The Sugar Factory

Is Sugar Good or bad?
Are Brown Sugar or Jaggery better options?
The world of sweet edibles is ever tempting yet forever confusing from a health stance.

As always, Atharvan brings you facts, that let you decide what’s best for you. Bringing this time – manufacturing processes of different sweet edibles.

We all know that jaggery, brown, and white sugar come from sugarcane’s same parent raw material.
But what facilitates the pure white color?
Is it safe, or are there alternatives?

Let’s find out.

JAGGERY PRODUCTION

Here’s the process for making Jaggery – comprising of three simple steps –

  • Crushing of sugarcane for juice extraction,
  • Filtering and boiling the juice for concentration,
  • Cooling and solidifying give a thick, sticky syrup called molasses that comes from boiling down sugarcane juice or sugarbeet juice.

THE PROCESS

The juice is extracted in a conventional crusher, filtered, and boiled in shallow iron pans. Traditionally, the syrup is made by boiling raw sugarcane juice or palm sap in large, shallow, round-bottomed vessels. Jaggery comes in blocks or pastes of solidified concentrated syrup heated to 200°C (392 °F).

While boiling the juice, lime (CaOH-Calcium Oxide) is added to it so that all the husk particles rise to the top of the juice in a froth, which is skimmed off. Finally, the juice is thickened. The resulting thick liquid is about one-third of the original volume.

The boiled juice then cools down in iron/aluminum pots to form the jaggery blocks. The size of these molds is specific and depends on the weight of the block of jaggery. 

SUGAR PRODUCTION

The most popular form of sweet edible is made by boiling the juice obtained from crushed sugarcane and sugarbeet.

THE PROCESS

After the initial boiling, the syrup obtained goes through a clarification process to remove unwanted particles and give a clear, transparent solution. The resulting thin syrup is concentrated in a series of evaporators, after which further water is removed.

At present, most big sugar factories in India follow double carbonation (when highly pressurized carbon dioxide is dissolved into a solution) and double sulphation process (introduction of sulfur dioxide-SO2 to a liquid) for clarification. Once the solution condenses and crystallizes, it results in the commonly known form of raw sugar.

CRYSTALLISATION

Thereafter, the small grains are added to the resulting supersaturated solution. These small grains, called seeds, facilitate the crystal formation and drying of what we get as household white sugar.

WHAT IS SULPHER-LESS SUGAR?

On the other hand, the following processes replace double sulphation to manufacture sulfur-less sugar. This yields sugar with less than 5ppm (parts per million) of sulfur traces.

  • Phosflotation – removal of scum with Calcium Phosphate precipitate. A high-quality raw sugar is then produced by using the crystallization process.
  • Melting  Raw sugar is again melted for clarification.
  • Re-crystallization – leads to the elimination of impurities.

Thereafter, the crystallization process similar to the white sugar creates crystals.

REFINING

The refining of raw sugar is usually carried out at a separate facility. The raw sugar is first mixed with the molasses syrup obtained from the initial boiling process and centrifuged to wash away the outer coating of the raw sugar crystals, which is less pure than the crystal interior. 

The sugar is dried in a hot rotary dryer and then by blowing cool air through it for several days in conditioning silos. The large concrete or steel silos are used to store the finished product, before packaging.

IS BROWN SUGAR A SUITABLE OPTION?

Unrefined or partially refined brown sugar is the stage at which sugar still contains some impurities after the original refining process. This may not be as soft and moist as more refined brown versions.

Here’s why

At times, refined brown sugar is made by adding the molasses syrup back to the refined product. This commercial version, commonly used as brown sugar is soft and moist. [5]

From a chemical and nutritional point of view, white sugar does not contain some minerals (such as calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium) present in molasses, in comparison to brown sugar.

Coming soon

  • Other sources of acquiring sweet edibles besides sugarcane.
  • Ayurveda’s take on sweet consumption for maintaining good health.

Also Read –
Benefits of cooking at home go way beyond physical health.

Citations

[1] Jaggery preparation. Read more.
[2] Cooling and moulding of jaggery. Read more.
[3] Sulphur–less sugar! Read more.
[4] Sugar refining. Read more.
[5] Brown vs White-sugar. Read more.
Disclaimer: The exact process might vary as per the manufacturing units, the intent of the article is to bring forth the important elements in the processing of sugar - a significant part of our daily diet.

Roopashree Sharma

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