All sugar is made by first extracting sugar juice from sugar beet or sugar cane plants, and from there, many types of sugar can be produced. Through slight adjustments in the process of cleaning, crystallizing and drying the sugar and varying the level of molasses, different sugar varieties are possible. Sugar of varying crystal sizes produce unique functional characteristics that make the sugar suitable for different foods and beverages. Sugar color is primarily determined by the amount of molasses remaining on or added to the crystals, giving pleasurable favors and altering moisture. Heating sugar also changes the color and favor (yum, caramel!). Some types of sugar are used only by the food industry and are not available in the supermarket.
Sugars? Sugar? Added Sugars? Sweeteners?
Understanding exactly what the differences are can be confusing and even a little bit frustrating, especially when there are a lot of inconsistencies in how these terms are used.
Sugars: Sugars is a term referring to a broad category of all mono- and disaccharides: the simplest carbohydrates. Monosaccharides include glucose, galactose and fructose, and disaccharides include sucrose, lactose, maltose and trehalose. Sugars can be naturally occurring (e.g., found in fruits, vegetables, dairy products and nuts); they can be extracted from plants and dairy and added to foods; or they can be made using various plant or dairy ingredients as a starting point.
Sugar: Sugar refers only to sucrose, a disaccharide, made up of two sugars (glucose and fructose) bound together, that is naturally made and found in all green plants. Sugar found in the food supply is harvested from sugar beets and sugar cane.
Added Sugars: Added sugars refers to a category that includes a variety of caloric sweeteners, including sugar and many others sweeteners that are classified as sugars. Added sugars do not include non- and low-calorie sweeteners. The term “added sugars” was defined by the FDA in 2016 as sugars that are: n added during the processing of foods, or are packaged as such; free, mono- and disaccharides; sugars from syrups and honey; and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices that are in excess of what would be expected from the same volume of 100% fruit or vegetable juice of the same type.
Other Sweeteners: On ingredient lists you’ll often find other sweeteners, sometimes in combination with sugar for both favor and functional reasons. These other sweeteners can be caloric, low-caloric or non-caloric. The sweetness and functionality of other sweeteners varies from product to product, so when it comes to ingredient substitution or product reformulation, sugar can’t simply be replaced by another single ingredient. Some examples are: Brown Rice Syrup; Coconut Sugar; Corn Syrup; Dextrose; Sorbitol; Saccharin; High-fructose Corn Syrup; Stevia; Honey; Maltodextrin; and Maple Syrup.
Simplicity is the lightest of the Belgian candi syrups. With a Lovibond rating of 1, Simplicity can be used to increase alcohol content and lighten the color and body of beers. However, it will also contribute a subtle flavor to beers. Flavor contributions are very faint, but are present in the form of light honey and citrus notes. This syrup can be used in saisons, golden ales, and pales, as well as higher-gravity Belgian styles such as Saisons, Dubbels, Triples, and Golden Ale’s.
A decadent Belgian style Candi Syrup that will contribute rich caramel flavors, followed by subtle fruit notes on the back palate. The color can best be described as being rich and translucent 24 karat gold. Made with beet sugar and water. 5 degrees Lovibond with a PPG of 1.032. Golden Candi Syrup is ideal for Belgian Golden Ale’s, Tripels, Bier de Garde, Saison, Belgian Blonde, and all lighter Belgian Ale’s.
D-45 Belgian candi syrup will add fermentable sugars without greatly increasing body. However, it will contribute rich toasted notes to any beer that it is used in. Flavors of toast, honey, caramel and vanilla have been detected in this syrup. While it is often used in Belgian beers such as dubbels and trippels, it can also be used in any non-Belgian styles. Exceedingly good in Brown Ales or medium Golden Ale’s that require an aromatic nose and subtle light toasted caramel flavor.
D-90 is darker than D-45, and will similarly add fermentable sugars to beers without greatly increasing body. However, flavor and color contributions will be more pronounced, with darker colors and different flavors. Stone fruits, medium toast, chocolate, coffee and dark caramel flavors are often found in beers made with D-90. The perfect syrup for use in many Belgian style ales, dubbels, trippels, quads, and any Belgian dark strong ales.
