"Caramel, also commonly known as burnt sugar or colouring, constitutes one of the best materials for increasing the colour of ales, and a proportion of it may be used with advantage in black beers, especially when a brown head is required. For ales it is, I think, a better colouring than black malt, as it gives both a better colour and a pleasanter flavour than the latter, and if properly prepared it can be added to the finished beer, which is often a great convenience.
Caramel is easily prepared from any sugar, by carefully and slowly heating it in a cast-iron pan to about
4000 F400° F and maintaining that temperature for a short time. It is then allowed to cool to about 230° F, and water is added, very slowly and cautiously at first, to prevent boiling over. Enough water must be added to convert it into a syrup, which can then be used as required.
Care must be taken that the temperature does not at any time exceed 420°, as immediately above that point the sugar gives off torrents of inflammable vapours, and is rapidly and entirely carbonised, so that there is not only the certainity of destroying it, but also serious risk of its bursting into flames.
For black beers intended for immediate consumption, a cheap caramel may be made by heating some of the lower qualities of cane sugar; but for ales, sugars of good quality must be used, and if the ales are required to keep for any length of time, the sugar should have been previously refined.
No beet sugar should be employed. A thoroughly converted glucose has been successfully caramalised, but is not generally so economical a material as cane sugar. If glucose is used, it should be a quality containing very little dextrine.
In making caramel great care must be taken in the heating, for if the sugar is over-heated, or the heating is continued for too long a time, a more or less insoluble modification is produced. The difficulty is to heat the sugar enough to obtain the fullest amount of colour, without producing more or less of the. insoluble modifications. There are several varieties of these caramels produced by overheating; some of them are quite insoluble, and remain as a brown deposit when the caramel syrup is drawn off from the pan, they are therefore absolutely lost, and useless to the brewer, but are not actively detrimental.
There is, however, another modification which is very troublesome and injurious. This latter caramel dissolves in the strong syrup, and gives great apparent depth of colour, but when some of the syrup is added to an ale, a cloudiness quickly makes its appearance, which for the time entirely destroys the brilliancy of the beer, and is by no means easily got rid of. The cloud produced by this caramel generally deposits after a time, but of course leaves the beer paler by several shades than it was intended to be.
It seems to me very extraordinary that so few brewers put up the pan with suitable stirrers, which is the whole plant required for making caramel. The expense of the apparatus is comparatively small, and the profit is so large that the brewer can recover the whole cost of the plant in a few months. Those brewers who make and use caramel largely, find it so profitable that they jealously guard the secret, lest their trade rivals should adopt the manufacture, and hence perhaps the reason that so little is known of it in the trade.
There are several manufacturers of caramel for sale, who offer the brewer a first-rate article, and I may here mention the caramel crystals, and powder, manufactured by Lichtenstein & Co., which is a very concentrated form of first-rate quality, and perfectly reliable as far as my experience goes. The only drawback to the use of these first-class caramels is their somewhat high price, so that it does not pay the brewer to use them, except occasionally and in small quantities. In fact, owing to the peculiar properties of this material, the brewer can always make it far cheaper than he can buy it. On the other hand a great deal of the caramel commonly sold clouds the beer, and has other objectionable properties. A short time ago I made a careful series of experiments, on the manufacture of caramel on a considerable scale, so that I can speak confidently on the practical aspects of this subject." (Source: Source: "A systematic handbook of practical brewing", by E.R. Southby, 1885, pages 256-259.)
This is great. I'm getting material for my book, educating myself and producing multiple posts. God bless you, Mr. Southby.