Using Adjuncts in Beer


By Delano DuGarm (Brewing Techniques)


Beer Adjuncts and Spices


Outcast Ingredients Take Their Place in Quality Beers


Grain adjuncts share a bad reputation among specialty brewers, most of whom associate adjuncts with the sweet, under-hopped, light lagers produced by major American brewers or with the experiments of wacky home brewers. This characterization is not entirely fair. Adjuncts are not just cheap sources of extract. Excellent, flavorful beers as varied as Rochfort 10, Celis White, Redhook Rye Beer, and Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout are brewed using adjuncts as sources of flavor, mouthfeel, color, and clarity. In this article I examine the various grain adjuncts available to brewers and outline some practical methods for turning them into delicious adjunct beers that don’t go against the grain.


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A Good Idea Gone Wrong


American brewers first turned to adjuncts to improve their beer, not to cheapen it. In the 19th century, American farmers grew primarily six-row barley because these strains were better adapted to North American climatic conditions and disease pressures. These varieties gave higher yields per acre and were easier to malt than the two-row types cultivated in Europe. They also had more protein and were higher in enzymatic power than two-row malt. Brewers soon discovered, however, that one consequence of high protein levels in six-row malt was that their all-malt beers tended to develop chill haze and demonstrated limited shelf stability. These detects made less of a difference in the days before Prohibition, when most breweries produced dark-colored ales for local consumption from kegs. The subsequent popularity of light-colored lagers and mass-distributed bottled beer, however, led brewers to search for ways to brew a pale lager that would not throw a chill haze or drop sediment in the bottle.

A brewer named Anton Schwartz discovered the solution: corn and rice adjuncts. Substituting corn or rice for 10–20% of the malt lowered the total amount of protein in the mash and produced a bright, chill-proof, shell-stable beer. Many consumers preferred the lighter body of the new beer, and because corn and rice grits were cheaper than barley malt, the adjuncts actually decreased the cost of production.


How Do the Adjuncts Stack Up?



Flavor Contributions

Suggested Styles

Mash Tips


Whole, roasted, flaked, torrified

Grainy, bready flavor


High glucan content requires a low-temperature rest or rice hulls to improve lautering; roasted barley is good for color and taste contributions


Whole, grits/meal, flaked, starch

Grainy sweetness

Lagers, bitters, Belgians

Low protein; whole kernels not recommended


Whole, flaked

Silky texture

Witbiers, stouts

Store-bought versions are pregelatinized; overuse can bring astringency


Whole, flaked, starch

Dry, clean taste

Lagers, Belgians

Low protein; grind into meal before mashing


Whole, flaked, torrified

Fruity, spicy, oily

Roggenbiers, pale ales

High glucans; whole rye very water absorbant, add water to keep from sticking; expect long, slow sparge


Whole, flaked, torrified

Malty spiciness

Witbiers, lambic

Typically high in protein, can throw chill haze; protein rest also serves to gelatinize starches (no double mash required); soft winter wheat is lower in glucans and easier to mill


These early beers were not the American light lagers so familiar to today’s beer drinkers. As Renner, Fix, and Jankowski demonstrate, these beers were flavorful products in which the corn enhanced the overall taste. Fix has described, for instance, a pre-Prohibition pale lager that was almost as strong as a Bock, but light enough in body and flavor to be dangerously drinkable.

Six-row malt is so rich in enzymes that it can convert much larger amounts of adjuncts than the early brewers used. Brewing manuals published after the end of Prohibition emphasized that rice and corn should be considered additives only and should not be the major source of fermentable sugars. Nevertheless, post-Prohibition brewers repeatedly increased the proportion of adjuncts, principally corn, to appeal to consumer demands for lighter products and to reduce production costs. Whereas pre-Prohibition grists included 10–20% corn grits, many large American breweries now produce light lagers that contain up to 50% adjuncts.

