Making Brewers Invert

Liquid Brewers Invert Sugars, the stuff legends and authentic British beers are made out of.

Why should you take the time to do this the Right Way ™?

  • No, cane sugar isn’t the same. Shup.
  • No, that rock @#$@# and candi (seriously with an “i”… you mean like strippers?) isn’t the same.
  • Jesus… I quote multiple homebrewing forum experts here: “You aren’t going to see any difference in taste.” and then “it adds nothing to a beer that plain cane sugar doesn’t.”
    • HORSE SHIT. There just happens to be an entire industry and 100+ years of brewing history because it is a fancy way to get sugar into a beer? Again, HORSE. SHIT.
  • If you need more convincing, read the great articles on Barclay Perkins

Ingredients:

  • Sugar in the Raw or other demerara cane suger
  • 1lb sugar to 1pt of h20
  • 1 tsp (5ml) liquid Lactic Acid @ 88% per 2.5lbs of sugar.
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl oz) light corn sugar per 2.5lbs. (helps prevent crystals)

Process:

  • Heat h20 to boiling
  • Heat off, slowly add sugar & dissolve – goes quicker than dumping and stirring
  • Add Lactic
  • Put on Medium-high heat, set candy thermometer alarm for 230F
    • reduce for your stove if you are heating more than 3F/minute
  • Stir occasionally until simmering starts.
  • Once @ 230F, set alarm for 240F, slowly reduce heat to keep temp stable
    • easiest is to slowly ramp temp up to 240F. There is so much thermal mass, that once you go over it is very tough to get the temp down.
  • As alarm goes off @ 240F, reduce heat to keep 240F. It is ok to hit 245F, but keep under 250F.
    • low & slow will prevent any burning and associated flavors

When Am I Done?

  • No1: 12-16 SRM, 25-35 EBC
    • minimum 20min @ 240F, but not much longer and don’t want color to darken much. Time is merely to let inversion complete.
  • No2: 30-35 SRM, 60-70 EBC
    • total of 90-120 min @ 240F
  • No3: 60-70 SRM, 120-140 EBC
    • total of 150-210 min @ 240F.

Times for No2/No3 are approximate!! – you want to take periodic color samples @ 10min intervals. Place samples on white porcelain, compare to EBC or SRM charts. Stop 2-3 SRM low, as it will darken a bit as it cools.

OR… The Dilution Method:

There are two ways you can go about this:

  • blending an invert syrup of white sugar and blackstrap. Take the X g of “White Sugar Invert”, make a syrup, then add the Y g of Blackstrap.
  • blending golden syrup and black strap.

Suggestions for brands of blackstrap:

  • Plantation Blackstrap Molasses (US)
  • Golden Barrel Blackstrap (US)
  • ‘Feed grade blackstrap’ (US)
  • Meridian organic blackstrap (UK)

Specific to the feed grade, it is MUCH cheaper than the others in a much higher volume. The lots vary much greater in this one b/c its specifically feed grade however, if you get 2 gal of it for $10, it will last you pretty much forever. It will also last, pretty much forever.

All amounts are in grams, with the total made from each line of 500g.

SyrupEBCWhite Sugar Invert (g)+Blackstrap (g)- OR -Golden Syrup (g)+Blackstrap (g)
Invert No 130495.005.00500.000.00
Invert No 265489.1710.83494.175.83
Invert No 3130478.3321.67483.3316.67
Black Invert350441.6758.33446.6753.33
Invert No 4600400.00100.00405.0095.00

Or, for the truly mathtarded, a fancy dilution calculator – also on the Calculators page.


