Simple syrup is easy and cheap to make or buy and is a valuable product for sweetening cold drinks, cocktails, fruit syrups, yogurt, sparkling water, or poaching fruit, making sorbet, cake, and many others.
It usually consists of only two ingredients – granulated white sugar and water- commonly referred to as liquid sugar or sugar syrup. But there are different variations and types available.
But even though it doesn’t cost much to make or buy, there is no need to pour the leftover simple syrup after using it once.
Instead, you can store it and keep using it for the future.
Read on to find out how to store simple syrup, the different types, and how long it lasts.
We have included other valuable tips for preserving the simple syrup and improving it.
What Exactly is Simple Syrup?
Simple syrup is a very sweet syrup used for the quick and easy sweetening of different drinks and foods.
The traditional recipe includes mixing white granulated sugar with water. The ratios can vary, and thus does the consistency of the syrup.
The sugar is added to the water, and they are heated over medium heat until the granules are dissolved completely.
But you can also make simple syrup by using brown sugar, artificial sweeteners, or honey too.
Simple syrup is commonly used to make cocktails, sweeten meals and beverages, or prepare a wide variety of desserts, pastries, and dishes.
Since it usually needs to be cooled down before use, making a larger batch of simple syrup or buying a whole bottle in advance makes sense.
Related: Does Brown Sugar Go Bad?
Simple Syrup Types
Sugar syrup comes in three different types, which vary in consistency. They are:
- Thin simple syrup with a ratio of 2:1 of water to granulated white sugar. It is mainly used for making cocktails.
- Basic (medium) simple syrup with a ratio of 1:1 of water to sugar. It is used for making candies, cakes, meringues, and other desserts and sweets.
- Thick simple syrup with a ratio of 1:2 water to granulated white sugar. This syrup is used for preparing caramels and for making sugar decorations, brittle, and many more.
Some simple syrups are also flavored with additional ingredients such as fruits, spices, herbs, powders, extracts, and others.
Factors Which Determine Simple Syrup’s Shelf-Life
As mentioned above, the shelf life for simple syrup depends on the type of syrup and how it’s made.
When prepared correctly, sugar syrup should be clear and without any crystals in it. Otherwise, its shelf-life will decrease significantly.
Here are the main factors which determine the shelf-life of simple syrup:
The presence or lack of crystallization
While making simple syrup may sound simple, it is actually pretty tricky, especially when it comes to crystallization.
Crystallization occurs when the molecules of the sugar get stuck together and cannot dissolve in the water.
This can happen if the mixture is stirred and otherwise agitated too much during the heating and mixing, especially when metal utensils are used.
It can also occur if too much sugar is added and the mixture becomes oversaturated.
Other reasons for the crystallization of the simple syrup can be cooking the mixture too quickly, cooling it too fast, contaminating the mixture, wrong storage method and more.
The sugar to water ratio
Since sugar is an excellent preservative, the more sugar the simple syrup has, the longer it will last. So thick simple syrup has the longest shelf-life, and thin syrup the shortest.
The added ingredients
If you have added other ingredients to flavor the simple syrup, especially if they are fresh herbs or fruits, then the shelf-life of the syrup will be shorter than usual.
Some ingredients, such as dried spices, may contaminate bacteria which can cause the syrup to go bad faster as well.
Whether the syrup is homemade or store-bought
Store-bought simple syrup will usually last longer than a homemade one. The reason is that many manufacturers add some ingredients for stabilizing the syrup to prolong its shelf-life.
You, too, can stabilize your homemade syrup by using some of the methods described below.
Whether the syrup is made using the hot or the cold method
The syrup will be more stable if you use the boiling method to dissolve the sugar in the water than if you stir the two cold ingredients until the sugar dissolves.
Plus, with the boiling method, you will ensure that all sugar granules dissolve completely.
What is the Best Way to Store Simple Syrup?
You should store the simple syrup in a sterile bottle, jar, or another container. This will prevent cross-contamination and spoilage as well as the dreaded crystallization.
It is recommended to keep the sugar syrup in a glass bottle or a mason jar because they can be sterilized before use and because, unlike plastic, glass does not absorb any odors, tastes, or fats.
