There are lots of home brew ingredients that aren’t worth the hassle to make yourself. This isn’t one of them. For just an hour or two worth of work you can make your own Belgian-style candi (or candy) syrup for about 50 cents per 16oz jar.
Couldn’t be easier. Yields 16oz of liquid volume (1.5 lbs by weight):
1 lb White Cane Sugar – about 45 cents/lb.
3/4 cup (175ml) Water – almost free
1/2 tsp (2ml) Citrus or Lactic Acid – 5 cents/dose
What we’re making is essentially an invert syrup. There’s more to it than this, but its way to chemistry-nerdy for me – google it if you want to know more.
The acid is used to break down the sucrose in the sugar into glucose and fructose. Technically the heat should do this for you – but the acid makes it work a little faster/better. Yeast also contain an enzyme called Invertase which they use to break down the sucrose, but this saves them a little effort.
Lemon juice will provide a strong enough citric acid, but a bottle of Lactic acid from the homebrew store is easier and much cheaper. Lemons are about a dollar each. A small bottle of Lactic acid from the home brew store is about $3.50 and will last a long time.
If you’d like to do a larger batch all of the ingredients scale up directly. Just multiply by 2, 5, 10, etc.
Warning! You are about to work with acid and stupid hot liquids. Don’t burn yourself, or get it in your eyes, or whatever.
1. In a pot add your sugar and water – stir to combine. (A silicon spoonula works well for this).
2. Set heat to medium.
3. After a few minutes the sugar will will dissolve into the water. When this happens add the acid.
5. Keep stirring. It will try to boil over if you don’t watch it!
6. When the syrup has reached the desired color, turn off the heat and give it a minute to stop boiling.
8. After another 10-15 minutes, screw the lid on the jar and invert it to sanitize the inside of the lid.
9. Cool overnight then store in a cool dark place until ready to use. Should keep for a few months.
Controlling the Color and Flavor
For a light/clear syrup you only need to boil about 5-10 minutes.
As you can see from the picture on the right, getting from clear to amber seems to take a long time. After that, amber to dark happens quickly.
The batch size will have an effect on how long it takes as well, so you’ll have to keep a close eye on it.
Your nose will let you know when those nice burnt caramel and rasiny flavors start to develop.
You can also put a small amount on a piece of parchment paper or foil to taste. Let it cool first!
With the longer boil time, you will also need to add back a little water to make up for evaporation. Otherwise the syrup will be too thick to pour when it cools. Be sure to take the pot off of the heat before adding colder water – it will splash back if you don’t!
You aren’t limited to just plain white sugar. For example, I made some syrup with Demerara sugar - which is much less refined. It made a nice dark syrup with a light molasses flavor after only 15 minutes of boiling. It would go well in a porter I think.
There are many types of sugar out there – check a specialty food store if your grocery store doesn’t have a very good selection. By using exotic sugars with varying boil times you can create your own unique and interesting flavors!
As for how many points of gravity you can expect – it should be fairly close to the commercial versions. Around 1.031-1.036 points per pound per gallon depending on the water content.
Tune in next week when we’ll discuss a method for determining how many gravity points you can expect from a given sugar in your beer. This will work not only for the syrup we made today, but almost any other kind of fermentable you want to use.
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