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Homemade Invert Sugar pH

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DSmith

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I followed a recipe to make clear (partially) inverted beet sugar by using citric acid, minimal water and a 15 minute boil. I can list more specific weight/volume measurements, but a cooled sample pH of the invert sugar was 2.98 (freshly 2-point calibrated meter).

I haven't used this in brewing yet, but is there any concern of putting this acidic sugar in the boil? (from typical mash pH about 5.4 at room temperature) Should it be neutralized to pH 7?
 

ajdelange

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That depends. Most beers require that acid in some form be added to the mash (this can be dark malt so dark beers require less or no additional acid) in which case this invert sugar could be just what you need. If, OTOH, it is too acid or you are adding too much it might be well to neutralize it. Lime or baking soda should do for that purpose.
 
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DSmith

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Thank you for the response.

The invert sugar is generally added to the boil. I assume the runnings from a "proper pH" mash has very low pH buffering. Is putting an acidic solution into the boil a good idea?

I'm not interested in debating if sugar inverts in the boil. If sugar is inverted first using acid & heat, I've never seen anyone mention if it's beneficial to neutralize the pH of the sugar when brewing.
 

rhys333

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I see this thread has been inactive for a while, but I'm experimenting with dark invert sugar for British ales and I have the same question about homemade invert syrup pH and whether the acid should be neutralized.

At least one commercial brewers invert lists baking soda as an ingredient (Becker's), and I see it mentioned occasionally in confectionary production as well. @ajdelange , one source suggests raising the pH to 4.5 by adding baking soda after the inverted syrup has cooled to 70C.

I experimented earlier today, after learning about the baking soda ingredient addition, but before learning about when to add it. I did so early on in the process, after raising the acidified syrup to 240F but before my 3 hour long cooking process. This resulted in a lot of CO2 foaming, but this did eventually settle. Interestingly, the completed but still-hot syrup has a surface scum that does not mix in, but disappears into solution after cooling.

Picture below shows two batches of syrup:
Left - Table sugar syrup, with acid only. pH 3.0 @ 17C.
Right - Turbinado syrup, acidified and then alkalized with baking soda. Pictured before cooling, while scum is still present. pH 4.2 @ 22C.


20210101_195956.jpg
 
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Northern_Brewer

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I see this thread has been inactive for a while, but I'm experimenting with dark invert sugar for British ales and I have the same question about homemade invert syrup pH and whether the acid should be neutralized.

At least one commercial brewers invert lists baking soda as an ingredient (Becker's), and I see it mentioned occasionally in confectionary production as well. @ajdelange , one source suggests raising the pH to 4.5 by adding baking soda after the inverted syrup has cooled to 70C.
It's not quite the same, but this Ragus video says that when inverting golden syrup, they take it down to below pH 1.6 (the video shows 1.31 on the meter) and then they neutralise to 6-6.5.

I don't know if they have a similar video on making brewer's invert, but I can't imagine it's too much different.
 

Northern_Brewer

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You can get some screwy things happening heating at that kind of pH - I suspect that the quality of their process control means they can use more extreme conditions (ie more acid) for shorter times (ie less heating costs), than would be wise for doing it at home.
 

rhys333

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It's not quite the same, but this Ragus video says that when inverting golden syrup, they take it down to below pH 1.6 (the video shows 1.31 on the meter) and then they neutralise to 6-6.5.

I don't know if they have a similar video on making brewer's invert, but I can't imagine it's too much different.
I would imagine 4.5 is closer to what we want for brewing purposes. Based on the 3 batches I now have, the acid-only invert smells fruity but has an acidic tang and comparatively less flavor complexity vs the other two. That said, I used white table sugar on this batch which could explain the complexity. Both baking soda batches smell earthy rather than fruity, but the flavor is improved (for darker beer styles). I need to do a room temperature taste test to compare these two. At refrigeration temperature they are similar, with a slight edge going to the early 240F bs addition.

I can't imagine making this stuff now without neutralizing the acid.
 
