Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Dark Candy Sugar / Caramel

In preparation for an upcoming brew, I am making some homemade caramel. It is pretty easy to come by Belgian candy syrup now, but it is still fairly expensive for something that is essentially just sugar. Many of the recipes out there for making this at home require citric acid; they have you add the acid to help split sucrose (table sugar) into its monomers, fructose and glucose. This addition however, is not necessary; sucrose will split on its own to fructose and glucose with only the addition of heat. During the process sucrose is being hydrolyzed, essentially a molecule of water is added to each molecule of sucrose, resulting in a splitting of the sucrose.

Now I’ve read in far too many homebrew forum posts that this is a necessary step, when using table sugar, to ensure you don’t produce cidery flavors in your brew; the reason they state, is that only inverted sugar (fructose + glucose), and not sucrose, is easy for the yeast to eat, and that forcing the yeast to break apart the sucrose stresses the yeast resulting in undesirable byproducts.
Well this is just not true; breaking down and metabolizing sugars is why yeast are here! They can express enzymes that break the sugars apart, and in no way does this stress the yeast. The real culprit of the cidery flavors these people are experiencing is improper fermentation temperatures. When adding a simple sugar such as sucrose to wort, you are adding a very easily digestible food source that causes a very rapid growth of yeast dramatically raising the temperature of the fermenting wort. But many times this rapid rise in temp is not noticed/measure or is ignored; instead the sugar is blamed, further propagating this myth. Many Belgian beers are produced with 20% or more sugar, would you call Westmalle or Karmeliet Trippels cidery??

While the splitting of sucrose into fructose and glucose is not important in the production of possible off flavors, it is essential for the caramelization reactions. Earlier I said that water is added to the sucrose molecule splitting it, during the caramelization, molecules of water are removed from both fructose and glucose. During the caramelization, fructose is the more likely of the two to caramelize. This is because the caramelization temp of fructose is 230F, while glucose is 320F, and that’s quite a difference, you can easily get it that high at home, but its tricky to not burn the sugar when doing so.

Knowing that fructose is the will caramelize much faster than glucose, has always been in the back of my mind, but a pure source of fructose has eluded me. Then the other day, at a local farmers market, I noticed they had fructose granules in a bulk bin and the bulb went off in my head. I have made caramel before, and it turned out ok, but I never was able to produce the extremely pronounced flavors I expected. This time with a large added amount of fructose I hope to produce an extremely robust caramelized flavor. I plan on making an all table sugar version in the next few days and tasting each side by side, to see if there is a flavor difference, and Ill post the results

Homemade Caramel

0.5 lb Sucrose (Table Sugar)
0.5 lb Fructose Granules
0.5 C Water

Heat the mixture over high heat until the solution begins to boil
When boiling begins, reduce heat to medium and hold at ~260F, adding water to maintain temp
When you just about reach your desired color, raise to hard crack (340F), then cool


steven said...

It's been a while since you posted this topic. I was curious what the results were. What were the differences in caramel made with fructose + sucrose and just sucrose?

The answer is a good reason to come back. ;)


Ryan said...

I posted a review of the different sugars here

apparently I didnt link the posts, which Ill fix now

I didnt get a chance to brew with the sugars due to an ant infestation, apparently ants absolutely love caramel!!

Im glad you brought this back up, I think Ill try incorporating the various sugars into small batches to gauge their impacts

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