Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Candy Syrup the Right way (Hint - We've been doing it Wrong!)

(sorry in advance for the long post......)
(Updated 3/21/12 - Lessons Learned section and better advice on the amount of lime to add)

Edit - Before you read this I would like to say that the mixtures in this post should not be taken as a "recipe" to make the candy sugar.  Rather it is more of a lessons learned to guide you.  Heating temps, boiling times, and other things will be specific to your stove, pot, amount of sugar, etc.  So you should do a trial batch yourself before you go all in.  Amounts of sugar and nutrient should scale linearly, however when adding the lime you will need to feel it out. Do a small test batch using the guidelines found under "What Ive learned from Each Additive" Once that's set everything should scale.  What Ive found is a good indicator to having a high enough pH is if you smell ammonia coming off the syrup when it starts to heat up.  If you dont smell this, you should add more lime, the best way is to have a thick slurry of it pre-mixed with water

So for quite some time now I have been thinking about candy sugar.  I mean I love the stuff (I brew a lot of Belgian beers) but its been difficult to get lately and its quite expensive.  Now Ive seen a ton of posts out there about how to make it, and Ive even done one myself in the past.  The recipe always is ....

Sugar + Acid + DAP + heat = Candy syrup

I'm here to tell you that is completely and utterly wrong, well I guess that is if what your shooting for is something like D2, if on the other hand you want some burnt sugar your right on track.

Thinking about the chemistry involved in the above recipe always bothered me. The acid was supposedly added to the sugar to help the sucrose split into glucose and fructose.  Well, OK, that's fine and dandy, that may be faster and more complete but sucrose splits into those two sugars when its simply heated (sucrose itself can act as a weak acid). So the addition of the acid really isn't doing anything for you.  In fact I'm here to tell you that its actually harming your candy sugar quite a bit. Especially since when making beet syrup, inverting sugar is something that is avoided at all costs.  Think about it, if sucrose is split into glucose and fructose, that's basically less final product they end up with (sucrose)

Now Belgian candy syrup is made from sugar beets, and supposedly the syrup we all buy is simply the left overs from the sugar extraction.  Its said to be made by repeated heated and cooling of the sugar and extraction of sucrose.  Technically this is actually true, but the devil is in the details.  There are quite a bit of other things that are happening during this process and things that are added that aren't really considered ingredients, as such you wont find them on any food label.

If you google the sugar beet extraction process you'll probably pull up one of a couple different sites that detail the method. Basically beets are chopped, pressed, and the syrup goes through a couple stages of what are essentially filtration steps to remove all the crud from the syrup.  The big step that we are all missing is what is done during these intermediary steps that has a big, no GIANT impact on the final product.

Now before I delve into what we really need to be doing, I wanna jump into a tiny bit of chemistry, I'll keep it fairly basic, but if your interested and you wanna really get into it shoot me a message and we can discuss all the nerdy details.

Caramelization and maillard reactions are the reason we get the great flavors from the dark Belgian candy syrups.  Caramelization is very different than maillard reactions, caramelization is a type of pyrolysis. Essentially what is happening is we are carbonizing the sugars, this if taken too far results in the characteristic burnt sugar flavor.  If controlled and done correctly caramelization will essentially results in solely color formation (if its not take too far) However, with everything Ive read out there, the way we are currently making homemade candy syrup isn't the right way.

Maillard reaction are more responsible for the flavor development in candy syrup, but they requite a source of amino acids.  Maillard reactions are a result of the amino acids reaction with a reducing sugar to form several intermediary compounds that go through several rearrangements (amadori, enolization, etc,etc) to form melanoidins (among other things) These melainodins are what give use the great flavors we desire in our candy syrup.  The reason we add DAP or yeast nutrient when making candy sugar, is that normal table sugar doesn't have any of the necessary amino acids for form the melanoidins.   Unfortunately for us, the type of amino acid plays a large role in the flavor development, with different amino acids resulting in different flavors.  Sugar beet syrup will have a complex mix of amino acids that we are not likely to recreate (glutamine, lysine, threonine, serine, etc). So this will limit our flavor development somewhat.

Now if you read up on the beet sugar processing method you might notice that I'm going to wave my hands a bit and sort of ignore a couple things they do.  That's because they have a different goal than we do.  I might also overlook some of the more complex chemistry (very high pH + sucrose = saccharates) because well, maillard browning and caramelization are not understood well by people who spend their life researching this stuff, let alone me.  And because when they make beet sugar they head down a similar path, but we need to deviate slightly for our purposes..

Making beet sugar they add slaked lime to increase the pH.  This also binds up the sucrose until it is gassed with CO2 to precipitate chalk. Doing this help to remove suspended non-sugars.  However, even after the chalk is precipitated, the pH is still fairly high (9-11). This high pH is what we want when we make our sugar syrup.  In particular it helps us avoid the burnt sugar flavors that are not in the dark candy syrup

To determine what might be a best set of conditions i set up a relatively large number of trial.  Each set had a different starting mix. Some of the various things I tried are below, eventually I would like to try to vary the concentration of each and see where that can get me, but it takes a loooong time to do any of these. I did quite a few more than I'm showing either in the picture or in tasting.  This is because several of my early attempts helped me to find the correct range for adding lime.  Too much and it was quite medicinal/minerally (saccharates?) which ruined the flavor of the syrup.

