Saturday, March 12, 2011

Brewing sugar experiments: Part 2

EDIT 09Feb2012

For some more advanced thinking/experiments w/ DIY candi sugar on par with commercially produced stuff, check out the post on over at Ryan Brews.


Its been a bit tedious making all these sugars and only doing forced ferments with them...I really am kind of skittish to a entire batch to the experimental sugars, without knowing more. Though others report nice results, I needed a little more empirical data about fermentability.

The first round was like running in to a brick wall...none fermented at all with beer or bread yeasts. Ultimately, I attribute the lack of fermentability to the temps running too high, creating a very high percentage of caramel and maillard compounds.

I did save a bit of the stuff to see what would happen if I let the house bug blend run wild. Knowing how slowly they can work with anything but simpler sugars, I gave it 2.5 months to ferment out.
Sugar 1 (tartaric acid, 300F x 3) SG: 1.050 FG: 1.014 (71%AA)
Sugar 2 (tartaric acid, DME, 300F x 3) SG: 1.052 FG: 1.030 (41%AA)
Sugar 3 (Yeast Engergizer, 300F x 2) SG: 1.060 FG: 1.058 (3% AA)

...side note, did get some mold growth on Sugar 2, I would expect that drove down the FG a little more than the intended bugs alone would have on their own.

So, the data suggested that with more nitrogren in the cooked sugar, and resultant maillard compounds, results in reduced fermentability, even with the enzymatically superior wild bugs.
Before having these results, I decided to modify a single variable (temperature) to see if I could improve the fermentability, but retain the rich complex flavors found in the D2 syrup. Same quantities as Sugar 3 from the first round, but cooking steps reduced to the following:

B2, Sugar 1: 255F, 245F SG: 1.068 FG: 1.028 (57%)
B2, Sugar 2: 265F, 255F, 245F SG: 1.066 FG: 1.040 (38%)
Significant improvement in fermentability, but I also noticed that the flavor and aroma compounds didn't approach the levels of Sugar 3 from Batch 1. They were pretty similar to one another, actually, and somewhere between the amber and regular dark syrup from Dark Candi. Also noted, after about 1.5 weeks of storage, sugar crystals began to form in Sugar 1 (the more fermentable of the 2),
I did perform a control this time to clean up the results a little more (water + sugar + tartaric acid + just enough heat to dissolve the sugar). Cooled, diluted to 1.040. Fermented to 0.990 (126%AA).
I do have an as yet unfounded theory that the D2 (and perhaps the other darker syrups) are really just various combinations of some smaller percentage of very dark (thus, unfermentable) maillard syrup that's created from cooking unrefined beet sugars and a higher percentages of very lightly cooked inverted sugar (100% fermentable) to get the targeted flavor, color and fermentability profile.


  1. I think your theory is dead on.
    So the D2 syrup is 80 SRM and 32 ppg. With table sugar at 46 ppg then 70% must be 100% ferment-able. So in order to get the right color and ferment-ability you would need to then blend in 30% of 270 SRM syrup which at this color would probably be unfermentable(not sure how you measure SRM at home, though)

    I don't know why I didn't think of that. Belgians are always blending. It seems like that is the only way to make this syrup a consistent product. And it makes sense that they have a base syrup and just add different special syrups to get each of their products.

  2. Right, its either a very dark maillard syrup from unrefined sugar (likely not an inorganic nitrogen source, but it sure would be a lot easier to control) or a heavily caramelized syrup from refined sugar.

    Either way, those fully concentrated products would be wholly unfermentable. There would next to nil surviving fermentable sugars after putting them through the wringer like that.

    I also theorize that they add invert syrup vs. glucose (their online data sheet notes significant quantities of sucrose and fructose), as they have made big strides in making it shelf stable vs. crystallization problems theyve had in the past after sitting in packaging for any amount of time

    Outside of access to a spectrophotometer, I think you could get in the ballpark of SRM w/ a visual color scale + properly measured dilutions of the home cooked syrups + commercial syrups.

  3. Recrystallizing is just a fact of life with stove-top syrups. Making an exact replica on the stove-top may not even be possible. The big manufacturers in Europe and the one in the US, (Candi Syrup, Inc.) all use industrial vacuum cooking units. The way I read it they heat and cool and heat and cool and then centrifuge off the sugar crystals that didn't cook off. I spent a long time trying this exact experiment and wasted more grain brewing with home-made syrups than I care to mention. I just buy it. It's cheaper. Sorry to throw the wet towel but just wanted you to avoid my pain.

  4. No worries, JK. I'm not so concerned about the crystals (failing to invert 100% of the sugar)...short of a counter top centrifugation or vaccuum boiler (!!!), you can just wait for the crystals to form and decant. the question/problem is still fermentability of the resultant sugar, in my mind. with the blending of the light syrup and the dark syrup with low fermentability, the flavors and overall fermentability in the finished beers are actually quite close. not indistiguishable, but not worse, either.

  5. If you're adding acid, you're going the wrong way. Look into higher pH values for the syrups. A lot of people say you can't make candi syrup at home, and a lot of those same people add acid to invert the sugar first. Correlation or causation? IMO, inversion doesn't matter.

    I've found dextrose will get you the color and flavors you want at lower temps than sucrose.


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