hist-brewing: lemonade and why beer is sweet

BrewInfo brewinfo at xnet.com
Fri Jun 1 12:15:29 PDT 2001

Rory writes:
>Im sorry, but I can't contain myself: You are so wrong!
>Let me address each piece:
>> Citric acid won't kill yeast, but you won't like the sparkling
>> lemonade you make...
>First, taste is subjective, you don't know what they will like or not.

I was under the impression that the person was trying to make standard,
non-alcoholic lemonade and carbonate it.  Everything I brew (beer, wine,
mead) is stable at room temperature (although I keep it all at cellar
temperatures).  I once tried to make non-alcoholic fruit juice drinks.
I didn't even try to make them carbonated.  I simply ran a bunch of
fruits through a blender and bottled the result in PET bottles.  I DID
store these in the fridge at around 40F and in a week they were gushers.
Wild yeasts from the fruit fermented the sugars and I have a photo of
one of the bottles gushing a 6-foot-tall column of pink foam.   Did I
say "taste?"  I think not.  I doubt most people would like a beverage
that sprays all over them when they open the bottle.  I'd say that's
a safe guess... not subjective.

>> Lemonade is sweet and sour.  The sourness is balanced by the
>> sweetness of the sugar you add.  If you add yeast and bottle, you
>> will either use the standard amount of sugar you use in lemonade
>> and make grenades or you will have to add a tiny amount of sugar,
>> which will all get eaten by the yeast.
>If you are only making a sparkling Lemonade Soda, simply add a bit more
>sugar than normal, yeast, and then bottle. Leave it in a cool, dark
>place for 7 days and then refrigerate and drink. Presto. Lemonade Soda.

See above.  Sometimes you get lucky and it works... other times you have
gushers.  That's not what I consider a recipe.  If you want to experiment,
fine, but posting something that will work only some of the time is going
to result in a lot of disappointment.

>> The latter will make sparkling lemon water (no sweetness).  
>Have you ever made sodas before? It's the same for each one, except the
>flavors. The yeast will eat some of the sugar, which is why you add
>some, but once the soda is carbonated (about a week), you stick it in
>the frig, which slows the yeast down to near no activity, and the soda
>stabilizes. Most yeast, except the lagers, prefer temps in between 50
>and 80 F. Below that they go (mostly) dormant.

I have not made sodas.  However, sodas are made with artificial flavours
so that part of the reason they have limited fermentation is because of
limited yeast nutrients.  I have read that yeast can be stored under sucrose
solution because they will not ferment sucrose below 40F.  However, this
is a pure culture of Saccharomyces cerevisiae.  Other yeasts, which you
cannot exclude since you are working with lemons here, and thus you cannot
say with all certainty that there are no wild yeasts in the juice.  Again...
sometimes it may work and other times... gushers.

>> The reason that beer is sweet is because there are larger
>> carbohydrates in it that are sweet, yet are not fermentable.
>That is so not true it isn't even funny! Its because you don't ferment
>all the sugars.

Perhaps *you* don't ferment all the sugars, but I do.  My ales are fermented
until virtually all fermentation is complete, even at 65F.  Perhaps you are
brewing by the old method of bottling when there is some sugar left in the
beer.  I've *never* brewed by that method (and I've brewed over 250 batches
since 1987) and would never recommend that anyone brew by that method.  It
is inconsistent and unpredictable.  I ferment my worts until the yeast have
consumed all fermentables and then I add a measured amount of priming sugar
for carbonation.

> There are some non-fermtables in some beer, but make
>some and put half the batch in the frig and leave half the batch out of
>the frig. . . I bet the stuff in the frig will be okay, and the stuff
>outside will either explode or be very unsweet.

I have limited fridge space.  I have over 50 cases of homebrewed ale, lager,
wine and mead, all sitting in the cellar... *unrefrigerated*.  I can go down
to the cellar right now, grab a bottle of a homebrewed barleywine (I have
been terribly busy lately and haven't had time to brew in over a year, so only
the meads and barleywines are in good shape), enter it into a competition and
have a pretty good likelyhood of winning a ribbon.  What I mean is, my
unrefrigerated beers are not exploding and are of the proper sweetness.

Note, that even ale yeasts are not completely dormant at fridge temperatures.
See "The Effect of Temperature on Growth Rate" on page 16 of Volume 2 of
Brewing_Science edited by J.R.A.Pollock (ISBN 0-12-561002-5).  The majority of
this discusses growth rate in the fermenter, but there is a section on growth
rate in *bottled* beer.

>From your statement, my guess is that your sanitation techniques are not
sufficient and your beers ferment undrinkably dry from wild yeasts.