When doing this my procedure was as follows.
  1. Measure and add 1 cup sugar
  2. Measure and add 1/4 cup water
  3. Add in each of the trial specific chemicals 
    1. 1/2 tsp Lime
    2. 1/2 tsp Lime + 1/2 tsp Yeast Nutrient
    3. 1/4 tsp Baking Soda
    4. 1/8 tsp Malic Acid
    5. 1/8 tsp Malic Acid + 1/2 tsp Yeast Nutrient
    6. 1/2 tsp Chalk
    7. 1/2 tsp Lime + 1 tsp Treacle + 1/2 tsp Yeast Nutrient
  4. Begin heating the mixture on high until boiling (note all times in table are from the start of the boil)
  5. Add small amounts of water when the sugar mixture becomes too hot - you can tell because it will boil up and become much more frothy and normal.  This helps to prevent scorching, but the more it is in this frothy stage the darker the color becomes and the more flavor development there is.
  6. Take small samples and allow to cool at regular intervals to determine flavor development

Candy Sugar Experiment
Lime + Nutrient
Baking Soda
Acid + Nutrient
Treacle Nutrient Lime
Very sweet, no other flavor Sweet, but as much as Lime, tastes just like frosted flakes (melanoidins!) Less sweet, than Lime nutrient, otherwise tastes like sugar slightly tangy, otherwise tastes just like sugar Sweet but less so than acid, not as tangy either, slightly fruity Sweet, tastes like sugarSweet, caramelly, some hints of frosted flakes
Very sweet, hints of caramel in the finish Frosted flakes, biscuity?, caramel, and much more rich than the 5 min Sweet, caramelly sweet, tastes like sugar Burnt sugar, toffee, still slightly tangy Sweet, tastes like sugar sweet, toasty, still hints of frosted flakes, reminds me almost of a buttered piece of toast sprinkled with sugar
Sweet, frosted flakes, cotton candy finish Chocolate! and caramel,tastes
like a tootsie roll, very good, I could eat this on its own
Sweet, reminds me of cotton candy Sweet, burnt sugar   dominates the flavorBurnt sugar, stronger than 7min, slightly tangy Sweet, and slightly biscuity Toasty, caramelly, hints of toffee?
Sweet, slight bit of cotton candy, and slight minerally finish Chocolate, seriously all I can taste it tootsie roll Sweet, some hints of caramel,  slight medicinal finish/cotton
Burnt Sugar flavor, still sweet, hint of tanginess Burnt sugar, slightly fruity and bitter, slightly tangy finish Sweet, slightly biscuity Hints of chocolate, and dark fruit, very caramelly
Sweet,a very slightly minerally finish Chocolate, some hints of coffee Sweet, slightly minerally- medicinal finish Burnt sugar, slightly more intense, hint of tanginess Strong burnt sugar flavor, slightly bitter, slightly tangy Sweet, hints of frosted flakes Chocolatey,
strong caramel and toffee flavor, slightly buttery
Sweet, slightly minerally and slightly chalky Lighter chocolate flavor, strong toffee and caramel flavors Sweet, slightly minerally- medicinal finish Burnt sugar, tanginess has faded Strong burnt sugar flavor, slightly bitter, hints of coffee Sweet, but a bit more color Chocolately, lots of toffee, very
Sweet, slightly minerally and slightly chalky Toffee, chocolate, some slight hints of burnt sugar like creme brulee Sweet, slightly minerally- medicinal finish Burnt sugar, slightly bitter Burnt sugar, slightly bitter, roasty? Sweet, no other flavor Mostly toffee, hints of dark fruit and chocolate, slightly buttery
Sweet, slightly minerally and slightly chalky Toffee, and caramel, hints of burnt sugar (not acrid though) Sweet, slightly minerally- medicinal finish Strong burnt sugar flavor, slightly bitter Burnt sugar, bitter and roasty, slightly acrid Sweet, no other flavor Toffee, dark fruit and slight hint of chocolate
Sweet, slightly minerally  and slightly chalky Toffee and dark fruits, hints of burnt sugar (again not acrid or bitter) Sweet, slightly minerally- medicinal finish Strong burnt sugar flavor, slightly bitter and acrid Burnt sugar, bitter and slightly acrid Sweet, no other flavor Fruity, strong dark caramel flavor, has a hint of tanginess in the finish
1. All times listed are from the start of the boil:  
2. Amounts of each chemical for the mix are listed above in the text.
3. Timing for flavor development is specific to my stove/pot/etc your mileage may vary a little.  
4. Amounts of lime added are likely not going to scale linearly, you may have to play around slightly if you do a larger batch.
5. Wyeast Wine nutrient isn't the same as DAP, or even Wyeast beer nutrient, as a result flavor development will be different if you substitute
6. Each time the sugar syrup began to boil up too much small amounts of water were added to cool the temp down a bit
7. None of the sugars were inverted prior to mixing with DAP + Lime.  I have a trial underway that will compare pre vs post inversion of the sugar.

Lime + Nutrient
  1. Off gassed ammonia when it started boiling
  2. @7-8min: smells like cherries and chocolate
  3. @16-17min: begins to boil very strange - very frothy
  4. @19min: smells like cherries/almond extract
Acid + Nutrient
  1. No ammonia smell
  2. Less vigorous(frothy) boil than alkaline sugar syrup

What Ive learned from Each Additive

Lime - Stops the burnt sugar flavor from happening. This is because the alkaline environment, inhibits dehydration reactions of the sugars which normally cause the burnt flavor as the sugars burn.  Color formation is increased when compared to acid addition, but it should as, unless you are below pH 3 both maillard and caramelization reactions are hindered.  Too much lime causes a medicinal, minerally flavor that ruins the flavor of the sugar.  This is quickly gauged by doing a small test batch of say 1/2C sugar along with the lime, within 5-7min you can taste they syrup and see if it has that off-flavor, if it does reduce the lime and try again. Keep the ratios roughly the same when you scale it up.  On the otherhand, too little lime and you wont get the flavors we all want.  When you start heating the sugar + nutrient mix, if you do not smell ammonia, the pH isnt high enough and you need to add lime.  The best way to do this is by having slurry of lime mixed with water to add.  If you simply add the powdered lime you will get dark brown bits of sugar

Acid - hampers color formation, the lowering of the pH provides prime conditions for dehydration reactions to occur. These dehydration reactions are the cause of the burnt sugar flavor, as water is removed from the sucrose/fructose/glucose the sugars begin to burn.

