“With the black and the white”: brewing the “sugar syrup”

   The process of making the wine begins with the preparation of the “sugar syrup”. They dissolve two types of sugar in water: the “black” (1/3) and the “white” (2/3), both derived from sugar cane’s juice cooking. This plant belongs to the genus Saccharum L., where six species are known: two pure and four hybrids. Much of the sugar produced in Brazil derives from the hybrid S. officinarum L. (Almeida et al., 1995). However, why do they use two kinds of sugar?

                                             The “black” sugar                                                                                                     The “White” sugar

  The “black” sugar is acquired directly from a local producer, brown in color actually, but they call it “black”. The white is also known as “cristal”, for its large and clear crystals, and is easily found in food shops and supermarkets. The first is the sugar closer to its natural state and the second undergoes controlled crystallization and clarification processes, which usually make use of lime and sulfur. Both have a high content of sucrose (about 90% in the brown sugar), but the content is little higher in the Crystal (about 99.5%) (Chemello, 2005; Cruz & Sarti, 2014). The black sugar contains higher amounts of calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, copper and phosphorus minerals and the vitamins B1, B2, B6, which levels decrease in crystal sugar due to the industrial purification process (Chemello, 2005).

   The syrup, an aqueous solution of sucrose, is prepared using aluminum pans or in a copper pan of around 40 liters of capacity, or using both depending on the amount of wine they will produce. They put the water to heat up in gas or wood stove and add the sugars. They mix them “with high attention to do not let it burble”, said Mrs. Ná, taking care to do not let it reach the boiling point. “The fire makes the sugar melt”, it helps to dissolve the sucrose. Mr. Zé claimed that this way “it melts more sugar”, it increases the water capacity to dissolve more amount of this solute.

   The solubility of sucrose in water increases significantly with temperature. At 68oF, for instance, the amount dissolved in 100 milliliters of water is 203.9 grams and 415.7 grams at 212° F. Sucrose is modified at higher temperatures. Between 338 and 374o F it turns to caramel, but this can also occur in lesser extent when moisture is present at temperatures below 212°F. Just below 338oF it starts the merging of sucrose, literally. If its aqueous solution keeps on heating, sucrose’s decomposition can also takes place in a minimum extent since 176oF (Browne, 1912, p. 649, 655-657). Although Mrs. Ná do not have this knowledge, let us remember what she said: “with high attention to do not let it burble”, to dissolve sucrose without its decomposition closer to the water boiling point.

   The receipt followed by them has a written observation regarding the syrup: “Do not let the syrup boils, must not put the wet hand and is not advised to put the ingredients in greasy containers”. We see here that the advice of not boiling the syrup is in the receipt. However, from what kind of knowledge did it come? How did they prescribe “do not let the syrup boils”? Did it come from scientific information or from observing problems in the wine making? Mr. Zé and Mrs. Ná recommend also that if a foam appears on the surface during the brewing of the syrup, it must be removed through a skimmer.

  Before the use of the solution containing sucrose dissolved in the wine making, the sugar syrup, they let it cools. According to Mr. Zé “the best is to prepare it a day before to be sure that it´ll be very cold”, as the temperature is an important factor for the growth, metabolism, viability and fermenting action of the microorganisms that will convert the sugar in ethanol (Lima et al., 2005). High temperatures affect their metabolism leading to decrease the ethanol tolerance and produce secondary metabolites such as glycerol (Oliveira, 1998 quoted in Souza, 2009).

   Then, the temperature is an important factor both to do not decompose the sugar as to maintain the microorganisms alive. Nevertheless, how who wrote the receipt determined it? In what it is based? As the procedure goes on, after the dissolution of the sugars the syrup is filtered through a cloth to separate impurities.

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Back to: A receipt from many cultures?


Almeida, M; Rochelle, L.A.; Crocomo, O. J. (1995). Chave analítica para determinação de dez variedades de cana-de-açúcar (Saccharum spp.). Scientia Agricola, 52 (1), 16 – 19. Disponível em: <http://www.agencia.cnptia.embrapa.br/recursos/canavariedadeID-GKZ4XmUZpu.pdf>. Último acesso: Jan, 27, 2015.

Browne, C.A. (1912) A Handbook of Sugar Analysis. 2. Ed. New York: Wiley & Sons.

Chemello, E. A. (2005). Química na cozinha apresenta: O açúcar. Revista Eletrônica ZOOM, n. 4. São Paulo: Editora Cia da Escola. Disponível em <http://www.quimica.net/emiliano/artigos/2005nov_qnc_sugar.pdf>. Último acesso: Jan, 27, 2015.

Cruz, S.H.; Sarti, D.A. (2014) A química do açúcar. <http://www.crq4.org.br/quimicaviva_acucar>. Last access in Nov. 27, 2014.

Lima, U.A.; Aquarone, E.; Borzani, W.; Schmidell, W. (2001). Biotecnologia Industrial. V. 3. São Paulo: Edgard Blücher.

Souza, C.S. (2009). Avaliação da Produção de Etanol em Temperaturas Elevadas por uma Linhagem de S. cerevisiae. Doctoral Dissertation (Doctorate in Biotecnology) – Programa de Pós-graduação Interunidades em Biotecnologia, USP/Instituto Butantan/IPT, São Paulo.

4 thoughts on ““With the black and the white”: brewing the “sugar syrup”

  1. henrique

    Achei super interessante esse sistema de fabricação de vinho de laranja, mas a quantidade de cada tipo do açucar preto e branco para cada litro do suco não consigo decifrar. Sera que vcs podem me fornecer estes dados.

    1. Paulo Pinheiro Post author

      Tal como diz na narrativa: “O processo de fazer o vinho envolve o preparo inicial do que denominam por calda de açúcar. Dissolvem dois tipos de açúcar em água: o “preto” (1/3) e o “branco” (2/3), ambos derivados do cozimento do caldo da cana de açúcar.


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