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Help! Candi sugar always freezes/crystalizes at 270F

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rhys333

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Hey everyone,

I've tried countless times to make amber or dark candi sugar from table sugar and every time it freezes into sugar crystals at 270F hard ball stage. I've tried dry method, wet method, with and without DME/lime/acid, on the stove and in the oven. Always it freezes at 270F and looks like a rootbeer slurpee. The only way for me to get it to liquify and actually darken beyond light brown is to heat well beyond hardball stage.

What's going on here? I've followed tried and true methods and get the exact same result every time. The only thing I can think of is that I'm using beet sugar and I know that most other people (in North America at least) are using cane sugar. Could it be that beet sugar reacts differently than cane sugar? I don't know what else it could be. It's driving me nuts that I can't resolve this problem.

Appreciate your advice.
 

Konstantianus

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Are you saying that the caramel crystallizes at 270°F or after you cool the caramel to room temp it crystallizes? FWIW I added water to my caramel once it got to temp and it became a syrup which I much prefer to the La Brea Tar Pit type caramel without water.
 
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rhys333

rhys333

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Are you saying that the caramel crystallizes at 270°F or after you cool the caramel to room temp it crystallizes? FWIW I added water to my caramel once it got to temp and it became a syrup which I much prefer to the La Brea Tar Pit type caramel without water.

It crystalized at 270F. You can literally watch it happen.
 
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rhys333

rhys333

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Here are a couple pictures. The first is after it crystallizes at 270F. The second is what I eventually get if I crank the heat past 350 for an hour or more.

20200808_191848.jpg


20200808_191941.jpg
 

Konstantianus

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I've never had this happen nor seen it happen but I've heard that if you have crystals of sugar on the sides of a pan or if the sugar comes into contact with the cooler side of a pan it will cause it to crystallize and seize. I have a feeling that this is what is happening here. Maybe try a hands off approach where you put the sugar into a pan dry on a low heat and don't touch it until its at the proper temp?
 
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rhys333

rhys333

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I've never had this happen nor seen it happen but I've heard that if you have crystals of sugar on the sides of a pan or if the sugar comes into contact with the cooler side of a pan it will cause it to crystallize and seize. I have a feeling that this is what is happening here. Maybe try a hands off approach where you put the sugar into a pan dry on a low heat and don't touch it until its at the proper temp?
I've heard that too and it's not due to that. In a previous stovetop batch I was very careful and washed down the sides if any crystals formed. I also did a version where I was completely hands off. It does this every time with reliable predictability.

Worthy of note though: the final product, after it has been heated beyond the pits of hell, is completely free of crystals when it cools and sets.
 

Konstantianus

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I've heard that too and it's not due to that. In a previous stovetop batch I was very careful and washed down the sides if any crystals formed. I also did a version where I was completely hands off. It does this every time with reliable predictability.
If that's the case then I would assume its your sugar for some reason. From what I understand most if not all of the sugar beets grown within the US (maybe Canada too?) are GMO so if you can find a source of non-GMO sugar then it should be sugar from sugarcane. We have a brand here called "Imperial Sugar" and it states on the bag that it's non-GMO so if you can find that give it a try.
 

Vale71

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Even if the beets are GMO the sugar you'd get from them is pure saccharose. It's not like they've been modified to produce kryptonite... :p
 

Argyll Gargoyle

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Sui Generis recommends adding a bit of corn syrup - a few Tbsp per kg of sugar. The claim is that the glucose and dextrose help prevent crystals
 

LokiM4

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My first go round with trying this was to use some leftover bottling sugar for it and it failed miserably much like you are describing. My lead chef (SWMBO) was not pleased that I had given her improper ingredients and I was regulated to cleanup duties while she did a second batch with table sugar which here in the Midwest is likely cane based-it went perfectly the second time and we are still enjoying the candi Amber ale from it.

You definitely need to source a different sugar.
 

Vale71

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Again, cane sugar and table sugar are both 100% saccharose. And no, there is only one kind of saccharose.
 

Albionwood

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I've had similar problems. Stirring will cause sugar to crystallize, but even if I don't do that it turns to crystal mush on me more often than not. Try adding a little water to re-dissolve and continue heating. You can do this over and over and get continued Maillard reaction even at lower temperatures. (I'm assuming you are using the lime + aminos method)
Are you inverting first or just letting it invert itself along the way?
Sugar source (cane vs beet) might make a difference, but I doubt that's the whole story. The reactions are time-dependent as well as temperature. How long does it take you to get it to the crystallization phase? Going slower might help.
 
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rhys333

rhys333

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Sui Generis recommends adding a bit of corn syrup - a few Tbsp per kg of sugar. The claim is that the glucose and dextrose help prevent crystals
I tried adding corn syrup to one batch and it still seized at 270.
 
