If you’re a Starbucks junkie like much of the known world, you’re probably familiar with the coffee shop’s brown sugar syrup. It’s one of their most beloved sweeteners, and people are always trying to get their hands on the recipe because of its delicious, unique taste. But can you really make it at home?
Here’s how to make brown sugar syrup to go with your coffee:
- Add water and brown sugar to a medium saucepan on low heat.
- Stir slowly until the mixture simmers and the sugar melts.
- Add a dash of salt, continue to stir for 10-15 seconds more.
- Remove from heat; allow to cool completely.
- Transfer the syrup to a jar and store it in the refrigerator.
- Try flavor enhancers such as ginger, butter, or nutmeg.
In this article, I’ll tell you exactly how to make brown sugar syrup, give you a few variations on the standard recipe, and I’ll provide you with a copycat recipe for Starbucks’ brown sugar syrup.
How To Make Brown Sugar Syrup From Scratch
The good news is that brown sugar syrup is really as easy to make as it sounds. All you need is brown sugar and water, and sometimes a dash of salt.
Some people will use light brown sugar for a more subtle flavor, but I prefer to use dark brown sugar because I like the richer flavor. Plus, I think it tastes more like the Starbucks’ original.
Let’s go over a simplified version of the Starbucks syrup that you can make at home in less than 10 minutes.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 2 cups (474 g) Water
- 2 cups (440 g) Dark Brown Sugar
- A dash of Sea Salt
1. Add Water and Brown Sugar to a Medium Saucepan on Low Heat
Start by adding the sugar to the pot and then pouring the water around the edges. This will prevent any of the sugar from burning on the sides of the pot.
A heavy-bottomed saucepan will work best to distribute the heat better, but any tall pot with a handle will do.
I like to keep the heat low, but feel free to turn it to medium-low to speed things up if you’re in a rush.
2. Stir Slowly Until the Mixture Simmers and the Sugar Melts
Let the water seep into the brown sugar until it looks nice and dark. Then, once the water begins to simmer, using a spatula, start stirring to help the sugar dissolve.
Move the spatula gently so you don’t splash any sugar up the side of the pot and keep mixing until you can no longer see sugar crystals in the water.
3. Add a Dash of Salt, Continue To Stir for 10–15 Seconds More
Sea salt is the next option for this, but regular table salt will do. For this small amount, a pinch or ¼ teaspoon will be more than enough.
Once you’ve added the salt, keep stirring to ensure that it dissolves too.
Salt is optional, but since this is brown sugar syrup, it has a very caramel-like flavor, which pairs well with salt in most cases.
4. Remove From Heat; Allow To Cool Completely
Once you’re sure the sugar and salt have both dissolved fully, remove the pan from the heat, but leave the syrup inside to cool. This could take as long as an hour.
Alternatively, pour the syrup into a heatproof bowl or pitcher to help it cool faster. Always use oven mitts for this and pour away from your body.
When pouring, don’t use a spatula to scrape the sides as there may be sugar crystals present that will get into the syrup.
5. Transfer the Syrup to a Jar and Store It in the Refrigerator
Once the mix is completely cool, transfer it into a jar or glass container.
This Glass Syrup Bottle with Vented Stainless Steel Pourer from Amazon.com would be a great choice. Being clear, you can easily see what’s inside, and the vented spout makes pouring easy and mess-free.
The syrup should last in the fridge for a solid two weeks. Though since it’s so easy to make, I would recommend making small batches more often to ensure it’s as good as it can be.
6. Try Flavor Enhancers Such As Ginger, Butter, or Nutmeg
If you want to enhance your brown sugar syrup, why not try adding some flavor to the mix?
Each of these should be mixed in right at the beginning so the flavors can infuse into the syrup. However, if you’re using something that won’t dissolve, such as cardamom or fresh ginger, you will need to strain the mix before pouring it into the glass container.
Below is a handful of tasty ingredients that will boost the flavor of your brown sugar syrup:
- Vanilla paste (or vanilla bean)
- Sea Salt
- Lemon (or lime) zest
- Lemon juice
- Berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, etc.)
You can add just about any herb or fruit. Most of them taste pretty good in simple syrups, although some taste better with granulated sugar instead of brown sugar.
Rosewater is one of those, but it doesn’t taste terrible with brown sugar either.