Why the dilution method works well, quoting Kristen England:

  • “A mate of mine and I spent the better part of a month talking to very large producers of invert syrup to get the entire process and their thoughts on making it ourselves. Tons of great information that has solidified what we are doing at BP. Basically, the point was that you need to choose a very high quality blackstrap molasses. One that has a licorice character rather than bitter sugar. Once you choose your blackstrap, stick with the brand. Although there are fluctuations from batch to batch, there are much bigger differences between brands. A very simple blend with simple invert syrup is done on the specification of what number invert you are looking for. Its based on the color of the molasses but according to the invert syrup scientists, high quality blackstrap varies little compared to other molasses as to get the licorice character one needs to have a very similar practice. What we want to be able to do is make a reproducible product ourselves. I made each invert as specified and had them analysed. Invert #1, #2 and #3 were 26, 68 and 124EBC respectively.”

Storing:

  • Once you hit appropriate color, pour into color safe container and chill.
    • Pyrex + lids work well. Store in sanitized airtight container at room temp.
    • It helps to use a container that will sit well in hot water & pour from when it comes time to use it. Bonus points for resealable.
  • If it crystallizes, it didn’t fully invert.

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32 thoughts on “Making Brewers Invert

  1. Hey Nic,
    Thanks for doing the work on this. I am a bit of a lazy bugger sometimes and had started looking at making inverts but just didn’t follow through,I made Invert No.1 once but never tried the No.2 or 3, now I have no excuse.Thanks again.
    Are you going to send Wheeler a link?
    Thanks.
    Mike.

    • Bah. Wheeler. Bah! I’m quite sure my instructions are ‘unmakable’ and ‘hopelessly naive’. Bloody wanker…
      Making the No 2/No 3 is really just having a good candi thermometer with an alarm and having a long evening to kill. I tend to light the fireplace and start plowing through pints and a book or two. An entirely wonderful night, right up to the point when you fall over.

  2. A pressure cooker @ 10 psi will maintain 240F, and would seem to be an ideal way to maintain this temperature. I have a very large pressure cooker (22 quart) into which I can place a two gallon pot (I use this for a cereal mash for cooking corn or rice adjuncts). By putting the sugar solution in the two gallon pot and this into the cooker, I should be able to do the whole procedure and not even have to stir, and still completely avoid the danger of scorching. No need for a thermometer.

  3. Jeff – it’d be an interesting experiment. Since the water wouldn’t evaporate much, I am curious to see how that affects the pyrolysis of the sugars. I do think you would have to stir until the mixture was boiling. Without the convection currents of a boil, you risk scorching.

  4. There won’t be a danger of scorching since there will be no direct heat applied to the sugar solution, just 240F water@ 10 psi. The sugar solution will be in the two gallon pot which is sitting in water in the pressure cooker. It’s like a double boiler or a water bath. No convection currents, as you note. It will have to rely on heat conduction for the heat to penetrate the entire sugar syrup.

    A less dilute solution might be better since there will be no evaporation.

    I’m on a week’s vacation but will try this when I get back and report. I am planning on brewing some kind of historic Burton-type ale, perhaps the recent “Let’s Brew Wednesday” 1934 Kidd’s XXX.

    • I’m interested to hear how that works for you.

      FWIW – I recently did a batch of No 2 via the dilution method with molasses. Brilliant! Super easy and I like the flavors more – less a apple fruit bomb and more caramel and dark fruits.

  5. I made up some of this ten days ago with three pounds of demerara to use in 1928 Barclay Perkins KK Burton Ale http://barclayperkins.blogspot.com/2010/03/lets-brew-wednesday-1928-barclay.html .

    Since I didn’t have any unflavored corn syrup, I just used a 1/4 cup dextrose, but I doubt that this made much difference since the demerara (sucrose) split into dextrose and fructose anyway.

    I added a rounded tsp. lactic acid and 6 cups water and heated it. In retrospect, I think 5.5 cups would have been enough because it boiled at around 212F and I had to boil off a good bit of water before the temperature rose to 240F. I decided not to use the pressure cooker because I would have had to monitor the pressure and adjust the flame the whole time. Instead, once I reached 240F (it had darkened a bit by this point), I put the covered pot in a home convection oven at 240F (the oven it pretty accurate). I put the thermometer probe in the solution and ran the cable out so I could monitor the temperature.

