Tag Archives: sahti

Physicochemical analysis of Sahti

Last summer, me and a couple of colleagues visited the 23rd National Championship in Sahti brewing, which was organized in northern Espoo. The purpose of our visit was not to compete or just drink Sahti, but rather we were there to collect samples for a research project: we had decided it was time that a thorough physical and chemical analysis on Sahti was to be performed.

First of all, what is Sahti? Well, Sahti is a traditional farmhouse beer that has been produced and consumed in Finland for centuries. The Sahti beers that I have tried have all been sweet and alcoholic, with strong yeast tones in the flavour. The aroma of isoamyl acetate (banana) has particularly stood out. If you are interested in a more thorough introduction, then you can head over to this blog. For instructions (in Finnish) on how to make your own Sahti at home, you can check out this blog.


© Nesster / Flickr

We collected samples from 12 random Sahti at the Championships (all from different parts of the country). We then did some thorough analysis on these samples, including: ABV%, residual extract, IBU, colour, foam stability, sugar profile, organic acid profile, higher alcohol profile, ester profile, phenolic acid profile, 4-vinylguaiacol content, and finally we looked for juniper-derived components with GC/MS. We also analyzed seven commercial beers as references (one Sahti, two Pale Lagers, two Hefeweizen, and two Porters).

There was quite a lot of variation between the samples, but in general the Sahti had quite high ABV%, residual extract and ester concentrations, as was expected. The isoamyl acetate (banana aroma) concentration was really high in some of the Sahti (up to around 14.5 mg/L). Since Sahti is unhopped or lightly hopped, the bitterness values were low. Also, since Sahti is typically uncarbonated or lowly carbonated, the samples had really poor foam stability. All samples also had 4-vinylguaiacol (clove-like aroma, typically found in Hefeweizens and Belgian-style ales) concentrations above the flavour threshold. This is a presumably a result of the use of Finnish baker’s yeast. It can be concluded that Sahti indeed is a unique beer style, with some very interesting properties. I’m not that big of a fan myself, but I can understand the fascination behind the style.

You can download a pre-print version (i.e. it hasn’t been formatted yet) of the publication here.


Sahti, a strong, unhopped farmhouse beer flavoured with juniper is still actively brewed in rural areas in Finland. Presented here is the first comprehensive analysis of the physical and chemical properties of this unique beer style. Twelve sahti samples from the southwest of Finland were analysed and while properties varied, the beers generally had high levels of alcohol (mean = 7.9% ABV) and high residual extract (mean = 9.5 °P). Foam stability was negligible, as is typical for the style, and glycerol concentrations at 3.1 – 4.7 g/l were higher than in reference beers (commercial lager, wheat beer and porter). Both of these features may be attributed to the very high gravity conditions employed in brewing sahti beers. Bitterness levels were relatively low (3 – 13 IBU) due to the absence or moderate use of hops. All samples contained detectable levels of the clove-like compound 4-vinylguaiacol due to the use of baker’s rather than brewer’s yeast for brewing. Concentrations of higher alcohols and esters were high, with many individual aroma compounds being above the normal flavour thresholds. Results have highlighted the uniqueness of this style of beer in comparison to commercially available beers and have contributed to our understanding of the reasons for the particular sensorial properties of this traditional beer style.

Battle of the homebrewed Sahti

Sahti is a traditional Finnish fermented beverage, that can be made from a variety of grains and is typically spiced with juniper berries (hops are optional). The mash may also be filtered through a bed of juniper twigs. Fermentation is usually carried out with bread yeast (or an ale yeast), resulting in the formation of high concentrations of isoamyl acetate (a banana-flavored ester). I haven’t drank many Sahti before, with the only commercial ones being Lammin Sahti and Hollolan Kivisahti. I wasn’t really fond of either, so am in general a little skeptic towards the style. Today I have the honor to try two homebrewed Sahti, one more traditional from Jussi, and one a bit more modern from Juhani. Hopefully these can change my opinion on Sahti. Let’s begin with the more traditional Tokkura-sahti from Jussi.


  • Brewery: Jussi’s Homebrewery
  • Country: Finland
  • Style: Sahti
  • ABV: 9 %
  • Size: 330 ml
  • Bought from: –
  • Not on Beer Advocate
  • Not on RateBeer

Tokkura-sahti was brewed in the middle of May, and has been mashed from barley and rye malts. Both hops and juniper berries have been used in the wort, and if I remember correctly the mash was filtered through a bed of juniper twigs as well. The OG was relatively high, 1.100, while the FG is also relatively high, 1.039. This means the Sahti will be sweet, while the alcohol level of 9% should lend even more sweetness. The Sahti is bottled in a plastic PET-bottle, which feels soft, so I’m not expecting much carbonation. I’m not sure what yeast has been used, but I suspect that it is not bread yeast. Most likely a brewery yeast. This should be interesting!

