Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Caramel in 1885

That's right. Even more stuff from Southby. This time about that eternal favourite of British brewers: caramel.

"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 F 400° 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.

For the brewer who makes his own caramel, the best rule is always to under heat it. A partially made caramel, if it has been judiciously prepared by gradual heating, with constant stirring, will not cause any cloud in the beer, and as it yields the extract value of the sugar from which it was made, there is no loss to the brewer, even if he has to use double the quantity, as compared with the stronger caramels produced by the manufacturers of that article.

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.


mrbowenz said...

I have made my own "essentia bina" several times for both small batches and for 15-19bbls , the process is painstakingly difficult. The last few times making over an open fire , heating for almost 4 hours , then adding water and lime to keep liquified, the secret to the flavor is to set the whole thing on fire at the end for a few minutes to add a richness that has an almost peat like depth. ( dangerous too ) . I use it in 1800's porters and old ales.

Anonymous said...

by carefully and slowly heating it in a cast-iron pan to about 4000 F

Stone me, Ron, you'd have no cast iron pan left, let alone sugar.

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, I'd love to see you co-operate with Dave of Ironbridge on a Victorian mild, but I wonder if the 21st century public is ready for a mild made with all pale malt at 7 per cent abv?

Ron Pattinson said...

Zythophile, that's OCR software for you. Can't tell the diifference between a zero and a degree sign.

Adrian said...

Wow. 400 degrees? That's a very different syrup than what I was trying to make. The last few times I've slowly heated to about 250 and held it for about an hour. I also added a little diammonium phosphate and cream of tarter to enhance browning and keep the sugar inverted. Not sure if it worked as intended, but the resulting near-black (with ruby highlights) syrup had a very belgian-like taste and aroma of jammy fruit.

This porter syrup looks to be very different stuff. Every candy making guide I've read says DO NOT heat past 350. Hmm...

Adrian said...

Oh, and here is a second reference to black syrup made in a cast iron vessel:


"For the information of those, who may be totally unacquainted with the process of brewing porter, we shall add a short explanation of the manner in which the essentia Una and the colour are prepared. In order to procure the first of these ingredients, a quarter of a pound of moist sugar should be boiled in an iron vessel, till it attain to the consistence of a thick, black syrup, which is remarkably bitter.—The. colour is produced by boiling a similar quantity of moist sugar, till it acquire a taste between sweet and bitter: it imparts the fine mellow tint, that is so much admired in good porter. in preparing these two ingredients, however, it will be necessary to employ a small portion of pure, or of lime-water, to bring it to a proper temper;" because they will otherwise grow hard and dry, if suffered to stand till they become cold. The essence and colour, are added to the first wort, with which they are boiled, and constitute the basis of porter."

Kristen England said...


Having brewed nearly every recipe I write for the Lets Brew Wednesdays and 1909 book I can tell you that they are very popular. There is a lot of the cool hype b/c of recreating the past recipes but at the same time some of these are just damn good beers! Not to mention, people are always excited about beer when it gets over 6% alcohol.

The problem that I've found is that when I help UK and other European brewers with their own recipes they usually can't get a lot of the US stuff most of the recipes need. Mostly 6-row malt and Cluster hops. I've found the beers turn out drastically different without them. It takes a lot of experience with mixtures of other grains and hops to mimic what these ingredients lend if they can't be procured.

All in all, Im 100% sure these beers will do well in the general public. Notably, I have found that when brewers take liberties with the actual recipes the beer geeks get restless as they are not 'recreations' to the specific exactitudes their geekdom allows.

Anonymous said...

Blimey. Thats a lot of work and and a lot of trouble. I sold real ale for a living for a long while and still do a night or two a week, selling, mainly London Pride, Masterbrew and Speckled Hen.

Anonymous said...

Kristen, I'm not worried at all about the beer geeks, and I'd love to try such a recreation myself, it's the great mass of the pub-going public I fear wouldn't understand. They accepted Sarah Hughes's Ruby Mild because it fitted their expectations, albeit it was stronger than they probably though mild was: I do wonder if non-geeks would drink a strong pale beer presented to them as a mild. I'd like to hope they'd love it, but …

Adrian, OCR strikes again: "essentia Una" (sound like boiled-down Cliff Richard's ex-girlfriend) should, of course, be "essentia bina".

Anonymous said...

I first made burnt caramel abt 5 years ago, its very simple, i recommend a high sided vessel, eg stew pot!, use 1lb of normal sugar with minimum amount of water and high heat, stir at first until the sugar looks like a syrup,then stop stirring util the sugar starts changing into a brownie colour, then its stop stir, start stir until it goes black and keep stirring, you will notice the red ruby colour.......Thats it!!

Recommend: Wooden Spoon and safety gear, gogles and gloves.