From: Moore@upanet.uleth.ca (Moore)
Subject: Re: brown sugar vs syrup
Date: 23 Mar 1996 15:42:14 GMT
In article <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com says...
>You mean what we get now as brown sugar is only camalized white
>sugar....now this is overprocessing and mismarketing...although the stuf
>sure looks brown. (:-)
No, you've misunderstood. Please let me explain. I've been in the sugar
refining industry for over nine years, so I hope that you can believe that I
have some credibility.
The process of creating sugar crystals goes like this.
Beet Sugar: sugar beets are cut into cossettes (like shoe string french
fries) and immersed in water to diffuse out the sugar. Unfortunately, other
compounds (proteins, other carbohydrates, etc.) diffuse out as well, so when
diffusion is complete, the juice is subjected to 'purification' by liming to
remove the non-sugars as much as possible. Liming is a process of adding of
adding calcium hydroxide (the high pH coagulates proteins, and causes other
chemical reactions which help to remove the non-sugars) then precipitating
out the calcium hydroxide by bubbling carbon dioxide through the juice
(makes calcium carbonate, which is essentially limestone). The precipitate
which retains many of the non-sugars (due to the coagulation and other
processes caused by liming), are filtered out. Now the juice is
concentrated by evaporation and crystallization is begun.
Essentially crystallization is a separation process. Sugar crystals are
grown around very small 'seed' crystals. To do this, very small sugar
crystals are introduced to the process to begin crystallization. The
crystals are grown to the desired size, while the syrup surrounding them
becomes more concentrated in non-sugars (because the sugar is 'leaving' the
syrup to become part of the crystals). At this point it is necessary to
separate the crystals from the syrup, which is accomplished by
centrifugation (very similar to the spin cycle in your washing machine,
except the holes in the basket are MUCH smaller!). It is impossible to
remove all the syrup simply by spinning, so to produce white granulated
sugar, the crystals are washed with short burst sprays of very hot water
No brown sugar is produced from sugar beets for retail sale, because the
flavor of beet molasses (the syrup which surrounds the crystals) is not
palatable to humans (cattle like it though!).
Sugar Cane: the sugar containing juice is pressed from the cane, and
subjected to purification steps (not exactly the same as for beet sugar, but
similar). In sugar production from sugar cane, the first crystals prepared
are truly RAW sugar. As others have mentioned, it is not fit for human
consumption, due to the presence of impurities, and must be further refined.
To do so, the crystals are re-dissolved, the syrup filtered and
concentrated, and the crystalization processes described above are carried
To produce brown sugar, the crystals are left much smaller than for white
sugar, and the syrup or molasses is not washed off completely. The flavor
of cane sugar molasses is pleasing to humans. Many producers have in fact
instituted processes where brown sugars are produced by 'blending'. This is
a process where sugar is refined to the white sugar crystal, then mixed with
molasses to prepare brown sugar. The reason for doing this is mainly for
inventory control and convenience, rather than to 'trick' the customer. The
sugar is not technically any different, whichever way it is prepared.
So, no, brown sugar is NOT caramelized sugar. Caramelization occurs when a
sugar molecule is heated to a high enough temperature to begin to break
down. The characteristic flavors of 'caramel' are created by the breakdown
products. In fact, the sugar industry is extremely careful NOT to subject
sugars to temperatures high enough to cause caramelization, because it would
introduce these flavors and cause product loss (any sugar that is
caramelized is no longer sugar, so it can't be crystallized). The brown
color in commercial brown sugars is created in the concentration of the
syrup, where Maillard browning is responsible for most of the color.
(My experience is in beet sugar, so my apologies if I misrepresented or
missed any aspect of cane sugar manufacture).