Commercial Example: URKontinent | Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
D-180 is a premium extra dark Belgian Candi Syrup. D-180 is the basis for delicious dark high gravity Ale’s like Westvleteren 12, Rochefort 10, and many others. D-180, it contributes a very dark color to beers, as well as intense flavors of dark stone fruits, dark chocolate, anise, caramel and deeply-toasted bread. Used by brewers who dabble in Belgian dark strong ales, it is perfect for dubbels and quads, and may be used in many styles where a deep color and flavor profile are desired.
Commercial Examples: Brother Dewey’s Date Night | College Street Brewhouse
The Premium D-240 XX Dark Candi Syrup is a extra dark Belgian Candi Syrup that is 100% fermentable, and is the richest and darkest candi syrup available on the market. Created to have a rich smooth palate, D-240 is a triple-dark syrup with hints of dark raisin, extra dark stone fruit and a roasted dark caramel back-palate. It is crafted for brewers to produce ales that require full body with a rich smooth palate.
Agave Syrup is an alternative sweetener, often used in place of sugar. It comes from the agave plant that is native to South Africa and Mexico It is 1.5 times sweeter than sugar and is more viscous than honey. The aroma is similar to that of molasses. Agave nectar comes in several varieties: raw, dark, amber, and light. In general, the amber and dark will have more flavor than the light.
Soft Candi Sugars can be preferred over candi syrups for their ease of storage and boil addition. White or Blanc is a white Belgian Soft Candi Sugar ideal for Tripels, Saison and Bière de Garde or anywhere increased gravity or a drier finish is required. Blanc Candi sugar is pure beet sugar. See end of list for White and Dark Candi Sugar Information.
Commercial Example: Santé 15! | Brasserie Fantôme
Dark brown sugar is unrefined or partially refined sugar containing residual molasses (4.5% to 6.5%) that significantly contributes caramel and molasses flavor. There’s more molasses in Dark Brown than Light/Golden, so it has a more pronounced caramel flavor and more moist texture, therefore it tends to frequently clump.
Light brown sugar is cane or beet sugar that has been boiled and crystalized with some of the molasses extracted during processing. Richer than white sugars but still light, light brown or golden sugars have subtle undertones of caramel. They add moisture and color along with rich sweetness. Used it to make Scottish and Irish Ales, Strong Ales and Barleywine, and Specialty Beers.
Commercial Example: Raison D’Etre | Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Brun Foncé is a highly flavorful Dark Soft Belgian Candi Sugar. It contributes notable dark fruit and subtle caramel flavors and is used in Belgian beers to impart a wonderfully soft and well-rounded flavor. A by-product of the rock candi and candi syrup making processes, soft sugar is made up of tiny crystals of beet sugar that have been removed from the syrup by way of a centrifuge. This candi sugar used by the famous Rochefort brewery in Belgium.
Brun Léger is a Belgian soft candi sugar used in Belgian beers to impart a wonderfully soft and well-rounded flavor. This is the same candi sugar used by the famous Rochefort brewery in Belgium. Brun Léger is a Belgian Soft Sugar used to contribute distinguishable toasted toffee and caramel flavors. It is light brown and has a rich flavor. These crystals have a more intense flavor than the traditional sugar rocks American brewers use.
Cane sugar, derived from the sugar cane plant, is pressed to extract the cane juice, then evaporation produces concentrated crystals that retain some color and molasses flavor. Most commercial sugars are cane sugar, whether they’re white or brown. Typically used in brewing to provide a sweetening agent similar to light brown sugar, turbinado sugar and other specialty sugars that retain more molasses.
Commercial Examples: Goliat | To Øl
Caramel syrups are sold in Europe, giving brewers a variety of choices not available in the United States. Many American brewers use dark candi (rocks) as a substitute, but while the darkest provide a rummy, unrefined character, they don’t come close to replicating the caramelized flavors found in darker Belgian ales. Caramel is usually added in brewing as a flavor and/or coloring agent. For example, many milds and sweet stouts contain caramel for both flavor and color.
Coconut sugar is also called coconut palm sugar, is often confused with palm sugar, which is similar but made from a different type of palm tree. Coconut sugar comes from the sap of the coconut palm tree — not the coconuts. Harvesters tap coconut palm sap by cutting into the tree’s flower-bud stem to access its nectar. Producers mix the sap with water, boil it into a syrup, and allow it to dry and crystallize. Afterward, they break the dried sap apart to create sugar granules that resemble regular table or cane sugar.
