Adjuncts, what are they and why are they used?
Adjuncts are non-malt ingredients that are mostly used in a mash. Often this takes the form of unmalted grains, usually seen as a cost cutting measure. Many mass produced beers will use a lot of them giving adjuncts a bad name. But it can also take the shape of more unusual ingredients, ones that can add interesting properties to ale and sometimes are just as effective.
So why are adjuncts used? The most common reason is a cost cutting measure. The process of turning grains into malt adds value, they are now a better source for sugars and everything else we want out of the grains. But grains are still an effective source, and they are much cheaper. Maybe the beer you are aiming to create isn’t very malty, sweet or alcoholic. This is often the case for lighter lager which are some of the more common commercial beers. So if the beer can be achieved with cheaper grain it only makes sense to do so. This however is often looked down upon, it is seen as a way to make beer with less rich flavour. Partly because of poor quality commercial beers doing so rather than the process being a bad one full stop. Adjunct grains can be used to create great beers, it is just very commonly done for other reasons.
It is also worth noting a second type of adjuncts, kettle adjuncts. These are ingredients like syrups or honey that instead of being added to a mash are used in the boil. Also known as wort extenders they don’t need to be mashed for the sugars to be extracted. Our Goldsmith’s Honey ale and Captain’s IPA both feature honey as a kettle adjunct. Cooker mash adjuncts can be seen as the opposite, they are products that are best cooked for a little while before adding them to the mash. Our Mum’s Mumme is an example of this, featuring beans we suggest soaking before being added to the mash. In both these cases the ingredients add a lot of flavour to the kits, in Mumme’s case the style was invented because of grain shortage but in doing so they made unique and once quiet popular ale. So just because something is a replacement doesn’t mean it has to be bad.
So kettle and cooker adjuncts can add a lot of flavour but what about those used in the mash? The answer is yes, there is a wide variety of different ingredients you can use in that mash that greatly enhance a beer. Flaked Rice is often used in Japanese lagers, this does tend to make weaker very light coloured beers but also helps in creating the dry taste many have. Wheatmeal and Barley are very common in stouts and other dark beers as they help build up the body. In our darker ale kits like Blacksmith’s Stout or Crofter’s Ale we always use adjuncts to add a deeper heavier flavour. In these cases adjuncts aren’t an addition to save money but part of what makes the recipe work.
Adjuncts show that the world of brewing is open to all kinds of things. Stuff you’d never think to try can be added to beers and work. This can mean lots of experimenting so why not let us do some for you and try one of the kits we’ve mentioned in this article.