Sugar Rush


There are many parts to the brewing process. I’d like to take this opportunity to write about one part that I think is very important, Sugar. Sugar is important for the brewing process because it’s the source of food for your yeast. The yeast convert the sugar into two by-products that you want in your beer, alcohol and carbonation.

Most of the fermentable sugars in your wort come from the grains.This process starts well before most home brewers ever set eyes on the grains that make up their beer. It starts during the malting process. Most of the grains used to make beer are malted. Malting is when the grains are put into water until they start to germinate. This process helps to maximize the amount of maltose producing amylase in the grains.

Amylase is a protein that is present in the grains that will break down the bonds between the big chains of polysacchrides into maltose. Maltose is a chain of sugar that contains two glucose molecules. There are two types of amylase proteins that are used during this process, alpha and beta. By knowing how these two proteins work you can start to you the brewing process to change the flavor, alcohol content and mouthfeel of your beer.

Alpha-amylase is also found in human saliva. During the first brewing processes the brewer would chew the grains in his mouth to start the breakdown of the polysaccharides into simpler, fermentable sugars. Alpha-amylase is in the grains after the germination process begins.If the temperature of your water during the mashing process is between 153º-158ºF then you wort will have more Alpha-amylase in it and therefore less alcohol but more body and mouthfeel. Beta-amylase is present in grain before the germination process begins. If you mash at lower temperatures, 148º-153°F you will have a more fermentable, higher alcohol, less bodied beer. See chart below.

Protein Mash temp. range Characteristics
Alpha-amylase 153◦-158◦ F ˅ fermentable sugars

˅ alcohol

˄ body

˄ mouthfeel

Beta-amylase 143◦-153◦ F ˄ fermentable sugars

˄ alcohol

˅ body

˅ mouthfeel