What Are Adjuncts in Beer Brewing?

We answer what adjuncts are in beer brewing, offer some ideas for adjuncts to try and cover the impact they can have on a brew


Mat Stuckey

9/12/20234 min read

What Are Adjuncts in Beer Brewing?

Adjuncts refer to supplemental grains and fermentable sugars used in beer brewing alongside the main mash ingredients. But why use adjuncts, and what forms do they take? Understanding their role can unlock more creativity in homebrew recipes.

What's the Definition of an Adjunct in Brewing?

An adjunct is any fermentable added to the brewing process that is not traditional barley malt. They provide supplementary sugars to be fermented into alcohol and contribute unique flavours.

Common adjunct examples include rice, corn, honey, fruit concentrates, and unmalted grains like oats or rye. Even non-grains like candi sugar qualify as adjuncts. Anything that adds fermentables beyond barley malt falls under the adjunct umbrella.

Why Use Adjuncts in Beer?

Brewers utilise adjuncts for several key reasons:

  • Add complexity - Adjuncts introduce new flavours not found in malt, expanding the palette.

  • Increase ABV - Adding extra fermentable sugars raises the final alcohol content.

  • Enhance mouthfeel - Adjuncts like oats create a fuller body and texture.

  • Improve drinkability - Rice and corn lighten the body appealing to mass market tastes.

  • Reduce costs - Some adjuncts are less expensive sources of fermentables than barley malt.

Whether aiming for a richer imperial stout, crisp light lager, or fruited kettle sour, adjuncts help achieve the desired beer profile.

What are Some Common Adjuncts Used in Beer?

Popular adjuncts embraced by commercial and homebrewers include:

Corn - Most famously used in American light lagers for a clean, dry flavour. Also adds alcohol strength.

Rice - As in Asian lagers, it lightens the body and finish. Boosts ABV as well.

Wheat - Imparts cloudiness, soft mouthfeel and hints of bread and cloves as in hefeweizens.

Oats - Contribute creamy, silky texture and oatmeal flavours.

Rye - Spicy, earthy rye accentuates flavour complexity.

Fruit - From tropical hops to berries, fruit adds tartness, aroma and acidity.

Honey - For subtle floral sweetness and dry finish as in braggots.

Candi Sugar - Clear, highly fermentable Belgian sugar adds alcohol without flavour.

Sorghum - Gluten-free alternative to barley used in some gluten-removed beers.

The options are limitless depending on the desired flavours and beer style aims.

What Percentage of Adjuncts Can Be Used in Beer?

There are no fixed limits on how much adjuncts can comprise the fermentable bill, but a few guidelines exist:

  • Adjunct heavy beers like classic American adjunct lagers often contain 30% to 50% adjuncts - usually corn and rice providing clean fermentables.

  • 10% to 20% is more typical for beers like hoppy American IPAs using just a dash of wheat or oats for texture.

  • Belgians and other strong beers may include up to 20% candi sugar to raise alcohol levels.

  • Fruited sours or kettle sours take on the pure essence of the fruit addition rather than subtle accents.

Ideally, let the chosen style and your taste preferences dictate adjunct quantities.

Do Adjuncts Reduce Beer Quality?

Some beer purists argue reliance on adjuncts indicates a lack of skill by commercial breweries trying to cut costs. However adjuncts do not inherently diminish quality. When used deliberately and in moderation, adjuncts enhance diversity:

  • Rice and corn create clean, smooth fermentations less prone to fuse alcohols and off flavours.

  • Flaked grains aid head retention for attractive lacing.

  • Gluten-free beers open up the market for those with dietary restrictions.

  • Fruit and other bold adjuncts bring much-desired tart, sweet, and acidic notes.

Just like speciality malts, various adjuncts expand the canvas for brewers to create the precise beer they envision.

Do You Need to Mash Adjunct Grains?

Most adjunct grains and starches require "gelatinizing" through a mash rest to hydrate and rupture cell walls before enzymes can convert starch to sugar. Exceptions include:

  • Flaked grains - Flaking pre-gelatinizes grains like oats and wheat prior to brewing.

  • Refined sugars - Candi syrup, honey, and fruit concentrates already contain fermentable sugars so need no conversion.

Mash protocols vary by adjunct:

  • Raw grains - Mash at 150°F/65°C to gelatinize starches before converting.

  • Flaked grains - Can simply be steeped like malt extract since the starch is exposed.

  • Rice/corn - Mash at temperatures above 170°F/77°C to fully unravel starch.

What Adjuncts Work Well in Different Beer Styles?

Certain adjuncts align tastefully with target beer styles:

  • American Lagers - Corn, rice, or cane sugar lighten the body with minimal flavour impact.

  • Wheat Beers - Malted wheat provides signature banana and clove esters.

  • Oatmeal Stouts - Flaked oats lend silken texture and oat accent.

  • Fruit Sours - Pureed berries, tropical fruits, or juices introduce tartness and acidity.

  • Belgian Strong Ales - Candi sugar boosts ABV while letting the malt and yeast esters shine.

  • Hefeweizens - Wheat creates cloudiness and supports the iconic yeast strain's flavour profile.

  • Gluten-Free Beers - Sorghum, buckwheat, millet, rice, and tapioca replace barley for those gluten intolerant.

Match adjuncts to styles to enhance the expected flavours rather than conflict.

What Ratio of Specialty Grain to Adjunct Should Be Used?

As a general guideline when formulating recipes:

  • Limit speciality malts like crystal or roasted grains to 10-20% to avoid overpowering with intense flavours.

  • Keep adjuncts in the 5-30% range depending on style aims. Adjuncts lend nuance rather than take over the profile when constrained to these levels.

  • Let pale malt comprise the bulk of the grist, around 50-75%. The gentle malt backbone provides an ideal canvas to build on.

Diligently calculating percentages while designing recipes helps balance the contributions of each component in the grist.

Should Adjuncts Be Added to the Mash or Boil?

Adjunct placement depends on their form and brewing aims:

  • Gelatinized grains - Add to the mash if you want to convert starches to fermentable sugars.

  • Flaked grains - Can be added to the mash or steeped separately like extract since they are pre-gelatinized.

  • Fruit purées - Add to secondary fermentation or keg/cask conditioning for clean, intense fruited beers.

  • Spices - Generally add these 5-10 minutes before the end of the boil to impart flavour.

  • Sugars - Add to the end of the boil or direct to fermentation to maximise fermentability.

Each adjunct decision impacts the final beer differently depending on timing.

Adjuncts in Beer: Don't fear Experimentation!

Rather than diminishing quality, adjuncts like corn, wheat, fruit, and oats introduce exciting new dimensions to beer when used creatively. Adjuncts provide a means to add unique fermentable sugars and flavour compounds, enhancing complexity and tailoring recipes to exact tastes. Respect tradition but don’t fear experimentation. The spectrum of possible beer styles greatly expands once you embrace the full realm of adjuncts.

Want more tips on beer brewing? Head over to the Brewpedia blog for loads more!

oats that could be added into beer
oats that could be added into beer
brewmaster adding adjuncts to beer
brewmaster adding adjuncts to beer