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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Extract Brewing > Alcohol Content Always Seems Low
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Old 04-05-2012, 01:54 AM   #1
txstars15
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Default Alcohol Content Always Seems Low

Hi-

I brew from extract kits and always use the bag of priming sugar when I bottle. My beer comes out fine but every batch seems low in alcohol to me, i.e. not much of a buzz after 2 or 3 bottles.

Comparing to drinking say 3 bottles of a store bought beer, mine seems pretty light on the good stuff. Any ideas why this may be or is it just my imagination!

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Old 04-05-2012, 01:59 AM   #2
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How many of these extract kits have you made, and what were they? If you've taken the OG and FG then you know exactly what the ABV% is.

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Old 04-05-2012, 02:00 AM   #3
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Maybe what you're brewing is just lower abv than what you're used to drinking. Are you measuring your gravities and calculating abv? Don't forget to adjust your hydrometer reading for temperature.

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Old 04-05-2012, 02:03 AM   #4
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It could be many things. Like the previous poster said you need to check your OG and FG...

What are your fermentation temps? The yeast could be having problems converting the sugars at too high or low of a temp...
Are you using kits or created recipes yourself? It could be you don't have enough fermentable sugars if you are creating the recipes yourself.
Are the beers you are brewing designed to be session beers at a lower alcohol content in the 3.5% range, average at 5 to 6%, or higher at 9% or above?

Ultimately the only way you will know is to take detailed notes of your process and accurate hydrometer readings throughout the process.

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Old 04-05-2012, 02:04 AM   #5
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Also, I'm betting your extract beers aren't attenuating as well as commercial beer. To get the yeast to finish the last little bit of sugar, make sure you're pitching enough healthy yeast and aerating as best you can!

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Old 04-05-2012, 02:12 AM   #6
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The only way to really determine ABV is to take hydrometer readings before and after fermentation. I'd suggest getting a hydrometer and a hydrometer tube for taking measurements to see if it's fully fermented before bottling. Maybe you have old yeast. But it could be that you're not letting it ferment long enough. (Does your beer typically taste kinda sweet?)

EDIT: Like Rhuarc mentioned, we'd need to know your ingredients to get a feel for where the brew should be to start with. Are you using kits? Designing your own recipes? Using someone else's recipes?

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Old 04-05-2012, 02:27 AM   #7
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Lots of Variables at work here. As mentioned, test your S.G. Could be as you are brewing you are building a tolerance up to alcohol.

My last wheat beer turned out pretty low in the ABV, but to me, I don't mind as the beer is not about the alcohol level to me, its more of a taste, if it tastes like the best beer I've ever had, it can be 1.2% ABV for all I care.... Sorry, guess I don't care if I get get the buzz anymore. Probably why I never check S.G..... ever. Except wines and mead, but it's more for ****s and grins then.

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Old 04-05-2012, 02:29 AM   #8
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Also, what types of beers have you been making? A cream ale or a mild pale ale could be well under 5% ABV. Some styles pack a bigger punch. Not knowing what you are making, or what the hydrometer readings were makes it hard to pinpoint the source of the low alcohol content.

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Old 04-05-2012, 03:15 AM   #9
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I was always told the priming sugar is the way to bring the alcohol percentage higher. Are you doing the formula before and after fermentation?

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Old 04-05-2012, 03:14 PM   #10
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Wow! I didn't expect such a great response. Let me try to answer the questions:
1) All my kits have been ales, mostly from Midwest but a couple from Williams. Summer ale, Pumpkin, Holiday, Irish Red, etc. No home recipes at this point.
2) I always get the Wyeast smack packs with my kits. They are fresh and refrigerated until use. They always swell fully so I assume no yeast problems.
3) I take an OG and 2 or 3 SG to determine when my fermentation is done. Guess I didn't realize I could use an ABV calculator like SterlingHopper was kind enough to include in his post.
4) I do keep detailed brew day notes on each batch, including the final chilled temp of the wort. I don't get the temp of the fermented wort, however. Should I take that as well when I am doing an SG reading?

Thanks for all the input.

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