Many home brewers and microbrewers were inspired to brew their own beer in reaction to these insipid products, declaring adherence to the Reinheitsgebot as an article of faith. The Reinheitsgebot (the German Beer Purity Law of 1592) states that beer must be made from malt, hops, and water (yeast was added later, after its role in the brewing process was discovered). Texas’s first microbrewery even called itself the Reinheitsgebot Brewing Company. This belief has become strong enough to influence even the largest brewers. Anheuser-Busch’s recent line of “American Classics,” based on recipes from the turn of the century, is proudly described as all-malt — even though the original recipes probably included rice or corn.


Adjuncts Abroad


Grain adjuncts have earned a place in the brewing practices of countries outside of the United States. British brewing corn has become a common ingredient in many English bitters, and wheat is widely used in small quantities to improve head retention. Elsewhere in Europe, grain adjuncts have a wide popularity in lager production. Most adjunct brewers use corn or rice, though some German brewers use “chit malt,” a malt so under-modified that it closely resembles unmalted barley. Belgians, not surprisingly, have many adjunct beers, ranging from popular lagers and beers made with spelt and buckwheat to witbier and lambic, both brewed with unmalted wheat. Equally exotic adjunct brews are found in Africa, where Nigerian breweries have attempted to produce a range of beers, from lager to stout, entirely from sorghum.


The Indispensable Double Mash

A double mash is essential when brewing with cracked grains, grits, and starch. This process sounds complicated, but it is no more complex than a single-decoction mash. Like decoction mashing, though, this process requires an additional kettle for the cereal mash. (Dave Miller’s Homebrewing Guide and Wahl-Henius are the best sources for more information on double mashing.)

In the first pot, mix the adjunct with about 30% of its weight in pale malt. Do not neglect the malt. The malt’s enzymes help to liquefy the starch in the grits. Without the malt, the adjunct will burn on the bottom of the cereal cooker and you will spend hours cleaning it off.

Add hot water at the rate of 1 gallon/lb of adjunct and malt until the temperature stabilizes at 155 °F (68 °C). Hold this temperature for 15 or 20 minutes so the enzymes in the malt have time to convert the malt’s starches to sugars and to begin liquefying the adjunct. After the 20-minute rest, begin slowly raising the mash temperature, stirring carefully to avoid caramelization. As with any kind of cooking, stirring is especially important when dealing with highly starchy mashes, which tend to burn to the bottom of the kettle. Bring the cereal mash to a boil and boil it for 40 (for starch) to 60 minutes (for grits or cracked grain). By this point the cereals will have swelled up and exploded, gelatinizing the starch and rendering it vulnerable to diastatic enzymes.

While the cereal mash is at 155 °F (68 °C), mash in the remainder of the pale malt and any specialty malts in a separate kettle. Use a very thick mash, with perhaps 1 qt of water/lb of malt. Stabilize this thick mash at 122 °F (50 °C) for a protein rest. (This is especially important if using protein-rich six-row malt.)

When the cereal mash finishes boiling, carefully stir it into the malt mash. Be very careful about spills, because the boiling-hot gelatinized cereal mush sticks to skin and burns it easily. I find that when I do this to a 25% adjunct batch using my own equipment, it raises the temperature of the entire mash to about 153 °F (67 °C), just where I usually want it for saccharification. Different breweries will require adjustments, of course.


Forms of Adjuncts


Adjuncts are available in a variety of forms. They are most commonly found whole, torrified, flaked, or rolled, in meal or in starch. (Sugars and syrups are also regarded as adjuncts and can be added directly to the kettle; this discussion, however, deals with the less-processed grain adjuncts that requite pregelatinization and mashing.) The characteristics of each grain can vary depending on its form.

Whatever the form, any material to be used as a source of fermentable sugars must somehow liberate its grain starch so that diastatic enzymes can break it down into simple sugars in the mash. The malting process is one way to accomplish this goal; germination makes the grain’s carbohydrate stores vulnerable to enzyme activity. Malted forms of wheat, rye, and, of course, barley are available. Unmalted grains, though, may require extra processing by the brewer or miller before they can be added to the mash.

