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General Category => Ingredients => Topic started by: erockrph on August 30, 2015, 07:00:30 PM

Title: Brewer's caramel
Post by: erockrph on August 30, 2015, 07:00:30 PM
I have a couple of bottles of Brewer's Caramel en route from the other side of the pond. I've been wanting to play around with it for a while. Of course, I really have no clue how to use the stuff. Outside of Ron Pattinson's vintage recipes, I can't say I've come across any recipes calling for it. I've always assumed you add it to the boil, although the site I bought it from says to add it to finished beer.

I'm thinking I'd just take a basic brown ale or ESB recipe and go from there. If I can use this post-boil, even better. That way I can split a batch 2 or 3 ways to see what happens with increasing amounts of caramel vs none.

Anyone have any insights or experience as to how I'd use it?
Title: Re: Brewer's caramel
Post by: Phil_M on August 31, 2015, 12:13:23 PM
No experience here, but be sure and post whatever you learn. I plan on trying to brew a Lee's Best Mild sometime soon, already bought some invert sugar for it.

I was planning on skipping the caramel colorant, but depending on how well it works out for you may change my mind.
Title: Re: Brewer's caramel
Post by: stpug on September 01, 2015, 01:48:26 AM
I'm interested in a synopsis of the raw stuff. I followed the recipes for homemade invert #2 and brewers caramel. I believe my invert was a complete success, but the caramel has me worried. Everything I can find indicates that the raw ingredient has a "burnt sugar" smell to it and bitter/acrid flavor to it, but this isn't from a homebrewing source. I'd love to hear your thoughts when you have some in-hand.

The brewers caramel I made definitely has some of the "burnt sugar" aromas and bitter taste, BUT that's exactly what it is (the blackest you can make sugar without lighting it on fire :D). I can't imagine any way to make "black ink" sugar using heat and not end up with some highly-cooked/burnt sugar character.  Anyway, I tested some of mine in plain water and at 1/8tsp per 12oz you cannot get much (if anything from it) and I get a nice light amber color. At 1/4tsp per 12oz you get some aroma hints of toasted marshmallows, not much flavor but a hint, and the dark amber color I'm looking for. I intend on using it at the middle amount 3/16tsp per 12oz (~3 Tbsp per 5 gallons), and subbing in 1-1.5 oz of debittered black for the remaining color.
Title: Re: Brewer's caramel
Post by: erockrph on September 01, 2015, 07:14:39 PM
I'm interested in a synopsis of the raw stuff. I followed the recipes for homemade invert #2 and brewers caramel. I believe my invert was a complete success, but the caramel has me worried. Everything I can find indicates that the raw ingredient has a "burnt sugar" smell to it and bitter/acrid flavor to it, but this isn't from a homebrewing source. I'd love to hear your thoughts when you have some in-hand.

The brewers caramel I made definitely has some of the "burnt sugar" aromas and bitter taste, BUT that's exactly what it is (the blackest you can make sugar without lighting it on fire :D). I can't imagine any way to make "black ink" sugar using heat and not end up with some highly-cooked/burnt sugar character.  Anyway, I tested some of mine in plain water and at 1/8tsp per 12oz you cannot get much (if anything from it) and I get a nice light amber color. At 1/4tsp per 12oz you get some aroma hints of toasted marshmallows, not much flavor but a hint, and the dark amber color I'm looking for. I intend on using it at the middle amount 3/16tsp per 12oz (~3 Tbsp per 5 gallons), and subbing in 1-1.5 oz of debittered black for the remaining color.
Thanks for the info. that should come in handy for a starting point for my initial experimentation.
Title: Re: Brewer's caramel
Post by: erockrph on September 02, 2015, 06:09:38 PM
FYI - I just got this in today. It is 33,000 EBC (~16,500 SRM), making it about 4 times as dark as Sinamar. The bottle states that 6mL will raise 100 liters (~26 gallons) by 2 EBC. In other words, my two 250mL bottles are approximately a lifetime supply.

I will probably be using insulin syringes to dose this stuff in bottles at first. It smells good, just like I'd picture burnt caramel would smell. The smell definitely calls to mind certain English ales (Old Peculier, for one). I might have to buy a sixer of Bass to do some initial taste-testing soon rather than waiting until I can make time to brew a full test batch.
Title: Re: Brewer's caramel
Post by: stpug on September 02, 2015, 08:16:29 PM
Does that mean it would take ~16ml to raise 5 gallons ~27srm? Or did I screw up my math? Maybe it's double the amount: ~31ml to get ~27srm in 5gallons?