What Is Brown Sugar Syrup Made Of?
Brown sugar syrup is made up of equal parts brown sugar and water, heated and stirred together to create a thick, sticky, and smooth liquid. The more sugar you add, the thicker the syrup will become.
Melting sugar and water together is the generic recipe for any type of homemade syrup: one part water to one part sugar (or honey).
For brown sugar syrup, you’ll specifically use brown sugar. So the only real question you need to ask yourself is whether you want to use light brown sugar or dark brown sugar.
The difference between the two is the concentration of molasses in each, which affects the taste.
Light brown sugar is about 3.5% molasses, whereas dark brown sugar is about 6.5% molasses.
As a result, light brown sugar has a more delicate flavor closer to that of white sugar. On the other hand, dark brown sugar has an almost toffee-like taste (some people say caramel).
Therefore, if you want your brown sugar syrup to have a more caramel/toffee flavor, use dark brown sugar. If you want a lighter, less intense flavor, use light brown sugar.
Variations of Brown Sugar Syrups
While the syrup base is usually the same, many variations of brown sugar syrup contain different ingredients depending on who’s making it and what additional ingredients they use to enhance the flavor.
Let’s take a look at Starbucks’ brown sugar syrup as an example.
What Is in the Brown Sugar Syrup at Starbucks?
If you could take a look at a bottle of Starbucks’ brown sugar syrup (which is nearly impossible since Starbucks employees on Reddit claim it isn’t one they’re allowed to sell), you’d see the ingredients in it are as follows:
- Invert sugar, such as Celebakes Invert Sugar from Amazon.com
- Brown sugar
- Natural flavor
- Potassium sorbate
When I recreated this recipe at home, I simplify it down to three of those ingredients:
- Brown sugar
Note: I tried adding the invert sugar for a more authentic recipe, but I always got closer to the actual taste without it. I’m not sure if I was getting the ratio wrong or if it was something else, but I finally decided to give up on using it.
How Do You Liquify Brown Sugar?
The first few times I tried to melt brown sugar, all I succeeded in doing was scorching it and turning it into a big, black, crusty mess in the bottom of my pan.
Everything I read online telling me how to do it ended in the same, crusty catastrophe.
Then I finally ran across this article on Mashed.com. It’s got some beneficial tips on working with brown sugar, which has a different make-up to regular white sugar thanks to the molasses.
It all boils down to the following:
To liquify brown sugar, start by slowly mixing it with water over low heat on the stove. It needs low heat because it’s more prone to burning. If that method doesn’t work, you can heat it in the microwave with a separate bowl of water to prevent the sugar from burning or solidifying.
Liquifying Brown Sugar in a Microwave
When heating in the microwave, the trick is to use separate bowls to keep the sugar moist enough so that it won’t burn.
Follow these steps to get it just right:
- Fill one bowl with sugar and the other with water.
- Microwave both at the same time for 30 seconds.
- Remove the sugar and stir it.
- Then replace it and microwave them both again for another 30 seconds.
- Keep repeating this process until the sugar has reached the desired melted consistency.
Also, don’t forget to check your bowl of water. If it starts getting low, refill it. Otherwise, you could ruin your sugar just as effectively as I ruined mine during all those failed attempts on the stove.
Once the sugar reaches the state you need, use a fork to whip it up a little (much like mashed potatoes or Stove Top stuffing).
How Do You Store Brown Sugar Syrup?
Storing brown sugar syrup isn’t tricky at all. However, unlike maple syrup or corn syrup, you don’t want to keep it in the pantry or at room temperature.
Store brown sugar syrup by pouring the mixture into a clean glass jar after it has completely cooled. Secure the lid and place the jar in the refrigerator. The brown sugar syrup should last for at least two weeks, possibly a little longer.
Simple brown sugar syrup is probably one of the easiest things you’ll ever make. Unless you want to add some salt or a few other ingredients, you only need two things: water and brown sugar.
You don’t even have to remember some complicated ratio of ingredients. For example, however much water you add, use the same amount of brown sugar. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.
Best of all, you’ll never have to scour the internet searching for a black market bottle of Starbucks brown sugar syrup again. Won’t that be nice?
I wrote another article on other alternatives to sweeten your coffee if you are keen.