After fermentation is done, but before the beer hits my glass, my brew sits away in a corner of a small closet – dozens of sudsy brothers and sisters conditioning away.
Depending on the style of beer I’ve brewed and its ABV, the wait time for all those bottles to fully prime can vary. So can your method for adding priming sugar to your brews.
The sugar you use for priming your beer is not chiseled in stone. For homebrewers like me, priming a batch of beer before bottling offers some variation in what to use if you want to step away from regular, old corn sugar or DME. Here are a few alternative priming sugars to consider for your next bottled batch:
For sake of ease, these small, pill-like drops are my go-to option for bottling my homebrew. I love carbonation tabs because they are as easy as placing one drop into each bottle right before I transfer my finished beer to its final vessel. The best part: it takes the worry out of the conditioning process as I’ve never had a problem with an under or over-carbonated beer when I’ve used these. That makes these one of the better alternative priming sugars.
Some brands of carbonation tablets will have small drops the size of an aspirin and others will be oblong like a tiny football. They all work the same, but some brands may simply require one drop for ideal carbonation levels while you can use multiple small pills to adjust carbonation with other brands.
Some alternative priming sugars, like honey, offer the chance to add a little extra layer of flavor to your beer. Curious to see what it may offer your next brew? Try it with a wheat beer, which might work nice if you’ve added fruit during fermentation, too.
To add a little extra sweetness to your homebrew at bottling time, use 1 cup of honey per 5 gallons. Mix the honey with a little warm water to thin it out to make sure it blends in with your beer.
Making a brown ale? Consider experimenting with maple syrup for your priming sugar to mash up flavors perfect for a cold fall or winter night. Whether it’s grade A or B, use 1 1/4 cup for a 5-gallon batch and again, mix it with some water to dilute the syrup. As with any of these alternative priming sugars, it’s easy to over-carbonate if you add too much. Also check out this Maple Scotch Ale homebrew recipe.
When talking about alternative priming sugars, one cannot leave these two out. Both of these options would work great for a porter or stout. Imagine that little extra bit of deep, earthy sweetness mixing with the roasted and chocolate flavors of those styles – a great mix for a holiday beer!
The benefit of brown sugar as a priming sugar is it can be used in the same fashion as cane sugar – boil 2/3 of a cup with two cups of water for a 5-gallon batch, then mix it in before bottling.
If you’re using molasses, use 1 cup with boiled water per 5 gallons and make sure this super-thick liquid breaks down a bit. You don’t want a mess on your hands.
Priming Sugar Calculator
If you’re ready to change up your priming routine, one great resource is this priming sugar calculator from HomebrewDad.com. It has a variety of sugars listed that you can choose when using alternative priming sugars . This calculator will offer up specific amounts depending on your exact volume of beer, desired carbonation levels, and more.
Bryan Roth is a beer nerd and homebrewer living in Durham, North Carolina. You can read his thoughts on beer and the beer industry on his award-winning blog, This Is Why I’m Drunk, and send him suggestions on how to get his wife to drink craft beer via Twitter at @bryandroth.