Baking Soda - Increases color formation, as with the lime too much results in a minearly/medicinal flavor, additionally baking soda adds a slightly salty flavor, especially when too much is added. The only reason I tried baking soda is that most people have it readily available. I would advise against using it, and instead getting some pickling lime.

Chalk - Similar to baking soda, although doesn't have the salty flavor.  Much more like lime (no sodium), although color formation seemed to be slower with the chalk.  Most likely this is due to the limited dissociation of chalk (doesn't like to dissolve) which probably impeded the raising of the pH.  This one was again used because I thought it might be something lots of homebrewers would have on-hand (water adjustments).  As with baking soda, I recommend using pickling lime.

Type of Yeast Nutrient - Ive played with DAP and Wyeast Nutrient now quite a bit, and I far and away prefer the range and depth of flavors I get from the Wyeast Nutrient.  The DAP is comparatively bland.  Hopefully soon I'll have a chance to test the Wyeast against servomyces, fermaid K and any other nutrient I can get ahold of.

Suggestions for Doing this Yourself

If you attempt to do this yourself, I would suggest doing a small test batch. You can follow the basic recipe & size that I used in the trials to gauge flavor and color development for yourself.  This is an important step because the time necessary to get different flavors will be specific to your stove, pot, etc.  If you still want to do this on the fly, what you can do is get a bowl of ice water to drop the sample in.  This way it is rapidly cooled for you to try.

Also, I should mention that when scaling a batch you should increase all ingredients EXCEPT the lime.  If you make a batch and it has a strange medicinally/minerally flavor you used too much lime.

To reiterate.

1 - Do a trial batch
2 - If you want to taste on the fly grab a bowl of ice water for dropping samples into
3 - When scaling batch size, get the lime right first.  Make sure you get a strong ammonia smell coming off and a very frothy boil in the test batch. Once the flavor is right in the test batch scale everything up.

Good Reading and Resources
If your interested good resources for reading about all of this (aka another way to become confused)

Sucrose degradation in alkaline environments
Base-catalyzed sucrose degradation studies
Mechanisms of alkaline degradation of sucrose
Model compounds from alkaline degradation
Chemical destruction in hot alkaline process juices (syrup) and liquors

Overview of Maillard & Caramelization reactions
A Good Overall Understanding of Caramelization and Maillard Reactions

Sugar Beet Process Flow - Courtesy of the EPA

Sugar Methods
Beet sugar handbook
Food Chemistry  - This ones a pretty good read for all kinds of things
A handbook of sugar analysis - very good but a bit dated


The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Really interesting stuff, I’ll definitely be giving this a try the next time I brew a Belgian beer (25 mins lime/nutrient sounds perfect for a dubbel). Did you use pickling lime or slaked?

Ryan said...

Pickling. Just be sure to do a trial batch before you go all in. This will let you get an idea what flavors youll get on your stove at different amounts of time. Also like I said in the post DAP may result in different flavors than Wyeast nutrient, so if you use DAP let me know how it goes

Ryan said...

BTW pickling lime = slaked lime, they are the same thing

Joshua said...

Really cool. Thanks for all the work it took to compile all of the results and post everything.

After reading it, I am interested in how you think the various batches compare to some of the actual Candi Syrups, and what some of your favorites were.

Also, have you thought about using a pressure cooker? It would more easily standardize times, and would allow you to use a little more water (less easily burned) and still get a good high temperature for caramelization and maillard reactions. If I get the chance to try it out this weekend, I will let you know.

Jeffrey Crane said...

Great post Ryan, I appreciate all the work.
Could you give us your best guess at what combinations you used match commercial offerings like D and D2?

Nick said...

This is fantastic! Thanks Ryan.

I was just gearing up to try my hand at candi sugar. I've ordered some pickling lime and I'll give this method a go.

Ryan said...

Thanks guys.

Joshua - I did think about using a pressure cooker. Especially because that will allow a higher temp before boiling. I think it could be very interesting to try to use one on this. If you do let me know how it works out

Jeffery - Im not sure what combo would be best to approximate D or D2, but the one that used a bit of treacle has the best depth of flavor towards the end (not much chocolate early on though). The biggest reason is that beet syrup has a complex mix of aminos and we do not. I would like to try again with several amino acids and see how that goes.

Nick - You should be able to get pickling lime at any grocery store. They usually have it next to the mason jars

Ryan said...

Jeffery - I should also mention that Im not done with this. I hope to give this another go with an unrefined sugar to start with and see what kind of flavors that gets me.

I also did one that initially had acid to get more splitting of the sucrose, followed by lime to raise the pH. The color development happened much more quickly, flavors were slighly less burnt sugar, but unfortunately I didnt get to do a full tasting as my PITA dog got into my office and ate all of the sugar!

Ryan W. said...

Very interesting post, Ryan.

Your link to "Sugar beet syrup will have a complex mix of amino acids that" is dead. Could you post the correct URL? I'd like to read that.

Also, do you have any data on the temperature you made the various sugars at?

-Ryan W.

Ryan said...

Ryan - I just "fixed" that link. The problem was that I was linking behind a paywall. It should take you to the abstract at least now

For temp, I knew this would come up, I do have a candy thermometer, however I only sparingly used it. I wanted to do something that most could do at home without having to buy anything. However, with all of the trials I did I came to get a feel for when the temp was approaching 350. I would then add some water to cool it off

Kyle said...

