Why is sugar white?

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Most people understand that sugar is white because most sugars available in grocery stores and supermarkets today are white.  Not all people are aware of the fact that the original color of sugar is actually brown.  This basically explains why some people encounter brown sugar and white sugar when going to the market, for example.  The refining process is what makes brown sugar turn into the white sugar that most people are familiar with.

Under normal conditions and standard processing, sugar will come out as brown because of the molasses content.  Basically, raw sugarcane is pressed for its juices and undergoes several processing stages wherein the end result is the formation of brown sugar crystals.  But by adding other chemicals or substances and/or introducing a new stage in the sugar-making process, sugar can be made powdery white in color.  One such process is through adding sulphur dioxide to the juice extracted from the raw sugarcane.  Before the juice is processed for evaporation, sulphur dioxide is mixed with the cane juice to literally cause a bleaching effect on the mixture.  With this procedure alone, the sugar crystals that will be produced will be white.

Another procedure to make sugar white involves additional processing to remove the brown or outer coating of sugar crystals.  This process will make the brown sugar whiter, and it will even become whiter if chemicals such as calcium hydroxide are added to the mixture.  This particular chemical will act to absorb various impurities in the mixture resulting in the whitening of the sugar.  Some manufacturing companies also use phosphoric acid for this purpose while others prefer carbon dioxide.  With these substances, the molasses content that makes the sugar brown will be removed and thereby result in white sugar crystals.  So basically, the additional refinement procedures are done to make the sugar appear white instead of brown.


Author: Hari M

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