> Not to mention that most
>Beer yeast will only ferment up to about 7%. . . sugars above that mark
>won't ferment no matter how hard you try. I have made beer from nothing
>but dry malt, hops, water, and yeast. . . And you can't tell me that dry
>malt isn't fermentable.

I have barleywines that have been brewed with ale yeast (Wyeast #1056,
to be specific) that are 11% abv.  I have brewed Duvel clones and Chimay
clones and Westmalle clones... all well over 9% abv.  Most ale yeasts will
ferment to 9% and many can ferment to 12%.  If you can't ferment above
7%, I suspect that you are not aerating your wort sufficiently.  The most
common reason for low attenuation is insufficient dissolved oxygen.

Dry malt (what is commonly called "Dried Malt Extract") is typically only
about 60 to 70% fermentable, although some (specifiacally Laaglander DME)
has only 50 to 55% APPARENT attenuation (it makes very sweet beer!).  The
reason I give ranges is because various yeast strains will be either more
or less attenuative, so the actual apparent attenuation you get will depend
on the yeast strain you use.  Incidentally, the attenuation you get from
various yeasts *isn't* due to alcohol tolerance... it's due to the fact that
some strains will eat a larger percentage of the variety of carbohydrates
than other strains.  Note that I'm talking strictly about S. cerevisiae.
S. diastaticus can eat very large carbohydrates (what brewers consider
dextrins).  Similarly, although to not as great an extent, Brettanomyces
yeasts will generally eat more types of carbohydrates than Saccharomyces.

>> You could sweeten your lemonade with lactose, which is sweet and not
>> fermentable by yeast, but if you get any lactobacillus or
>> pediococcus bacteria in there, you will again get grenades.
>mmmmm, yummy, lambic lemonade, not.

I'm not saying *pitch* bacteria... I'm saying the bacteria are likely to
get into your lemonade whether you want them to or not.  There are wild
yeasts and bacteria all around us and they are unavoidable.  The difference
between good sanitation and poor sanitation is a thousand wild yeast cells per
batch, versus a thousand wild yeast cells per milliliter!

>> No... the way to make sparkling lemonade is to force-carbonate it
>> and not use any yeast.
>BS! I've done it.

If you have done it consistently, then  you have been very lucky.  You can
improve your odds by refrigerating the product, but I write brewing books
and articles -- my readers wouldn't believe me and continue to read my
work if my advice only worked 7 out of 10 times... it should work 99 out
of 100 times.

>Have you ever had Champagne? It's not force carbonated. Ever had
>Sparkling Italian Wine, not force carbonated.
>Carbonation requires an understanding of yeast and how they work. If I
>make a wine with enough sugar to make 10% alcohol by volume, but I use a
>yeast capable of making 14%, I will get a VERY dry wine. I then take the
>wine and add enough sugar to it that would have made my starting gravity
>18% (1.138SG - or about 2 more cups of sugar per gallon) and then I
>bottle this wine in champagne bottles with champagne corks and wire
>baskets. . . and then I leave it in a cool dark place for a week and
>then refrigerate it: I'll end up with a sweet champagne! Reason: The
>yeast could only eat half the extra sugar you put in leaving the rest
>for sweetness. And since the CO2 had no place to go, it carbonates the

I do not disagree.  Had the person been asking about making carbonated
*alcoholic* lemonade, then this last paragraph of yours would be very
beneficial to them, but they simply said they wanted to carbonate "lemonade."

>The same thing is true with sodas, including lemonade.

This is how sweet mead is made too... you simply use more honey than the
yeast are capable of fermenting.  It is very different when you talk
about carbonating a non-alcoholic, sweet beverage.

>Sorry, I didn't mean to blast you, but you were way wrong. . . 

I don't believe I was wrong other than not mentioning soda... although
I contend that it won't keep in the fridge for several weeks... it will
slowly overcarbonate (I know from experience with bottled, homemade fruit
juice).  Lemonade would be somewhat more stable, I admit, because the skins
of the raspberries and grapes that I used had loads of wild yeast on them.
This was 14 years ago and I had just started brewing... I didn't realise
at that time that the skins of fruits are loaded with yeast.

In retrospect, I think that if your fridges are set to 40F, you might get
lemon soda 9 times out of 10.  I was guilty of thinking about *my* fridges,
which are set to 50F because I put *beer* in them for chilling before I
drink it.  40F is not the right temperature for consuming beer... well,
maybe Bud.

As for why beer is sweet, the topic on which you disagree most with me,
I contend that you couldn't be more wrong.  It is absolutely a fact that
beer is sweet because wort contains a wide variety of carbohydrates, only
about 60 to 75% of which are fermentable.  *Apparent* attenuation is higher,
more like 65 to 80%, because alcohol has lower specific gravity than water.


Al Korzonas, Homer Glen, Illinois, USA
korz at brewinfo.org

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