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3 Different Types of Sugar

Sugar is made from the sugar cane (Saccharum officinarumand) and the sugar beet (Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris). Both of these raw materials can be used to produce different forms of sugar. Chemically, all these forms are alike, but they vary in colour and crystal size due to different production techniques.

Here’s a quick list of different types of sugar:

1. Refined sugar

Refined sugar is the most popular form of sugar in North America and Europe. It can be made by purifying raw beet sugar through carbonation. The carbonation process involves the introduction of limewater and carbon dioxide gas into the sugar beet juice. This results in the formation of calcium carbonate which causes the impurities in the juice to precipitate.1

In the final stage of purification, activated carbon is used to give refined sugar its bright white colour.2 (Although too much sugar damages our pearly whites). Depending on the size and shape of the crystals, refined sugar may be called by different names such as castor, powdered, or decorating sugar.

2. Mill white and blanco directo

Mill white and blanco directo are two popular forms of sugars used in Asian countries. These sugars usually have bigger crystals, are less bright in colour, and undergo purification to a lesser extent. They’re produced for local consumption in countries that produce cane sugar.3 This is because mill white and blanco directo sugar can form clumps, thus reducing their shelf life.

3. Brown sugar

Brown sugar can be produced in two ways. It could simply be sugar that does not go through the final stage of refining or it can be produced by adding molasses to white refined sugar.4 Molasses is a by-product of the sugar production process and adds a slightly bitter and smoky flavour to the sugar. Brown sugar can be further classified into different types depending on the intensity of its colour and structure of its crystals. Demerara Sugar and Muscovado Sugar are examples.

Who knew there were so many different forms of sugar?

  1. “How is Sugar Made White?” BBC Earth Lab. Accessed 8 August 2019.
  2. Mudoga et al. (2008). Decolorization of sugar syrups using commercial and sugar beet pulp based activated carbons. Bioresource technology, 99(9), 3528-3533. Accessed 8 August 2019.
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