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  • ​Explore below almost twenty types of refined sugar, starting by the favorite of all sweeteners—the table sugar. 

  • Refined cane sugars in solid form are sold in several crystal sizes, and various moisture and molasses contents.

  • They contain from 91 to 99.96% sucrose and often have small amounts of invert sugar, which is fructose plus glucose.

  • The most widely available refined sugars in stores are granulated, powdered, and brown (light or dark) sugars.

  • Refined cane sugars in liquid form contain from 50 to 80% sucrose, and 20 to 50% invert sugar (glucose plus fructose). 

Cane Sugar
White Cane Sugar


  • White sugars from cane are produced in various crystal sizes, from coarse (0.75 to 0.6 mm) to medium (0.5 to 0.3 mm) to small-size (0.3 to 0.02 mm).

  • From the sugars with largest to smallest crystals: sparkling > sanding > granulated > fine > extra fine > superfine > ultrafine > powdered 6X > powdered 10X > powdered 12X > fondant.

  • Despite their crystals sizes, all white sugars have the same sweetness and provide the same calories. Finer crystals, such as powdered and fondant sugars, contain 3 percent cornstarch (or tapioca starch) added to prevent lumping.    

Explore Fine Crystals:
Granulated Cane Sugar


aka Table Sugar, White Sugar, Refined Sugar, or simply 'Sugar'

  • Table sugar, labeled as granulated, is the most recognizable and used sweetener of all, being the favorite among home cooks. 

  • What manufacturers call granulated sugar is the type of refined sugar with midsize crystals ranging from 0.3 to 0.55 mm.

  • Table sugar may be called and labeled as Fine Granulated and Extra Fine Granulated, depending on the manufacturers' designation.

  • Fine Granulated Sugar is granulated sugar with a more narrow range of crystal size, from 0.32 to 0.42 mm.

  • Extra Fine Granulated Sugar is granulated sugar with slightly smaller crystals, ranging from 0.3 to 0.35 mm.

  • Granulated, Fine Granulated & Extra Fine Granulated Sugars in stores may be from sugar cane, sugar beet, or a blend of both.

  • In a Sugar Refinery, granulated sugar is the starting point for white sugars with finer crystals, such as superfine, ultrafine & powdered.

  • Table sugar, either from cane or beet, is considered one of the purest food products, containing around 99.95% sucrose.

  • Being the most familiar and versatile type of sweetener of all, it is considered the gold standard of sweet taste. 

  • It has a familiar clean, pleasant sweetness from start to finish, that hits quickly, without lingering. No secondary taste or aftertaste.

  • Read all about it in one of my blog posts titled What is Granulated Sugar? or explore all posts about sugars here.

Superfine Cane Sugar


aka Quick Dissolve Sugar 

  • Superfine is a refined sugar with smaller crystals than regular granulated sugar; crystal size ranges from 0.2 to 0.3 mm.

  • Compared to table sugar, superfine sugar dissolves faster and gives a smooth texture to icing, frosting, and fillings.

  • As it dissolves more rapidly than large crystals, if eaten alone it seems sweeter on the tongue than table sugar.

  • Having finer crystals, superfine sugar has more surface area per spoonful and appear whiter than larger crystals such as table sugar.

  • Superfine sugar, just like table sugar and other white sugars, is almost pure sucrose (about 99.95%) with the rest being mostly water.

  • It is typically produced by grinding granulated sugar and then screened to size; promoted as a "quick dissolve sugar".

  • Also called bar sugar as it dissolves faster in alcoholic cold beverages, but bartenders make their own simple syrups with table sugar.

  • In some countries, such as Brazil, superfine sugar is the most common type of sugar available to consumers. Not in the U.S.

Ultrafine Cane Sugar


aka Baker's Sugar, Baker's Special Sugar, Caster Sugar

  • Ultrafine is a refined sugar with smaller crystal size than granulated & superfine sugar; crystals size are from 0.1 to 0.2mm

  • It dissolves the fastest of all white sugars and gives even, smoother texture to icing, frosting, and fillings than superfine sugar.

  • As it dissolves more rapidly, if eaten alone it seems sweeter on the tongue than regular granulated sugar and superfine sugar.

  • It has more surface area per spoonful and appears whiter than larger crystals, such as granulated and superfine sugars.

