Friday, September 28, 2012

How to make Candi Sugar to add to a Belgian Dark Strong (and an ESB)

Hey Readers!
This is Curtis' official Head Assistant Brewer.  I had some extra time on my hands recently and decided to design and brew my own batch of beer.  Well, actually I designed two and did a double brew day.  I settled on a Belgian Dark Strong and and English Pale Ale (also known as an ESB, which stands for Extra Special/Strong Bitter).

I ended up making a small batch of candi sugar (1/2 lb) and adding it to the ESB.  Although this is not typical for an ESB, I did it anyways.  In return I got the most amazing ESB I have ever enjoyed.  The candi sugar gave it some complex characteristics of caramel, toffee, and malt that is apparent in both the aroma and flavor.  With some East Kent Goldings hops for balance and Crystal 120L for some subtle dark fruit character, this is a very drinkable beer that will need to be brewed again soon!

When I started researching about Belgian Dark Strong beers, I found that it is common to use Belgian candi sugar.  I thought that would be complicated, but a little research assured me that it was quite simple.

Here is what you need for 1 lb. of candi sugar:
-1 lb sugar
-1/8 tsp. citric acid or 1/2 TSP. lemon juice
-1/3 C. water
-a little time

Add sugar, water, and citric acid in a pot.

Stir over medium heat.

After a few minutes, it will look like this.

Several minutes later, you'll get something that looks like this.

When your candi sugar is the desired color, put the top on and count to 10.
This will bring the temperature up to around 300 F so it can become a "hard crack".
This is not necessary if you will be using it right away. However, if you want it to
break apart into pieces, it needs to be that hot.

Use a silicone mat (since I did 2 1/2 lbs of sugar for the Belgian Dark Strong,
I didn't want it to make a mess, so I used a 9x13 dish underneath) and allow to cool in the fridge.
Don't use wax paper! The candi sugar will stick to it and then you'll have paper in your beer.
 Things to consider:
-If adding very hot candi sugar (250F) to boiling wort (212F), be careful as it may cause a boil over.
-If you get your candi sugar to a "hard crack" level, you can let it cool, break it a part, and freeze it until you brew again.


  1. Nice. I have also read a lot about this topic.

    Cooked sugar is used a lot in traditional British Brewing, so it makes sense it worked well in your ESB. If you are more interested in the British sugars you should search the QUAFF email archives - Adrian Avgerinos has a lot of experience. I've had some of his British beers and they are great.

    And for the BDSA how dark of sugar did you use? I've seen this handy table - And I'm just waiting to try to make some myself this Fall.

    Will any of this make it to a QUAFF meeting?

  2. Thanks for the info, I'll definitely check that out. I'm not sure how dark it technically was but somewhere along the lines of amber or dark candi sugar. We plan on bringing the BDS to the next QUAFF meeting. We bottled it last Sunday, so it should be ready for the next meeting.