Hey Ryan,
Nice, thorough work!
I'm curious if you've seen the recipe listed on HBT:

No acid, just sugar (converted by heat) and straight DAP for Maillard reactions.
I've done upwards of 10# of syrup using the darker recipes listed to great success. Nice, dark fruits and toffee flavor with basically no burnt bitterness.
Any thoughts on that version of the process?

Brian said...

I am not clear on why are are you not scaling the lime when increasing the scale of the recipe. It would seem that as you increase the sugar you would still need that alkaline PH shift to ensure the flavors you are looking for in the sugar.

Or is it that additional lime is needed but at less than a 1:1 ratio?

If that is the case I suppose the only way to figure that out is time with a PH meter and differing recipe sizes and lime additions.

Great work.

Ryan said...

the reason you dont need more lime is because increasing the amount of sugar really wont do much to affect the pH.

If you scale up the recipe to a much larger size, say 10lbs, you might need a tiny bit more lime, but on a normal scale 1-2lbs, I dont think its really necessary.

Just to beat it to death, if your syrup has a minerally/medicinal flavor, you have added too much lime, and you should try again with a bit less

Nateo said...

Ryan - Great write up. I've been working along the same lines for a while: http://nateobrew.blogspot.com/2011/08/candi-syrup-secrets-and-how-to-make.html

I've had the most success inverting the sugar, then increasing the pH for Maillard reactions. Sucrose isn't a reducing sugar. Yes, heat will invert the sugar given enough time, but I wasn't happy with how long it took. The consistency of the finished syrup was improved as well.

Citric acid seems to give the best flavor when inverting. I boil it with a small amount of acid and a lot of water for a half hour before moving on.

After it's inverted I add lime to raise the pH. I tried chalk and KHCO3 but found lime to work the best. I've thought of using lye as well, but that's hard to get ahold of.

I also like staggering the lime additions. As the syrup darkens, the pH drops, so staggered additions helps keep the pH in the ideal range.

As for amino acids, I've tried isolated amino supplements, but didn't have much luck with that. Dairy has works pretty well though. I like yogurt best, but that's something I'm still working on.

Ryan said...

Nateo, I tried inverting the syrup first, but I didnt get to do a full tasting, very cliche but my dog ate it!

have you measured the pH of the syrup as it is cooking? I havent wanted to gunk up my probe doing this, but maybe I'll have to

Nateo said...

Ryan - I haven't measured my syrup while cooking. What I've done is dilute the syrup in enough water to hit 1.032 and measure the pH then. D2 registers 6.3, D-180 is 5.3, and my syrups are usually around 4.1-4.6. My water is very alkaline (400ppm CaCO3).

I had really bad luck when I used DAP and additional protein, so I don't recommend that. I'd use one or the other.

Anonymous said...

I know for brewers invert sugar used in english brewing people apporximate it by inverting turbinado and holding the temp at 240F for some time. I imagine the less refined turbinado prolly supplies the amino acids. I use this method with acid to invert and by holding the temp I don't taste burnt sugar. I know turbinado is cane and not beet, but it may be interesting to do a side by side. I use this method:


Michael said...

Where did you find treacle? Is it something that some grocery stores might stock? Or is it moreso something you'd have to order over the internet?

Ryan said...

michael - I got the treacle from brew masters warehouse, unfortunately I couldnt find it locally

Anonymous said...

Hi Ryan,
I just did a few attempts at candy syrup, following your advice. I had a couple of questions. I attempted the syrup with Lime and nutrient and found it to be very frothy. My first attempt tasted the best... until it started burning (I realized that I only used 1/4 tsp of each). My following three all seemed to be less flavorful and part of this might have been because of how often I was adding small amounts of water to curb the froth. I was also concerned that I was preventing maillard reactions by diluting the syrup too much in my attempts to curb a boil over.

When you say "small amounts," how small are we talking?

Did you just boil over high heat and use water to prevent boilovers?

Would you advise a candy thermometer for this?

I used Fermaid K as my yeast nutrient, do you see any problem with this?

My last batch was rather successful and I will be using it in a small batch of Belgian strong dark.

Thanks for your research. Any advise would be appreciated. I started out doing this as a larf, but now that I've tasted what's possible, I'm pretty engaged.

Ryan said...

Anon- Lots of ?'s!

Ok, Frothy? when its bubbling up A LOT, the temp is probably getting a bit too hot. Dont worry about adding too much water, you can always boil longer if you need to. I generally added about 1-3tbsp when it got really frothy. Generally I did this in ~3min intervals

Boil overs - I never had an issue, you might try using a bigger pot next time

thermometer - yes! if you have one its a good tool for this

Fermaid K - Most likely will give different results that wyeast yeast nutrient, as will using DAP. But I dont see it (at least yet) as something to avoid, time will tell

Last batch - How did it taste?

Anonymous said...

Sorry about all the questions.

You know, I think that I was just getting too caught up on following your time frame and using your post as a recipe instead of a guide.
As far as the froth went, I pretty much did the same for my last batch. Little bit every few minutes.
I'll get a thermometer for my next batch.
My last batch tasted great. Toffee, Caramel and burnt sugar, but in a good way. It's something that I would want to taste in a beer.

Thanks for your quick response

Ryan said...

anon - if you got burnt sugar notes you probably took it too far, how long did you boil?

My other thought was that the pH is likely dropping during the boiling due to the maillard/caramelization reactions, and by only using half as much lime the pH might have dropped too far

Nateo said...

I picked up some potassium hydroxide. I get some weird minerally flavors when I use as much lime as I need. Potassium carbonate is a lot less noticeable than calcium carbonate, so I'm hoping the KOH will work similarly.

Ryan said...

Nateo, Ive had the same experiences. Too much Lime and it gets minerally tasting, I believe this is because saccharates will form.