[easyreview title=”Tokkura-sahti” cat1title=”Appearance” cat1detail=”The Sahti pours with a deep dark ruby red color, which almost seems black if it isn’t held up against the light. No foam head is formed at all, hinting that the carbonation level is probably very low. It actually looks like a glass of Coca-Cola. For a beer it doesn’t look really appetizing, but I guess it suits the style.” cat1rating=”3″ cat2title=”Smell” cat2detail=”The first thing that hits me as I take a deep sniff from the glass is a rich fruity aroma. Hints of a strong and sweet maltiness, together with tones of raisins, plums and other dark fruits. I couldn’t detect any alcohol in the aroma, meaning the 9% are well hidden behind the other components. Reminds me quite a lot of the aroma you can typically find in Belgian Dubbels or Doppelbocks. Really nice!” cat2rating=”4″ cat3title=”Taste” cat3detail=”The flavor is really similar to the aroma, with bready and malty tones dominating together with dark fruits. There are tones of raisins, plums and banana present. The finish is sweet, as was expected with the high final gravity, and there is very little bitterness. Can’t really detect much of the juniper berries or twigs, since the maltiness and fruitiness dominate the palate. I guess there is a slight earthiness present hidden behind the other flavors, which could be from the juniper. Again, I couldn’t detect any alcohol. Overall the Sahti is quite sweet, and it could maybe use slightly more bitterness.” cat3rating=”3.5″ cat4title=”Mouthfeel” cat4detail=”The combination of virtually no carbonation and a very full body makes this feel almost like a dessert wine. A very heavy mouthfeel and this is definitely a slow sipper.” cat4rating=”4″ summary=”A really interesting experience, and definitely better than any Sahti I’ve tried before. A nice maltiness and rich tones of dark fruits (perhaps a result from oxidation) make this very beer-like, as the juniper and bread yeast tones were not really present. A bit too heavy for me and I couldn’t imagine drinking many of these during one evening.”]

  • Brewery: Kosoolan Panimo
  • Country: Finland
  • Style: Sahti / American Pale Ale Hybrid
  • ABV: 5 %
  • Size: 330 ml
  • Bought from: –
  • Not on Beer Advocate
  • Not on RateBeer

Juhani’s Sahti is a hybrid of an American Pale Ale and a Sahti. I don’t have any information on the malt bill, but it has been hopped with Columbus and Simcoe. Juhani also ‘dry-hopped’ the beer with juniper berries. The beer was fermented with bread yeast, to give the traditional twist. I think this was brewed in the beginning of the Summer, so it should be of about the same age as the first Sahti. Should be a very interesting experience as well!

[easyreview title=”Kosoolan Panimo #72 Sahti-APA” cat1title=”Appearance” cat1detail=”The beer pours with a hazy amber color and a slight off-white head is formed. The head collapses quickly, and again I suspect a beer with low carbonation. Juhani had warned me of very high carbonation in the beer, but I seemed to have gotten a bottle with a lower level. The surface of the beer looks oily.” cat1rating=”3″ cat2title=”Smell” cat2detail=”The aroma is dominated by a herbiness, which I assume is from a combination of the juniper berries and the Columbus hops. There is also a sweet maltiness and some caramel present in the aroma. There are very little banana tones of isoamyl acetate present, despite the use of bread yeast, which in my case is a good thing, as I’m typically not that fond of the aroma. This is very different to the previous Sahti, but nice as well!” cat2rating=”3.5″ cat3title=”Taste” cat3detail=”The flavor starts off with a spicy and bready maltiness. The spiciness could be from the juniper berries, but it is such a long time ago since I’ve last had one, so can’t say for sure. The flavor also features some herby and resiny hop tones. The flavor finishes quite sweet and with a moderate bitterness. There is also a slight astringency that remains in the mouth as the other flavors fade. The flavor is not completely clean, as there are some yeast tones present as well. Compared to the previous Sahti, this was much lighter (both flavor and color) and more hoppy. I liked the flavor profile of both Sahti, but the first one was slightly more clean.” cat3rating=”3.5″ cat4title=”Mouthfeel” cat4detail=”The beer has a low carbonation level and a medium-full body. Quite refreshing to drink, but it feels slightly harsh in the mouth, which draws off some points.” cat4rating=”3″ summary=”Both beers/Sahti were really interesting and quite different from those I’ve tried before. I liked the combination of a strong hoppiness and the juniper berries (it was slightly reminiscent of Malmgård Panimo’s Arctic Circle Ale), but the flavor could have been slightly cleaner (perhaps by using an ale yeast?). Still an enjoyable beer!”]

Thanks to both Jussi and Juhani for the Sahti and the experience!