    After 90 minutes it had risen to 242F, at which point I checked the color and decided to go another 30 minutes, and turned the oven down to 235F. After a total of 120 minutes, the temp had risen to 245F and the color looked pretty good, although I didn’t attempt to actually estimate the Lovibond or SRM.

    I put it in a sanitized 64 oz. mason jar (about 2/3 full) and as it cooled, the dome lid sealed. I figured this was sterile enough for the few days I kept it before brewing.

    I added the syrup just before I turned off the heat in the boil so as not to reduce my hop utilization by higher OG throughout the entire boil.

    I also added about 1/2 cup very home made dark burnt sugar caramel to the fermenter since I just can’t seem to find store-bought caramel. Tasted and smelled neat, this seemed a little burnt and bitter, but when diluted in water to about the color of Bass Ale, there was no detectable flavor or bitterness.

  6. Thanks for posting this article. I have been following Lets Brew Wednesday for a long time now, but I seemed to keep missing Kristen’s instructions for making Brewers Invert.

    Are you familiar with homemade Dulce Du Leche methods? One method is to boil a sealed can of sweetened condensed milk for several hours in a pot of water (or less time in a pressure cooker). I wonder could this method be used on sealed cans of Golden Syrup?

    http://www.ehow.com/how_5277258_make-de-leche-home-pictures.html

  7. I’m not familiar with that, but given the ease of making inverts via the dilution method, it seems a bit overkill.

  8. I have a question about the dilution method:

    To make this series of syrups, you call for a “white sugar invert syrup”; how is this made? Does one follow the procedure that you’ve outlined for making invert syrup, but stop sooner than the 25-35 EBC?

    Also, can you give an idea of what these syrups taste like? I’m planning on testing out a batch but I would like to know if I’m getting the first flavor profile.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Almost, the white invert syrup is just regular old cane sugar inverted for ~20 min at 240F. Then you add the molasses, boil to a break (~9-12min) and then cool.

      As for taste… they are all variants of fruity – lighter (apple, pear, honey) to darker (figs, raisins, plumbs) as the inverts go darker. There can also be some caramel flavors, but never burnt.

      Cheers!

  9. I have used Braer Rabbit, but it really isn’t dark enough. I’m still on the hunt for a perfect one. For now I’m adding ~30-50% extra until I get the proper color.

  10. Hi, just tried your recipe and it worked flawlessly, with only one hiccup: the invert never really darkened. I was careful to keep the temps at 240F and boiled for almost two hours. I’m not even sure I broke the threshold for Invert #1: the sugar is light copperish in a full mason jar and straw yellow on porcelain. My thermometer reads high, but it got me wondering: what is the logic behind keeping the temperatures so low ?

    Thanks !

  11. Question about making No’s 2 and 3 and SRM. A 30-35 SRM beer is practically black when poured in a pint glass. I doubt black invert would taste very good. How big of a sample are you putting on porcelain? A tablespoon? Is that what you compare to the BJCP color chart? Since I don’t have a printed version of the BJCP chart what angle should I have my laptop screen? Lol. Could be dark amber or dark brown almost black. I just feel lilke there is a huge margin for error.

    I guess anything darker than No. 1 would be a No. 2 so I’ll just shoot for that.

    I’m going to try making a No. 2 Invert for the Kidd’s XXX recipe from Ron & Kristen. I hope I’m close on my Invert.

  12. How ’bout the original recipe in metric, rather than lb (HOW IS THAT SHORT FOR A POUND?) and pt (WHY IS THERE MORE THAN ONE KIND OF PINT?)

    • sorry, pounds and pints is all you get – laziness trumps all. The conversions should be pretty easy.

    • Gus,

      Don’t be lazy!

