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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Beginners Beer Brewing Forum > ABV, and how to raise it
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Old 06-10-2009, 02:48 PM   #1
foxual
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Default ABV, and how to raise it

Hey guys,

I'm 2 batches in to homebrewing now and there's a lot of thanks due to the forum! Today, I have a question about ABV, and why mine is low and how I can bring it up.

I enjoy my session beers to be in the 4.5-5.5 range, and my stronger beers (IPAs and such) to be much higher than that. However, the beers I'm brewing are low in alcohol. The IPA I brewed (MW Fuggles IPA kit) had an OG of 1.043 and an FG of 1.011 -- the calculations on the hydrometer sheet said the alcohol would be ~4.3%, and I've seen calculators online give me anywhere from 3.7% to 4.9% based on those readings. So I'd say my beer is safely in the 4.3% to 4.4% area before bottling.

However, I expect that to be higher. Like, 5.5% to 6.0% high. Not based on ingredients, but more on the style: IPA should be a higher ABV. I know the general science behind HOW to make it higher... add more malt(sugar) for the yeast to eat and get more alcohol. However, I don't know how to do this while maintaining the desired flavor.

I'm using extract w/specialty grains, 3 gallon boils and 5 gallon batches. The kit came with and the recipe called for 6 lbs. Gold LME.

I know I can just go buy some DME or more LME and add it to the boil, but my concerns are color and maintaining intended taste...

Any ideas/suggestions/comments?

Thanks!

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Old 06-10-2009, 03:09 PM   #2
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It's all about balance... If you add more malt to your brew, you'll probably want to add some more hops as well. I would recommend getting BeerSmith and putting in your current recipe. Then, simply make small changes to the recipe by adding more DME to see what the change in the color, IBUs, and ABV% will be. Try to keep the SRM and IBUs in check with each other and on target for the recipe you are making. BeerSmith is a great tool that allows you to play around with brewing and recipe ideas before committing to those changes for your brew.

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Old 06-10-2009, 03:13 PM   #3
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If you're going to keep buying kits, find some with higher OG (the Midwest site has a pdf with each kit showing the target OG-FG ranges). The Fuggles IPA you made shows 1.042-1.046 for the OG, and 1.010-1.012 for the FG. So you're right on target (low, for an IPA, but that's what's in the kit).

Not sure how you're using the online calculators for ABV, but 1.043 to 1.011 is 4.2% ABV.

Until you're comfortable with recipe formulation, I don't suggest simply dumping in more LME or DME, as it will throw whatever beer you made out of balance.

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Old 06-10-2009, 03:16 PM   #4
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First don't forget about priming. 5 oz of priming sugar should add about .3 % to your ABV. According to my calculations you ABV should be 4.58.

If you want to increase the alcohol content you can add a 1lb of extra light malt extract. This shouldn't effect the flavor too much, but it will give you more body. 1lb of extra light DME will add 0.9% to your ABV.

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Old 06-10-2009, 03:22 PM   #5
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+1to buying stronger kits.

or, find an extract recipe that has a higher ABV and try it!
India Pale Ale - Home Brew Forums
these 2 IPAs have a much higher ABV. and you can always taylor these recipes to your taste.
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f69/all-amarillo-ipa-28517/
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f69/allys-iipa-110255/

and as you can see, I only made it into the A's on our recipe database.

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Old 06-10-2009, 03:27 PM   #6
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Smith: I have a Mac, but I want to find some good software that will work with it

Horse: I'm slowly inching to the point where I'll be comfortable coming up with my own recipes... I want to get the process down to muscle memory before I start messing around. I very literally can't afford to screw up much Are there other sites that sell some higher ABV kits more as a standard? Most of the MW kits come with only 6 lbs of malt, but MW is by far the cheapest kit I've found (I suppose those 2 facts aren't unrelated).

brian: I was thinking about a smaller addition of DME to some of the kits. Complete Joy of Homebrewing says to feel free to go a pound heavy.

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Old 06-10-2009, 03:44 PM   #7
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For software, I use Linux and can't run Beersmith. Here's what I use:
Beer Calculus . homebrew recipe calculator

Your other option is to add 8 oz of corn sugar to your batch. This would at 0.5% to your ABV. I know some would cringe at this, but your not doing it just to have some cheep beer. The amounts you'd use would have a negligible effect on taste. Corn sugar ferments almost completely to alcohol. The result is slightly thinner beer. Whereas malt will leave more unfermentables, giving the beer slightly more body.

Either way you choose should be ok. If you want to keep from making big mistakes, don't go crazy with anything. (Like adding 5lbs of sugar so you can have 10% abv.) If you keep your changes small, the risk of it ruining your beer is small. If you make big changes, your venturing into the unknown.

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Old 06-10-2009, 03:56 PM   #8
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It seems like a lot of companies package a good chunk of their kits to be cheap and a lot a fairly new brewers want to buy low cost kits. The problem is that you get what you pay for & when you pay less, you usually get less malt extract which means lower gravity and less alcohol. Like several above said, look at what the expected starting gravity is; that'll tell you a lot about the expected ABV.

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Old 06-10-2009, 04:07 PM   #9
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Here is the GABF style guideline for an IPA

Original Gravity (ºPlato) 1.050-1.064 (12.5-15.7 ºPlato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato) 1.012-1.018 (3-4.5 ºPlato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 4-5.6% (5-7%)
Bitterness (IBU) 35-63
Color SRM (EBC) 6-14 (12-28 EBC)


I'm not sure why your thinking an IPA has to be 6% or higher.

Personally, I don't worry much about ABV as long as it tastes good to me, and I get the attenuation I want. I think your messing with something good by trying to adjust the ABV outside of what the recpie calls for..... thats just my opinion.

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Old 06-10-2009, 04:23 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by foxual View Post
Are there other sites that sell some higher ABV kits more as a standard? Most of the MW kits come with only 6 lbs of malt, but MW is by far the cheapest kit I've found (I suppose those 2 facts aren't unrelated).
Midwest has some; a quick scan turned up these:
Ferocious IPA (A surly Furious clone, it seems), 6.5%+ ABV
Simcoe Select IPA, 6.5%+ ABV

Austin Homebrew also has a wide selection of kits, including some higher ABV IPAs and barleywines.
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