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Sugar Filtration

Filtrazione dello zucchero - Spadoni F&B

The European sugar market is experiencing a re-growth after a period of crisis between 2017 and 2020, caused by a change in regulations. In fact, it is registering a production increase of 50% and highlighting a vigorous recovery in both sugar production and consumption. Widely used by private consumers and the food industry, sugar plays an important role in defining the volume and consistency of foods. It is fundamental for fermentation, has the ability to retain moisture by acting as a preservative and, finally, reduces the freezing threshold and increases the boiling point.

In this context of growing demand and production challenges, sugar filtration is fundamental to guarantee the purity and quality of the final product. We will analyse the production phases and filtration techniques used to ensure a safe and high-quality product, also exploring the importance of filtration in the production of soft drinks.

Types of Sugar

There are various types of sugar which come from different plants or fruits. The most widely consumed and known, white sugar, can be extracted from two plants: sugar cane and beet.

Sugar Production Phases

The production phases, which are similar for the two plants, are as follows:

  1. Raw material collection
  2. Extraction and purification, from which the raw juice is obtained
  3. Evaporation and crystallisation
  4. Centrifugation, drying and packaging, from which sugar is obtained

Sugar Filtration

The sugar recovered after each cycle is increasingly rich in impurities and must be purified and filtered, as, in addition to sucrose, it also contains fibres and mineral salts originally present in the raw material, which make it cloudy and dark in colour. Moreover, the syrup , is by its nature subject to microbiological contamination (yeast, mould, bacteria): an unacceptable characteristic in any food product. Suspended solids affect the appearance of the final product and contamination can lead to degradation of the product, for example acquiring an unwanted appearance or taste or with unpleasant aromas The raw sugar supply chain has changed significantly in recent years, and as a result the price/quality ratio has changed, posing new challenges.

Generally, regardless of its quality, the raw syrup is microbially stable at 70° Brix, as the sugar content is so high that the microorganisms present cannot draw water to grow. . However, at lower Brix levels, the raw syrup is unstable and must be controlled using microbial load reduction filtration or other sterilisation means. Therefore, the following are used:

  • Activated carbon filters: purify the syrup, removing colours and odours
  • Metal cartridges: equipped with high mechanical strength and resistance to high temperatures
  • Fossil flour filters: for the elimination of turbidity from syrups
  • Lenticular filters: for product polishing
  • Regenerable particle filtration systems, Dumbo: high efficiency in terms of flow rates and storage power

Production of Soft Drinks

The production of soft drinks, which absorbs the highest consumption of sugar in the food industry, deserves a special mention. Soft drinks are non-alcoholic beverages produced by mixing water with sugar syrup and carbon dioxide, with the addition of flavours and colours. The beverage production process requires numerous filtration steps, including activated carbon filtration to remove odours and colours from the syrup, low-calcium filtration to prevent instability problems, as well as filtration of process water or gases. The quality of the syrup, which is the main ingredient along with water, significantly affects the quality of the finished product and depends on many factors such as: origin, production process, transport and storage. The preparation of sugar syrup is therefore one of the most important steps in the soft drink production process.

The sugar, to be used, is transformed into simple syrup through a dissolution process in hot water (about 50-60°C). Subsequently, the solution is conveyed into a steel filter to eliminate any coarse suspended parts, then sent to a filter system before being stored in the storage tank. Excellent results have been obtained, in this area, with the innovative Dumbo filtration systems.

References:

1. https://eridania.it

2. https://www.gminsights.com/industry-analysis/industrial-sugar-market

3. Sartorius white paper “Jumbo Star system in sugar syrup filtration” SUGARS AND THE PROSPECTS OF FOOD TECHNOLOGY – Eufic.org

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