Corn syrup is, simply, the starch from corn that has been broken down into nearly pure dextrose. The inclusion of corn syrup in beer does not make a difference in nutrition or taste. While it sounds similar to high fructose corn syrup—a sweetener commonly added to sodas and flavored beverages—corn syrup itself is a clear, sweet liquid derived from corn starch that contains glucose. When it is added to the beer brewing process, corn syrup will eaten by yeast, turning the sugars into alcohol
Dark Belgian Candi Sugar is a refined sugar from beets and is completely fermentable. Dark Candi Sugar helps to maintain the high alcohol content of Belgian Ales without making them overly malty or sweet. This sugar adds additional color and flavor. Dark Candi sugar is typically used in Dubbels and Belgian Brown Ales, but it is also used to enhance many other dark beer styles. Also used as a priming sugar, to aid in bottle-conditioning, and carbonation.
Date Syrup is a naturally derived vegan sweetener used in the food and beverage manufacturing industry. Date syrup is a viscous, dark brown liquid with a molasses-like consistency, produced by heat-extraction of dried organic dates. It has become a popular alternative for those who require vegan ingredients for their formulations. Dates will quickly boost the alcohol level of a beer along with rich, dark fruit flavor, but add little aroma or acidity. The sap may also be cooked into jaggery sugar.
Dextrose, a.k.a. corn sugar or priming sugar (all terms are interchangeable) is the classic sugar used in priming beer and gives consistent carbonation without greatly affecting flavor. Dextrose tends to lighten body and dry out beers, so it can be used to up alcohol content in lighter-colored beer styles such as cream ales, pale ales and IPAs without adding to body or mouthfeel. Glucose and Dextrose are biochemically identical.
Sometimes called fruit sugar, fructose is a common monosaccharide, naturally occurring sugar found primarily in fruits (such as apples, dates, figs, pears and prunes), also in vegetables (such as artichokes, asparagus, mushrooms, onions and red peppers), honey, sugar beets and sugar cane. Pure fructose is produced commercially from corn or sucrose into a crystalline form. Although fructose is in high fructose corn syrup (a 55:45 mixture of the monosaccharides fructose and glucose), crystalline fructose should not be confused with high fructose corn syrup.
Commercial Example: Selezione Bio | Mastri Birrai Umbri
Invert sugar is a liquid sweetener made from granulated table sugar and water. Invert sugar is created via hydrolysis, a process in which sucrose is mixed with water and heated until the bonds between glucose and fructose break. Enzymes or acidic ingredients like citric acid or cream of tartar can be added to expedite the process. The result is a thick, sweet syrup comprised of half glucose and half fructose. The presence of free fructose in invert sugar gives it a much sweeter flavor compared with regular table sugar.
Jaggery made from sugar cane juice or palm sap, is commonly used across the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Jaggery can taste similar to fresh cane juice, maple syrup, caramel, or molasses, depending on its contents. The unrefined natural sweetener comes in various shades, including light amber, golden brown, and dark brown. Jaggery goes by many names: gur, gud, and vellam. Palm jaggery, made from palm sap of trees like the date palm and the toddy palm, is less sweet than sugar cane jaggery.
Lactose is a non-fermentable milk sugar that is perhaps best known to brewers as the source of sweetness in sweet stouts, such as milk stout or cream stout. It can be used in varying amounts to give different levels of sweetness to beer, and may be included in recipes where more sweetness is desired. Because it is a non-fermentable sugar, it can also be used to add sweetness back to ciders that have fermented to dryness.
Lyle’s Black Treacle is made from cane molasses, inverted sugar, and Golden Syrup. It is a dark and intensely sweet syrup. A classic baking additive in England, it is usually used in dark moist cakes, toffees, and Christmas puddings. And it has brewing applications. With a lovibond of 100, it is usually used in dark English ales (like an Old Ale) and sometimes in stouts and porters.
