My girlfriend and I have been experimenting with making different flavors of chocolate truffles. One difficulty with this is that different flavorings have different amounts of sugar, meaning we need to adjust the amount of other sweetening in the truffle to keep it from being overly sweet or bitter (usually by changing the ratio of unsweetened to semisweet chocolate). Obviously getting the sweetness exactly right is going to take some experimentation, but we'd like to be able to start by making the total amount of sugar in each truffle the same, no matter what flavor it is.

We can figure out approximately how sweet most flavorings are are by using their "Nutrition Facts" labels. Unfortunately, alcoholic drinks don't come with these labels, which means we need a different strategy for liqueur-flavored truffles. Neither of us drinks very much alcohol, so we don't have a very good intuition for which potential flavors might be sweeter. Googling gives several sites with widely varying numbers, and I don't know which ones to trust. For example, this site claims an ounce of Kahlua has 11.2 g of sugar, while this site claims it's 15 g.

Is there a good way to determine how much sugar is in a given liqueur? Ideally, I would like either a pointer to a reliable source, or a simple experiment I could do myself to determine sugar content.

  • The amount of liqueur you should be using in a truffle should be small enough that you don't really need to worry about adjustments in the chocolate to balance sweetness, even across extremes like bourbon to khalua. For example, 15 g of sugar is about a teaspoon and a half, spread across the entire batch. – SAJ14SAJ Feb 4 '14 at 6:45
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    @SAJ14SAJ: The base recipe we're using gets about 100 g of sugar from chocolate, and calls for 2 oz of liqueur. Are you saying that a 30% difference in sugar content is irrelevant, or are your truffles sweeter and/or less alcoholic than that? – Micah Feb 4 '14 at 7:02
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    In my practical experience, and in the truffle class I took at Peter Kumps, it simply doesn't come up as an issue. Unless you are doing blind tastings to compare truffles, humans are not highly accurate sweetness detectors. We are good at presence, not magnitude. And if you are that obsessed, you won't be using unsweetened chocolate which is generally poorly conched, and you will be custom making each mix and balancing it by taste, not by formula. – SAJ14SAJ Feb 4 '14 at 7:56
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    @PeterJ: That's a really cool idea. Unfortunately, glucose meters don't detect sucrose. So I'd probably have to pretreat it with an enzyme, which would likely push this into the "more trouble than it's worth" category... – Micah Feb 4 '14 at 7:57
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    Even if you could accurately determine the concentration of sugar in different liqueurs, that wouldn't answer your question. The overall sweetness of the liqueur is determined not just by the sugar content but my the strength of flavor, sweetness and bitterness of the other ingredients too. Some ingredients are a lot sweeter than others without added sugar, some things are extremely bitter or astringent. Your best bet is to gauge the sweetness of the liqueur by taste, not by the numbers. – Jolenealaska Feb 4 '14 at 9:13

What you need is a refractometer, also known as a Brix meter. They can be quite inexpensive. Brix is essentially sucrose in baker's percentages, so 1 gram of sugar in 100 grams of water is 1 brix. You just need to choose a model that measures in the range you are interested in. Here are some on Amazon.

  • Do these work on spirits as well as simple syrups? – SAJ14SAJ Feb 4 '14 at 18:32
  • @SAJ14SAJ There are brix meters frequently used in wine making. I would be more concerned about other ingredients in the liqeur than alcohol. (And I don't know if they are the refraction type - my grandma used the density type). – rumtscho Feb 4 '14 at 20:06
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    @rumtscho The differing density of water/alchohol and the mixture thereof would certainly throw of a density based brix meter. – SAJ14SAJ Feb 5 '14 at 0:17
  • @SAJ14SAJ it's nevertheless widely used. Maybe it gets calibrated for wine (whose alcohol content is in narrow limits), or maybe the difference is not significant in everyday use. Or, in the end, maybe my grandma (together with many others) just found her wine good enough that way, and didn't care to improve. But the empirical observation stands: these things are in use. – rumtscho Feb 5 '14 at 19:35
  • @rumtscho It is far from obvious that they generalize--in any accurate way--to liqueurs with their higher and more varied alcohol content regardless of whether they are used in other contexts or not. – SAJ14SAJ Feb 5 '14 at 19:45

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