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rhys333

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Interesting that the video shows neutralization prior to caramelization.
I read on one candy-making website that raising pH early assists with caramelization. That said, I read on another that lower pH does the same.

I can say that I noticed a practical reason for neutralizing early, based on my DIY attempts. The syrup foams like crazy due to the CO2 in suspension. This disperses relatively quickly in the heated solution, presumably because of the lower viscosity. In the batch where I added baking soda after the boil at 70C, the CO2 didn't dissipate, at least not during the 4 hours I let it rest at RT. I had to reheat it above 100C to make that happen.

I will say that it makes one heck of an interesting reaction. The syrup changes from red-black liquid to a butterscotch or nougat-like foam and then back again. For anyone who wants to try, watch out because it foams to 3x the size.
 
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Hanglow

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I always thought the lower pH was to invert it quickly, then the higher pH served to colour it quicker. I'm sure there have been some articles from the IBD journal that cover this. I might well be misremembering this though

I've been making this on and off for years now and have most recently settled on the oven method and letting it cook during my brew, adding it towards the end of the boil. I usually use about 3-5ml of lactic acid to aid in the inversion but I don't neutralise it so it does take a good few hours, ie the amount of time for my mash and boil, to get it to where I want it. But it then serves a secondary purpose by lowering my boil pH, which I tend to need as I mash at about 5.4-5.5 pH and copper finings prefer a lower pH.
 
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Witherby

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I read on one candy-making website that raising pH early assists with caramelization. That said, I read on another that lower pH does the same.
A few weeks ago on my weekly Zoom with my homebrew club, we were drinking a Belgian tripel my friend had brewed (we have a homebrew club bottle swap every once in a while and then drink them together on Zoom) and he mentioned that he had used homemade invert sugar. I remembered reading somewhere that the Belgian candi sugar was made with beet sugar and was inverted with a base whereas British invert sugar was made with cane sugar and inverted with acid (the standard practice many of us have done) and challenged him to try making candi sugar the next time (he is a retired biologist with a huge home lab and lots of time on his hands, so he is up to the challenge).

I sent him these links, which explain the differences between the Belgian and British sugars:
Making Belgian Candi Sugar
Belgian Candi Sugar II
Candy Syrup the <u><i>Right</u></i> way (Hint - We've been doing it <u><i>Wrong!</u></i>)

I hadn't read them that closely, but looking again a whole bunch of things are popping out at me:

"Caramelization and maillard reactions are the reason we get the great flavors from the dark Belgian candy syrups. Caramelization is very different than maillard reactions, caramelization is a type of pyrolysis. Essentially what is happening is we are carbonizing the sugars, this if taken too far results in the characteristic burnt sugar flavor. If controlled and done correctly caramelization will essentially results in solely color formation."

"The acid lowers the pH of the sugar, which brings the Maillard reactions to a near stop."

So if you are making dark invert sugar for color, super low pH may be fine, but if you are doing it more for flavor, you definitely don't want the super low pH. Also explains why English brewers caramel adds color without adding much flavor.
 

Northern_Brewer

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Worth noting this comment on another forum talking about sugars for Belgian darks and people making candi sugar with sodium hydroxide (lye) :

On the Flemish homebrew forum we have a chemist who works in the food industry, and he actually discourages making them this way. It is not completely safe or healthy. Industrial producers have better and more refined processes.
 

rhys333

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Worth noting this comment on another forum talking about sugars for Belgian darks and people making candi sugar with sodium hydroxide (lye) :

On the Flemish homebrew forum we have a chemist who works in the food industry, and he actually discourages making them this way. It is not completely safe or healthy. Industrial producers have better and more refined processes.

I used that method a few times in the past, though I had problems with crystallization. The issue was likely due to my process at the time. I've never been able to make stovetop invert/candi using my local beet sugar source without it seizing up.
 

rhys333

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A few weeks ago on my weekly Zoom with my homebrew club, we were drinking a Belgian tripel my friend had brewed (we have a homebrew club bottle swap every once in a while and then drink them together on Zoom) and he mentioned that he had used homemade invert sugar. I remembered reading somewhere that the Belgian candi sugar was made with beet sugar and was inverted with a base whereas British invert sugar was made with cane sugar and inverted with acid (the standard practice many of us have done) and challenged him to try making candi sugar the next time (he is a retired biologist with a huge home lab and lots of time on his hands, so he is up to the challenge).