Some adjuncts require the use of a double mash, which can be compared to a single decoction. The most common adjuncts are available in pregelatinized forms that can be added directly to the mash. Large commercial breweries generally choose to make the investment for a separate cereal cooker rather than opting for the costlier flakes. For smaller breweries, however, the savings in raw materials doesn’t necessarily compensate for the additional capital and labor costs, and flakes are often the form of choice for micros. Home brewers can simply weigh the cost of flakes against the expense of an extra pot and some extra labor.

The amount of work the brewer must do depends on what kind of processing the adjunct has undergone before reaching the brewery. The following list of available forms is in order from least to most processed.

Whole grains: Often called “berries” (rye berries, wheat berries, and so forth), whole grains are the least processed form of adjunct. They can be purchased at health food stores, at farm supply stores, and directly from producers. It is preferable that whole grains for brewing be free of fungicides, fertilizers, or other additives, though retail suppliers may not have access to this information.

With the exception of wheat, whole grains should be double mashed to gelatinize their starches. Before adding the grains to the cereal cooker, crack the grains using a Corona mill or other flour mill. Be careful about using a roller mill for grains other than barley: Several home brewers have reported stripping gears on Glatt mills when grinding wheat.

Grits and meal: Grits and meals are prepared by removing the hull and the germ from the kernel, then grinding the product to the desired fineness. This processing saves the brewer the step of cracking the grains, but grits and meals still require double mashing. Avoid instant grits, which are precooked, salted, and flavored. Buy grits, quick or old-fashioned, or cornmeal instead; the only difference between them is the size of the grains.

Starch: Starch is prepared from grits. The grits are purified of cellulose, protein, and other constituents, and the resulting powder is nearly pure starch. Starches need to be double mashed, with particular care taken that they do not scorch on the bottom of the cereal cooker.

Flaked and rolled grains: Produced by first steaming grits, then running them through a hot roller mill. The heat and pressure gelatinize the starch so that the brewer can add the flakes directly to the mash. This addition can happen at the beginning of the mash or after the protein rest, depending on the grain.

Torrified grains: Produced by heating the grain quickly to 500 °F (260 °C), which causes them to rapidly expand or pop. The process pregelatinizes the starch and denatures much of the protein. Once torrified, grains can be added directly to the mash. Rye, wheat, and barley are available in torrified form.


The Main Grain Adjuncts


When using any adjunct, two general suggestions apply. First, keep adjuncts to no more than a third of the total grist. Some varieties of two-row malt might be unable to convert greater amounts of adjuncts, and in any case the resulting beer will generally taste thin. Second, stick to one adjunct per beer. Adding two or more adjuncts together can lead the brewer into the area of “wacky” homebrew experiments. The only successful examples I have sampled (Pete’s Wicked Multi-Grain Beer comes to mind) tasted good only because all the adjunct flavors were muted.

Many adjuncts — especially rye and barley — are high in glucans that increase wort viscosity and cause stuck mashes. A good mash schedule with a low-temperature rest is the first defense against such problems. I have had the best luck by incorporating 45-minute rests at 100 °F (38 °C), adding extra water to the mash, and mashing out at 168 °F (76 °C) before sparging. Rice or oat hulls can provide some insurance for a good lauter; it helps to cover the bottom of the lauter tun with the hulls, and mix still more in with the mash.

Corn: Corn, also called maize, is probably the most popular grain adjunct in the world and is certainly one of the most versatile. Like other adjuncts, corn lightens the color and body of a beer, and because it lowers the protein content corn also helps to reduce chill haze.

Flaked corn is the easiest form to use. Because it is pregelatinized, it can be added directly into the mash; it contains little protein and thus needs no protein rest. Grits and meal are good choices if the brewer is willing to do a double mash. I would recommend against using whole corn kernels because the high oil content of the corn germ could cause poor head retention.