  • Ultrafine sugar, just like table sugar, contains around 99.95 percent sucrose but it is not as widely available in stores.

  • Most professional bakers use this granulation as their all-purpose sugar; it produces a finer crumb in cakes & greater spread in cookies.

  • When you use in place of table sugar, you get lighter texture cakes, smoother (fewer cracks) cookies and more delicate meringues.

Powdered Cane Sugar


aka Confectioners Sugar

  • Powdered or Confectioners is a refined sugar with smaller crystal size than granulated, superfine and ultrafine sugars.

  • Crystals size average is less than 0.1 mm; due to its fineness nature, it is very prone to caking, lumping, and dust explosion!

  • An anti-caking agent (starch) is added to powdered sugars to absorb moisture and let it free-flowing.

  • To prevent caking, lumping, and dust explosion, it usually contains around 3% starch by weight, resulting in a floury taste.

  • A variety of powdered sugars with different crystal sizes are made in a refinery; crystals are separated through special size screens. 

  • The fineness of the crystals is indicated by a number before an 'X' which is derived from the sizes of the meshes.

  • The higher the number before the 'X', the finer it is; the most common is 10X, followed by 6X (the coarsest) and 12X (the finest).

  • Due to the addition of an anti-caking agent, powdered sugars contain approximately 97 percent sucrose.

  • As the name implies, confectioners (or 's), is used in confections, icings, baked goods, as a garnish for decorative purposes.

Fondant Cane Sugar


Icing sugar or frosting sugar

  • Fondant sugar is the type of refined sugar with the smallest crystal size, typically less than 0.02 mm.

  • Just like powdered sugars, fine crystals in fondant sugar are very prone to caking, lumping, and dust explosion.

  • To maintain it free-flowing and to keep it from absorbing moisture, it has about 3% starch by weight, resulting in a floury taste.

  • Sugars with finer crystals have more surface area per spoonful and so, fondant sugar appears whiter than table sugar.

  • Fondant sugar has about 97 percent sucrose and the most widely available brand is India Tree, featured below.

Coarse Crystals Sugar
Explore Coarse Crystals


  • Coarse sugars are glossy transparent crystals larger than granulated sugar often with additional ingredients (food coloring,...).

  • They don't readily dissolve, and because they are clear crystals, they attract and reflect light, resulting in sparkle.

  • The most common are sanding (0.6 to 0.7 mm), sparkling (0.65 to 0.75mm), and rock sugar, the largest of all refined sugars.

  • Traditional coarse crystals are the purest refined sugars containing over 99.96 percent sucrose.

  • Coarse sugars are crystallized from very high purity sugar syrups, under slow-boiling rates and extended times.

  • Rock sugar, rock candy, sugar crystals, or sugar swizzle sticks are easy to make at home but are also widely available in stores.

  • With patience & time, you can make your own sugar crystals from a hot saturated solution of granulated sugar. Cool it down & wait!

  • For a glossy finish, coarse sugars may be polished with a coating of carnauba wax, a wax from a Brazilian palm tree.

  • Another common ingredient to seal it from air and moisture is confectioner's glaze, a natural resin produced from tree saps by a beetle.

  • Advantage: to decorate the tops of baked goods, such as cookies and cakes, as they give sparkle and do not melt during baking.


What is Decorative Sugar?

  • Decorative (aka decorating or decoratif) sugar is a term that can refer to many types of sugars used to decorate a sweet. 

  • It includes sugars that do not melt easily such as sprinkles, jimmies, nonpareils, dragées, and pearls sugars.

  • It is rarely pure sugar. It is mostly sugar and may contain 3 to 10 ingredients, often being: sugar + starch + confectioner's glaze.

  • The production method is traditionally done by pushing sugar through an extrusion die.

  • Decoratives such as Belgium and Swedish pearl sugars (usually from beet) are made by crushing blocks of white refined sugar. 

Sanding Sugar
Sparkling Sugar
Brown Sugar from Cane


  • The most widely available brown sugars are not naturally brown; they are blends of sucrose crystals & molasses (cane syrups).

  • Three types of brown cane sugar are sold in stores: light (or golden), dark, and free-flowing.

  • The color and rich taste of brown sugars are determined by the amount of molasses remaining or added to the crystals.