      • 500g sugar to 500g water
      • 2ml 88% lactic acid per 1kg sugar
      • 1dl corn or golden syrup per 1kg sugar

      More importantly, Lb is latin for libra pondo. ‘Pound weight’. which was shortened to libra which was shortened to lb.

  13. After reading through the instructions on making invert I had a thought: Wouldn’t just adding the raw sugar to the wort invert during the boil? The process sounds similar – raw sugar, disolved in acidic liquid and boiled? Am I missing something? What flavor differences are there in beer made with invert vs same recipe with the raw sugar added at the start of the boil?

    • The raw sugar would partially invert during the boil, perhaps all the way. But only invert, it won’t get the same pyrolysis happening with that much liquid in the solution. So you’d cleave the sugar but not get any of the better flavors.

      • alright…point is, I’m lazy. I tried the golden syrup + blackstrap and wasn’t happy with the results but who knows how old the golden syrup was. clearly it is not a big seller as it was in a dusty old container with a sun faded label. Is there a way to replicate the taste of invert with typical homebrew ingredients? Can we add sugar to the boil and achieve the better flavours through specialty grains?

        • I’ve never seen anything come close, hence all the fuss about putting up good instructions for making it. And seriously… the clear invert + add molasses takes all of 30 minutes. You can do that waiting for water to heat or during the mash. Just sayin’.

          • So i finally got around to making this. I used 1lb of turbinado in 1pt of water and a 1/4tsp of citric acid (couldn’t find any lactic). It took 20 minutes to hit 240F and then I let it go another 20 minutes…it briefly hit 255F on min heat. It is really thick and black when its in the jar. Much darker than golden syrup. I ended with 16.8 oz and about .5pt at the end. The direction weren’t clear on how much to boil off…maybe I boiled off too much or maybe i scorched it? …also, I’ve seen clear invert syrup that you can buy…is that the same as white sugar invert? Can i use that for the dilution with black strap?

  14. If I wanted to make invert no3 from golden syrup and black strap can I just add both towards then end of the boil? Do they need to be brought to a boil and mixed well separately first?

    • You can do whatever you want…. but that won’t be making no3 and then adding it to a beer. It’ll change the chemistry and the flavors.

      • Thanks, was asking mostly for clarification for the instructions for that method. Wasn’t sure if you had to boil the golden syrup with the molasses.
        Thanks

  15. I don’t have any lactic acid on hand, but I have plenty of phosphoric (85%). How much less acid would I need to use when substituting lactic for phosphoric?

    • For those of you who “aren’t too technical here”… Well both are polyprotic acids. the pKa for H3PO4 (phos) is about 2 and the lactic is, lactic acid is about 4. So, thats two logs = removed. However, that doesn’t mean its 100x stronger.

      H3P04 is a stronger acid. I’d use less but I haven’t measured it. I don’t really use it that often as I want to really keep phosphates out of my beer and watershed. Lactic acid is much nicer.

      So, save the planet and order some lactic from our friends at Northern Brewer

  16. I’ve made a few batches using turbinado and I was wondering about how much I should boil it down. The first batch I boiled 1lb of sugar and 1pt of water down to a thick syrup that weighed only 16.25 oz (hence almost all the liquid was boiled off). The second batch I needed 14oz for the recipe, so I started with 14oz of turbinado. At the end I didn’t boil off as much and had 19oz of syrup but added all of it to the brew. Is this a better way to do it? What is the water content of the commercial invert?

  17. I tried the boiling method for making number 3 yesterday. The time estimates are way low for hitting 60-70 SRM.

    In my session, I heated the mixture until I hit 240F, had to boil off a fair amount of the initial water. After maintaining it in the 240-245 range on the cooktop for a half hour I decided to simplify and placed the covered pot (with the remote thermometer probe inserted) in the oven set for ~250. After two hours in the over the mixture climbed from 239 to 244, removing the pot to check the color caused the temp to drop back to around 239. Placed back in the over and after a total of 4 hours in the oven it was at 248F. After all that time the color was in the 25-30 SRM range.

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