Depending on the form, corn can provide a grainy sweetness that complements hop flavors and the esters that many Belgian ale yeasts produce. It works particularly well in British bitters, Belgian strong ales, and in the low-adjunct American lagers of the turn of the century. For the historically minded, the original California common beer included corn, as did more obscure varieties such as Kentucky common beer and American Weiss beer. Kentucky brewers used a sour mash to make their common beer, while the American Weiss seems to have resembled Berliner Weiss except that it was brewed with corn instead of wheat.

Rice: Rice lends beer a very neutral, dry flavor. It works best with lighter styles (light lagers or Pilseners), or with stronger beers in which a light body is desired, such as the stronger Belgian beers. If whole grains are used, take care to add enough water to the cereal mash to keep it from sticking.

There appears to be little difference between long- and short-grained varieties in terms of brewing. Large-scale breweries use “brewers’ rice,” which is made of broken kernels of white rice left over after milling. (Brewers’ rice is perfectly edible, but American consumers will not buy it commercially.) Indian basmati rice can add its own characteristic aroma to light lagers. Wild rice is harvested from a North American grass distantly related to rice; it has a nutty taste when cooked. At least one commercial beer (James Page Wild Rice Lager) is brewed with wild rice, but in this case the rice adds only a slight spiciness to the beer’s flavor. Wild rice is much more expensive than other adjuncts mentioned in this article, a fact that has probably not helped its popularity as an adjunct.

Note that converted rice is not pregelatinized. Flaked rice is now available, but other forms of rice should be ground into meal before mashing.


Adjunct Beers Like They Used to Brew ’Em

These two recipes provide only a hint of the many beers that can be brewed with adjuncts. Both rely on adjuncts for their flavor and have done well in competitions (for more recipes using corn and rye, try references 2,3,4,11):

Brain Wipe (Strong Belgian Ale)

5 gallons



Pilsener malt




Flaked corn




Cara pils malt



1.5 oz

Hallertauer hops

4% AA

60 min

0.5 oz

Saaz hops

1.9% AA

5 min


La Chouffe ale yeast slurry

Original gravity

1.072 S.G. (17.4 °P)



Final gravity

1.017 S.G. (4.3 °P)




Mash at 152 °F (67 °C) for 90 minutes. Ferment at 60° F (16 °C).

Rye E.S.B.

5 gallons



Pale ale malt




Flaked rye




Pils malt




Munich malt




Cara vienne malt



1.5 oz

East Kent Goldings

5% AA

60 min

1.5 oz

East Kent Goldings

5% AA

15 min


Wyeast Labs #1056 “American Ale” yeast

Original gravity

1.050 (12.3 °P)



Final gravity

1.012 (3.1 °P)




Mash at 100 °F (38 °C) for 30 minutes, 122 °F (50 °C) for 30 minutes, 152 °F (67 °C) for 60 minutes, and mash out at 168 °F (76 °C). Ferment at 65–70 °F (18–21 °C). This mash requires a very slow sparge and produces enormous hot and cold breaks.


Wheat: The classic example of a beer brewed with unmalted wheat is Belgian witbier. In this rare case adjuncts can serve as up to half of the entire grist, along with up to 5% oats. Excess protein in the unmalted wheat gives witbier its characteristic white haze. The traditional view of wheat is that it is high in protein, but as with all grains, it’s best to look at the spec sheets supplied by the manufacturer to compensate for variances among varieties, species, and growing conditions. Belgian lambic also calls for a high proportion of raw wheat — 30–40%. Unmalted wheat is often used in small quantities in British ales to improve head retention.

Whole-grain wheat, sometimes called wheat berries, is easily found in health food stores. If you have a choice, soft winter wheat is better than hard spring wheat. Winter wheat is lower in the glutens that slow sparges and is also easier to mill. Even soft winter wheat is very tough, though, and may ruin the gears on some roller mills. This is one occasion in which a Corona mill or an adjustable flout mill may be preferable.

