Refined sugar is the favorite sweetener among home cooks, bakers, and chefs. It has more than half of the world sweeteners market and competes with an enormous variety of alternatives, the so-called "sugar substitutes." The main component in any refined sugar is sucrose, from 91 to 99.96 percent when in solid form, and from 50 to 80 percent when liquid.
The term "refined sugar" may be attributed to about twenty sweeteners extracted from sugar cane and sugar beet plants. In this blog post, you'll learn the different types of refined sugars that come out of cane and beet plants. Their unmatched versatility makes them the favorite and most recognizable sweeteners of all.
Who Competes with Refined Sugar?
Unrefined sugars (Sucanat, jaggery) =>
Raw sugars (turbinado, organic sugars) =>
Sugars and syrups (honey, date sugar) =>
Sugar Blends (baking blends) =>
Polyols (xylitol, erythritol, sorbitol) =>
Rare sugars (allulose, tagatose) =>
Dietary fibers (inulin, FOS, IMO) =>
High–intensity sweeteners (stevia) =>
How are Different Types of Refined Sugar Made?
Sucrose is found in most fruits, including 7 percent in bananas and 5 percent in oranges (refer to Guilt-Free Sweeteners page for sugar content in 20+ fruits). However, refined sugar is made from sugar cane and sugar beet plants because they have much higher sucrose—12 to 15 percent and 16 to 18 percent, respectively.
Cane sugar is processed in two different facilities, a Sugar Mill and a Sugar Refinery, as opposed to beet sugar, which is refined in a single facility—a Sugar Factory.
The refining process results in white sugar (99.95 percent sucrose) going out as the final product and impurities accumulating in thick dark syrups, aka molasses or refiners syrup, which are separated by centrifugation. We can buy cane molasses but not beet molasses, as it is not palatable. White sugar—the familiar table sugar—is the starting material for the production of a variety of refined sugars, which we call simply "sugar" but includes over twenty types of sweeteners from cane and beet.
Learn more about cane and beet sugar in a previous post: Cane vs. Beet Sugar: A Difference?
What is Refined Cane Sugar?
Almost forty-five types of cane sugar are sold in unrefined, raw, or refined forms. Unrefined sugars (muscovado, jaggery) and raw sugars (turbinado, evaporated cane juice) are produced directly from the cane juice in a Sugar Mill, located close to cane fields.
On the other hand, refined sugars are not produced directly from cane juice. Instead, they are made from crude raw sugar (see image below). Sugar refineries process raw sugar shipped from domestic sugar mills or foreign sources. Raw sugar is remelted, followed by boiling, re-crystallization, and centrifuging. A variety of sweeteners in solid and liquid form come out of a refinery.
Types of cane sugar
Refined cane sugars in solid form are sold in a variety of crystal sizes and molasses content. They contain 91 to 99.96 percent sucrose with small amounts of invert sugar (glucose plus fructose). The most common refined cane sugars on store shelves are granulated, powdered, and brown sugars. Domino and C&H are the top brands of refined cane sugar in America.
Their crystals vary from coarse (0.75–0.6 mm) to medium (0.5–0.3 mm), to small-size (0.3–0.02 mm). From largest to smallest: sparkling > sanding > granulated > fine > extra fine > superfine > ultrafine > powdered 6X > powdered 10X > powdered 12X > fondant. Here is a list of all solid refined sugars:
1. Granulated =>
2. Fine granulated =>
3. Extra fine granulated =>
4. Superfine (quick dissolve) =>
5. Ultrafine (baker’s, caster) =>
6. Powdered (confectioners) +3% starch =>
7. Fondant (icing, frosting) +3% starch =>
8. Sparkling =>
9. Sanding =>
10. Light (golden) brown =>
11. Dark brown =>
12. Pourable brown (Brownulated) =>
13. White sugar cubes, tablets, gourmet =>
14. Rock (swizzle sticks) sugar or sugar crystals =>
15. Brown rock (swizzle sticks) sugar or sugar crystals =>
Refined sugars in liquid form contain from 50 to 80 percent sucrose, and 20 to 50 percent invert sugar (glucose plus fructose). Cane molasses is considered the only sweetener derived from cane with health benefits as it has 2 to 10 percent minerals.
16. Simple syrup =>
17. Invert syrup (golden syrup) =>
18. Full invert syrup =>
19. Light (mild) molasses =>
20. Dark (full) molasses =>
21. Blackstrap molasses =>