I think we need to start using Distilled water, because the chemistry is going to be very specific to the water profile. Adding lime, while raising the pH also kills alkalinity. Fructose and glucose in the presence of lime will degrade into lactic acid, dropping the pH and accelerating further inversion. So we need a high pH and a good amount of alkalinity for buffering

Nateo said...

When I get some free time I'm going to try another few batches. I've been trying for over a year now to make a single-process syrup that tastes like (or better!) than D2, but I'm not convinced there is a magic bullet. I'm going to try heating with acid to develop those fruity burnt sugar flavors, then adding KOH to bring the pH up to try to get some of those chocolatey flavors, and maybe try the reverse, starting with a high pH then adding acid later. I still think blending two or three syrups might end up being easier. I'll let you know if I have any breakthroughs.

Ryan said...

So Ive tried the High pH, then adding acid, and it did have a more fruity characteristic

When I did this I didnt invert the sugar prior to heating, in fact in the trials in this post I never purposefully inverted the sugar either. The acid that developed due to the reaction with lime slowly inverted the sugars

Lately, Ive been having trouble keeping the sugar from inverting (low pH buffering capacity) and it gets more of the flavors I dont want.

Let me know how using lye goes. Ive thought about it but Im not 100% I like that route

Nateo said...

I ruined my first couple batches using the caustic potash. I made a 2N solution, and it was a way stronger base than I was expecting. The syrup turned pitch black, with kind of a greenish tint. It didn't taste great, but it wasn't as medicinal as using too much lime, so I'm encouraged that once I get the dosage dialed in, it will be better. I'm a bit concerned about the color, though. I'll let you know if I make any more progress with it.

Ryan said...

Nateo - Its too bad we werent in the same area, as I could see this being a lot easier if we were working together

I think Im gonna give a shot at making a buffer solution and see how that works

BTW are you inverting your sugar prior to doing this? So far I havent needed to, it inverts in the end, and doing so in the beginning drastically increases the dosage of base needed to start off

Nateo said...

I could mail you some KOH if you want to try it out. IIRC 112g will make 1L of a 2N solution, which would probably last you forever. I've been inverting the sugar before treating, but I think you're right. I'm going to stop pre-inverting the syrups I treat with the base. Have you tried brewing with your syrups yet? I've been throwing my 'reject' syrups in small batches of beer, just for fun. Surprisingly, even if the syrup doesn't take that great, or exactly how you want, it can make good beer. I'm drinking a Flanders Red I made with just pale malt and a few syrup rejects, and it tastes pretty darn good.

Ryan said...

Nateo - Thx for the offer, but working in a Research lab has its benefits :) I havent tried KOH, but Ive played around with a buffer solution of bicarb and NaOH, which seems to work well

Even without inverting to begin with the sugar ends up inverted by the end of the boiling.

As far as using the syrups, I actually brewed hefe a week or so ago that I added some slightly brown/orange syrup to that tasted like crackers/toast. Im hoping it turns out well.

What Id like to do is recreate those strong chocolate flavors I did during the trial in this post. Unfortunately the water source for central AZ changes quite a bit during the year and I havent quite dialed in the mix for RO water yet......

Nateo said...

My reasoning behind inverting was that Maillard reactions only affect reducing sugar. So I assumed inverting would increase the reaction rate. That might not actually be best, and maybe the flavor would be better with effectively staggered inversion as you would get over time as the syrup cooks. Most of my trials have been done with 100% dextrose, though, which doesn't require any inversion.

Ryan said...

Nateo - That makes sense, I have also played with solely reducing sugars like pure maltose, lactose, glucose, and fructose

I think what I noticed was, like you said, that staggered inversion seemed to produce more complex flavors.

Maybe this is because when the reducing sugars are in demand but the nitrogen groups are in excess they continue to react to a higher and higher degree?

Anonymous said...

$8 a pound is cheap, hehe.

John said...

I have tried this a few times now. I had thought about using a basic reaction for this but never did.

Anyway, started using 1/2 cup 20mM NaOH per pound sugar but pH was below 9. 500mM NaOH gets the pH over 11.

I use yeast extract as the amino acid source. About 1/2 teaspoon.

20 min gets me some nice buttery/toffee flavors. Over 40 minutes gets me a really nice chocolate with some cherry flavor.


Ryan said...

John - Im glad to hear its working out well for you!

Im trying to pin something down using RO water, that way I could give a "recipe" that will work for anyone. Hopefully soon

Brad McCoy said...

Sorry to ask the dumb question, but what is the purpose/result of adding candy to your beer? Does it add sweetness? I would think it would all ferment and leave it dry...?

Ryan said...

Brad - Your not really adding candy per se, its really a brewing syrup that has certain flavors (toffee, caramel, dark fruit, toasty, crackers, etc, etc)

It can add some sweetness to a beer, the more maillard compounds in the beer the less fermentable it is, so it can add a tiny bit of sweetness, however in general it does dry a beer out. However what we are after is the flavor from the candy syrup

tigris said...

This is fabulous. Have you tried molasses instead of treacle? It would probably be easier for folks to find. At any rate, pickling lime just got added to the grocery list. Thanks for all the work and research, can't wait to try it.

Anonymous said...


In one of your notes you mention
that Wyeast Wine nutrient is different than DAP or Wyeast beer
nutrient, but elsewhere you just say
Wyeast nutrient. So it is Wyeast
Wine nutrient that you prefer, correct?



Ryan said...


sorry if I wasnt clear, for all the tests I used the beer nutrient

Scott said...

So, what if I START with Beet Sugar (availible here in Colorado). Do I still need to add the lime?

Ryan said...


YES, you still need the lime, you need to elevate the pH to get the right reactions to occur.

Beet sugar or cane sugar in refined form as 99.99% identical, only small trace amounts of minerals make them different

Nathan said...

