Know Your Ingredients: Sugar

Winemakers use sugar all the time, and I thought it would be a good idea to gather up what I know about sugar in one place, as I did for cranberries, honey, and chocolate.

Weight and volume of table sugar

For other ingredients, I’m usually very interested in composition. How much sugar in 100 g of blueberries or how much, and what kind, of acid in 100 g of bananas. Table sugar is a component, so weight and volume conversions are a lot more useful than knowing that its a disaccharide of glucose and fructose. So here’s how to convert pounds of table sugar to cups (or kilograms to liters) and back again:

Quantity of Sugar Equivilent
1 lb 2.25 cups
1 cup 0.44 lb
1 kg 1.183 liters
1 liter 0.85 kg

How to make a sugar syryp

It’s best to add sugar to wine or must by making a sugar syrup. In fact, it’s best to dissolve any solid additives in a little water before adding them to wine. It isn’t just that it’s a lot easier to fully incorporate the additive this way; it also keeps dissolved CO2 from quickly coming out of solution. Sanitizing is as easy as boiling & cooling (for small amounts use a pyrex measuring cup in a microwave oven).

You normally want to add only as much water as necessary, but how much is that? At room temperature, you can theoretically dissolve about 212 g/100 ml. That works out to a 1.122 lb/cup or about 2.5 cups sugar to 1 cup water (2.12 kg/liter which gives us the same ratio 2.5 liters of sugar to 1 liter water). That’s close to, but a bit more than, the standard recipe for a sugar syrup:

2 parts, by volume, of sugar to 1 part water will yield 2 parts of a 63º Brix solution (1.310 specific gravity)

Comparing sugar syrup to honey

You would combine sugar syrup and wine (or mead or must) the same way you would honey. In particular, you would use the same calculations to decide how much syrup or honey to add. You just need to know the specific gravity of each:

Syrup Specific Gravity
Honey @ 15% water 1.4350
Honey @ 18% water 1.4171
Sugar syrup 1.310

This is a post I should have written a long time ago. I don’t know about you, but I’ve looked up these details countless times – now we won’t have to.

Update 7/12/2010 – My own measurements

I measured the volume of sugar syrup made this way and it is very close to 2 parts.  I also wanted to measure the specific gravity. My hydrometer doesn’t go up that high, so I had to mix equal parts syrup and water. That weighed in at 1.160, which implies an SG for the syrup of 1.320 – very close to the predicted value.

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4 thoughts on “Know Your Ingredients: Sugar

  1. John

    Kudos, Erroll! Excellent post! Thank you so much for compiling all your sugar data for us. Very helpful! I will be visiting this page frequently. I already have it bookmarked… 🙂

  2. Medsen Fey

    Thank you Erroll!
    You’ve put together a beautifully concise and useful set conversions and instructions. It is sure to make life easier for all of us.

  3. Rodney

    I know I should keep a nice posted chart on the wall in my commerical winery but I dont. Having so many different things to remember in the lab..I found this simple for me when preparing large volume sweetening of wine tanks. This way I add less water to wine then just quessing when in a hurry. Thanks

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