Belgian Candi Sugar Part III

Yesterday, Brulosophy published a post where they compared “my” candi sugar recipe side-by-side with a commercial candi syrup. The much more rigorous testing conducted by Brulosophy mirrored my own less scientific experience – i.e. namely that in beer the differences between them are hard to detect, but there are differences. The ability to find these differences appears to vary between people, as in the Brulosophy the majority were not able to tell the differences, but the minority that could tell the difference could do so consistently.

Since my previous posts on the topic (1, 2 and “3“, #2 is the primary resource) I’ve refined my method further. In the discussions following the Brulosophy post its become apparent that I should share these changes as a fair number of people are using my old posts as a starting point in their own sugar experiments (hello, Reddit homebrewers).

The changes I have made seem to address the issues others (and I) have noted – namely an occasional acrid/burnt character. An issue was also brought up by one commenter which I think is worth addressing here.

The changes I’ve made to my method:

  1. I’ve greatly reduced the amount of DME used, as the amount of protein in previous batches was excessive. For 1 kg of sugar (2.2 lbs), I am currently using 5 ml (~1 tsp) of DME. Previously I was using 1 tbs (~15 ml)
  2. I avoid mixing the sugar as much as possible – I mix to dissolve the sugar into water, and I mix when adding the lye, but I do not otherwise mix.
  3. I am much more careful and slow with my temperature changes. Most of the mixing I did previously was to add cold water to cool the sugar if I overshot the desired temperature.
  4. I now usually add corn sugar (fructose) at a rate of 1% volume/mass (i.e. 1 ml corn sugar per 100g sugar). This does not change the flavour of the final candi, but does reduce crystallization. It is easier to then blend the mix into a syrup or cast rocks with the non-crystallized sugar.
These changes have led to a candi which is much closer (to my palate) to commercial candis, one without the unpleasant flavours some of the previous batches had. Others on the thread have mentioned using pressure cookers and other methods with great success. Hopefully, as a collective we will be able to formulate a better method of producing a consistent and flavourful candi sugar for home brewing.
The “Issue”:
An issue brought up the commenter ‘Chino’ in the Brulosophy thread was that the 30 minute inversion time that I recommend is insufficient to completely invert the sugar, with individuals over a Reddit working on ways to get improved inversions. I partially agree with what Chino states – given the rate of the reaction and the fact that it is an equilibrium reaction, a 30 minute inversion period without the addition of something to accelerate the process (e.g. acid) will only invert 8-10% of the sugar. Where I disagree with Chino is that I don’t think this matters. Mallard products comprise a pretty small portion of the final sugar – assuming 100% of the protein added via the DME is converted to Mallard products, the Mallard products would comprise about 0.07% of the final candi by weight. Although multi-step reactions, the formation of most Mallard products requires only one sugar molecule per amino acid, meaning that you need “only” 0.07% inverted sugar to be able to (in theory) produce the full array of Mallard products. The 8-10% inverted sugar is a huge excess compared to what is required – this does offer an advantage in terms of reaction rates, but its hard to imagine that increasing inversion to 25% (theoretical maximum using heat alone) or 50-75% (theoretical maximum using acid) would offer further improvements.

26 thoughts on “Belgian Candi Sugar Part III

  • October 9, 2022 at 10:33 PM

    I didn’t catch the unit change from teaspoon to tablespoon … But the abbreviation of tablespoon is “tbsp”

  • October 9, 2022 at 10:29 PM

    In the first changes bullet, you state that you currently use only 1 tsp DME (~5mL) as compared to 1 tsp (~15mL) previously. I think it is supposed to say “3 tsp (~15mL) previously.”

  • September 28, 2022 at 2:21 PM

    Hi, I’ve read a lot of the comments of getting the lye addition correct. I’m using food grade KOH, and can make a solution as strong/weak as needed. Have you measured the pH you lye solution when added in measured amount to distilled water? I’m hoping I can target the same basic pH when making Candi Syrup.

    Any other direction to getting the pH right would be helpful.

    • September 29, 2022 at 7:49 AM

      I’ve not measured the pH, but it is going to be quite basic (around 13 or 14). KOH will have a very similar pH at the same concentration, so you probably don’t need to make much in terms of adjustment.

  • July 30, 2020 at 11:18 PM

    Very interesting! I’ll try the recipe later tonight.

    Warning to anyone using lye (NaOH):
    Any strong alkali in the eye will cause almost instant blindness.
    Use safety glasses! Beware of spatters! In labs there are eye wash stations.

