Candi/Invert Sugar

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Well-Known Member
Dec 29, 2004
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San Francisco Bay Area
I've been reading a lot about Belgian brewing, as I have several styles I want to learn how to make. I knew they used quite a bit of sugar, but I never realized just how prevalent it is. Basically every high-gravity Belgian ale uses candi sugar from what I can tell. I'm normally a malt-purist pretty much, but this use of sugar intrigues me, and I love Belgian beer, so I decided to get my hands on some.

Well, the stuff is darn expensive. Candi sugar, best I can tell, is the same as invert sugar. Maybe someone here is more knowledgable about sugars and can add more detail, but basically, invert sugar is just cane sugar (sucrose) broken down into simpler sugars glucose and fructose. Sucrose itself is a poor fermentable because the yeast must first break the complex sugar into simple sugars and then ferment. It generates off-flavors and a poor fermentation.

From what I found on the web, candi/invert sugar is made by cooking a sugar syrup, holding it at the proper temperature, and adding citric acid. So, I gave it a go the other night and it worked well.

I took about 3 pounds of cane sugar, added just enough water to make it a thick syrup, added the juice of half a lemon, brought it to a boil, raised the temp to 260 degrees, held it there until it was a nice amber (you can hold the temp by stirring in small amounts of water), then I raised the temp to 300, which I understand is the temperature to make hard crack candy.

I poured the hot syrup into a casserole dish lined with wax paper (important if you have a wife ;)) It solidified up into a pretty hard slab of amber (maybe 40-60L) clear rock sugar. The whole lot of it went into my Humboldt Hop Rod the next day.

I'm curious if others have used Candi sugar before? It's supposed to be a very clean fermentable, and gives the Belgian beers strength without a lot of body (as in a Trippel). Anyone out there make candy and can fill me in on how to make the stuff turn out even more rock hard next time? It was a bit tacky this time, and I'd like to get it diamond-hard like rock candy. Also, am I correct in saying that there is no difference between Candi sugar and invert sugar, or is there something I'm missing?

I'm going to keep doing my homework, but I thought it might be fun to start some discussion here, too. Cheers! :D
I have made a few Belgians, and have used cane sugar. A friend of mine has gone to the Ommegang Brewery and was told that they use cane sugar in their beers. If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me, and it is a lot cheaper. I hope this helps.
Hey Hatzie, thanks for that! :)

I have been continuing to do some research and it seems that Candi Sugar really is just sucrose...table sugar. So your findings mesh with that as well.

Invert sugar is what I made, and it is used in brewing Belgians and British beers. That's glucose and fructose made by splitting sucrose.

Candi sugar is just rock sugar...that is sucrose crystallized on a string. Back in the day before modern refining, making rock sugar was one of the best ways to purify sugar. So the Belgians used the most pure sucrose they could find at the time.

Well, table sugar is much more pure even than Candi sugar, which may have trace impurities like molasses in it. Still, they seem to be basically one in the same.

Now a bunch of people are going to wonder how you could add table sugar to beer. Well, it's something you only do in high gravity beers to lighten body and add more alcohol. You also use the right quantities...never a large percentage of the fermentables. In those situations, you avoid the "cidery" flavor attributed to raw, complex sugars.

Hatzie, I really hope you post some of your experience making Belgians. I have made a dubbel or two and a lambic or two, but I'm really gearing up to brew some quality Belgians in the coming months. I'd love to share experiences as I get some more under my belt.
A few of the recipes I've seen for Belgian trappists recommend using the yeast harvested from a bottle of Chimay for optimal results. I guess that's kinda common sense, but figured I'd throw it out there anyway. :)
Janx, I have only brewed a couple of Belgians, a couple of guys I know are into them a little more. But I have used recipes out of Beer captured and have really enjoyed the results.
Cool! I just got that book a little while ago and I have already gotten some ideas from it. I don't know why but I have never been able to just follow someone's recipe because I think I have ideas for improvements. I'm glad to hear you've gotten good results. I was really stoked to see so many Belgians in there. Cheers! :D
Beer Captured is my bible fore recipes, I don't always follow them exactly, I like to tweek them for my own taste. I just did one of the Kolsh recipes in there and for the hell of it I added orange peel, I haven't tasted it yet, but I am sure it will be good.
From all I've read on various forums, cane sugwar, like Hatzie said, is just fine in Belgians. Nobody has reported any difference in flavor. I've made a couple Belgians and used candi in one, it was great and cane in the other and it too was great, so really, I don't think it's really an issue. Making invert sugar sounds kinda cool,I may have to try that also!Make sure to report back on how the brew turns out, Janx !!
Speaking of, I had a bottle of Chimay last night...the blue label. No "style marking" that I saw. It was 9% alc.

I've only had Chimay one other time, it was the stuff with the pinkish colored label. I wasn't terribly impressed with it, but this blue label stuff was awesome!

I was afraid the alcohol content would overpower it, but it didn't. Nice and malty, but not overpowering. It was balanced by a kind of sweetness I can't put my finger on. It shouldn't be sugar, as it should have fermented away right?

Anyone know what causes the sweetness in this beer? I'd almost say it tasted like molasses. Beyond that, I suppose it could just be the specific type of malt?

Don't mean to crap in this thread, but since it is about sugar in Belgians, it reminded me of my question. :)
I imagine it does have sugar in it, but the sugar should ferment pretty cleanly. Dark candi sugar may contribute residual sweetness, but I don't think much.

Is the blue one the light colored or dark colored one? The lighter colored Chimay is the trippel, which is my favorite. It has a vapory alcohol quality. Lots of fun. I like trippels in general quite a bit.

The dubbel is the red label I'm pretty sure. I always forget which is which.
FWIW, I brewed a wheat last November using one pound of Turbinado sugar that I bought at the grocery store. I don’t recall it being all that expensive and I liked the end result. I plan to brew it again in a couple of months. I don’t have the OG’s and the FG’s here (at work), but it came in at around 11% alcohol! At the time, I worried about low carbonation and a 'too malty' profile, but after bottle conditioning for about a month, it turned out nicely:

Here’s a link to the recipe:
Turbinado is less refined it's sucrose with impurities. Yummy impurities :)

I've had some beers made with Turbinado, also. It definitely adds some flavor along with the strength. Plus it comes in those cool cones ;)