19 junio, 2024

Sugar Production Circuit: Main Stages

He sugar production circuit refers to the process through which sugar passes until its distribution. In order to reach the product we use in the kitchen, sugar must undergo a series of steps that manage to optimize it.

Sugar is a natural sweetener obtained mostly from plants, fruits and vegetables. Used to sweeten food and drink, as well as keep the human body functioning; as is the case with glucose.

There are various types of natural sweeteners such as galactose, fructose, glucose and sucrose; the latter is the most commercialized and the one that is used in daily life.

Sucrose is extracted from various sources, the main ones being sugar cane and sugar beets. The one extracted from the cane is considered sweeter than the one from the beet and due to its power to sweeten, it is the most sold and the most produced but also the most harmful.

Excess consumption of sucrose can lead to problems such as obesity, tooth loss and diabetes.

Stages of the sugar production circuit

1- Harvest

Sugarcane is harvested in tropical and subtropical climates, since it needs a lot of sunlight and water for its growth.

There are more than 3 species of sugarcane and various hybrids. Its harvest time is up to 12 months, however, a lot of sucrose can be extracted from its interior.

Although in ancient times it was possible to extract a small amount of sugar, with advances it was discovered that all the sugar is found inside and that 10% of the cane is purely sugar.

One hectare of sugarcane is equivalent to approximately 10 tons of sucrose. The two most famous sugars from cane are white and brown.

White is completely refined and treated sugar, which gives it its color; For its part, the brown is not completely refined and has molasses residues, which is why its characteristic color is somewhat brown.

2- Preparation of the cane

When the cane is ready, it is transferred to the factories with the grinders. In this place, the residues of earth or rocks will be removed and it will be prepared for cleaning.

There are two options for this: place the cane in containers that will be filled with warm water to remove impurities.

If you have a lot of debris, the cane is placed on conveyor belts that will pass under strong jets of water to remove large amounts of rock and leaves. It is at this moment, when the cane is ready to be taken to the grinders.

3- Extraction of cane juice

In order to extract the game from the sugar cane, it has to go through the crushers that will break the canes to make the juice come out.

When crushing, mechanical rollers press the cane to separate the cane fiber, called bagasse, and the juice. While it is being crushed, hot water and raw juice are added to dilute the cane juice and to extract the sucrose found in the bagasse.

The extracted juice contains 95% of the sucrose present in the cane. After this, the sugar is completely separated from the cane by dissolving it in hot water or hot juice.

The process that includes water is called maceration and the one that includes juice is called imbibition.

4- Clarification and evaporation

The juice extracted from the grinders is very cloudy, in order to remove all the impurities and residues that could not be eliminated during the preparation of the cane, this process is called clarification. The residues are clarified with steam.

The clarified juice contains approximately 85% water and has the same composition as the juice before clarification, except that this juice no longer contains impurities.

In order to concentrate the clarified cane juice, a vacuum evaporation system is used that controls the temperatures from being very high and damaging the composition of the sugar and evaporates the excess water.

From this process a thick syrup is obtained that is composed of approximately 65% ​​solids and 35% water. After being collected, it is cooled and centrifuged.

5- Crystallization

This process is carried out in vacuum ovens that will serve to evaporate the syrup obtained in the clarification until it is saturated with sucrose.

Upon reaching the saturation point, powdered sugar or tiny sugar grains are added to help the crystals to form. At the moment when these crystals form, some syrup is added to allow them to increase in size.

Crystal growth continues until there is no more space. When the sucrose concentration already reaches the required level, the mixture of crystals and syrup is deposited in crystallizers.

After crystallization, wait until the mixture cools down before it can reach the centrifuges.

6- Centrifugation

The mixture is taken to centrifuge, the speed of the centrifuges causes the mixture to separate until it results in raw sugar and molasses.

The raw sugar is retained in the centrifuge and the molasses is filtered until it reaches storage tanks.

Here there are two options, uncentrifuged brown sugar that can be packaged and sold, or the other option is to refine the sugar obtained, which results in white sugar.

7- Refining

The raw sugar still covered in molasses is taken back to the centrifuges, where it is mixed with a syrup and the molasses residue is separated by centrifugation.

The remaining sugar is washed with water to clarify it, carrying out this process in the refinery where the crystals are bleached. The result is a colorless syrup made up of sugar and water.

8- Drying

The final syrup is dried by being processed by steam in a granulator. From there you already have the granulated sugar, which will be washed and dried in a tank to be able to reach the last step, packaging the sugar.

The sugar goes through the process of selection and classification by size, which marks the last step to be able to be packaged and distributed.

Articles of interest

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Wine production circuit.

Cotton production circuit.

Production circuit of milk.

Soy production circuit.

References

Canadian Sugar Institute. Cane Sugar Refining. Extracted from sugar.ca.
The Sugar Association. Refining and Processing Sugar PDF. Extracted from sugar.org.
Tongaat Hulett Sugar. Sugar Manufacture Process. Extracted from huletts.co.za.
Sugar Knowledge International. How Sugar Cane is Made- the Basic Story. Extracted from sucrose.com.
How Products are Made. Extracted from madehow.com.
Hugot, E. (1986) Handbook of Cane Sugar Engineering. 3rd ed. Elsevier Science Publishing Co., Inc.
Bajaj Hindusthan Sugar Ltd. From Sugarcane to Sugar Crystals. The process of making sugar. Extracted from bajajhindusthan.com.

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