Also, where exactly did you order it from? :D
Title: Re: Brewer's caramel
Post by: Stevie on September 02, 2015, 08:56:32 PM
 Not that I doubt you, but I can't believe it is darker than sinamar. That stuff like ink
Title: Re: Brewer's caramel
Post by: erockrph on September 03, 2015, 01:32:56 AM
Not that I doubt you, but I can't believe it is darker than sinamar. That stuff like ink
I thought the same thing, but when I saw the insanely high EBC rating and how little you need to color a full hectoliter, I checked the Sinamar specs to compare. The caramel is indeed 4 times darker. What is yet to be determined is the flavor contribution at that level.
Title: Re: Brewer's caramel
Post by: erockrph on September 03, 2015, 01:41:38 AM
Does that mean it would take ~16ml to raise 5 gallons ~27srm? Or did I screw up my math? Maybe it's double the amount: ~31ml to get ~27srm in 5gallons?

Also, where exactly did you order it from? :D
2 EBC is roughly equal to 1 SRM. It takes just over a mL of the stuff to raise 5 gallons by 1 SRM.

I got it from here: https://www.hopandgrape.co.uk/brupaks-brewers-caramel.html

Service was great - I got it in just over a week from the UK. But shipping was what really cost me. It was something like 18 pounds to ship two bottles, which only cost 8.50 pounds for the items themselves. It was certainly pricey to acquire. It was a totally random impulse buy, but I've been wanting to try this out for a while so I decided to just go for it.
Title: Re: Brewer's caramel
Post by: stpug on September 03, 2015, 02:02:35 AM
Thanks. I look forward to your testing results with it in either Bass or an actual batch.
Title: Re: Brewer's caramel
Post by: erockrph on September 03, 2015, 03:03:25 AM
My insulin syringe plan quickly went out the door once i realized that the needle is too fine to draw this stuff up. I also learned that it just drops to the bottom of your beer, rather than dispersing when added. I still did my best to try to mix some in and ended up with a sample that is maybe 5 SRM darker than the original Bass (it went from deep golden-copper to amber/red). I just have no idea exactly how much caramel went in to make this color.

What I've learned so far is that this seems quite flavor neutral, at least at this amount. I only pick up a touch more sweetness on the finish in the doctored beer, but I'm pretty sure that's just because I ended up knocking out quite a bit of carbonation in trying to mix in the caramel. I didn't pick up any more caramel or acrid/burnt notes in the caramel beer.

Next time around I'll try to kick this up to porter-level darkness and see what happens.
Title: Re: Brewer's caramel
Post by: Phil_M on September 03, 2015, 07:11:03 AM
I'm guessing the difficulty mixing it means that adding it during the boil would work best.
Title: Re: Brewer's caramel
Post by: BrewingRover on September 03, 2015, 11:41:30 AM
As I understand it, this is primarily used to adjust color post boil. I've heard that Fullers use it to get the colo(u)r right on London Pride
Title: Re: Brewer's caramel
Post by: erockrph on September 03, 2015, 03:23:59 PM
I'm guessing the difficulty mixing it means that adding it during the boil would work best.
It tends to drop to the bottom like honey, but it is nowhere near as viscous. It mixes in fairly easily, but it doesn't disperse into the beer without some mixing. It would certainly work in the boil if you know how much you need, but you could easily dose it in a keg or bottling bucket as well.

As far as adding in the glass goes, I think you'd want to add it to the glass first and pour over it, or mix it into a small amount of beer first then add it to your glass.
Title: Re: Brewer's caramel
Post by: erockrph on September 04, 2015, 03:22:10 AM
For tonight's experiment I added 1/4 tsp to about a tablespoon of Bass, swirled until it was pretty much blended in, then poured the rest of the beer on it. The result is an inky black brew. It may well take less than an mL to turn a 12oz beer from a Pale Ale to a Porter in appearance.

