I’m a big fan of drinking and brewing Belgian beers. Many Belgian beers require the addition of Belgian Candi Sugar. Brewers use the sugar for many reasons as it will help boost the ABV, increase fermentability, and thin the mouthfeel of the beer. As a homebrewer, I’m always looking for ways to save a buck and Belgian Candi Sugar is one of those ingredients that is super expensive. Luckily, you can easily make your own sugar without much effort. I’ve done this several times and I’ve been very happy with the results. In the steps below I will explain the process of making Belgian Candi Sugar and hopefully show you how easy it is.
Step 1: Gather the ingredients
You will need the following items in order to create your own Belgian Candi Sugar:
- Table sugar (I use five pound bags of sugar)
- Water (I use 2.5 cups of water)
- Food grade acid (lemon juice or cream of tartar are my go to’s)
- Boiling pot
- An accurate thermometer that can sit in boiling mixtures for extended times (candy, fryer, or digital thermometer with a long probe will work fine)
- Tin foil
Step 2: Dissolve the sugar
Add the sugar and water together in your pot and place on medium head. You want to add enough water to dissolve the sugar, but not a bunch as it will all need to be boiled out by the end.
The mixture will be thick before the head gets to it. As the mixture raises in temperature it will allow the sugar to dissolve into the water more easily. I’m always shocked by how much sugar will go into just a few cups of water.
Make sure that you stir the mixture as you want to make sure that every single sugar crystal is dissolved. Sugar has a tendency to stick to the bottom of a pot when being heated. Spots of unmixed sugar can cause the candy making process to go wrong and can also burn giving your final product an unpleasant flavor.
Step 3: Add the acid and raise temperature
Once you have all of your sugar fully dissolved, add your acid. I generally use 2 tablespoons of lemon juice for this. What happens when you add the acid is that the sugar’s sucrose molecules will undergo a hydrolysis reaction and become glucose and fructose molecules. In simple terms the acid will allow the sugar to invert.
At this point you also want to raise the temperature above 260°F but not above 275°F.
Step 4: Boil for 20+ minutes
You need to boil the mixture for 20+ minutes between 260°F and 275°F in order to do the follow:
- Boil off the water
- Fully invert the sugar from sucrose to glucose and fructose
The plus sign on the 20+ is there because you can stop this step as early as 20 minutes, but you can continue for a significantly longer period of time. Below is a rough breakdown of the colors you will get and their boil times:
- Clear candi sugar: 20 minutes
- Amber candi sugar: 40 minutes
- Dark candi sugar: 60 minutes
It is important that your temperate never rises above 275°F during your boil, no matter how long you are going for. I usually have a cup of water with a tablespoon in it that I use to knock down the temperature if it gets too close to 275.
Continue to boil until you reach your desired color.
Step 5: Raise the temperature to 300°F
Once you hit the color that you are looking for you want to raise the temperature of your mixture to 300°F. This will bring your mixture to the “hard crack” temperature. Essentially this is what what will make your candy sugar solid and turn into candy form.
When you are doing this also make sure that you have a tray that is lined with tin foil that can fit all of the liquid that you have made.
Once you hit 300°F remove your pot from heat and pour into your container. I use a 1 inch deep baking tray for mine, but cookie sheets work well also. I don’t like to use glass or ceramics as the flexibility of the metal can be helpful when your mixture has hardened. I strongly recommend against pouring your mixture into thick containers as the hardened candy will be very difficult to break into smaller pieces.
Allow your mixture to cool. As it cools it will harden. Once hardened you can break it apart into smaller pieces. I like to put my pieces into weighted out amounts of one pound. Each pound then goes into a ziplock bag for future use. As you can image the final product is pretty sticky. If you are storing it for a longer period of time, you can put some powdered sugar in the ziplock bag to prevent it from becoming unruly.
I usually make five pounds of Belgian Candi Sugar for about $3.00, as opposed to the $30 or so that it could cost me to buy it at the homebrew store. I have compared the final product that I can make to the professional stuff and the two are essentially the same. I also like that I have the control to get the exact color that I want.
Perhaps this should have come at the top of the post but be careful when you are doing this. Boiling sugar has a bit more “staying power” if it gets on your skin than what boiling water does. This is an easy project to do, but as with anything dealing with boiling liquids, proper care must be taken. Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.