I sent him these links, which explain the differences between the Belgian and British sugars:
Making Belgian Candi Sugar
Belgian Candi Sugar II
Candy Syrup the <u><i>Right</u></i> way (Hint - We've been doing it <u><i>Wrong!</u></i>)

I hadn't read them that closely, but looking again a whole bunch of things are popping out at me:

"Caramelization and maillard reactions are the reason we get the great flavors from the dark Belgian candy syrups. Caramelization is very different than maillard reactions, caramelization is a type of pyrolysis. Essentially what is happening is we are carbonizing the sugars, this if taken too far results in the characteristic burnt sugar flavor. If controlled and done correctly caramelization will essentially results in solely color formation."

"The acid lowers the pH of the sugar, which brings the Maillard reactions to a near stop."

So if you are making dark invert sugar for color, super low pH may be fine, but if you are doing it more for flavor, you definitely don't want the super low pH. Also explains why English brewers caramel adds color without adding much flavor.

I just taste tested my 3 batches again, but this time at room temperature. The two with baking soda taste similar, even though one had baking soda added near the start (as soon as it reached 240F) and the other at the end (after 3 hour cook). The batch with acid-only has an unpleasant acidic twang and doesn't taste nearly as complex. As mentioned above though, the lack of complexity could well be due to using table (beet) sugar on this batch. Sometime later this week I plan to reheat this batch, add baking soda to it, then taste it again. This should at least eliminate pH as a variable.
 

couchsending

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I made some dark invert a while ago to use in a Stout. Only used half of it and after 6 months or so sitting in the back of the fridge I used a good portion of the rest in a Dark Mild. Beer turned out great except for this very slight acidic “twang”. Wasn’t horrible but also wasn’t great. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why.

pH was spot on through mash and start of boil. Was using a yeast that’s not that lactic at warmer temps like say So4 or 002 can be. I remember checking boil pH and gravity before adding the invert but not after. I’m almost positive it was the low pH of the sugar that was the cause of the very slight “twang” the beer had.

Next time I make some I’m definitely going to add a little baking soda or pickling lime to it after it’s inverted.
 

Alan Reginato

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Hi guys, I am new in the forum, but I've read a lot and done some experiments in brewing.

So, belgian candy is made through mailard reaction.
Normal caramel is just heated sugar, pyrolysis.

Anyway, is better work with inverted sugar, because it's more fluid.

To make inverted sugar. Better option, im my opinion:
Inversion: 1 kg sucrose, 20 g lemon juice (1g citric acid). 250 g Water. Scale it, however you need. On a Mason Jar do a minimal hole on the lid, just to release the pressure. Some water inside a pressure cooker, in 10 min, at 120 C, you have a good rate inverted sugar. Just don't put the hot Mason Jar under water...let it cool at room temperature.

Caramel. After that you can caramelize it in a pan, just don't put too much heat on that, go slowly. If it burns, gets acrid taste.

Belgian candy. Add 5 g of protein (whey protein or similar, if you go to the gym) along with the sucrose, water, lemon juice... Or if you are using beet sugar, it probably have enough. Another option is substitute the water for wort, that you can previously separete from a regular batch and frozen. Even DME should work.
Then, pressure cooker... Instead of cooling the inverted sugar, wait stop bobbling. Carefully, open the lid and put something to low the pH. Slaked lime, bakin soda, whatever. How much? Enough to visually start browning. Or if you have an ph meter, around pH 9.
You can stop there or if you want darker, back to the pressure or in a pan, like the caramel.

I already made some tests, and works. Probably in march, maybe april, I should make two consecutives batches, differing only in two ingredients, regular caramel and homemade belgian candy. I will post the results, if everything goes well.
 
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