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Brewing Sugars

by Alberta Rager

Brewing Sugars

In addition to maltose (malt sugar), brewing sugar (classed as malt adjuncts) sources were traditionally geographic dependent. British brewers fortified their brews with cane sugar and molasses sourced from their colonies in the Caribbean and Africa. In Colonial American corn was a readily available source of sugar for brewing. Beets were prevalent in northeast Europe where the use of beet sugar in brewing got its start. Today brewer preference rather than geography determine the sugars selected to go into a beer.

There are several types of sugar. Dextrose or Glucose commonly known by homebrewers as corn sugar is very fermentable by brewer’s yeast. Sucrose includes cane sugar, candi sugar, beet sugar, demerara and turbinado. It ferments okay by brewer’s yeast, but rather slow. Lactose is derived from milk and is completely unfermentable by brewer’s yeast. Malto-Dextrin is halfway between sugar and starch. Because of its complexity, it is unfermentable by brewer’s yeast.

Brown Sugar is sucrose crystals covered with molasses. The molasses provides the flavor. The darker it is the more flavorful it will be.

Belgian Candi Sugar is crystallized sucrose derived from sugar beets. Color ranges from clear (0L) to dark (220L) adding 1.038-40 gravity points per pound per gallon. Clear candi sugar is typically used in Tripels and Dubbels.

Belgian Candi Syrup is beet sugar and water syrup adding 1.032 gravity points per pound per gallon. Color ranges from 1 to 180 SRM. The additional color in the D-180 is derived from the addition of date sugar along with the beet sugar. These syrups are a great addition to all Belgian style beers.

Demerara Sugar is a special light brown sugar from England which imparts a mellow, sweet flavor contributing 1.041-1.042 gravity points per pound per gallon.

Golden Syrup is rich and flavorful invert sugar syrup, almost honey-like, made from cane contributing 1.036 gravity points per pound per gallon.

Honey, the oldest form of sugar known to man is a complex mixture containing about 45% fructose, 35% dextrose, 13-20% water and small amounts of maltose, sucrose, dextrins, gums, vitamins, enzymes and more. It also contains antibiotic compounds which can make fermentation difficult and slow. Additional nutrients like Fermaid-K are recommended when fermenting with honey. Gravity points gained from honey vary depending on the water content. They are generally around 1.032 points per pound per gallon.

Invert Sugar is made by boiling cane sugar in a dilute solution of acid. Home-made invert sugar can be made by boiling 2 pounds of cane sugar in one pint of water with one teaspoon of citric acid until the solution has a pale golden color. The acidity must be neutralized back to a pH of 7 after boiling by adding calcium carbonate. It will contribute 1.046 gravity points per pound per gallon.

Lactose is known as milk sugar. Although it adds 1.043 gravity points per pound per gallon to the wort, it is non-fermentable by brewing yeast therefore it remains in the finished beer providing some residual sweetness. Traditionally lactose is used in sweet stouts which are often called milk stouts. It has a distinct flavor the does not go well with lighter beers.

Molasses is the residue produces when raw sugar cane is processes into sugar. It contains the impurities from the sugar that are not wanted in refined sugar. As a result, it contains the most flavor and all the available sugars and syrups. There are three grades of molasses: light, medium and black strap. The lighter grades are more highly fermentable (up to 90%) with fewer flavor contributions. Black strap grades will be less fermentable (50-60%) with a much higher flavor impact. Its strong flavor will add 1.036 gravity points per pound per gallon.

Rice Syrup Solids will lighten the body, reduce malt flavor and increase alcohol while resulting in a slightly drier beer adding 1.040 gravity points per pound per gallon.

Raw Sugar is brown unrefined sugar crystals covered with a film of syrup. It is reported to be 97% sucrose so it is highly fermentable and contains few impurities. If using raw sugar, use the darkest you can find.

Treacle is known as British molasses. It is generally heavy and black. As with all molasses there are various colors and grades adding 1.036 gravity points per pound per gallon.

Turbinado Sugar is a form of raw cane sugar.

Have fun experimenting with some of these brewing sugars.

This article was published on Sunday May 19, 2013.