The container can be stored either at room temperature or in the fridge. But make sure that it is sealed well and placed away from foods and objects with strong odors.
Do You Need to Keep the Simple Syrup in the Fridge?
Even though it is not necessary, we recommend keeping the sugar syrup in the refrigerator if you can.
Like with any other food product, keeping it at cool temperatures of up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit will slow down bacterial growth and thus prolong the syrup’s shelf-life.
The cooler temperatures will also help stabilize the simple syrup.
Keeping the syrup at room temperatures increases the risk of bacterial growth.
How Long Does Simple Syrup Last?
We examined all of the factors which determine the shelf-life of simple syrup earlier on.
But to summarize them, if you prepare the syrup using the hot method without agitating it or cross-contaminating it, and then store it in a sterile and clean container in the fridge, the basic simple syrup can last for up to three months. The thick syrup will last even longer, and the thin syrup will have a shorter shelf-life.
The flavored sugar syrups can last for only about a week when stored in the fridge.
If the simple syrup is kept at room temperature, it should be used as quickly as possible to prevent crystallization. The syrup can crystalize entirely in just a few hours.
If there is mold on the surface of the syrup, you should discard it immediately and sterilize and clean the container after that if you plan on reusing it.
Most store-bought simple syrups have been stabilized with added ingredients so they can last longer. Check the best-by date, and check the syrup for crystallization or the formation of mold.
Stabilizing Homemade Simple Syrup for a Longer Shelf-Life
If you want to ensure that your new batch of simple syrup will last for as long as possible and to prevent its crystallization, you can stabilize it.
There are a couple of things you can do to help reduce the likelihood of crystallization during storage.
Here are some easy methods for stabilizing your simple homemade syrup:
Add a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon or a pinch of some cream of tartar, but make sure you research and calculate the exact amount to add to your batch.
Add some corn syrup which will help prevent crystallization.
But these two methods will inevitably change the flavor of your simple syrup.
If you don’t want to alter its flavor but still stabilize it, you can use the simmering method. It involves simmering the mixture of water and sugar instead of bringing it to a boil. This slower mixing method will minimize the risk of crystallization and increase the longevity of the syrup.
Can Crystalized Simple Syrup Be Fixed?
If your simple syrup has crystalized, don’t throw it away just yet, because there are some things you can do to try to salvage it.
To prevent the crystals from forming in the first place, you should make sure that all of the sugar granules have dissolved completely. But if your syrup has crystallized anyway, you can try reheating it to resolve the issue.
If the crystals start dissolving from the heat, ensure they are completely dissolved before using the syrup. To do this, reheat it over low to medium heat so that the syrup heats up with minimal agitation.
If this doesn’t work, it is probably time to throw this batch away and mix another one.
Can Simple Syrup be Frozen?
If you can get the syrup to freeze, this can extend its shelf life by months.
The problem is that sugary liquids have a very low freezing point, so it can be difficult to freeze the simple syrup in a regular freezer.
A Guide to Freezing Simple Syrup
Here are the steps for freezing sugar syrup properly and safely:
- When the sugar has dissolved in the water, let the syrup cool down naturally and completely.
- Pour it in a freezer-safe, sterile and clean jar or container. Remember to leave some room on top of the jar or container for when the frozen syrup expands.
- Seal the jar or other container tightly.
- Label the jar with the product name and date of freezing.
- Place it in the freezer.
Why is The Simple Syrup Cloudy?
If you notice that your sugar syrup has become cloudy, you should throw it away immediately. The simple syrup should be completely clear, without any sediments, objects, or colors.
Contamination of the syrup can cause cloudiness. This contamination may occur via unfiltered water, added chemicals to the sugar, or by contacting the syrup with a contaminated utensil or putting it in a non-sterile bottle.
Another possible reason for the cloudiness could be an ongoing crystallization process causing the liquid to look cloudy.
Last but not least, the simple syrup can be cloudy due to the growth of mold. If the liquid is murky and white mold is on the surface, it is time to throw out the syrup.
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