Lyle’s Golden Syrup is liquid inverted sugar, and it is a staple in English homes. It has a pale golden color and an incredibly rich, warm, yet mellow, sweetness. In England, it is used in a wide range of baked desserts, as well as a topping. It is also used in beers, especially English and Belgian ales. Its lovibond is technically 0, so it has no impact on overall color. It will increase the alcohol with a subtle effect on the flavor.
Maltodextrin is a non-fermentable polysaccharide used in a wide range of food products. In beer making, it is used to add body and mouthfeel to the beer without greatly increasing its sweetness. Because it is non-fermentable, it can be used to increase specific gravity. It also goes wonderfully in root beer and other sodas to give more body and character. Maltodextrin is often derived from corn in the U.S., though it can be derived from many different starches, including wheat. Maltodextrin is so highly processed that most of the protein is removed, rendering it essentially gluten-free.
Maltose is a type of sugar, and maltodextrin is a thickener, flavor enhancer, or filler that can be derived from a variety of starches from vegetables, fruits and grains including corn, potato, rice, and wheat. Maltose can be used as a replacement for high-fructose corn syrup. Maltose is made through a process known as “enzymatic hydrolysis” using water and enzymes to break down starch derived from various food sources. When maltose is derived from barley malt it is considered gluten-free because the malt has been processed to remove gluten.
Maple syrup is made from the sap from maple trees, which is traditionally harvested by installing a metal tap into the tree’s trunk. Modern sap harvesting typically involves a system of plastic tubing and vacuums to collect the sap from multiple trees to a central location where it can be refined into syrup. This is a seasonal process though, as maple sap can only be harvested in specific weather conditions. Maple sap, as it comes from the tree is a clear, slightly sweet liquid before it is refined. The sugar content ranges from one to four percent.
Commercial Examples: Pangaea | Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Grande Negro Voodoo Papi (Aged in Laird’s Apple Brandy Barrels) | Voodoo Brewing Co.; Mexican Cake | Westbrook Brewing Co.; Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout (2016) | Goose Island Beer Co.
Molasses (Black Treacle in English) is the dark, sweet, syrupy byproduct from sugarcane and sugar beets left after the sugar has been removed from the juice. This process is repeated several times, and each time a different type of molasses is produced. The most commonly sold molasses is light molasses, which comes from the first boiling and is lighter in flavor and color. Dark molasses comes from a second boiling and is darker, thicker, and less sweet. The third and final extraction yields blackstrap molasses, a heavy, viscous, dark-coloured product.
Barbados sugar, more commonly called Muscovado sugar or merely raw sugar is a type of minimally processed sugar that is a dark brown in color and made by the crystallization of dark syrups (similar to Demerara-style). Crystals are slightly coarser and stickier in texture than regular brown sugar. Produced at an early stage of the refining process where not all plant pigments and flavors are removed. Color ranges from light to dark brown and has a strong molasses taste. Like typical brown sugar, it is much more moist than granulated white sugar.
Many Tiki-inspired drinks—such as Mai Tai, Kona swizzle, or Rum punch—typically come from one major ingredient: orgeat. Originally made from grain—from the French word orge, meaning barley—orgeat syrup is now most traditionally made from a combination of almonds and orange flower water. This nonalcoholic sweetener is typically made one of two ways: either steeping finely chopped nuts in a simple syrup, or making a syrup by adding sugar directly to a prepared nut milk that is then cooked low and slow. It’s a little viscous and a light beige to golden in color (depending on the blend of nuts used).
Palm sugar (also known as arenga sugar) is harvested from the sap of the sugar palm tree (also called a date palm tree). The palm sugar that you get in the US is usually blended with cane sugar, this is because pure palm sugar is difficult to find. Palm Sugar is made by boiling the sap collected from palm flowers until it is reduced to sugar crystals. It is referred to as an unrefined sugar because it undergoes minimal processing and no chemicals are involved. The sugar can be made from a variety of palm trees, including palmyra, date, toddy, and nipa, sugar.
