The Belgian Dubbel With Home Made Candi Sugar

If you have ever read the book Brew Like A Monk, you might remember a passage that says,” Those Belgian brewers that will discuss what percentage of fermentables comes from sugar put it at 15 – 20 %.” Brewing with sugar has always interested me as it was considered “wrong” to add sugar to beer for fermentables. It was stated that you would get a cidery flavor form sugar. This  is true to a point, as with anything,  just use it in moderation!

So last week I was gearing up for brewing with a new yeast (to me at least), the WLP american lager yeast in preparation for fall. (every fall I try to have my usual seasonals like Oktoberfest, and a few others)….and got distracted by an article about different sugars used in brewing beer.

  • Piloncilla…ever heard of it?

I have used sugars in my brews from the beginning but it has never been anything more than the usual corn sugar, brown sugar, or the once and never again molasses. I never realized the other sugars in the world that could be used for brewing. I also came across a Mexican sugar known as Piloncillo (Panela) that sounds absolutely awesome!

English: Brazilian panela from Rio Grande do N...

Brazilian panela. It is sold as a solid piece and it must be grated.

It apparently has an earth, smokey caramel-like flavor that is much more complex than the usual one-dimensional table sugar!  Cooks and chefs use this  in mole and in Mexican desserts and it comes in blocks or forms and can be chopped or shredded with a cheese grater. This stuff looks delicious and  is definitely something I would like to try in the future.

  • Belgian Candi Sugar

While researching or rather distracted (which ever you prefer), brewing sugars I came across a few discussions about making your own Belgian candi sugar. Belgians have used different sugars in their beers since LONG ago especially in the dubbels and triples. It is said that the candi sugar gives those beers a certain characteristic that can be only attained by using dark candi sugar.  This flavor is described as “stone fruit, raison,plum,dark caramel like” that a good dubbel should have. It is used to boost the ABV but it should add more flavor than just using straight up table sugar. I had no idea how simple it was to make! If you have made candy before than this is a breeze and you probably have a candy thermometer which has a higher temp range than the normal thermometer.

Light Candi Sugar.

In Belgium they use beet sugar which is pretty much identical, chemically,  to cane sugar. The don’t use beet sugar for any other reason than cost. Beet sugar is very cheap and plentiful. Here in the states, I can get 4 LBs of cane sugar at $2.00 USD on sale at the local food store. Talk about pretty cheap!! Cane sugar will work perfectly in making candi sugar. To make the candi sugar you must invert it chemically. You can do this by adding water, heat and a small amount of food grade acid. This will change the sucrose into a combination of fructose and glucose, which is 100% fermentable and considered a very basic sugar that the yeast can consume  easily. You are essentially breaking the sucrose  molecule down even more simply into the 2 building blocks…fructose and glucose. Inverted sugar is also said to taste sweeter than normal table sugar, which is why it is preferred by bakers as well as Belgian brewers. With my steps to make candi sugar, we will be caramelizing the sugar to give the candi added color and flavor. By the end you should have a candi that tastes like caramel and is amber/brown in color.

You will need:  

1 stainless steel pot (2 quarts)

1 – 1 1/2 LBS of cane sugar (this depends on how much you want to make)

clean water

food grade acid: (citric , lactic, lemon juice, cream of tartar)

shallow cooling pan with parchment paper or tin foil


  1. Add the sugar to the pot. Add just enough water to make a thick syrup. mix very well to incorporate all the sugar.
  2. Add medium – medium/low heat. The idea is to not scorch the sugar. Scorched sugar will be bitter and taste, well…burnt!Candi Sugar
  3. When the mixture gets warmer, add a pinch or two of citric acid.(I used citric acid as this is what I had on hand. You can find it at your local homebrew store. For those of you with OCD, measured out it was approx a 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid.) This is VERY important step…so don’t forget!
  4. You must maintain a steady temp of 260-270 F for the inverting process to work and this will also make the color darker the longer heat is applied at this temp.  As the mixture is boiled the water evaporates, which means the temp of the mixture goes up. To maintain this “temp window”, just add back small amounts of water to the mixture…JUST WATCH THE TEMPS! If you are holding out for a darker color, maintain this window of temp until the desired color is reached. Just don’t let it get over 270 F until you are happy with the color.
  5. Once it is ALMOST at the color you want, let the mixture heat to 300F and remove from the heat. As it ramps up to 300, it will continue to darken. When it reaches 300, pour the hot mixture into a cookie sheet or other cooling pan that is lined with tin foil ( that’s what I did), and allow to cool. When it cools it will be like a rock and can be broken with a kitchen mallet. The candi will store indefinitely, however keep it cold or it tends to stick together. (Imagine that…sticky candi sugar!)
Candi Sugar

Candi will harden as it cools.

Adding the candi to the  boil is very easy. You must break up the candi as it will not melt instantly in the boil. It can also easily fall to the bottom and scorch, so make sure you stir… and then stir some more! I made my addition with 30 mins left in the boil…(no real reason for that). I was told by my fellow brewers to add it to the very end to keep more of the flavor…which makes sense I guess. Just take it off of the heat and then add it to the pot. (remember your extract days?)

  • Recipe

Recipe: Abbey Ale

Brewer: Beaconhills Brewhouse

Style: Belgian Dubbel

Batch Size: 6.50 gal

Estimated OG: 1.070 SG

Estimated Color: 8.4 SRM

Estimated IBU: 20.5 IBU

Brewhouse Efficiency: 82.00 %

Boil Time: 90 Minutes



Amount        Item                                                           Type          % or IBU

10 lbs        Pilsner (Weyermann) (1.7 SRM)                Grain        69.20 %

2 lbs         Munich II (Weyermann) (9.0 SRM)             Grain        13.84 %

8.0 oz        Caramel Malt – 20L (Briess) (20.0 SRM)    Grain        3.46 %

8.0 oz        Crystal Light – 45L (Crisp) (45.0 SRM)        Grain        3.46 %

0.50 oz       Magnum [14.50 %]  (90 min)                     Hops         20.7 IBU

1.00 oz       Hallertauer [4.80 %]  (5 min)                                 (Aroma Hop)

1 lbs 7.2 oz  Candi Sugar, Amber (9.0 SRM)              Sugar           10.03 %

1 Vial        Belgian Saison II  (White Labs #WLP566)

Total Grain Weight: 13.00 lb

I used the Saison yeast mostly because I had a huge amount of it in jar from a previous batch: . It still has Belgian qualities and will still give the necessary phenolics customary with Belgian dubbels.  It ferments well and will dry out the beer even though I mashed at 154 F. The final gravity was 1.010. That’s nearly 85% attenuation! Pretty good!

The other key is to use a 90 min boil. I have found I get some extra caramelization with these long boils. Most of my recipes are using 90 min boils as of lately. Especially since I have been using German pils malt which should be boiled longer to drive off DMS – . I hate the taste of  Dimethyl sulfide and seem to have a low flavor threshold for it. German pils are notorious for putting out DMS with a short boil.

If you get a wild hair, try making your own candi sugar. It’s VERY easy if you just pay close attention to the temperature.Add it to a dubbel or better yet, an english bitter! Either way it adds a great flavor to your brew at a minimal cost and its pretty fun to make. Try it and see! Cheers!


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