  • Used in baked goods, brown sugar provides moisture, a slight molasses flavor, and allows them to stay chewy.

  • Read the following blog post What is Brown Sugar? to compare refined brown sugars with the unrefined ones.  

  • If you are looking for the unrefined brown sugars, read my blog post What is Unrefined Sugar, Anyway? 

Light & Dark Brown Sugar


  • Regular brown sugars from cane are produced in a Sugar Refinery by two different methods. One method results in crystals that are brown on the outside only, while in the other, crystals are brown all the way through.  

  • In the Coated or Painted Method, raw sugar is refined all the way to white granulated sugar and its surface is coated or ‘painted’ with a small amount of molasses; resulting crystals are brown on the outside only.

  • In the Crystallization Method, brown sugar is made by redissolving raw sugar, and then concentrating and recrystallizing it, so that it retains some molasses; resulting crystals are brown all the way through.

  • It is not easy to say whether one brand of brown sugar is just painted or is brown all the way through; one way or another, both brown sugars give a molasses flavor to your recipe.

  • Light (golden) or dark brown sugars tend to be sticky, and become dry, hard and lumpy due to loss of moisture during storage particularly after the original package is opened; that's why free-flowing brown sugar was developed.

  • Regular brown sugars vary in flavor and color; Light or golden brown sugar contains 2-3% molasses and consequently has a mild flavor; Dark brown sugar contains 6-8% molasses.


Composition: 93 to 98% sucrose and 1.5 to 5% invert sugar (glucose + fructose)

Water content: light brown is 2 to 3% water; dark brown, 2.5 to 3.5% water

Crystal size: the average is typically between 0.27 and 0.42 mm.

Pourable Brown Sugar


aka pourable brown sugar, Brownulated® sugar, molasses granules

  • Free-flowing brown sugar has less moisture than regular brown sugars; the term "free-flowing" means it pours easily and does not clump, cake or harden as regular brown sugars do.

  • Produced by a method called CoCrystallization, which starts with extremely fine sugar crystals, from 0.003 to 0.03 mm, that are cocrystallized (agglomerated) with a cane syrup.

  • Each granule of free-flowing brown sugar consists of many tiny crystals that are held together by the syrup in a porous sponge-like structure, which does not tend to dry and become hard and lumpy.

  • Promoted as "the pourable" and "the easy-to-measure" brown sugar, it is as sweet as regular brown and table sugars and so should be a cup for cup replacement for these sugars. 

  • When substituting this sugar for regular brown sugars, you should measure 'equal volume', not 'equal weight', because it is much lighter due to being much less moist.

  • It contains 91 to 94 percent sucrose, 2.5 to 3 percent invert sugar (glucose plus fructose), and about 0.75 percent water. It is promoted to be sprinkled over cereal and oatmeal.

Cubes & Tablets


  • Lump sugar is granulated sugar that is moist with water. It is then compressed or molded into a particular shape and allowed to dry.

  • It is an agglomerate of medium-size crystals that once dried, maintain its shape; the most common are cubes and tablets.

  • Rough cut cubes are called European style cubes and available in white, brown (white with caramel), or demerara (raw sugar).

  • The term gourmet sugar is usually used to refer to handmade lump sugar sold in a variety of shapes and colors.

  • Commonly used to sweeten hot drinks, they usually contain approximately 99 percent sucrose and 0.5 percent water.

aka sugar cubes, sugar tablets, gourmet sugar

Beet Sugar


  • Beet sugar is refined sugar from sugarbeet, a root that grows in temperate climates, including U.S. farms in eleven statesIn the United States, beet sugar is the dominant sugar, accounting for 55 percent of the refined sugar consumed each year.

  • Contrary to cane sugar -- which is available in unrefined, raw and refined forms -- beet sugar is sold as a refined sugar only. Beet sugars are produced in a Sugar Factory. Put simply, beet juice is collected, its water is boiled off, and sugar crystals are separated from everything else.

  • In the United States, only genetically modified varieties of sugar beets are planted. Therefore, organic sugar from beet is not produced in America. If you find a refined beet sugar in a store with the "non-GMO project verified" seal, it is imported from Europe.


  • Although the term sugar beet is composed of two words, to simplify, I use it connected - sugarbeet - or simply "beet". To learn all about beet sugar, read my blog posts below :

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