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A selection of differently brewed beers, including (left to right) stout, porter, pale ales and lager.

Brewing sugar

06/06/2024 By Ibrahim Belo in Applications

Brewing sugar is a type of brewing adjunct that is 95% readily fermentable and produced specifically for use in the brewing industry to speed up the fermentation process and enhance the flavour and mouthfeel of the final beverage. Brewing sugar is also known as brewers sugar, and it can be sold in solid blocks.

In this article, we take a closer look at brewing sugar, what it is, how it is made, and how it is used in the fermentation process and brewing industry.

What is brewing sugar?

Brewing sugar is made from cane sugar that is fully inverted into a refiner’s syrup with cane molasses, a thick, bittersweet syrup derived from sugarcane. A dextrose seed crystal can also be added to turn the syrup into a solid block form. This is the traditional format of using brewing sugar, and some brewers find it helpful for ease of storage prior to use.

Though other types of commercially available sugar (sucrose) and glucose (dextrose and fructose) can be used to produce beverages like ales and stouts, brewing sugar speeds up the brewing process as it is readily fermentable compared to sucrose. If sucrose is used, the yeast must first breakdown the sugar into its constituent parts before fermentation can begin and the sugars turn into alcohol and carbon dioxide.  

Brewing sugar leaves a cleaner tasting product with a crisper, drier finish and a certain viscosity. It acts as a nitrogen dilutant, giving ales greater clarity and helps thin the mouthfeel compared to beers that are made from an all-malt mash. Brewing sugar does not make the final product sweet, so it is ideal to enhance flavour, texture and mouthfeel in drier styles without overpowering the other flavours.

Brewing sugar formulations can vary depending on the style of beer to be brewed. For example, an IPA would use No.1 (left), a Special No.2 (middle) and a Mild No. 3 (right).

Variations of brewing sugar can be produced depending on the style of beer, ale, lager, stout or porter that is being made. These variations differ in colour from light amber to dark brown and have a significant impact on the flavour of different styles of beer.

How is brewing sugar made?

Brewing sugar can be commercially available either in liquid or in a solid block form. In block form, the sugar is melted down in the wort at the brewery. When the solid block is broken down the appearance looks and tastes similar to chunks of toffee. Here, we will describe how these blocks are made.

First, cane sucrose is heated in an inversion pan with water until it dissolves. The sucrose is dissolved to a super saturation before hydrochloric acid is introduced to reduce the pH to between 1 and 1.6. When the temperature of the pan has settled at 70° for over two minutes, the sugar is fully dissolved in the water, leaving a syrup. This is achieved through the inversion of sucrose into glucose and fructose molecules. The syrup must then be polarised to -20 to reach the desired ratio of sucrose to glucose before it is neutralised with a natural alkaline agent that brings the pH to between 6 and 6.5.

Top: dextrose seed crystals are added to the inverted brewing syrup. Bottom: brewing syrup is decanted into the specially made packaging before the syrup sets hard into a solid block. A lighter-coloured sugar block is best suited to making lagers and IPAs.

Cane molasses is released from holding tanks and transferred into inversion pans, if required. This provides additional colour and flavour. The brewing sugar is then cooled, and dextrose seed crystals are added. Without this final step, the syrup would not form into solid blocks.

The thick syrup is then passed through a 2,000-micron filter and filled into 25kg plastic lined cartons. The cartons are held in block formers for at least five days, but often for longer to allow the sugar seed crystals to fully form into a solid block.

Where can I buy brewing sugar?

Ragus manufactures and supplies brewing sugar in block form directly to the brewing industry. This is supplied in bulk in pallet lots. Our brewing sugar is formulated to meet the specific needs of the brewing industry. For example, if a lighter brewing sugar is required for lagers or pale ales, we alter the concentration of cane molasses to create a brewing sugar that is amber in colour and mellow in flavour. This is ideal for beverages with a European Brewery Convention (EBC) value of 25 to 35.

If an amber-to-ruby ale is being made, we use a higher concentration of cane molasses, so the brewing sugar is darker in colour and stronger in flavour. This is ideal for beverages like amber ales that fall between 60 and 70 on the EBC colour scale.

For mild ales, stouts and porters, we increase the concentration of cane molasses further to give the brewing sugar a dark-brown colour and richer caramel flavour – approximately 130 EBC. This helps to enhance the final flavour, texture and mouthfeel of these darker, richer, fuller-bodied beverages. 

Brewing sugar is used to enhance the colour, mouthfeel and flavour of beers, and to speed up the fermentation process. Ragus manufactures and supplies a range of brewing sugars, adapting the formula to meet the specific requirements of the beer to be brewed.

Sugar’s role in the evolving brewing industry

The demand for lower calorie, restricted-sugar beverages is countered by a growing preference for natural sweeteners and clean label products, such as the pure sugar ingredients manufactured by Ragus. This means there is space in the market for high quality brewing sugar.

As brewing sugar can be formulated specifically to meet each brewer’s requirements and has unique characteristics that enhance fermentation, flavour and mouthfeel, it remains a vital adjunct for brewers and the wider drinks industry.  

Ragus manufactures a range of speciality pure sugar and syrup adjuncts for use in brewing applications. To learn more, contact our Customer Services Team. For more sugar news and updates, continue browsing SUGARTALK and follow Ragus on LinkedIn.    

Ibrahim Belo

With a primary responsibility for manufactured product quality control, Ibrahim works within our supplier chain, factory and production laboratory. He has a focus on continuous improvement, implementing and maintaining our technical and quality monitoring processes, ensuring standards and product specifications are met.

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