Fall is here, so let’s add a little extra depth of flavor to all of those autumn drinks with brown sugar simple syrup! Whether you’ve made simple syrups before, or you’re a syrup recipe newbie wanting to figure out how to recreate that delicious Starbucks brown sugar syrup at home, you’re in the right place.
What is simple syrup?
Simple syrup is the liquid that’s created when you combine equal parts sugar and water. It really is that simple (and easy!) “Simple” refers to the ratio of ingredients – one part sugar and one part water.
Other syrups can be made with varying ratios of sugar to liquid, such as rich simple syrup. Rich simple syrup is the same idea, but instead you use double the amount of sugar. A mix of two parts brown sugar to one part water will make rich brown sugar syrup.
If you’re wondering why there are varying ratios of ingredients for syrup making, it’s because each type of syrup serves a slightly different purpose. Simple syrup is quite runny and has a predictable, not-to-overpowering degree of sweetness, making it the easiest to incorporate into recipes of all kinds.
Rich simple syrup, on the other hand, is much thicker, has a different, richer mouthfeel, and it also will stay fresh longer. Other syrups, like those that incorporate fruit, herbs, or spices, may need more or less sugar or water. This is because of the length of time it takes to extract flavors while heating the syrup, or because of the varying levels of sweetness of the other ingredients involved (like fruit or juices).
You don’t need to boil simple syrup
If you’re wondering what tools you’ll need or how much time it takes to make brown sugar syrup, you might be surprised to learn that you really don’t need much at all!
Simple syrups are best made with little or no heat. This is because heating a syrup leads to the evaporation of water, which will reduce the liquid and make the syrup sweeter and thicker. And when you’re looking for a reliable amount of sweetness, you want to avoid cooking off the water that keeps simple syrup at just the right degree of sweet.
In general, I don’t recommend cooking simple syrups on the stovetop. I find that the best (and also quickest and easiest) method for making it is to simply add warm or hot water to the sugar and stir until combined.
Unless you’re making a very large quantity, this is the easiest way to whip up a batch of syrup. Believe it or not, you can also just use room temperature water. Sugar dissolves quite easily in water, even if it’s not heated. It may take just a little while longer, but sure enough, it will become syrup.
Some like to boil their simple syrups to help them last longer. Boiling the water can eliminate some of the nasties that could cause the syrup to become cloudy, moldy, or otherwise off. However, boiling a liquid does not completely prevent spoilage for the long term. So while it may last a little bit longer, boiling does not make a syrup shelf stable.
What is brown sugar and what makes it different?
Brown sugar is a type of sweetener that is made from granulated white sugar that has had molasses added back into it. The molasses gives brown sugar its distinctive brown color and also adds a slightly caramel-like flavor and moist texture.
White sugar, on the other hand, is made from refined sugar cane or sugar beets that have been processed to remove all traces of molasses and other impurities. This results in a pure, white crystalline sugar that makes it versatile and easy to use in a wide range of recipes.
The main differences between brown sugar and white sugar is flavor and texture. Brown sugar has a richer, more complex flavor than white sugar due to the presence of molasses. It also has a slightly moist texture (which can make it ideal for certain types of baking). White sugar has a more neutral flavor and a dry texture that makes it more versatile.
Brown sugar vs. turbinado vs. demerara sugar
Brown sugar, turbinado sugar, and demerara sugar are all types of partially refined or unrefined sugars that have a distinct flavor and texture compared to white sugar.
Like we discussed above, brown sugar is made by adding molasses back into refined white sugar. It has a moist texture and a rich, caramel-like flavor.
Turbinado sugar is partially refined sugar that is made by spinning raw sugar cane juice in a centrifuge to remove some of the molasses and impurities. It has a light brown color and a crunchy texture due to its large, coarse crystals. Turbinado sugar has a delicate, molasses-like flavor and is most commonly used as a topping for baked goods or in coffee and tea.
Demerara sugar is a type of partially refined sugar that is made from the first pressing of sugar cane. It has a light brown color and a crunchy texture similar to turbinado sugar. Demerara sugar has a rich, caramel-like flavor and more depth of flavor than brown sugar or turbinado sugar. Learn more about demerara sugar in my Demerara Simple Syrup Recipe!
How to make brown sugar simple syrup
We’ve pretty much already described this ultra simple process, but let’s break it down in a few easy steps:
- Measure equal parts water and brown sugar.
- Heat the water until warm or just hot – no need to boil it.
- Combine the warm water and brown sugar in a heatproof container.
- Stir until all of the sugar has dissolved, about 1 minute.
It’s that simple. In total, it takes about 3 minutes to whip up a batch of this syrup. I like to use 1/2 cup or 1 cup measurements, depending on how much syrup I want to have on hand. I also typically make and store the syrup in the same mason jar for minimal dishes and clean up.
How to store simple syrups
Store your cooled, finished syrup in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Glass mason jars or swing-top bottles are great storage options, but you can use whatever container you have on hand. There are also some fantastic syrup storage bottles on Amazon.
How long will it stay fresh?
In general, simple syrup that is made and stored in clean containers will last at least 2 weeks, likely up to a month. I suggest storing syrups in the fridge for “up to 2 weeks” to be as safe as possible, because it’s always possible that a recipe containing water could spoil even sooner. But in my personal experience, basic simple syrup (without any added ingredients) will often last quite a bit longer.
Not sure how to know when the syrup is no longer good? Look at the bottom of the container first. Is there any cloudiness or the appearance of sediment? If so, the syrup is going bad and should be tossed. In general, a cloudy appearance is the first sign that it’s time to make a fresh batch of simple syrup.
Drinks that use brown sugar syrup
There are so many ways to use brown sugar simple syrup, from your morning coffee to rum cocktails! Create your own Starbucks fall drinks at home, like the Brown Sugar Shaken Espresso. If you enjoy fall flavors, you might also like my Spiced Simple Syrup Recipe or my collection of fall cocktails.
Cocktails that call for demerara simple syrup can be used interchangeably with brown sugar simple syrup. Demerara sugar has a bit more flavor, but brown sugar will do in a pinch.
Brown Sugar Iced Coffee
This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy brown sugar syrup. Fill a tall glass with ice, then add 1 ounce of brown sugar syrup and 1/2 – 1 oz of milk, cream or half and half. Top with chilled iced coffee and a sprinkle of cinnamon and enjoy!
How much syrup to use?
In general, 1 to 2 tbsp (1/2 to 1 ounce) of simple syrup is the right amount to use for hot and iced beverages. Always start with less and you can add more if you need to! You can swap brown sugar simple syrup in for any drink recipe that calls for regular simple syrup to add more depth of flavor.
Other syrup recipes you might enjoy:
Brown Sugar Simple Syrup (Starbucks Copycat)
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup water warm or hot
- Add the sugar to a heatproof container, like a large mason jar or measuring cup.
- Pour the hot water over the sugar, then stir to combine.
- Continue stirring until all of the sugar has dissolved, about one minute.
- Let the liquid fully cool, then store the syrup in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.