How to Increase the Alcohol Content of a Home Brew

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The beauty of home brewing beer is that you get to decide exactly what goes in to your brew. With a little know-how, you can manipulate the flavor, aroma, color and alcohol content of the beer you brew. Alcohol is created as a byproduct when yeast metabolizes the sugars in the wort; the unfermented concoction that becomes beer. So it would seem that in order to increase the alcohol volume of beer, all you have to do is add more sugar to the wort. However, it's not quite that simple.

Things You'll Need

  • Light or pale malt extract
  • Corn sugar (honey, fruit extract or molasses will also work)
  • Hydrometer
  • Champagne yeast
  • Add an extra few pounds of light or pale malt extract to the wort boil. You can do this regardless of your brewing style, whether it's all grain or all malt. You may need to increase the amount of water in the boil - if you are not doing a full-wort boil - in order to keep the wort thin enough to work with. Be sure to account for this when adding the rest of the water to the carboy or fermentation bucket.

  • Add 1 lb. corn sugar or a few liquid ounces of honey, molasses or fruit extract to the wort boil. Molasses, honey and fruit extract will significantly change the flavor and the color of the brew, so refrain from doing this if you are afraid it will ruin the beer.

  • Take the specific gravity of the cooled wort with a hydrometer before adding the yeast. If the specific gravity is above 1.085, add more yeast. Up to two times the standard amount is generally okay. The amount of alcohol that is produced when the high gravity beers are being fermented can actually harm the yeast. Adding more yeast to the wort will help prevent stuck fermentation.

  • Add a small amount of champagne yeast to the beer before bottling. Champagne yeast can withstand higher alcohol levels than most beer yeasts, so doing this will help carbonate the beer. If you are kegging the beer, ignore this step.

  • Allow the higher alcohol beers to age a few weeks or months longer than standard alcohol beers. The higher alcohol content increases the time it takes for a beer to mature.

Tips & Warnings

  • Darker malt extract can be added to the brew instead of light or pale malt extract. This will have an effect on the taste of your beer however, so be careful when using darker extracts.
  • Always keep detailed records of the specific ingredients used in the creation of your beers. This will help you to recreate an especially great brew in the future - or avoid recreating a bad batch.

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References

  • Photo Credit NA/AbleStock.com/Getty Images
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