I'm in the process of making sugar wax made of heated sugar, lemon juice and water. I have found a ratio that works great when it's heated up to 119 C (246.2 F). It gives me a wax that has the perfect consistency and firmness. The problem is that this ratio and temperature works fine only when making one jar of wax. When I try to scale the volume up (using the same method, recipe and temperature) it turns out different. The more I scale it, the more runny it turns out even though it reaches the same temperature. I'm using the stove (electric) to heat up the wax. I've been consistent with using the same pan and same temperature setting for the stove every time I make the wax.

I'm trying to understand what is happening when combining these three ingredients. Why do I get a different consistency when increasing the volume? (even though I'm using the exact same recipe and reaching the same temperature). What are the parameters that play an important role? Until now I've thought that the volume (as long as the ratio is the same) doesn't matter, as long as it reaches the right temperature. This turned out wrong, and now I'm interested in knowing what is causing it to turn out different.

Does anyone have any experience of something similar? Maybe there is some chemical theories I'm missing? I would appreciate all the help I can get. Thanks!

  • Where and how exactly are you measuring the temperature. I suspect it's not uniform.
    – Chris H
    Jul 5, 2021 at 15:54

2 Answers 2


I will throw out a suspicion, although I am not certain that it is the correct one.

What you are doing here is to create invert sugar with the lemon juice - if you didn't use that, you would end up with hard candy, not a malleable substance. The acid in the lemon is not an ingredient in the reaction, it is a catalyst. So I wouldn't wonder if your scaling up means that you get a higher proportion of the invert sugar, making the whole mass softer.

If my theory is correct, you should get something closer to the desired result by scaling up the sugar and water, but keeping the lemon juice the same as in the original recipe amount. "Something closer", but not exactly the same, because while the acid will be the correct amount without scaling, it might need longer time to create the same proportion of invert sugar in the increased mass - but you cannot really give it more time, since you are restricted by the maximum temperature reached by the sugar syrup. So in the end, if you want the exact same result, you will have to find out empirically exactly how much lemon juice you need. But as things stand, there is a good chance that using the unscaled amount will be a good starting point.

  • you could bring it up to temperature a bit more slowly, couldn't you? To some extent you will anyway due to evaporative cooling, and of course it depends on the aspect ratio of the pans used for the different quantities, as well as the burner size
    – Chris H
    Jul 7, 2021 at 20:54
  • 1
    @ChrisH oh yes, it could certainly be compensated in some ways if desired. My main point was that there is unlikely to be a simple "works without tinkering" solution - even if it turns out that the original amount of acid works better, something will have to be changed to get the exact desired consistency (unless the time effect is minimal - I don't have enough of the theory to predict magnitude). Indeed, changing the temperature or the pan geometry will work, and in fact the larger mass of the upscaled batch alone will also lead to slower heating.
    – rumtscho
    Jul 8, 2021 at 6:29

An alternative to rumtscho: My guess is you just have a difference in final temperature.

Lemon juice does help create invert sugar, and this helps create smooth candy that does not crystallize. Similar results are obtained by including corn syrup or honey for part of the sugar.

At 246.2, you wouldn't get a hard candy with or without the lemon juice. You will get a soft, or at least chewable candy anywhere under 265. Temperature has by far the greatest effect on your candy's consistency.

So, I think 2 things might have happened.

Thing 1: since you are using the same pot, that means you have a deeper pool of candy syrup. It's going to be hotter at the bottom and cooler at the top, and there could be other hot spots, so unless you're stirring your syrup, your temperature might not be totally accurate. If your thermometer is closer to the bottom of the pot, or in a hotspot, it might say 246.2 while the majority of the syrup is closer to 240, which would give you a softer overall consistency.

Similarly, the syrup continues to cook as long as it's in the pot. This residual heat would have a greater effect on a smaller amount of syrup. So that would also cause the larger batch to reach an ultimately lower temperature, and have a softer consistency.

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