|2 kg (~5 lbs) of invert sugar. The one on the right is slightly less
caramelized due to better temperature control during inversion
In some of my previous posts I’ve covered the making of Belgian Candi Sugar (Posts 1, 2), but this isn’t the only hard-to-find brewing sugar out there. For my upcoming big beer I need a healthy dose (2 kg) of invert sugar – something which around here you cannot get in anything less than industrial amounts (a hundred kilos minimum order).
Invert sugar is used in a lot of English-style beers; it is simply table sugar (sucrose, a glucose chemically bonded to a fructose) broken down into its constituent glucose and fructose molecules. In theory it is easier for yeast to ferment this sugar, hence why it is popular in high-gravity brewing.
Several of my readers and youtube viewers (and myself) have reported issues with sugar crystallizing, which if you’re lucky makes a hard-crack sugar ugly, but if it gets too bad can turn your sugar into an unmanageable – and insoluble (which is bad for brewing) mess. I’ve been working on this issue and have found a solution – the details are included in this post, and can be applied to both Belgian candi sugars as well as to invert sugar.
And as with candi sugar, don’t forget that this can be quite dangerous – you are working with a sticky liquid well above the boiling point of water. Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, cover your feet, and be as careful as you can be.
|1 kg sugar, 1/2 tsp cream-of-tartar
& some corn sugar
- For every kilogram (2.2 lbs) of sugar you wish to invert blend 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar* and ~ 4 tablespoons of corn syrup.
- Add ~2 cups of boiling water per kilogram sugar blend until all the sugar is wet**.
- Heat on low-medium to medium heat on your stove, stirring frequently until all the sugar is dissolved. Do not boil the solution until all the sugar is dissolved.
- Once the sugar is dissolved place a candi thermometer into the mix and gently heat the mixture to 125-135C (260-275F).
- Hold in this temperature range for 30 minutes – ideally by adjusting your stove, but if needed you can add ice-cold water as shown in my previous posts on candi sugar.Note: a small degree of caramelization (browning) is normal during this process.
- At the 30 minute mark inversion is done – the next steps are described below, depending on whether you want a hard sugar or a syrup.
|Dissolved & ready-to-go!|
Making a hard candi versus syrup
- Raise the temperature of your inverted sugar to hard-crack temperature – 149 – 154 C (300 – 310 F). Do this slowly – over shooting can burn the sugar.
- Turn off the heat once you’re into hard crack territory, and quickly pour the sugar into silicone pan or a tray lined with parchment (not waxed) paper.
- Let it cool – room temperature for at least 12 hours, or 4-5 hours if you can get it into your deep freeze.
- Break into small pieces and dust with powdered sugar (to prevent sticking)
- During the last few minutes of the boil bring a volume of water to a boil that is equal in volume to the water you added initially*.
- Once the inversion time is done, turn off the heat on the stove and slowly blend in the heated water from step 1. WARNING: you are adding near-boiling water to a sugar mix well over water’s boiling point. This will boil up explosively – go slow, and be careful!
- Pour into pyrex jars while hot – this’ll sanitize the jars and make pouring easier (the sugar will be more liquid at this point). If you lack pyrex jars, let the sugar mix cool and pour/spoon it into your storage container.
- This will store indefinitely at room temperature. I recommend not refrigerating it, as this may cause crystallization.
- Hint: if you really want to hit a specific degree of fluidity, pick up a bit of the syrup on a tea spoon and blow on it to cool – it’ll then pour like the completed syrup. This lets you dial-in your water level.
|Heated carefully, the sugar should bubble
minimally once at temperature
- Pre-clean everything with low-mineral water (good tap water works; distilled/RO water otherwise). Clean your pot, stir-spoon, and anything else that will contact the mix. Dust can nucleate crystals, so get rid of it.
- Use a stainless steel spoon to stir the sugar – it’ll cause less of a heat shock and is more easily rid of crystal-nucleating dust.
- Once the sugar is dissolved – but before it starts boiling – rinse any crystals stuck to the side of the pot into the sugar mix with water. A pastry brush or clean BBQ brush works well for this. Make sure these crystals are dissolved before bringing to a boil.
- Once the sugar is boiling, avoid stirring. That water-addition trick I used previously should be a last ditch effort to cool your sugar. Careful control of the element, and removing the pot from the element if its close to overheating, are much better mechanisms of control.
- If you must stir, avoid splashing the sides of the pot.
- Add a small portion of corn syrup – a few tablespoons per kilo of sugar is sufficient. The glucose & dextrose in the corn sugar will interfere with crystallization
That’s it – invert sugar is beyond easy to make!