guess i could made adjustments in time
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Old 06-03-2012, 02:31 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BetterSense View Post
My question is, how do you check the gravity so you know ahead of time if you are good or not?

Hydrometers don't work well at boiling temperatures, or even at mashing temperatures.
I think many use a refractometer for OG readings. You still need to get the temperature down to take a reading, but since a refractometer only needs a few drops, that's more easily accomplished than an entire thief full of wort needed for a hydrometer.
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Old 06-03-2012, 02:55 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BetterSense View Post
My question is, how do you check the gravity so you know ahead of time if you are good or not?

Hydrometers don't work well at boiling temperatures, or even at mashing temperatures.
If you don't have a refractometer, chilling a hydrometer sample in a pitcher of ice water works very well.
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