    A pedantic note on “pickling lime”:
    Names about substances originally made from limestone are often used incorrectly or interchangeably.
    burnt lime = calcium oxide CaO
    slaked lime = calcium hydroxide Ca(OH)2
    [unspecified] lime = calcium carbonate CaCO3
    CaO rapidly absorbs water from the air forming Ca(OH)2
    It can be used as a drying agent. It’s dangerous to handle – caustic.
    Ca(OH)2 rapidly absorbs CO2 from the air forming CaCO3 + H2O
    Less dangerous but caution still required.
    Ca(OH)2 and its mixture with NaOH (soda-lime) are used for that purpose.
    Any package of “lime” exposed to air eventually becomes CaCO3 which is only slightly soluble in water.
    And CaCl2 (calcium chloride) is used to melt ice and to lower wort pH but is useless for making sugar products.

    • July 31, 2020 at 12:16 PM

      “Pickling lime” is the name it is sold under in grocery stores.

  • April 29, 2019 at 3:42 PM

    Hello, I’m about to give this a try. I don’t have access to DME where I live, so I’m going to use this product made of toasted barley and caramel instead:

    Label says that for every 3 grams, it contains 0.13 grams of protein and 2.7 of carbohydrates.

    Do you know the protein content of the DME you use?

    • April 30, 2019 at 4:44 PM

      DME is ~3.5% protein by weight; your product is around 4%, so it should be fine. That said, any malt-base should work in place of DME – LME, or even some wort in place of the water used to dissolve the sugar.

  • April 20, 2018 at 11:43 PM

    HI Bryan,

    I’ve just had my first attempt at this recipe and… well… it was a complete disaster. Not sure where I went wrong.
    I read all three of your posts and proceeded using the latest updates. 5ml DME, limited stirring, no acids etc.
    I had 1kg of raw sugar (cane sugar) and 1tsp of DME with 2 cups of water. Dissolved the mixture and then got up to 135 for 30 minutes. This part went fine.
    Raised to 145 and then as I slowly added the pickling lime (20ml) the entire pot turned into a dry crumbly crystalized mess. Literally all the liquid vanished over a 5 minute period.

    I’m reluctant to test this again unless you have some sage advice on where I went wrong?
    The only thing I can think of that may help is using a small, taller pot as the one I used meant the liquid was quite shallow the whole time.


    • April 24, 2018 at 11:32 AM

      You had crystalization of the sugar, which can occur if you over-stir, if you have high-mineral water, if your pot was dirty (or has a course surface), or if you have relatively unpure sugar. The resulting candi will still be fine to use, and flavour-wise is no different than nice crystalized candi. What you experienced is a common issue when making candi sugar for brewing, as well as when making hard candy such a lollypops. The science behind the crystalization is described at this link.

      Its also an easy issue to fix:
      Option 1: Your first option is simply to use the candi in its granular form – it takes a little longer to dissolve in wort, but otherwise is equivalent in terms of the flavour contribution to the beer.

      Option 2: Your second option is to dissolve the candi into a syrup, which you can do by slowly adding a volume of water equal to the amount of water you added initially. This will convert the hard candi into a pourable syrup, and dissolve those pesky crystals. For a more pourable syrup, you can use 1.5x the initial amount of water. I describe this method in my third post on making candi sugar.

      Option 3: The final option is to add a small amount of corn syrup or another high-glucose sugar source (e.g. honey) to the sugar before heating – 1% – 5% by volume works well (e.g. 2.5ml (1/2 tsp) to 12.5ml (2.5 tsp) corn syrup per cup of sugar). The glucose (and fructose, in some cases) present in these sugars will prevent crystalization.

      • April 24, 2018 at 10:02 PM

        Hmm ok, I’m fairly sure that it was not the pot or a cleanliness issue. I am using rain water as we have no town water where I live, perhaps that is a factor.

        I’ll try again this time using white sugar and some purchased filtered water, and also adding the corn syrup.

        In terms of dissolving and using the granulated crystals, my only concern with that was that they hadn’t developed enough of the flavour and colour I was looking for. I’m after dark candi syrup for an abbey double.
        I’ll try again following your suggestions and hopefully I’ll have better results this time.

