Brewing with Adjuncts – What, How, Pros and Cons

Today we’re going to look at brewing with adjuncts. A subject maybe not for our German brewing brethren with their Reinheitsgebot Laws. These laws are a series of regulations, limiting ingredients which German brewers can use to make beer.

The most well-known laws were adopted in Bavaria in 1516. These days in modern German brewing exceptions can be sought when making brews such as gluten free beer.

Anyway, let’s get back to the main subject, brewing with adjuncts, here we go…

Brewing with Adjuncts - Corn
Corn is popular adjunct in brewing

What Are Adjuncts?

When brewing with adjuncts, they offer another starch or sugar source used to supplements malt as a base of wort extract. The most common adjuncts are either corn or rice based but can come from:

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Sorghum
  • Cane Sugar
  • Rye
  • Oats

There are many regions around the world which have a long history of brewing. I used to brew in Armenia, which you may not know, was one of the first regions to brew beer. There’s actually a brewery there, making an all-sorghum beer now.

The History of Brewing with Adjuncts

Depending on the region and prevalent local crop, beer has been made with different grains throughout history.  The use of adjuncts is as old as brewing itself.

The first beer produced, is thought to have been made in China and called kui. It’s believed to have been made from rice, fruit and honey.

Belgium has a long history of using adjuncts for brewing; with the use of candy sugar true to style for several beers. Traditionally Britain used several different adjuncts in the process of making stout and porter.

When drinking a “sweet stout” today, there’s a chance lactose has been used. Which is processed from the sugar in milk. So, if you are lactose intolerant be careful! Normal beer yeast can’t ferment milk sugar; thus, the finished beer is sweeter.

In modern US brewing many of the macro brewers like Budweiser use adjuncts in their beer like rice. Brewers are now looking to make all rice malt brews, for gluten free beverages comparable in taste to conventional beers.

Why Do Modern US Microbreweries Use Adjuncts?

In the US, the dominant variety is six-row malt. There’s an inherent increase in husk fraction leading to higher protein levels with 6-row barley. Back in the day, when brewers expanded their operations and had beer travelling longer distances, brewers saw an increase is haze problems (compared to the beer served locally).

Brewing With Adjuncts - Budweiser Uses Rice In Some Of It's Beers
Budweiser Uses Rice In Some Of It’s Beers

There were issues with flavor stability too; this led to brewers using adjuncts in their brewing like rice to counter these problems. People actually liked these lighter bodied beers and they started to become more popular. This was good news to brewers because these adjuncts were usually cheaper as well.

Modern Craft Brewing

In modern craft brewing adjuncts are often used. They allow brewers to create new flavors, play with textures, sugars and aromas. In the UK for example, a lot of brewers use corn sugar to increase the abv of their bigger IPA’s.

When using adjuncts in brewing there are many factors to consider:

Type of Adjunct

The type of adjunct used can affect beer flavor. Furthermore, it will start to impact character of the beer as well (compared to an all-malt beer) when used in percentages of 20% or more.

Using Them in the Brewing Process

When you brew with adjuncts, the choice of adjunct used affects how it should be processed. Before you can use it in your beer:

  • If you’re using milled meal and/or grit products then you’ll need a cereal cooker
  • Flaked, torrefied and micronized cereal adjuncts are pre-gelatinized and can be mashed with malt directly in your mast tun/mixer.
  • Syrups and sugars can be added directly to the brew kettle

Your main concern when using adjuncts should be the percentage you use. When a brewer goes above 30% for adjuncts; it can lead to fermentation problems and stall so, not reaching desired final gravity.

The Use of Adjuncts When Brewing

When you brew with adjuncts, they needed to be processed the same way as malt endosperm starch:

Gelatinization – Where the swelling / separation of starch cells (matrix breakdown) happens as hot water is absorbed.

Liquification – An enzymatic process (driven by alpha amylase) by which the starch absorbs water. Furthermore, until the mash has been gelatinized, liquification cannot occur.

Here are the gelatinization temperatures of some popular adjuncts used in brewing.

Table Brewing with Adjunct - Different Gelatinization Temperatures

At the temperatures in the above table, gelatinization will occur. However, the adjuncts in a mash cooker are often boiled to ensure the process is fully completed.

Brewing with Adjuncts – Manufacture and Pricing

The costs of adjuncts increases the more they need to be processed:

Grits, Refined Grits, Rice and Sorghum – They require “cooking” and are the cheapest adjuncts to buy.

Torrefied, Micronized and Flaked Adjuncts – As these adjuncts need processing to “pre-gelatinize” them ready for the brewing they’re more expensive.

Syrups – These adjuncts need further refinement to turn the cereal starches to sugar (in liquid form) and are the most expensive.

The Use of Adjuncts

The use of syrups in brewing has to be carefully monitored by a brewer. If used in to high percentages or incorrectly they can stress the yeast. The addition of additives or nutrients can be used to overcome these issues.

Furthermore, in modern brewing adjuncts are actively used for the characteristics they can give a beer. I like to use a percentage of wheat and oats, when brewing a NEIPA (New England IPA), not just for haze but for the “silkiness’ it provides the finished beer.

The use of the right adjuncts in a brew can be advantageous. Helping a brewer achieve the desired characteristics in the beer they seek. For example, they can help with head retention or mouthfeel. Plus, sometimes the use if adjuncts are cheaper so bring the costs down too.

