Corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup have been the subject of much controversy in recent years, with many people questioning their impact on our health.
While some studies have linked high fructose corn syrup to health issues such as diabetes and obesity, others argue that it is no worse than other sweeteners.
But what about its use in brewing? Is high fructose corn syrup fermentable?
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the science behind brewing with corn syrup and whether or not it has any impact on the health of your beer.
Is High Fructose Corn Syrup Fermentable?
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a sweetener that has been used in many food and beverage products, including soft drinks and beer. It is made by converting corn starch into glucose and then adding enzymes to convert some of the glucose into fructose, which is sweeter than glucose.
However, when it comes to brewing beer, the type of corn syrup used is not HFCS, but rather dextrose. Dextrose is a simple sugar that is easily fermentable by yeast, which is essential for the brewing process.
During fermentation, yeast consumes the sugars in the wort (the liquid extracted from the grains during brewing) and converts them into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This process is not affected by the type of sugar used, whether it be dextrose from corn syrup or sucrose from table sugar.
In fact, any residual sugars left in the beer after fermentation are filtered out before bottling, so there is no actual corn syrup or any other simple sugars left in the finished product.
What Is High Fructose Corn Syrup?
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a type of sweetener that is commonly used in packaged foods and beverages. It is made by adding enzymes to corn syrup, which convert some of the glucose into fructose, resulting in a mixture of 55% fructose and 45% glucose. This makes HFCS “high” in fructose compared to corn syrup, which is 100% glucose.
HFCS is comparable in sweetness to sucrose, which is commonly known as table sugar. It is used as an ingredient in a variety of processed foods, including breakfast cereals, baked goods, and soft drinks. There are two common forms of HFCS: HFCS 42 and HFCS 55, which contain 42% and 55% fructose, respectively.
Although Americans have reduced their consumption of added sugars since 1999, most Americans still consume more added sugars than is recommended. However, it’s important to note that HFCS is not less safe than other sweeteners such as sucrose or honey, according to the United States Food and Drug Administration.
The Debate Over High Fructose Corn Syrup
The use of HFCS in food and beverage products has been a topic of debate for many years. On one side, the corn refiners who make it and the food manufacturers who use it argue that a calorie is a calorie and it doesn’t matter whether the sweetener used is HFCS or sucrose. On the other side, public-health officials and some scientists believe that the two sweeteners are not equivalent and that HFCS may be partly responsible for the obesity epidemic.
Studies have shown that sugar and corn sweeteners differ in important ways, including how they affect the appetite-control centers in the brain. Research has also suggested that fructose, which makes up about half of the sugars in HFCS, can be detrimental to health when consumed in large quantities. Fructose has been associated with high body weight, insulin resistance, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and gout.
However, it is important to note that HFCS is not the sole culprit in obesity and that any sugar consumed in excessive amounts can be harmful to health. In terms of brewing beer, dextrose is used instead of HFCS as it is easily fermentable by yeast and essential for the brewing process. Any residual sugars left in the beer after fermentation are filtered out before bottling, so there is no actual corn syrup or any other simple sugars left in the finished product.
The Science Of Fermentation In Brewing
Fermentation is the process by which yeast consumes the sugars in the wort and converts them into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This process is essential for brewing beer, as it not only produces the desired alcohol content but also contributes to the flavor and aroma of the beer.
Yeast requires a substrate, or a source of sugar, to be able to ferment. This substrate can come from various sources, including corn syrup, cane sugar, or high-fructose corn syrup. However, regardless of the source of the sugar, yeast can ferment both glucose and fructose, and none of the substrate is left in the finished product.
The process of fermentation is not affected by the type of sugar used, as yeast can consume any simple sugar available. In fact, many mass-market brewers like Budweiser and MillerCoors use corn syrup or rice syrup as a source of sugar in their brewing process.
Once fermentation is complete, any residual sugars left in the beer are filtered out before bottling. This means that there is no actual corn syrup or any other simple sugars left in the finished product.
Fermentability Of High Fructose Corn Syrup
While HFCS is not typically used in brewing, it is still important to understand its fermentability. Studies have shown that HFCS can be used in the production of bread without affecting fermentation or quality. However, when it comes to sweet dough, the fermentation is reduced with the increase of HFCS replacement level.
In a study on the effect of HFCS on dough fermentation, it was found that the fermentation rate of HFCS dough was initially slower than that of sweet dough with sucrose, but eventually caught up after three hours. The study also found that adding up to 20g of HFCS to a sponge prepared with 70% of 100g flour considerably accelerated the following sweet dough fermentation. The maximum effect was observed at a 10g additional level, while the most effective sugar level in sponge was shifted to 15g for loaf volume.
Impact On The Flavor And Health Of Beer
The use of dextrose from corn syrup in brewing beer has no impact on the flavor or health of the final product. During fermentation, yeast consumes all of the simple sugars, including dextrose, leaving behind only alcohol and carbon dioxide. Therefore, the type of sugar used in the brewing process has no effect on the taste of the beer.
In terms of health, there is no evidence to suggest that dextrose from corn syrup is harmful when used in brewing. Registered dietitian Suzanne Dixon confirms that there is nothing inherently bad about brewing with corn syrup, and that none of the substrate or sugar used to create alcohol is left in the finished product.
It is important to note that the controversy surrounding corn syrup in beer arises from confusion with HFCS, which has been implicated in some studies as causing health issues. However, HFCS is not used in brewing and has no relation to the use of dextrose from corn syrup.
Alternatives To High Fructose Corn Syrup In Brewing
While dextrose is the most commonly used sugar for priming beer, there are alternative sugars that can be used as well. Plain old table sugar, also known as cane sugar or beet sugar, works just as well as corn sugar and is less expensive. Brown sugar, particularly natural brown sugar with naturally occurring molasses, can offer some caramel notes to the finished beer. Honey can provide subtle floral notes, but it is relatively expensive and requires using about 15 to 20 percent more than corn sugar due to its high moisture content. Dry malt extract (DME) can also be used in a pinch, but it is more expensive than other options. Belgian candi syrup, molasses, maple syrup, treacle, agave nectar, and demerara sugar are other alternatives that can be used for priming beer.
It’s important to note that the amount of alternative sugars used for priming may vary from the amount of corn sugar recommended. For example, table sugar may require using about 10 percent less by weight than corn sugar. Brewers who prefer to stick to the Reinheitsgebot purity law can use 30 to 40 percent more DME by weight than corn sugar for carbonation using malt alone.