Handling Sugar Additions in the Kettle


You can use this to make a pale wheat beer, or a dunkelweizen — it all depends on how much (and where) you stir.

The first time I tried to brew a wheat beer from malt extract, I ended up with a dunkleweizen. Boiling the thick wort on my stove for an hour darkened it to a light brown. I’ve since learned that brewing light colored extract beers requires boiling a larger volume of wort (with a corresponding a lower specific gravity), using only fresh malt extract and withholding most of the malt extract until very late in the boil.

These days, most stovetop extract brewers add half or more of their malt extract late in the boil. The idea is to darken the extract less by cutting down on the amount of time it is heated. In addition, since the hops will be boiled at a lower specific gravity prior to the final extract addition, hop utilization may improve. Brewers of all sorts may also occasionally brew a Belgian-style beer or other beer that requires a large addition of sugar to the kettle.

A problem that frequently arises is that large additions of dry sugars or syrups end up sinking to the bottom of the kettle (or brewpot) and scorching. You can try to minimize this by vigorous stirring, and some brewers even shut off the heat until the sugar is dissolved, but there’s a way to handle kettle additions that’s easier and more effective — dilute the sugar with hot wort before adding it to the kettle.

Here’s how that would work. Let’s say you need to add some malt extract for the final 15 minutes of the boil. Take the extract and place it in a kitchen pot, then use a ladle or measuring cup to scoop boiling wort from your brewpot into the smaller pot. Stir the extract into the wort thoroughly and keep adding wort until it is all dissolved. Given that you are dissolving the extract in an unheated pot, you don’t have to frantically stir to prevent scorching. Work purposefully to get all the extract dissolved, but there’s no need to rush.

The dissolved extract is still going to be much thicker than your wort, and also cooler, so it will still sink to the bottom when you add it to your brewpot. However, if it has been dissolved with enough wort, a couple brisk stirs with your brewing spoon should mix it into solution. The amount of stirring needed in the kettle is drastically reduced. Plus, the odds of scorching are greatly reduced compared to adding sugars or syrup directly into boiling wort. For light-colored beers, for example Belgian-style tripels or German wheat beers made from malt extract, the difference in color is noticeable.

If you have a lot of extract or sugar to add, it may be easier to do it in shifts. Also, the point is to dilute the sugars so that they can easily be stirred into the brewpot. As such, don’t fill the smaller pot more than a quarter of the way with extract or sugar. Leave room to add enough wort and to have sufficient headspace that allows you to stir without splashing.

An alternate approach — and one that will work better when using dried malt extract or granulated sugars — is to first scoop all the hot wort you will need into the smaller pot, then stir the solids into the liquid. Filling the pot about halfway should work for smaller pots, such as 3 to 4 qt. (3–4-L) soup pots.

Using this approach, you do end up with one extra pot to clean. However, the benefits of doing most of the stirring in a separate, unheated pot is well worth it.


  1. Good ideas!!! Normally I just stir like crazy and in the process my arms get so tired and in pain holding them in that way.

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