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Caramelized sugar: boosting flavor and value: the use of pure and natural ingredients like caramelized sugar is an example of a strategy that fulfills consumers demand for coffee worldwide while keeping costs down.

At the recent Food Ingredients Expo in November in Frankfurt, there was an unlimited amount of ingredients on display that can be used in a broad range of food applications. Some of them could be of interest to the coffee and tea industry as well. In order to improve flavor or alter the taste, aromas are often added. To create an appealing appearance some brands use a number of different food colors.

The trend has moved away from synthetic additives so more natural-only aromas and colors are being used. But in searching for "clean-label" recipes, other options are also available, such as caramelized sugars. In some countries there is a long history using caramelized sugars in ground coffee. More recently, we see them being applied to instant coffee, like for example, in 3-in-l coffee mixes.

Caramelized sugar is often made from sugar, but the raw material can also be another carbohydrate source. Caramelization of sucrose starts with the melting of the sugar at high temperatures followed by foaming (boiling). Sucrose first decomposes into glucose and fructose. This is followed by a condensation step, in which the individual sugars lose water and react with each other. Hundreds of new aromatic compounds are formed having a range of complex flavors. Caramelized sugar is no longer sweet; its flavor depends on the process and raw materials but will be mostly nutty, bitter and typical caramel. The color is reddish brown, less dark then the Class I-IV (E150a-d) caramel colors. It is a natural ingredient, not an additive and has to be labeled as caramelized sugar or burnt sugar.

Why Caramelized Sugar?

Many ask, what can caramelized sugar do for coffee? Caramelized sugar offers several functions in coffee. For example, it can enhance and balance the flavor. In instant coffee (mix), as well as in ground coffee, caramelized sugars can enhance the coffee aroma; let it stand out more clearly. Some types can offer more balance to a flavor that contains too much peaks in bitter aroma. The mouth feel and complexity are increased, giving an enrichment of the total drink.

Caramelized sugar can also improve the appearance of coffee. Caramelized sugar will give a warm, reddish brown color to RTD coffees and coffee mixes like cappuccino, 3- or 2-in-1. Caramel colors are also used, but Class III and IV (El50c and d) will give a more grayish brown hue. Other colors used are for example carmine (E120) and lycopene (E160d) being both red in color.

The Application Process

How can it be used? Andre den Hartog, application manager at Buisman Ingredients B.V., Zwartsluis, The Netherlands, said, caramelized sugar powder can be used in several steps in the logistic chain of coffee. "There are roasters who add it after roasting and grinding their coffee, before packing. They just mix it in, for example, together with salt. But it can just as well be added to an instant coffee or a coffee mix. When you make for example a 3-in-l mix then it can be added simply together with the sugar and creamer," he explained.

There are minimal production issues when adding caramelized sugar. Den Hartog said, "As long as someone has mixing equipment it is very straight forward. The only thing to be aware of is that some of the caramelized sugar types can be hygroscopic." He said that when adding these types on freshly roasted beans that are still hot, it is better to use an agglomerated version to prevent sticking.

Buisman Ingredients has a long tradition in producing caramelized sugars. It started selling it as a coffee booster already in the 19th century. Their powders are being sold worldwide also in other food applications next to coffee.

Den Hartog noted there is another important reason for using caramelized sugars. "Cost reduction is a key driver in any food industry. Especially in Asia there is a large market segment for low-priced coffee products. They even blend coffee with fillers like soy to decrease costs. This of course, is not beneficial to the flavor."

Caramelized sugars can improve the taste of lower quality coffee beans by enhancing the bitter, roasted coffee aroma or balancing a flavor that has too many peaks. This is done with different types of caramelized sugars. Also it can simply replace coffee in a mix. As you replace coffee in a 2:1 ratio, cost savings up to 20 percent on the coffee part of a formulation are within reach.
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Title Annotation:FLAVORINGS
Comment:Caramelized sugar: boosting flavor and value: the use of pure and natural ingredients like caramelized sugar is an example of a strategy that fulfills consumers demand for coffee worldwide while keeping costs down.(FLAVORINGS)
Author:Leigh, Aubrye McDonagh
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jan 1, 2014
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