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Lesson 1 | what's the role of sugar in homebrew ?

Welcome to ALCHEMA 101

Before we start the lesson, it is highly recommended to watch the ALCEHMA tutorial video! 

Let's get to know the role that sugar playing in brewing. The fundamental elements of brewing are yeast and sugar. The yeast will consume sugar and produce alcohol. The residue of sugar gives the sweetness of the cider/mead, which is shown as Brix. 

* Brix is the sugar content of a solution. One degree Brix is 1 gram of sucrose in 100 grams of the solution in 68°F (20°C). An easy way to calculate Brix is just remembered how much residue of sugar is in 100g of cider, that's the degree of Brix. 

Do different drinks with the same degree of Brix taste the same? | Not really

The common treetop apple juice is 10 Brix, while the coke is 10 Brix, too. But do they taste as sweet as each other? Brix is to measure the sugar content in a scientific way. But how do human perceive sweetness, is related to our taste. Even two drinks have the same degree of Brix, they can taste totally different. For example, the Brix is affected by temperature. The drink with the same degree of Brix will taste sweeter when it is warm then it is cold. 

Is sugar a must-have for brewing? | Yes


Sugar is a fundamental element for brewing. Like we mentioned before, the yeast will consume sugar and produce alcohol. There are many ways to get sugar. The sugar can be provided by the brewing ingredients itself, or we can add it separately. Generally speaking, a drink with higher alcohol content and higher Brix degree, the more sugar is required in brewing, vice versa. A drink with lower the alcohol content and lower Brix degree, the less sugar is needed in brewing. 

Will I consume too much sugar if I add sugar when brewing? | It depends


If you are making a high alcohol content of drink with low Brix degree, the sugar will be consumed and transformed into alcohol. There will only be a small amount of sugar left in the cider/mead body, so you won't take too much sugar by drinking it. 

What kind of sugar should I use? | White sugar, brown sugar or honey?

Different sugar has different flavors, and it will affect the tastes of cider/mead as well. The white sugar will only contribute to the production of alcohol once it is consumed by the yeast and yet barely gives any extra flavor; The brown sugar is relatively difficult to control during the fermentation. The brown sugar comes from canes. The cane juice is concentrated and heat to get brown sugar. The flavor is much more complicated comparing to the white sugar. The cider/mead made with brown sugar tends to have too much smells and flavors. Therefore it is difficult for beginners to make delicious cider/mead with brown sugar at first. Honey is highly recommended. Besides rich in nutrients, honey gives a pleasant aroma and good mouthfeel of the cider/mead. Honey is definitely the most suitable sugar source for beginners. 

How do I use honey for brewing? | Monofloral honey for pure mead and wildflower honey for fruit mead 

Brewing with different ingredients is pretty much similar to composing music. Drinking pure mead is like playing a solo, you will have a clear subject. This case, it is suitable to use monofloral honey like orange blossom honey and longan honey. The mixture, like Melomel (fruit and honey), is like a symphony, you have to make sure that all the ingredients play along together. In this case, the wildflower honey is a good choice since it provides a good source of sugar and yet won't give you a very outstanding flavor which breaks the harmony of the drink. 

* Using raw honey for brewing is strongly recommended.

* Using pasteurized honey might cause fermentation slow or even pause also your drink might not taste good. 

How to make my mead tastes better? | Secondary fermentation is the answer

Mead tastes like somewhere between champagne and ice wine. Store your mead in an air-tight bottle and put it in room temperature for 3-5 days or in the fridge for 7-10 days, the yeast residue in mead will continue fermenting and producing carbon dioxide. The gas will be trapped in the bottle since it is air-tight. The gas will dissolve into the mead body, creating the sparkling effect of the mead. This step is called "secondary fermentation". The sparkling effect gives mead more light and smooth mouthfeel. If you don't like the sparkling mouthfeel, the secondary fermentation process can be waived. The mead doesn't have to be stored in an air-tight bottle if you are not looking for sparkling mouthfeel. You could just store your mead in ALCHEMA pitcher. 

* Please use air-tight bottles for secondary fermentation. Make sure it stands high-pressure as well. 

* Please be careful when you open the bottle after the secondary fermentation is done. It may spray out when open. 

* More lessons regarding secondary fermentation are coming in the future.  

Leave your comments below if you have any related question, what kinds of honey you used, or just want to share with us your thoughts. 


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