Quick question, I tried this route using the lime; after making a few 1 lb batches with DAP and some with DAP and Cream of Tartar to help invert. I like the flavors I get from this method better as they seem more complex and have a deeper taste, but I have an issue. The pickling lime I used didn't dissolve fully and left flakes in the final product. Is there a trick to use the lime to raise my PH but have it all dissolved?

Thanks for the time and effort you have put into this.

Ryan said...

Nathan - To avoid the clumps, which are most likely chunks of maillard products with a limey core, you can add the lime to some water to make a thin slurry, this can then be added without clumping

Nathan said...

Yeah I tried to let the lime and DAP dissolve in the water before adding the sugar, I was hoping it would dissolve completely as the mix boiled. Next time I'll just mix some ahead of time and screen it out.

Thanks for the quick response.

Ryan said...

Nathan - I actually mix lime and water in addition to what is in the mix, this is so if I choose to add more lime while the boil is ongoing I can add more easily without clumping

instead of DAP you should try some yeast nutrient, it gives much deeper flavors than DAP

(the pH of the sugar drops as it darkens)

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for posting this research - I've done a few batches now and the results have been consistently superb.



Chris StAmand said...

Just in thoughts of recreating the enzymes present in beet sugar, herbal stores sell digestive aides that sometimes have these glutamine, lysine, threonine, serine, etc. in them. I wonder if adding these would help with producing a different flavor profile.

Ryan said...

Chris - Adding different aminos will definitely affect the flavors you get in the candy sugar, infact I just yesterday read a journal article about amino acids and their maillard products that included tasting panels

When I get a chance I'll see if I can upload a link or a copy of the paper

Anthony Accardi said...

Hi Ryan,
Great info and blog, thanks for sharing. . I'm on my second test batch of sugar and I'm getting a what I would describe as a very "pretzel" flavor from the sodium hydroxide without any of the chocolate that you are describing. Any thoughts based on your multiple trials? The product seems grainy as well. Am I letting it dry out too much? not enough water additions as it comes to foam? The temp seems to stay under about 280 at the end so the sugar is soft and The color is beautiful but I just dont see that in any of your descriptors. I can only think that it is too much lye....

Ryan said...


Its a really good sign your getting toasty/pretzel-like flavors, that means your getting maillard reactions!!

I did get some flavors that I guess could be called pretzel-like, although I think in the table I describe them as frosted flake-like. I think you may want to continue to cook the sugar longer, really let it get frothy and boil up before you add water, just be sure to stir the whole time

I havent had enough time to really work on this lately, but Im hoping to invest some time soon to identifying a standard recipe using distilled water to start with, as water chemistry will play a big role in whats happening

good luck and let me know how things turn out, I can always use the help figuring this out!!

Adam Preble said...

I am also curious if molasses can be used instead of treacle. I am trying to use blackstrap molasses. So far I have not been successful in maillard reactions. I have done two runs. In the first, I used distilled water and followed the proportions exactly. I know you were saying this isn't a recipe, but I have to start somewhere. Otherwise I had the pickling lime and the wyeast nutrient. After 50 minutes, and various water additions when it went to sludge, I came out with something that my wife said tasted like molasses. So, nothing much happened.

Next I inverted the syrup, using citric acid and distilled water, but then crashed it with 4x the dose of lime and tap water from then on out. That time I just ended up burning it. It was starting to get real interesting--the way the vapors smelled became different beyond the ammonia effect. But then I realized it was just smoke .

I see you mention 350F. I do have a candy thermometer so I will try to stay there next time. But I also wonder if treacle is really that special. I also have turbinado sugar.

Otherwise, I'm tempted in the next batch to just go nuts on the lime and nutrient. It'll be minerally, but hopefully it will be mixed in with something other than molasses.

Anthony Accardi said...

Thanks for he response. For the record, I'm using Whitelabs nutrient although I have Wyeast as well.
I'm in NYC and the water here is pretty soft. I am going to try it again tonight. I love the pretzel flavor for sure, just not 100% sure about it in the dubble I'm planning to brew. There is still a bit of ammonia in the taste as well, os maybe i need to cut back on the sodium hydride slightly. Just curious if to finish it you added water to make a syrup or did you just pour it out onto parchment and let it harden?

I love this S@#


Anonymous said...


I have found posts related to making
lime-water (typically used for making
masa for tamales) where you let your
water and lime mixture settle overnight, then carefully decant off the clear portion. What is left is completely clear, but very alkaline when tested with litmus paper. I did this as I was having problems with my syrup crystalizing when I used the lime slurry. I've never quite gotten the chocolate flavors, but I'm still experimenting.


Ryan said...

Adam - you can try anything you like, I think the treacle provide some flavors, but the sugar+nutrient was very close

The only reason I added the treacle was I was hoping it would provide an additional source of different amino acids

I have tried inverting then going this route but it doesnt seem to help the flavor much, color development is much more rapid though

Anthony - Different nutrients will give different flavors, its because they have different ratios of amino acids (what gives us the flavors) I see your using NaOH? Im currently experimenting with making a buffering solution with NaOH to hold the pH around 11, I would love to hear more about your efforts


This could be an interesting route to try, although I know that while the water will be very basic, it wont have much alkalinity (lime is used to remove hardness, so your actually reducing the buffering capacity)

Counter intuitive but true, I knew this going in to this experiment, but NaOH is not easily accessible for most people

Adam Preble said...


I thought I'd write back I used my candy thermometer and kept it around the 270F range, based on some random stuff I saw around online. When I did that, I think I finally got the toffee effect, although I don't think I really got into the chocolate or currant effect. I wanted to confirm with you what is a good temperature to generally strive for. I see you wrote that you add water at 350F, but that just means that's too high. What's just right?

Ryan said...

Adam - I wish I had specifics on temps but I do not, I plan on starting to figure out my "recipe" for candy syrup soon and plan on using a hot plate and a thermocouple to measure/maintain temps

Anthony Accardi said...

