Belgian Candi Sugar Vs. Table Sugar – For Beer

January 18, 2012

2012, General posting

What is the big difference between Belgian Candi Sugar and sugar cane from the store?  I mean it’s sugar right?  Well there are some differences, and at the end of this I hope to bring some clarification to this discussion.  Also I hope not to ruffle to many feathers on this discussion.   But at the end the real question is can you use table  sugar to replace Belgian Candi sugar?  Before we get there, lets get the background set so you can explain this to friends/family.   That is my goal, clarify to the point where you can explain.  Lets begin!

The first main difference between the sugar which you buy in the store and the sugar which is named, “Belgian candi sugar” is where it comes from (Captain obvious is here).  I’m not referring to the country, but rather the product of it.

Belgian candi sugar comes from beets while the sugar which you buy in the store comes from sugar cane.  Now this isn’t profound really, but Belgians just get their sugar from beets in general, and in general we get ours from sugar canes.  The reason is the climate I believe.  Other places around the world get there’s from maple, dates, etc.  It’s whatever is available.

If you were to claim that you could taste the difference between the two sugars in a taste test I would say you have amazing taste buds.  Most people can’t tell the difference if it isn’t told which is which.  Beet sugar and cane sugar taste almost identical.

The manufacturing of these two products are also about the same, as far as the process goes.  So what is the real difference then?  The biggest difference between the two is what they are.  Let me explain…

Belgian candi sugar is fructose and glucose while sugar which you buy in the store (table sugar) is  sucrose.   Belgian candi sugar has been inverted (they split the sucrose into fructose and glucose).  So you may be asking, “And that means what to me?”.

This is where the difference lies, it is easy for yeast to digest fructose and glucose but it is harder for yeast to digest  sucrose.  In order to digest sucrose, yeast need to take an additional step.  That additional step is they create an enzyme to help break down the sucrose into fructose and glucose.   I’ll just leave it at that.  If you are really curious about the biology and want to learn more about the enzyme Google, “invertase enzyme”.  I’m hoping you are still picking up what I am throwing down, because in my mind this is where it gets interesting.

Now people claim, and I will put a strong emphasis on the word claim, that when yeast create this enzyme it will leave a cider flavor to their beer.   I don’t believe this, haven’t had this problem – ever.

This is an old myth that needs to be debunked.  In fact I would go as far as to say, people will tell you this myth blindly because they have taken someone’s word for it on a forum or where ever they heard it.  They are wrong. Very, very – wrong.

Sucrose is a disaccharide made of fructose and glucose (inverted sugar is broken down into fructose and glucose)  and there are 2 ways that I know of on how to break it down so yeast can eat it with ease.

  1. You can break down sucrose with an enzyme (discussed earlier)
  2. You can break down sucrose with acid and heat

Hmmm, that’s odd.  So if your wort is acidic (which it usually is about 5.2 in pH) and it’s boiling (boiling = heat) then it should break down the sucrose so you will have a lack of this off flavor…

I mean you can keep buying the Belgian Candi Sugar, and we’ll keep selling it but just trying to save you a buck where you can save one.

(The look of a homebrewer after he realizes how much money has been spent on unnecessary Belgian Candi sugar)

Now I can understand why you wouldn’t bottle with regular sugar and you use corn sugar instead.  But that was never the argument.  The argument was why you should feel the need to buy Belgian candi sugar for $7-$9 instead of going to the grocery store and getting regular sugar.  Other homebrewer’s have been telling you a lie that’s why!  I’m just half-joking.  Some people don’t know, others have been told wrong information.  We’re here to try to help ya out that’s all.

Lets say you just wanted to make a hell of a lot of Belgian candi sugar so you are good for a while.  Well this is the way to do it.  This is what I do for making 1 lb of Belgian Candi sugar. And you can make it light, dark, or amber using this method.


  • Take 2 cups of water and desired sugar (1 lb)
  • Put in sauce pan
  • Add 1-2 teaspoons of lemon juice (it has citric acid in it or use citric acid if you got it)
  • Bring to boil and start stirring
  • Around 275 degrees it will turn yellow, if not add a bit more lemon juice
  • If you want light Belgian candi sugar stop here once it turns yellow
  • Next color it will change to is red (amber Belgian candi sugar)
  • Next color is brown (dark candi sugar)
  • Keep adding water to keep it at a good consistency – thick
  • Stop once your color has been reached
  • I would not boil past 300 degrees
  • Once you get the desired color you take the pan of sugar-water, throw it on some wax paper and let it cool.
  • It will harden
  • Break up and then store it for future uses

You might want to practice a few times in order to get your method perfected.  It normally takes between 25-35min.  I do suggest try making it before you need it so you’re not scrambling.

Hope it helps.  Also hope it doesn’t ruffle to many homebrewing feathers.  Leave your comments below.



Related Post

Corn Sugar Vs DME

Answer Guide For 5 Base Malts

Emergency Kit  


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15 Comments on “Belgian Candi Sugar Vs. Table Sugar – For Beer”

  1. sheldon Says:

    great explanation. thanks


  2. JP Says:

    When you say “add 1 – 2 spoons of lemon juice or citric acid…” what specific pH are you aiming for? Otherwise it seems kind of random and not very sciency?


    • Jay's Brewing Says:

      Hi Jp, Thank you for your comment. According to the information aggregated in Wikipedia, heat alone would actually invert the sugar. However, the research points to adding acids at a rate of one gram (Citric Acid) to one kilogram sugar, for the purpose of expediting the process. Without extraneous amounts of additional research, I’m unaware of a desired pH for inverting sugars. Another option describes the use of “hydrochloric-acid catalyzed solutions”. Using these commercially prepared products one is able to invert sugars at lower temperatures, at an optimum pH is 2.5..

      Hope that helps,



      • Steve Dunham Says:

        Wow, will try this inverted sugar recipe for next Belgium Triple. On the boil time, once my desired color is reached, do you keep boiling to thicken the liquid, or just pan and cool it? For my 1st test, I reached the ‘yellow’ color after only 1 minute of boiling. Thus my question above. Thank you Jay!

      • Jay's Brewing Says:

        Hello Steve, Thank you for your comment. When it comes to inverted sugar typically once you have reached the desired color you stop the cooking process. This of course will cause the sugar to become solid again. Although just keep in mind that water can be added back to the mix to make it more liquid. Hopefully this helps thanks again Steve.


    In This case you have caramel
    To produce Candy sugar you need produce a Maillard reaction adding DAP



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