At this level, I taste a faint bit of caramel flavor in the middle that gets dried out by the gypsum note in the finish. Otherwise, there's no additional sweetness or acrid/burnt notes. So far, this seems like a great color adjuster with minimal flavor impact. I have some pilsners in the fridge, so I think I'll try turning one into a Schwarzbier over the weekend to see if there is a noticeable flavor impact in a lager.
Title: Re: Brewer's caramel
Post by: erockrph on September 06, 2015, 04:43:40 AM
One more quick update for those of you following along at home. I finally rustled up a 1cc oral syringe and was able to do some measured dilutions and dosing with this. I mixed up a 20% dilution with water, which was enough to get this to disperse evenly when dropped into a beer. I poured a can of Pivo Pils and added my diluted caramel solution 0.5mL at a time, which is the equivalent of 0.1mL of undiluted caramel. Unfortunately, I couldn't take any pictures.

Here are my results, converted back to the amount of undiluted caramel to get said result:

0.0 mL - Plain old Pivo Pils, light gold in color
0.1 mL - Deeper gold, Maibock-esque
0.2 mL - light orange/amber, typical Märzen color
0.3 mL - reddish brown, could pass for a fairly light Dunkel or brown ale
0.4 mL -0.6 mL - deeper shades of brown, Dunkel range
0.8 mL - 1.2 mL - deep brown/mahogany/cola - Schwarzbier range

I stopped at 1.2 mL, which is black at a distance but still shows through brown under close inspection in the light. I honestly can't pick up any difference in flavor. And clarity doesn't seem to be affected significantly either.

Verdict - a nice substitute for Sinamar or Midnight Wheat as a color adjustment. I haven't priced it out, but I can't imagine that this is worth paying to ship it in from the UK. I think it is quite flavor neutral, so those that pick up some flavor that they don't want from dark grains or Sinamar may consider this as an option. I certainly wouldn't complain if this started to be made available in the US for homebrewers.

In the meantime, I am rather enjoying my Pivo Schwarzbier...
Title: Re: Brewer's caramel
Post by: stpug on September 07, 2015, 09:58:23 PM
Thanks for keeping us posted on your trials with brewers caramel. This is all very interesting to me since I've just started playing a little with some. I've just brewed a strong mild/ale using my homemade brewers caramel and based on your color descriptions I would say my wort probably landed in the 0.4-0.6ml color range, which extrapolated out to about 5 gallons would use about 25mL. I used about 45mL to get there so mine is not nearly as dark as commercial stuff, but it seemed to work pretty well without much (if any) noticeable flavor/aroma contribution at the amount I used. I guess the real test will be when it's done, kegged, and serving :D

Thanks again for posting your insights on using this stuff. It seems to be the best accounting for it's usage, contribution, and dosing at the homebrew scale I've been able to find.

Cheers!
Title: Re: Brewer's caramel
Post by: erockrph on September 08, 2015, 01:02:09 AM
Thanks for keeping us posted on your trials with brewers caramel. This is all very interesting to me since I've just started playing a little with some. I've just brewed a strong mild/ale using my homemade brewers caramel and based on your color descriptions I would say my wort probably landed in the 0.4-0.6ml color range, which extrapolated out to about 5 gallons would use about 25mL. I used about 45mL to get there so mine is not nearly as dark as commercial stuff, but it seemed to work pretty well without much (if any) noticeable flavor/aroma contribution at the amount I used. I guess the real test will be when it's done, kegged, and serving :D

Thanks again for posting your insights on using this stuff. It seems to be the best accounting for it's usage, contribution, and dosing at the homebrew scale I've been able to find.

Cheers!
Glad it's appreciated! I figure if I'm experimenting with something that I can't find a lot of info on myself, then I should probably share my results for others in the same boat :)
Title: Re: Brewer's caramel
Post by: raf on January 22, 2021, 07:13:05 PM
A little late to this party, but I finally had the opportunity to use this Brupaks caramel and wanted to share my experience.

I'll second what Eric said. This stuff is viscous, and I mean really viscous. The instructions on the bottle say that it can be added during the boil, in the fermenter, or at racking. I opted for the latter. I had planned to measure 6 mL into a graduated cylinder and then stir it into my priming solution (this was for a bottle-conditioned English IPA), but that went out the window when most of the caramel just clung to the cylinder. So I got out the spoons and measured and stirred in 1.25 tsp instead. So far so good.

I can corroborate that this amount will darken a five-gallon batch by around 5 SRM (just using the eyeball test, of course).

I couldn't detect any flavor from it in my diluted sample, but I'll see how the finished beer turns out after conditioning.

The caramel diluted pretty easily when I stirred it into my hot priming solution. I think that if I were planning to keg, I'd just add it to the boil. Not sure how I'd go about trying to add it to the fermenter or keg, as it really just does sink to the bottom in sort of a loosely bound mass.