I've done a few more rounds of testing/making.

Started with 450 grams of sugar, 1/2 C water, 1/8 tsp of citric acid. I cooked this at around 235-240 and added water as needed to keep this range. After about 20 minutes I added 1/8 tsp of NaOH and 3 amino Acid tablets from the pharmacy, heated it to 260 for about 15 minutes adding small amounts of water as needed.

I wanted to keep it on the lighter side so I pulled it and cooled it quickly once it reached a medium amber. Its got a lovely caramel/toffee/ nutty aroma and flavor thatis going to be added to a Saison saturday. Oh, I add 3/4 C of water at the very end to keep it syrupy and pourable.

Cyclonite said...

Awesome guide, thanks for putting all of the work into this!

Here are a couple of suggestions based on my experience:

-For the initial additions, heat the water and mix the lime and yeast nutrient in the hot (100-120F) water before adding to the sugar! Otherwise, the lime in particular will clump up, as Ryan explains with later additions.
- If you have candy making experience, you need to curtail some of your habits! You need to let it cook without stirring much, and don't add much water. You basically need to let it "burn" - when making caramel or toffee, this is BAD, when making candi syrup, this is what gives you the great flavors. Otherwise, a couple of things will happen. First, it will take much longer for the maillard reactions to occur, dragging out the process. Second, the sugar will start to stick on the sides of the pan, resulting in some crystallization that is hard to re-incorporate back into the mixture.
- Finally, when you have reached your desired color, add more water to make it quite thin. It thickens considerably when cooling. I also added some acid at the end to ensure inversion so that it remained in a more liquid state.

Again, thanks for the hard work in putting this together!

Jeffrey Crane said...

Have you had any time to create a "recipe" using distilled water? I've tried a couple times now and my flavor and color development is very slow compared to your times. If you could add some target temperatures and starting ph that would help me a lot. Also I learn best from watching, any chance you could make a video?

Thanks for your help

lifefermented said...

Hey Ryan,
I've done some more research into this since our short exchange a while back, and it is clear to me that you were correct about the reducing sugar being required. In fact, it turns out fructose is even more reactive than glucose because of its shape (I updated my post with some sweet atomic models). I think the next step in the science would be to investigate the role of the proteins, and the best type to use. Have you seen any research in this area?

Also, I would really like to try using some DME as the sugar source, as it would have its own protein source.

My research thus far is posted here: http://lifefermented.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/diy-belgian-candy-syrup-1-sugar-science/

Bryan said...


Using your, and others, posts I've done a fair bit of experimentation making candi sugar, with a good degree of success. My process is much like yours, except I use DME in place of DAP. In my tests, DME gives a broader taste profile than DAP, likely due to a much broader range of malliard products being produced.

I've got two posts on my attempts, with the second one having my "finalized" method. I'd be interested in any feedback you may have:

Part I: http://suigenerisbrewing.blogspot.ca/2013/09/making-belgian-candi-sugar.html

Part II: http://suigenerisbrewing.blogspot.ca/2013/10/belgian-candi-sugar-ii.html

Jake Woldstad said...

Bryan, I was just going to ask about using first runnings as the liquid for making the candi sugar. I'm going to read your posts to see how you handle it.

I need to make some dark candi for a competition and I'm hoping this works out.

Ryan said...

Like Bryan Ive tried DME in making candi syrup but didnt think it was quite the right flavor as D2

The proportions of amino acids need to be correct in the initial sugar to make something like D2

So far ive played with lysine and it has a distinctive fruity flavor, whereas DAP/Wyeast give more coffee/chocolate flavors

Im hoping when I have some time to try with glutamine, threonine, and serine, but that sort of gets away from this process being easy and cheap to do. Maybe theres a cheap easy source of a wide range of aminos out there but I dont know it

Matthew McGinity said...

I am in Canada where food-grade slaked lime (ie. pickling lime) is hard to come by due to some home picklers adding too much to a batch of pickles, over adjusting the pickle brine ph from acidic to neutral, and giving themselves a nasty case of botulism.

Has anybody tried this with epsom salts (ie. magnesium sulfate) in place of the lime to raise the alkalinity of the sugar solution???

Tim in Albion said...

Fantastic work, thanks for publishing it here. Tried it today, with 1/8 tsp lye (because I had that but no lime), 1/4 tsp DAP, 1/4 tsp Go-Ferm, and 1/2 cup cane sugar. Got the ammonia release, the weird foamy boil, and the delightful succession of aromas. I was brewing at the same time, so wasn't really able to time it and take good notes, but it was dark reddish-brown and tasty when I ran out of time/patience and pitched it into a chilling dark Dubbel wort. Totally doing this again!

Ryan said...


I like the idea of using lye, its a much stronger base, but I dunno how easy that is for most people to source in a food safe form. Where did you get yours from?

Im really glad it turned out for you! How did the syrup taste??

Anonymous said...

Hey Ryan,

Good post. Just out of curiosity, have you tried using raw beet juice to get the native amino acids? You may end up with some starches/fiber material in the final product, but I would think that it would be fine to use. If color is a concern, yellow beets could be used, I would imagine.

Ryan said...

Anon - I hadnt thought of that, though that could be a very interesting experiment to try!

Anonymous said...

Great blog. Exactly which yeast nutrient are you using? The Diammonium Phosphate I have from LD Carlson Co. also has Urea in it. Will this cause me issues with flavor or color, etc.


Ryan said...