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rhys333

rhys333

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My first go round with trying this was to use some leftover bottling sugar for it and it failed miserably much like you are describing. My lead chef (SWMBO) was not pleased that I had given her improper ingredients and I was regulated to cleanup duties while she did a second batch with table sugar which here in the Midwest is likely cane based-it went perfectly the second time and we are still enjoying the candi Amber ale from it.

You definitely need to source a different sugar.

Interesting. I think I do need to source cane sugar, at least to eliminate this as a variable. It would be very interesting though if the cane sugar didn't crystallize like my countless batches with beet sugar. Then the question becomes: why do they use beet sugar specifically to make brewing sugars?
 

VikeMan

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Now here's an interesting lead. I googled "beet sugar caramelize" and this is the first result: Can You Use Beet Sugar for Cooking?
From the article...
" Both beet sugar and cane sugar are forms of sucrose. Chemically, they are nearly identical. "

There is only one form of sucrose ( C12H22O11) in sugar cane or beets. It has no isomers in them.
 

Argyll Gargoyle

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Are there other compounds that come into play with respect to the crystallization (besides just the sucrose)?
For example, the H2O in my ice cube tray is identical to the H2O in my glycol chiller tank, but the freezing points are rather different.
 

Vale71

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Unless we're talking about Turbinado or other forms of raw cane sugar both types of sugar are highly refined and made up of 99.9% saccharose. Your chiller reservoir (hopefully) has somewhat less than 99.9% water. ;)
 
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rhys333

rhys333

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From the article...
" Both beet sugar and cane sugar are forms of sucrose. Chemically, they are nearly identical. "

There is only one form of sucrose ( C12H22O11) in sugar cane or beets. It has no isomers in them.

Yes, but in context with everyday baking where the melting point isn't critical. The full quote:

"Both beet sugar and cane sugar are forms of sucrose. Chemically, they are nearly identical. They also taste nearly identical. This means that for most types of everyday cooking, such as making oatmeal, muffins, sauces or other types of dishes where the melting point of the sugar is not critical, beet sugar can be freely substituted for cane sugar without any noticeable difference."

I notice many articles online mentioning that beet and cane sugar react differently in candy making. To me, this is worthy of note.

I'm wondering how these differences may impact the final product. Possible higher reaction temperature for beet sugar? I have noted that when beet sugar melts back into liquid state somewhere north of 330F, it quickly changes from pale brown to the darker shades of red and brown that we're seeking. All without added ingredients like DME, DAP, lime, etc.
 
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rhys333

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Below are my observations making candi sugar from beer sugar. I haven't as of yet accurately noted temperature thresholds other than crystallization at 270F.

1) White beet table sugar melts at temperatures similar to cane sugar.
2) If left undisturbed, liquid beet sugar quickly forms a craggy crust on top of the liquid.
3) At temps approaching 270F the clear liquid turns pale brown and then fully crystallizes into a solid state.
4) Above 300F the crystallized sugar begins darkening before returning to a liquid state.
5) Liquid sugar begins caramelization process, darkening the longer it boils.
6) Once cooled, the darkened sugar is completely crystal free and somewhere between hardball and soft crack.
 
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VikeMan

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Chemically, they are nearly identical.
But again, this is incorrect. Chemically, they are both sucrose, i.e. identical, not "nearly" identical. Context (baking or whatever) doesn't matter insofar as this goes. i.e. the sucrose in beet sugar is chemically identical to the sucrose in cane sugar.

Perhaps there is some tiny impurity(s) (i.e. something that's not sucrose) that's different between the two. And maybe that affects its behavior in candy making. I doubt it, but who knows.
 

Argyll Gargoyle

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I’m not a chemist, but It seems to me that even dilute concentrations of impurities could matter when talking about crystallization. Couldn’t these impurities serve as nucleation sites?
 

cmac62

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My cooking guru Alton Brown frequently uses corn syrup to stop crystallization when making candy and other stuff with table sugar. Usually somewhere in the range of a tbs or so. My understanding (limited as it is) is the different type of sugar blocks the re-crystallization of the sucrose because the glucose and fructose (what sucrose breaks down into) cant reform to make Sucrose crystals. Any food scientists out them let me know if I got it wrong. LOL :bigmug:
 
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rhys333

rhys333

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My cooking guru Alton Brown frequently uses corn syrup to stop crystallization when making candy and other stuff with table sugar. Usually somewhere in the range of a tbs or so. My understanding (limited as it is) is the different type of sugar blocks the re-crystallization of the sucrose because the glucose and fructose (what sucrose breaks down into) cant reform to make Sucrose crystals. Any food scientists out them let me know if I got it wrong. LOL :bigmug:

I recall trying a spoonful of invert too, as I have an almost full container of the stuff sitting in the cupboard. It still crystalized. I think I'm going to make a one gallon test batch using the finished product I photographed above. If it tastes like its supposed to, then just maybe the candy-making rule book, and cane sugar, isn't the way to go.
 
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