Homebrew Happenings: Adjuncts at Home

When you hear the word adjunct, it generally conjures up a mental image of fizzy, yellow macro lagers.  But adjuncts have recently found their place in craft beer, and today we’re going to talk about their use in homebrewing.

Specifically today I  want to talk about corn, rice, and pure sugars.  Other adjuncts like wheat, rye, and oats seem to be more respected and understood, so I won’t be covering them here today.

We tend to look at the use of corn or rice as an attempt to reduce the cost of the finished product by substituting the adjunct for the more expensive malted barley.  There is truth to this, but these grains also produce their own flavour profiles that can be quite desirable.  They both have a tendency to mash into highly fermentable sugars, so substituting some of the barley with corn or rice will generally reduce the body of your beer. You can swap out some of the malt for rice or corn to lighten the body of a recipe and give it a crisper flavour.

For corn, the easiest thing to do is buy flaked corn from your local homebrew shop, which can be added directly to your mash. While it lacks the enzymes to self convert, the starch in flaked corn will readily convert alongside the malted grains.

Rice is also available in flaked format, but you can also just use plain old white rice you probably have on hand.  To make sure that the starches are gelatinized and available for conversion, simply cook the rice as if you were going to eat it before adding it to the mash.

Styles where you want this effect would include American Pale Lagers and American Cream Ales.  The goal with these styles is a light, crisp, refreshing beer.  Using these adjuncts can be a fun way for homebrewers to play around with these lighter styles, especially if you are lacking the temperature control necessary to make lagers.  

The last adjunct I want to talk about is sugar.  This can be in the form of plain white table sugar, dextrose, raw sugar, honey, or molasses.  All of these will also reduce your final gravity because they will ferment completely.  With the exception of honey and molasses they will also add very little in the way of flavour, so they generally serve to boost the alcohol content of the finished product.

Honey and molasses will also impart their own flavour to the beer, so be sure to avoid them in a recipe that wouldn’t benefit from this.  The last thing anyone wants is a pale lager with a healthy dose of molasses.  Use sugars to give your starting gravity a boost, or some honey to put a twist on the flavour of your next pale ale.

Using adjuncts really shouldn’t be taboo for home brew. I like to think that no ingredient is off limits, because we are brewing at a scale where we can afford to dump a batch if it doesn’t turn out.  As always, I encourage experimentation.  It’s your hobby, enjoy it!


Jesse Witoszkin






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