Anon - DAP will give you a totally different flavor profile than the WY yeast nutrient. Its all about the different aminos that are in the nutrient you add. Each different amino results in a different flavor

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all this work! Ok, I hate to be speaking out of turn so please disregard my comments if I am not helping. From my firsthand experience in Candi production in Belgium I can tell you a few things. First, the sugar is always refined first. Cane or beet does not matter. But the base sugar for candy production is not a raw sugar. It has had all the molasses removed. Second, candy syrup is a blend. Sucrose is mixed with water and a base and heated. When the desired color and flavor is achieved the syrup is poured into tubs and allowed to cool. Metal racks are lowered into the syrup and rock sugar forms on the racks. The rock sugar is removed and the remaining syrup is then collected and mixed with invert syrup, packaged and sold. The total % of burned syrup is about 4%. If any more were added then the mixture would be unfermentable.
Lastly, I would consider using glucose or frucose as your starting point. I am sure you will understand why. Oh..also color is balanced. Very important. Again, I am leaving out a lot but these are a few important points. Also, be careful! - Brian

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this work. I used your findings to produce a batch of dark sugar. Used DAP. Color change amazing and instantaneous. My Belgian dark strong is young but tastes great so far. Curious why Candi Sugar Inc does not refer to or list a source of amino nitrogen in their ingredients. Do you think it is inherent in the beet sugar? Looking for another credible source indicating that much of the browning is due to maillard reactions in authentic dark Belgian candi sugar. Thanks!!!

sarus said...

I have NaOH, can i make it all intro solution and store it like this? Or will it loose its properties over time?

Gustavo H M Silva said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

great write up! thanks. There was a question posted but I didn't see your reply. It referred to a thread about DAP and sugar only- www.homebrewtalk.com/showthread.php?t=114837
What are your thoughts about the differences in your method and his? I ask because I plan on making A Caramel Amber Ale that specifically refers to his syrup.
thanks again!

Adam said...

For those that are questioning the ingredient list with the Candi Syrup Inc syrups, here's a potential answer. If you notice they list palm sugar also. They use beet sugar and palm sugar in the D180. I suspect that depending on the level of refinement they acquire their beet sugar in they might need the aminos of a mostly unrefined sugar. In my local area you can get unrefined cane and palm sugars at Indian and Asian grocery markets. These are simply boiled down sugars. The proteins may still be present as well as mineral content. I do not know the temperature at which all aminos will denature but the boiling process used to process the water out of the sugars may still preserve the amino acids, especially so if a vacuum boiler is being used.

billy.braga said...

I tried the lime+DAP, but after 20 minutes, there was only a slight color change and still off gasing ammonia... Did I put too much lime ?

SUPAPORN Haseley said...

Ryan,firstly thank you for the great write up with so many details.

I have run into a problem; using DAP and lime in the quantities you specified,I cannot rid the syrup of the amonia smell.
Strange thingvis that it is only present in the smell,whilst still boiling.

When I cool and taste a sample there is no trace of amonia present at all.

Is this normal?

Also,a friend of mine made and gave me some solid candi sugar made in this way.
It went into a beer of OG 1.060 anf FG 1.013.
I got a terrible headache the following day from only one 630ml bottle of this beer and am glad to see the back of it.
Do you have an educated guess as to why this would come about?


Ryan said...


The ammonia smell is from the high pH and the nitrogen source in the boiling sugar. When you get above a pH of 9-10 you generate free ammonia and it off gasses due to the high temperature. Ideally this ammonia would combine with reducing sugars and form maillard products, but inevitably you loose some to off gassing

The terrible headache has nothing to do with the sugar itself, most likely the beer was fermented too warm and there are fusel alcohols in the beer that gave you the headache. What was the pitch temperature, and the fermentation temperature?

Riley said...

I was wondering if you had done any further experimentation with other sources of amino acids? The idea of using proteins in the sugar beets seems very interesting. Liquid amino acids are sold as a soy sauce alternative, they contain some other ingredients, but could possibly be an easy source of amino acids.

And am I missing something, or is this not possible with just DAP? I'm no chemistry major, but I'm not understanding how DAP provides the amino acids required for the Maillard reaction to take place.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ryan and all others involved in this research.... Great stuff!

After doing it wrong ;-), making a dark candi syrup with 300 gr sugar, 75ml water and a pinch of citric acid, I found this post. The taste of my first attempt was a bit bitter, that was the reason to investigate more...

Next I experimented with 300 gr sugar, 75ml water, 0.5 tsp limeslurry + 0.5 tsp Wyeast nutrient.
These are my experiences:
* It off-gassed a lot of ammonia the first 20mins., but taste was OK, not medicinal or chemical
* After cooking for over an hour the colour was more or less as you get with 7min cooking!!
* It foams like mad
* I can't get temps above 120C, because it turns into a fluffy crystaline stuff that is very hard to stir, so inversion is definitely prevented and crystallisation favoured my the high pH!

I understand you need temps in the range above 260F (127C) to get Maillard reactions. But that does not work for me.

Any suggestions what I did wrong?

Thanks again,


Anonymous said...

an update on my precious post:

I made another batch with just Sugar + WYeast yeast nutrition, no acid, no lime:

Results: very good, it stayed liquid in the pan, browned quickly, less ammonia, good caramel taste. I went up to 127 to 130 C and kept it in that range by adding water until I got the right colour. Bottled my syrup at 115C boiling temp.

My question still stands: What is the use of the lime?

PS we have soft water, so probably on the acidic side.



Ryan said...

Tomas - the lime is to raise the pH of the solution, if you go back into the post you will find my reasoning behind it, but essentially it is there to help speed up maillard reactions

Unknown said...

Hello Ryan

In my first attempt following your description I got a huge crystalization that did not came back to liquid form at the end. I used a solution of slaked lime (2g in 75ml), but only the water part of the solution. The remaining powder that decanted on the glass I left behind.

- Could my problem be the not high enough pH, as a result of using only the water part of the lime solution?
- When you refer to "lime slurry", do you mean the solids that do not completely dissolve when adding lime to water?



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