Saturday, February 26, 2011

Making Brewers Invert Syrup

After a few years of brewing with the invert syrup one finds at bakery supply stores (light, medium, and dark invert) I finally decided last week that it was high time I try and make my own. In the past, I have had good success with the commerical product in my English ales, though I was never really that impressed with the flavors the sugar contributed - and didn't have much hope for the homemade stuff. Aside, it is interesting to note that most historical English ales did use invert syrup for a sizable percentage of fermentables, often with the higher gravity ales featuring more syrup than the lower gravity ones; an all malt beer was not necessarily a more expensive, higher quality beer.

Anyways, after doing some reading on the topic and finding the necessary ingredients, I made my first batch of invert syrup this morning. The basic process, as so well outlined by this blog ( basically involves dissolving some form of demerara or turbinado cane sugar in boiling water, adding an acid to 'invert' the sugar, and reducing the solution at a set temperature until you achieve a syrup with the color and flavors you desire. It seemed easy enough and was, though my results were not exactly as I had hoped. I was originally aiming for a 75L, No.2  syrup but due to some problems I was only able to get a 15-25L, No.1 instead; part of my problem was that I over reduced too quickly and didn't realize I could continue to add water to maintain viscosity. The flavor of my invert syrup is fine, though it it extremely thick and sticky. Pouring this stuff is going to be a major PITA.

I plan on using this stuff in a batch of English bitter I will be brewing here shortly - and I will see how it compares to the beers I've made with the commerical product. In my experience, invert syrup is not entirely fermentable (like candi sugar) and will leave some residual sweetness and provide some fruity flavors in the finished beer. Here is the recipe I will be using to test my invert syrup. I changed to a simpler recipe as I want to see what character the syrup provides.

English Special Bitter

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 4.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 6.50
Anticipated OG: 1.045
Anticipated FG: 1.010
Anticipated SRM: 8.7
Anticipated IBU: 31.8
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

70.5% - 5.50 lbs. Pale Malt, Maris Otter
6.00% - 0.40 lbs. Crystal Malt 40L
11.3% - 0.75  lbs. No. 1 Invert Syrup

1.50 oz. East Kent Goldings  @ 60 min for 28.3 IBU
0.50 oz. East Kent Goldings  @ 10 min for 3.5 IBU
1.00 oz. East Kent Goldings  @ Flameout

Yeast: Wyeast Labs 1968 or 1318

Mash 152F for 75 min

If anyone is interested in making their own invert syrup, I highly recommend taking a look at the blog
posted above and at the wonderfully interesting for more technical information and history.


  1. Definitely follow up with tasting notes on the bitter! I'm actually going to test some homemade invert no. 2 in a very similar recipe but with a little less crystal, no amber and less hops. I'll also be using wy1318 for the first time on your advice. Thanks for documenting your experiences here!

  2. Certainly. As I said, I've been using the commercial stuff for a long a while now and there has always been something about the flavor that just doesn't seem right. Hopefully the homemade stuff will turn out really well. 1318 is a superb yeast - I'll be be using it in a batch of brown porter tomorrow.

  3. You shouldn't need to add water to keep the viscosity down - just keep reducing the heat until you hit the target color.

  4. When making homemade inverts, what has your experience been with consistency at room temp? I'm finding that mine solidifies significantly (not as hard as rock candy, though). Although, I have not used corn syrup, so I don't know if it's this, or the inversion has not been done properly.

    1. It does solidify quite a bit, but not so much it refuses to pour - sort of like a thick honey. I use a small amount of corn syrup and I honestly haven't noticed a difference between batches made with or without it. The syrup usually takes a minute or so in hot water before it flows smoothly from the jar.

  5. You did notice that the karo corn syrup pictured is vanilla flavored, right?

    I would just take 'priming sugar' and make a thick syrup of about the same consistency, and then you'd likewise have more consistency of results and something else to play with the ratio of.

    1. Ha ha. I was wondering if anyone would ever catch that. Good eye. The first batch I ever made, I did use that but no longer after I realized it was flavored. Probably wouldn't make much difference anyways at a tablespoon anyways.

  6. If it's too thick, you made candy not syrup. Try adding some nitrogen in the form of Wyeast Beer Nutrient and some slaked lime. That will brown the sugar nicely without making a bunch of turd sauce you can't pour. It also keeps those horrible burnt flavors from appearing.

    So use lactic acid or phosphoric to invert the sugar, then add nutrient, water and lime. Heat and monitor until color is reached.


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