        • April 24, 2018 at 10:39 PM

          There is cleanliness and then Cleanliness – even a few specs of dust can be enough to trigger crystalization (or stirring in a bit too much air). Its very hard to avoid, without taking some pretty extreme cleaning steps – or by using a sugar like corn sugar to prevent it from happening.

          I think you may have given up too early – so long as the sugar and DME (or other protein source) were thoroughly mixed before you started heating, your mix should convert to candi even if granular. I’ve had a few batches that had the consistency of sand by the time they were done that still developed in very dark and flavourful candis. The crystallisation is pretty much a cosmetic issue; the chemistry proceeds just fine inside of the crystals as it does in the bulk candi.

          • April 24, 2018 at 10:47 PM

            Is recommended for this to use distilled water?

          • April 24, 2018 at 10:56 PM

            Not unless you have very hard water.

          • April 25, 2018 at 3:08 AM

            Ok, final question before my second attempt: if it does turn into sand again, and I add water to dissolve it all into liquid, can I then ramp it back up to the 140 degree range and continue mailard reaction? Will it start again after cooling and heating up?

            You mentioned that you can just continue even if it has crystallised but the issue I had there was that once it’s crystallised there is no way to measure the temperature with any accuracy.

          • April 25, 2018 at 7:43 AM

            Ok, take two worked perfectly with zero crystallisation.
            I did four things differently;
            * I added 10ml of honey (didn’t have corn syrup)
            * I was meticulous about getting all the crystals off the sides before build and at the start of boil while the mixture was around 110-120. I kept my spatula in a separate pot of boiling water to keep it free of sugar as well.
            * I used purified water from the shop
            * I used a smaller pot

            The only issue i ran into was around 5-10 minutes or so after after adding the lime, the temp started dropping rapidly and then I got waft of burning sugar.
            I think the issue is that it becomes to foamy that there is little to no actual liquid left in the bottom to a) transfer heat b) read a temperature off.
            So the foam in direct contact with the bottom began to burn. I took it off immediately and cooled it down and added some water to leave a syrup.
            It’s dark brow with deep coffee and chocolate notes and some stone fruit.
            Pretty happy with that, just need to work out how to avoid the foam burning issue.

            Thanks for working all this out and posting it online!!

          • April 25, 2018 at 11:22 AM

            I’m glad to hear that it worked for you. You can add small amounts of water during the heating process (a teaspoon-to-tablespoon at a time) to keep the water level where you want it; the burning sugar smell you had was due to insufficient water in the candi.

  • January 29, 2018 at 1:53 AM

    Hello i would like to know how could you get clear cany sugar (white like) with this method, since i am always getting from orange to brown collor candy sugar.

    • January 29, 2018 at 1:35 PM

      Clear candi is essentially inverted sugar; don’t add the DME or the lye, and heat only to 125-135C for 20 min. You can add a small amount of cream of tartar to accelerate sugar inversion.

      Although, honestly, adding light candi sugar is no different flavour-wise or fermentablity-wise than just adding table sugar. Why not save yourself the headache and just add table sugar to the boil?

  • October 17, 2016 at 12:35 PM

    I have not, mostly because I am cheap. There is no reason, however, why products like that wouldn't work.

  • October 17, 2016 at 9:47 AM

    Have you considered using actual Amino Acids for making candi sugar? Eg BCAAs that are used for physical training recovery?

  • March 16, 2016 at 2:24 PM

    Both should work as both are reducing sugars – the whole point of inverting the sugar is to create reducing sugars (sucrose is not an inverting sugar). By using pure dextrose or fructose you can skip the inversion step all together.

    The one downside to that is that you may not get the full host of mallard & caramelized products you would with sucrose, as some of those products are determined by the sugar undergoing the reaction. That said, the flavour profile may end up being better with only one sugar in the mix.

    It may be interesting to try a blend of dextrose-fructose-sucrose, side-by-side with each on its own. A blend would mimic the effect of using inverted sugar without going through the trouble of inversion, while individual sugars may give a idea of what unique flavours (if any) they provide.

  • March 16, 2016 at 12:32 PM

    Hi Bryan! Great to see the update on such an intriguing topic from you.
    Can you please share your thoughts on using pure dextrose (or pure fructose) for making candi sugar? As far as understand, Greg from Brulosophy did exactly that. This appeals to me as half an hour inversion step can be eliminated. Given your comment on so called "issue", do you think it makes sense to start initially with a 90/10 table sugar/dextrose mix? This would help skip inversion, save some money on dextrose and be a bit more authentic comparing to pure dextrose.


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