Commercial Examples: Banko Palm Sugar Ale- Olympia Coffee Collaboration | Three Magnets Brewing Co.; Cane and Ebel | Two Brothers Brewing Co
Pearl sugar, also called nib sugar, is a type of specialty sugar popular in Europe. Sugar crystals are compressed together to form larger sugar pieces that will not dissolve into baked goods. There are two types of pearl sugar: Swedish Pearl Sugar and Belgian Pearl Sugar. Swedish pearl sugar is smaller in size and used mainly for topping and garnishing baked goods. Belgian pearl sugar is larger in size and can tolerate higher heat. These chunks of sugar are the key ingredient in traditional Belgian Liège waffles.
Commercial Examples: Resolution Break | Trillium Brewing Co.;
Piloncillo is a raw form of pure cane sugar that is commonly used in Mexican cooking and is referred to as Mexican brown sugar. This type of sugar has not been processed, leaving it with a golden brown color and a deliciously rich flavor similar to molasses, although it does not have any molasses in it. Piloncillo, also known as panela, panocha, and Rapadou, is made by boiling down cane juice into a thick, crystalline syrup. It is then poured into cone-shaped molds where it is left to harden. The name piloncillo means “pylon” for its conical shape. It has an earthiness to it that has hints of both bitter and sweet.
Commercial Examples: Imperial Stout (w/ Piloncillo) | Tombstone Brewing Co.; Smoked Piloncillo Stout | Ensenada Brewing Co.; Monsters’ Park Aged In Bourbon Barrels W/ Cinnamon, Cocoa Nibs, Coconut & Piloncillo | Modern Times Beer
Rice syrup solids are derived from rice syrup, and are basically the powdered form of rice sugars. They are often used to add fermentables to beers where a lighter color and body are desired. Used in low amounts, rice syrup solids will not greatly affect the final flavor profile of a beer, but will dry the beer out and increase alcohol content. They are often used in light lagers, such as American and Japanese lagers, but can also be used in a vast array of beer styles. Use in an extract recipe where flaked rice would be used in an all-grain recipe.
Made from 100% white sorghum grain, this gluten-free syrup provides proteins and amino acids necessary for yeast nutrition, head retention and body along with color and flavor. Gluten Free! 100% concentrated wort made from the unmalted grain of the white sorghum plant (not the cane). Sorghum Syrup was developed to produce gluten-free beers since it mimics the performance of liquid malt extract. It provides all the necessary proteins and amino acids for proper yeast nutrition, head retention, and body as well as adding color and flavor.
Sugar beets are a root crop, and they flourish in cooler climates where the soil is rich and the growing season is about five months long. They’re much larger than the beets you might see in the produce section of the grocery store or the ones grown in backyard gardens, weighing a whopping 3–5 pounds when harvested. Sugar beet farms can be found in California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming. Beet sugar brands include: Crystal Sugar, Holly Sugar, Western Sugar, Big Chief Sugar, Pioneer Sugar, White Satin, and Spreckels Sugar.
Table sugar, also called white sugar, granulated sugar or regular sugar (sucrose), is made either of beet sugar or cane sugar, that has undergone a refining process and is typically extracted from sugar cane plants or sugar beets. The sugar manufacturing process begins with washing the sugar cane or beets, slicing them, and soaking them in hot water, which allows their sugary juice to be extracted. The juice is then filtered and turned into a syrup that’s further processed into sugar crystals that are washed, dried, cooled, and packaged into the table sugar found on supermarket shelves
Turbinado sugar is also known as Demerara Sugar or Raw Sugar. Turbinado sugar differs from more common sugars because it comes from the first pressing of sugar cane and therefore retains more of the plant’s flavor and natural molasses. The syrup that’s released from this pressing is boiled to form crystals, which are then spun to separate them from any remaining liquid. These crystals are coarser, darker, and more well-rounded in flavor than granulated or brown sugar because they’re less processed. This slightly rich, molasses flavor is what makes this option so appealing .
White, Blond or Clear Candi sugar, is a soft-crystal sucrose, made from beet and cane sugars. Clear Candi Sugar is a fully fermentable sugar that adds a slight residual sugar, a certain crispness, and a higher alcohol percentage without adding additional color or strong flavors. Typically used to boost the gravity of Belgian beers, especially Trippels, and other beers without adding residual sweetness
Commercial Examples: Stille Nacht | Brouwerij De Dolle Brouwers; Santé 15!| Brasserie Fantôme; Mine Is Bigger Than Yours: Port & Bourbon Barrel Aged | To Øl