How It’s Made
Sugar cubes don’t grow on trees. Unfortunately, some people seem to believe that one form of sweeteners is somehow more natural than another. That couldn’t be further form the truth. Even so-called “raw sugar” goes through some processing before being crystalized and put into brown sugar packets.
- Cane sugar »
Sugar cubes don't grow on trees. In fact, it takes a number of steps to turn sugar cane into refined white sugar.
- First, the cane field is set on fire to remove dead leaves. Then the stalks are harvested from the field.
- After being transported to the refinery, the cane is chopped or shredded before it is crushed in large roller mills which releases raw sugar cane juice. Sugar cane juice contains sugar, dirt, and pieces of cane pulp.
- From there, calcium hydroxide is added to the juice and carbon dioxide is bubbled through the mixture, which helps to clarify the juice by creating insoluble calcium compounds. The calcium hydroxide also raises the juice's pH level. With the help of polyacrylamides, calcium compounds , muds, and other impurities are filtered out of the juice.
- Next, the juice travels to a filter where it is treated with activated carbon.
- After being filtered, the juice is sent through an evaporator to remove water, causing the juice to thicken.The juice is then sent to a boiler where it is heated in a vacuum and fine "seed crystals" are added to aid in the formation of sugar crystals.
- Crystallization leaves behind a substance called "mother liquor" that will ultimately be made into molasses. To separate the sugar crystals from the mother liquor, they are put into a centrifuge. The final product is raw sugar, which is ready to be refined into white sugar.
- The refining process begins with affination, where the raw sugar crystals are melted into a syrup, dissolving the remaining molasses. Then the sugar is washed.
- From there, the sugar is clarified and decolored--either with phosphoric acid and calcium hydroxide or with calcium dioxide.
- Finally, the solution is boiled one last time to concentrate it into white granulated sugar crystals.
- Beet sugar »
Sugar cubes don't grow on trees. In fact, it takes a number of steps to turn sugar beets into refined white sugar. Unlike sugar cane, sugar beets do not require an intermediate step of producing raw sugar.
- Sugar beets are grown in the ground, so they are thoroughly washed before being processed.
- Once washed, the beets are sliced and placed in a diffuser where water runs against the beet slices to extract raw sugar juice.
- After diffusion, the remaining pulp from the beet slices is pressed to extract the remaining sugar.
- Next, the raw juice goes through a process called "carbination." Calcium hydroxide is added to the juice and carbon dioxide is bubbled through the mixture, creating insoluble calcium compounds. Sulfur dioxide is added to lower the juice's pH level.
- After the calcium carbonate is filtered out, the juice is treated with activated carbon, charcoal, or decoloring ion exchangers to remove the color from the liquid.
- Following filtration, the juice is boiled to remove water and form sugar crystals. From there, it is sent through a centrifuge to separate the sugar crystals from the molasses.
- Finally, the sugar crystals are dried and stored.
- High fructose corn syrup »
High fructose corn syrup is made from corn, the most widely grown crop in the Americas.
A common misconception is that high fructose corn syrup is "high" in fructose, which is not true. Like beet sugar and cane sugar, it is composed of nearly equal amounts of glucose and fructose. It is classified as high in fructose only because it has more fructose than normal corn syrup, which is made of glucose.
- To make high fructose corn syrup, the corn is first harvested and sent to the wet mill.
- Next, the corn is crushed in a mill and then run through screens in order to separate the corn starch from other parts of the kernel.
- After being separated, natural enzymes are added to the liquid, which converts some of the sugars in the liquid from glucose to fructose. The resulting liquid is typically 42 percent fructose and 58 percent glucose.
- From there, the liquid is passed through activated carbon and filtered.
- The final product is called HFCS-42, and is used to sweeten many baked goods.
- Some of the HFCS-42 then goes through a liquid filtration process to increase the fructose content, creating a liquid that is 90 percent fructose. This product is called HFCS-90.
- Finally, the two liquids, HFCS-42 and HFCS-90, are blended to make a mixture that is 55% fructose. The final blend, called HFCS-55, is widely used as a sweetener in sodas.
- Fruit juice concentrate »
Fruit juice sugar can be made by concentrating any variety of fruits, although the most commonly used fruits are apples, grapes, and pears. Some fruits are processed into stripped fruit juice, where the color and flavor of the fruit are removed—effectively leaving sugar water.
- To make fruit juice concentrate, the selected fruits are harvested, inspected for quality, and washed.
- After harvesting, the fruit is ground and pressed in order to extract juice.
- To extract the sugar, enzymes are added to the fruit during the grinding process to break down the cell walls of the fruit pulp. Different enzymes are used for different fruits.
- The pulp also can go through high temperature treatment to help break down the cells.
- Next, the juice goes through further processing to clarify it and strip out the fruit's taste, aroma, vitamins, and minerals. In this stage, the liquid will be treated a second time with enzymes, such as pectinase and amylase, to improve the concentration of the juice.
- Before the liquid is further concentrated, it passes through activated carbon to remove impurities.
- From there, the water is removed from the juice through concentration. During this stage, juice processors either evaporate water from the juice or freeze it and remove the ice crystals.
- Finally, the juice is put into storage, for example, in steel tanks, until it is ready to be used or shipped.
- other sweeteners »