I recently tried making some Belgian candi sugar according to the method described in Ryan Brews in preparation for brewing a strong, dark “quadrupel” type beer in the style of Westvleteren 12. A commercial product from Candi Syrup Inc. (CSI) is purportedly very good, but I didn’t see any magic to to prevent making it at home: some amino acids from the yeast nutrient, lime as a base to prevent scorching, and the Maillard reactions should proceed. Anyway I thought it would be a neat experiment.
In my first attempt at making the candi syrup I kept adding water as described in Ryan’s instructions, which in retrospect I think kept the sugar from darkening despite boiling for about 1 hour and 45 minutes. In the second attempt I let the syrup get much thicker and hotter, which resulted in a nice product. To make it easier to handle, I added some water at the end of the boil.
The D-180 syrup from CSI arrived today so I did a quick comparison. The CSI D-180 syrup bag (which has a nice screw top that got cut off in the photo) weighed a few tenths over 16 ounces by weight, so in view of the packaging and water content, it has less than a pound of sugar.
My syrup on the right is thinner with its added water while the D-180 on the left is very thick. After accounting for the thickness, I think the D-180 is still darker. This bears out in tasting: both had definite dark fruit flavor reminiscent of figs and dates, but the D-180 had a pronounced roasted, almost burnt, flavor, that my homebrew syrup lacked. I look forward to trying them both in the brew.