14 questions readers asked on Fermentarium

by Homebrewing

My homebrew kit came with sugar, can I toss it?

I’m surprised how often this comes up.  Somehow sugar got a bad rap, and now no one wants to put it into their beer.  It’s true if you add too much sugar your beer will not taste good, but your recipe has to have more than 10% sugar before it starts to become a problem.  There are several reasons why you should add the sugar to your beer.  Sugar increases the alcohol content, dries out the flavor, and makes the body (mouthfeel) of the beer thinner.

rock candy

Rock candy, Belgium candy, sugar... it's all C12H22O11

For example in Belgian style beers, sugar is a key ingredient.  The added sugar makes beer taste and feel much lighter in the mouth, even though the beer might be 10% ABV.

For some extract beer kits, the added sugar makes the beer taste less sweet.  The reason is sugar will ferment completely, while your malt will contain unfermentable sugars which can leave a bit of sweetness.  The more alcohol in your beer will make the beer taste drier, resulting in a better beer.

Sugar can cause problems if you are not careful.  If you are adding lots of sugar to your beer, you want to use a stepped approach.  When your primary fermentation is about 2/3 complete, add the sugar.  The reason is yeast will eat simpler sugars first, since less work is required, and eventually the yeast will stop producing an enzyme needed to break down maltose.  This will cause a stalled or stuck fermentation.  If your fermentation stalls, this will leave unfermented malt sugars.

Do you have a recipe for X beer?

I probably do, but you’ll get a quicker answer if you check out one of the clone beer recipe books or the Brew Your Own special issues you can find at your local homebrew store.  Check out Clone Brews or Beer Captured.

Is mead served warm, room temperature, or cold?

Yes.  You can serve mead at any temperature you like.  I sometimes follow wine rules for serving mead.  My white meads I’ll serve at white wine temperatures (cooler) and red meads at red wine temperatures (room temperature).  If the mead is sweeter, I’ll serve it cold too.  Ultimately there are no real guidelines for drinking mead.  The best advice I’ve heard is drink the mead at the temperature you think it tastes best.

How can I pass a breathalyzer test?

The easiest way is to not drink.  I don’t really recommend that solution, beer and wine are too tasty to pass up.  The short answer to passing a breathalyzer is to wait a long time.  There is no quick way to sober up, as I explained in another article.

What is your favorite beer movie?

Beer Fest.  Filled with cheap thrills, juvenile humor, and lots of beer!

Where can I find homebrewing supplies in my country?

Most cities in the United States have a homebrew supply store.  If not, you can find most everything you are looking for online.  Unfortunately many homebrewers outside the United States are not so lucky.  If you do not have a local homebrew supply store, you might check with a local microbrewery.  Many microbreweries have brewers who started as homebrewers.  I’ve known some people who have been able to purchase extra supplies from the microbrewery after talking with the brewer.  I’ve even heard of a few nice breweries that even put in extra orders for homebrewers.  At the worst case, the local brewery might be able to direct you to someone who can help you find the supplies you are looking for.


Your hydrometer most likely measures the gravity in Plato and Specific Gravity (SG)

What does 10 P mean on my beer?

The P designation is degrees Plato.  This denotes the density of sucrose by weight before the beer is fermented, and ultimately the amount of alcohol in your beer. The Plato scale is more common in central European breweries.

Why does the beer recipe include rice hulls?

The rice hulls are to help prevent stuck sparges.  It provides more space between the grains, and helps you avoid grain cement when you mash your grains.  The rice hulls do not change the flavor, and you can probably omit them from the recipe if you are batch sparging.

What is the easiest beer to make at home?

This question is a bit subjective, but I think making an extract Hefeweizen is the easiest beer to make.  The ingredients are usually just the malt extract, hops, and yeast.  The hops are a single addition at the start of your boil.   It uses an ale yeast, so if you have a spot in your brewhouse which gets down to 65 F you are set.  Making a Hefeweizen is pretty much boiling soup for 60 minutes.

How do I become a brewmaster?

There are three realistic ways you can become a brewmaster.  You can attend a beer technical school, get a degree in Fermentation Science from a university, or find someone in the trade willing to train you.  You can find more information about becoming a brewmaster in “So, You want to become a brewmaster?”

How do I get tested as a supertaster?

For those of you who don’t know, a supertaster is someone who can discern minute flavors in anything they taste.  These “supertasters” are highly marketable in the wine industry, because they have an edge up in tasting flaws or features in wine.  Linda Bartoshuk, a professor of otolaryngology and psychology at Yale University, published a paper in the 1990s defining a supertaster as a person with a higher density of tastebuds in their mouth.  About 35% of Caucasian women and 15% of Caucasian men are supertasters.

The test is simple.  You put blue food coloring on the tongue which is not absorbed by the taste buds.  Your tongue will be blue, but each bud will stay pink.  Each pink dot is counted within a defined area.  The more dots, the higher the likelihood you are a supertaster.  You’ll have to consult a tongue expert to find the actual number of taste buds required to be noted as a supertaster.

A simpler home test is “do you like spicy foods?”  If you do, most likely you are not a supertaster.  Supertasters do not like spicy food or fatty foods.  The spicy food is painful for them.

Personally, I think it’s more marketing than reality for most supertasters.  Many are “self-described” supertasters.  Unless it’s a PhD counting your tastebuds in a defined and repeatable test, it’s most likely a gimmick.

Oh, and there is no tongue map!

beer books

There's many great beer books out there.

What beer books do you recommend?

I’ve reviewed all the beer books I own here.  The article is framed in a holiday/gift season, but this what I think about the different books.  My favorite book is Designing Great Beers.  If you are looking for a book to learn to brew beer, you will want to check out How to Brew.

Is your beer recipe for 5 gallons?

All recipes on this site produce an end result of 5 gallons.

Are you on Twitter?

Yes, you can find me on twitter at @deege.

So that’s it for this round of questions.  As I get more questions, I’ll answer them and post the new ones in another article.  If you have any questions, let me know!  Until then, happy brewing!

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Credits and Links

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DJ Spiess

DJ Spiess

Beer buddy

I live in Denver, Colorado. This blog is everything about beer, wine, cider, mead and other spirits.
I am a avid homebrewer and winemaker. I’ve been making my own beer and wine for many years. I started making beer when I was in college (mostly because the drinking age in the United States is 21). My first few beers were horrible. The beers are much better now, and I often supply my neighborhood with free beer! It is a great hobby!