Saving Money
Brewing With Adjuncts Can Save Your Money

Modern Mash Cookers

As we mentioned earlier, when using cheaper adjuncts, they require “cooking” before you can use them. A modern mash cooker is essentially a mash mixer on steroids. Cookers are generally smaller than a mash mixer/tun, as the percentage of adjuncts used in grain bill is less than for malt.

They usually:

  • Have more steam jacket surface than a mash mixer for quick heating and the ability to boil
  • “Mix” at higher speeds (like 60 RPM) to prevent clumping, hot spots and scorching
  • Have a powerful motor for the mixing, as the viscosity of the mash is much higher than with malt.

Brewing with Adjuncts – Cooker Operations

An ideal ratio is three water to one adjunct. As an example, it’d be 300 litres of water to 100Kg of cereal adjunct (1.15 bbl. to 100 lbs grain).

1. Need to mill or grind your adjuncts to a fine grist (it’s usually finer than for malt). You then add around 10 to 20% of your base barley grain (ale or pilsner) to the adjunct.

Many cereal adjuncts don’t have sufficient enzymes to convert and break down sugars so, the barley provides extra enzymes. You need malt high in diastatic power for this purpose at 120°Lintner or above.

Alpha amylase enzyme can also be used (from a fungal or bacteria course) instead of malt. Fungal enzymes are more heat stable. The enzymes should be added just before the adjunct addition as they can denature rapidly. Also, not boiling malt husks reduces the chance of harsh taste in your final beer.

Light colored beers

2. Mix the water and malt at 38 to 48°C (100 to 118°F) or add the enzyme

3. Have the mixer/paddle on at high speed and then add your cereal adjuncts

4. Once mashed-in, raise the temperature of by 1-1.5°C per minute and hold at liquification rest at 74-76°C for 10 to 20 minutes.

5. Then raise to boiling temperature for various times depending on the adjunct used.

Please note: over-boiling may cause starch retro-degradation

Brewing with Adjuncts – Those Added Direct to Mash

Previously, we listed the adjuncts which you can add directly to the mash. These adjuncts will be converted by malt enzymes to sugar:

Flaked Corn, Rice, Barley, Oats and Rye

These adjuncts are produced by steam softening the starch and running them between heated rollers which gelatinize the starch.

Torrefied Corn, Barley and Wheat

They’re made by subjecting the material to high temperatures 260°C (500F°), and “popping” them which gelatinizes the starch. As a side benefit, all but 10% of the protein is denatured by the process too.

Micronized Corn, Barley and Wheat

These adjuncts are heated to around 140°C (285°F) which gelatinizes the starch granules using special ceramic tiles which emits infra-red radiation.

Brewing with Adjuncts – Kettle Additions

As we said earlier adjuncts added to the kettle don’t need further modification, here are some examples:

Cane sugar – Most used in countries where cane sugar is manufactured. I use it when making a Belgian tripel as 10-15% of total malt bill.

Corn Sugar – There are corn sugars now, which have a similar profile to wort.

Syrups – Made from corn, wheat, barley or be simple sucrose and can be added directly to the kettle. Be aware they contain water too.

Please note: In north America, most syrups are corn based and are a product of wet-milling processes. Over time the process has evolved from acid conversion of starch, to enzyme liquefaction and hydrolysis. This had led to high maltose syrups which match wort profiles and are of high quality.

Checking Your Adjuncts

You should deal with adjuncts like other materials in the brewhouse…

Adjuncts should be smelled and where possible made into “teas” to be tasted. They should check them before unloading, especially if they’re being transferred to silos.

Brewing with Adjuncts - Storing in Silos

You can refer to ASBC for testing or ask your supplier for an analysis.

The ASBC manual list tests for dry adjuncts such as:

  • Moisture
  • Oil
  • Extract
  • Protein
  • Ash

…and a host of other physical characteristics like color, odour and foreign matter.

For sugars and syrups the ASBC lists tests for clarity, color, extract, moisture (sugar), acidity, pH, starch, protein and so on.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Adjuncts

There are many advantages to using adjuncts when brewing such as:

  • Increases brewhouse capacity without additional equipment
  • Makes high gravity brewing easier
  • Use them to produce light bodied/flavored beers (and malt beverages)
  • The number of beer styles you can use increases (American lagers)
  • Usually cheaper than malt per Kg of extract (when purchased in large quantities)
  • Often produces more stable beers

There are also some disadvantages to using them too:

  • You might need different types of equipment (like a mash cooker)
  • Difficult to match existing all-malt beer styles
  • Maybe expensive to purchase (if ordering smaller quantities)
  • Yeast may require supplements (less FAN in adjunct mashes)

Brewing with Adjuncts – Conclusions

The technology and understanding of adjuncts have improved over the years leading to some great adjuncts being available to brewers. Brewers can make some great beers when using adjuncts correctly

Treat adjuncts like you would any other raw material in the brewhouse, test them and get an analysis to make sure they’re in specification for your needs

Understanding adjuncts and how to use them in your brewery can open up a world of possibilities. Allowing you to produce some exciting beers for you customers.

I hope this article has helped you understand adjuncts more and we hope to explore them in more detail in further articles at a later date.

Thanks for ready, happy brewing and have a great day.



Neil Playfoot

Neil is a brewer with 25 years international brewing experience. Based out of China (first came in 2010) he works as a brewing consultant helping brewers with their projects and brewing processes. To find out what services Neil can provide your brewery please click here. If you'd like to contact Neil you can email at
5 2 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments