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I am planning a Belgian Dubbel for an upcoming session. Many recipes make use of belgian candy sugar and there are some very nice syrups available now. But I was wondering if there really was a difference in flavor and finish vs. using table sugar or corn sugar.

What's the difference chemically and does it impact the beer?

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According to these guys, there is a big difference: candisyrup.com/products.html They do not offer any scientific reason behind it, though. –  Bad Neighbor Sep 2 '11 at 14:13
    
Split your batch in 2, do half with candi and half with table sugar, and then tell us the answer! :-) –  Jeff Roe Sep 2 '11 at 15:19
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themadfermentationist.com/2009/12/… he has a link to his results at the bottom. –  baka Sep 2 '11 at 16:07
    
@ Bad neighbor...yes, there's a huge difference between the syrup and table or rock sugar. But the question was about the difference between candi rocks and table or corn sugar. –  Denny Conn Sep 4 '11 at 18:10

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

There is no flavor difference between table sugar and Belgian candi sugar (rocks). Few, if any, Belgian brewers use the rocks, but they do have bags of beet sugar around. Candi syrup is another matter and the darker varieties, like the D-180 from candisyrup.com, do add an intense flavor you can't get any other way.

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Invert sugar or belgian candi sugar is fructose and glucose, both monosaccharides. Table sugar is sucrose, a disaccharide, composed of one fructose and one glucose molecule. Yeast can really easily consume monosaccharides like fructose and glucose, but they have to split apart sucrose first to digest it. This added step can introduce off flavors and stress the yeast out. Using sucrose instead of invert sugar could give you off flavors in your beer and could take longer to ferment.

As awithrow mentioned, it is easy to make your own invert sugar by adding a little citric acid (I used lemon juice) to sucrose and heating it. The acid helps splits the sucrose molecules into their glucose and fructose components via hydrolysis. You can vary the color of the eventual sugar by how long you keep it at soft crack temperatures (275°F). I used this method while making a belgian quad and it came out awesome. However, the site I read recommended pouring it into aluminum foil to cool it, but when it cooled it stuck to the foil, so I would consider waxed paper like awithrow's site recommends.

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To cool, an adjustable cake tin lined with waxed paper works well. Getting it out of the tin is simple - soak it in hot water for 20 seconds, release the fastener and the solid lump of invert sugar cake falls out. mmm....invert sugar cake... –  mdma Sep 2 '11 at 20:47
    
ooh nice that's awesome. The hot water soak makes a ton of sense, thanks! –  pjreddie Sep 2 '11 at 23:26
    
Despite the chemical differences, there is no taste difference in the finished beer between invert and non invert sugar. Nor is there any difference in fermentation. In addition, AFAIK, inverting keeps the sugar in a liquid stare, so candi rocks can't be inverted. –  Denny Conn Sep 4 '11 at 18:12
    
The yeast must produce additional enzymes to break down sucrose, and some people say this can cause off flavors or stress the yeast. I haven't done a side by side comparison but I would assume the taste difference is usually negligible. However, inverted sugar can be liquid or solid. It will solidify if you heat it to temperatures over the hard crack (275°F). This is what candi rocks are. –  pjreddie Sep 4 '11 at 18:43

This page has a good rundown of Candi Sugar and how to make your own. Essentially it a mixture of fructose, glucose, and citric acid where as table sugar is sucrose.

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+1 I've done this with fine results. Though it's easily darkened, so first time, shoot for brown candi sugar rather than trying to make the white stuff. –  mdma Sep 2 '11 at 20:43
    
Should point out that sucrose is just a loosely linked fructose + glucose. –  Ray Sep 5 '11 at 12:33

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