What is an adjunct in beer?

When you think of beer, a few key ingredients likely come to mind: water, malted barley, hops, and yeast. These four components are considered the “base ingredients” for beer.

However, an often overlooked ingredient category can play a significant role in the brewing process: adjuncts.

Let’s explore what adjuncts are, why they’re used, and how they can impact the flavor and characteristics of your favorite brews.

Definition of Adjuncts

Adjuncts are any fermentable materials used in brewing that aren’t part of the base ingredients. They can be derived from various sources, including grains, sugars, fruits, spices, and vegetables.

Generally, adjuncts alter the beer’s flavor, body, mouthfeel, or color.

Types of Adjuncts

There are two primary categories of adjuncts: fermentable and non-fermentable.

Fermentable Adjuncts

Fermentable adjuncts provide additional fermentable sugars for the yeast to consume during brewing. These adjuncts often contribute to the alcohol content and body of the beer. Common fermentable adjuncts include:

  • Corn: Often used as corn syrup or flaked corn, this adjunct adds a subtle sweetness and lightens the beer’s body.
  • Rice: Typically used as rice syrup solids or flaked rice, rice is a popular adjunct in light lagers as it creates a clean, crisp finish.
  • Sugars: Various sugars can be used as adjuncts, including honey, molasses, and even table sugar. Sugars can increase the alcohol content without adding body or flavor to the beer.
  • Other Grains: Grains such as wheat, oats, and rye can be used as adjuncts to add body, mouthfeel, and unique flavors to the beer.

Non-Fermentable Adjuncts

Non-fermentable adjuncts don’t contribute to the alcohol content of the beer, but they can significantly impact the flavor, aroma, or appearance. Some common non-fermentable adjuncts include:

  • Fruits: Fruit additions can lend natural flavors and aromas to the beer. Some popular fruit adjuncts include cherries, raspberries, and apricots.
  • Spices can be added to the brewing process to create unique flavor profiles. Typical herbs used in beer include coriander, cinnamon, and ginger.
  • Coffee beans or cold brew coffee can be added to the brewing process to provide rich, toasty flavors, typically in dark beers like stouts and porters.
  • Chocolate: Cocoa nibs, cocoa powder, or even chocolate bars can be used as adjuncts to give the beer a rich, chocolatey flavor.

The Role of Adjuncts in Brewing

Adjuncts can serve various purposes in brewing, depending on the desired outcome. Some reasons for using adjuncts include:

  • Cost: Adjuncts like corn and rice are often less expensive than malted barley, which can lower production costs for brewers.
  • Variety: Adjuncts can create various flavors and styles, allowing brewers to experiment and craft unique beers.
  • Mouthfeel: Some adjuncts, like oats and wheat, can add body and creaminess to the beer’s mouthfeel.
  • Color: Certain adjuncts can be used to adjust the color of the beer, like chocolate malt for a dark, rich hue or fruit purees for a vibrant hue.
Dan Smullen Beer is my life profile

Hi, I'm Dan, founder of BeerIsMyLife. I've been an avid homebrewer for over ten years, and beer is my true passion. I've traveled all over the world, visiting breweries, tasting beer, as well as making my own batches. I set up this blog to share that experience with you.