Wheat starch gelatinizes at 125–130 °F (52–54 °C), so it is not necessary to double mash crushed raw wheat. The mash must, however, be held at a protein rest for 45–60 minutes to gelatinize the starches and break down some of the proteins. As Philip Seitz wrote, “You’ll be amazed at how well the proteolytic enzymes turn a mass of wallpaper paste into a light, workable mash. Never has the miracle of mashing been better demonstrated”. Wheat is often high in beta-glucans, and may also benefit from a low-temperature rest.

Oats: Sometimes described as adding a silky texture to beer, oats are most commonly used as a component in some witbiers and oatmeal stouts, though oat pale ale has also been commercially produced. While oatmeal stout is now making a comeback, in Britain it still has to overcome the bad image it received in the early part of World War II, when grain and sugar shortages forced brewers to use oats in place of other adjuncts. The proportion of oatmeal added to witbier grist is best kept below 5%, while in oatmeal stouts it can rise to 10–15%. The proportion should not rise above that; 30% oat beers have been described as hazy, with a grainy, astringent flavor. A low-temperature rest can convert excess beta-glucans and help prevent stuck mashes.

Note that different varieties of prepared oats are available. Steel-cut oats are ungelatinized and must be double mashed. Quick oats are pregelatinized flakes. Most homebrew stores stock rolled oats; these can also be purchased in the grocery store. Quaker is a popular brand, but any store brand is fine; usually the only difference between them is in the size of the flakes. (Size matters when making oatmeal cookies, but not when making oatmeal beer.) Flaked oats are also available especially for brewers.

Rye: Of all the adjunct grains one would think rye would be the least likely to experience a boom in popularity. An ingredient in a few little-known beers indigenous to central and eastern Europe, it is not very easy to work with. Nevertheless, craft brewers in the northwestern United States have begun brewing a variety of beers using rye, capitalizing on the grain’s unique, fruity, spicy, even oily flavor.

Rye is a difficult grain in the brewery. It absorbs large amounts of water in the mash and contains high levels of glucans. Even with a good mash schedule, though, the rye brewer can expect a long and slow sparge. Even after lautering, problems can continue. Many rye beers suffer from hazes that do not clear even when fined or chill-proofed. If you prefer a crystal-clear beer, rye might not be the adjunct for you.

I have had the greatest success with rye in pale ales; I think its flavor combines well with British hops. Other brewers I know have made export lager with rye and imitated Schierlinger Roggen beer using a German wheat beer yeast.

Barley: Barley malt is, of course, the foundation of most beers. Unmalted barley, though, has a place in the brewhouse as well.

I recommend flaked grains rather than whole; whole grains seem to take an especially long time to gelatinize in the cereal cooker. Flaked barley improves head retention and gives beer a smooth, grainy, rather bready flavor. It is high in glucans and often causes cloudiness when used in large quantities. This does not matter, of course, when used in an opaque black beer such as dry stout.

Roasted barley is technically neither a malt nor an adjunct (it supplies no fermentable sugar). It is produced by a machine similar to a coffee roaster. Temperatures reach 430 °F (221 °C) inside a rotating cylinder that roasts the barley a deep brown without scorching it. At this point all of its enzymes and proteins are denatured, and the barley now adds two things to beer: a deep black color and a dry, burnt taste. Guinness dry stout contains about 9% roasted barley, flaked barley can also be used in similar percentages.

Other grains: This article hardly exhausts the list of possible grains. Sorghum, for example, is widely used in African breweries. Other possibilities include spelt, buckwheat, kamut, and quinoa. (The “World of Malt” feature in the 1997 Brewers’ Market Guide contains a list of adjuncts available to brewers through maltsters from around the world.)


A Little Goes a Long Way


This article has restricted itself to the key grain adjuncts most commonly used in brewing, but many other varieties (tapioca and potatoes come to mind) await experimentation. The important thing to remember is that most adjuncts make better condiments than meals. Treat them right and use them sparingly and you will find yourself with a whole new range of ingredients to explore. Abuse them and you’ll remember why you turned to specialty brewing.

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