Articles, Blog

Why Does Brown Sugar form Lumps but Regular Sugar Usually Doesn’t?

October 9, 2019


When we say the word “sugar”, it’s highly
likely that the first image to pop into your head is that of the ultra-fine, pure white
granulated kind you can buy in most supermarkets. But how does this kind of sugar differ from
the less popular brown kind, and why isn’t it as prone to forming into lumps as its dusky
cousin? To properly answer this question, we’ll
first delve into how sugar (as in common table sugar, rather than other short-chain, sweet,
soluble carbohydrates) is produced in the first place, because it’s key to understanding
how the white variety differs from brown sugar and why the latter often lumps together. Beyond that, it’s also just interesting. As you’re probably aware, the common sugar
you buy in stores is primarily derived from one of two things- sugarcane (from which it’s
estimated 70% of the world’s sugar is produced) and sugar beet. While the refining process for each crop differs
slightly, the end product is identical. We say this because you might hear from people
(and companies that use sugarcane for their sugar) that sugar from sugarcane is superior
to that extracted from sugar beets. Among other reasons sometimes mentioned, one
notable one is because beet sugar can sometimes be derived from beets that have been genetically
modified. For those curious, since table sugar is literally
just sucrose, the source it’s derived from doesn’t affect the final product in any
way, assuming the manufacturer keeps any impurities down to a negligible level, which they do. In any event, sugarcane and sugar beets are
the most common sources of sugar because they contain a high concentration of sucrose that
is relatively easy to extract. Sugarcane, for example, is about 10% sugar
by weight, meaning for every 10 kilos of sugarcane you harvest, you can reasonably expect to
get about 1 kilo of sugar in return, depending on the quality of the cane and the efficiency
of the methods used to extract it. The amount of sugar in a sugar beet, on the
other hand, can vary quite a bit, though beets can sometimes contain as much as 17% of their
weight in pure sugar. This can change depending on how mature the
beets are and where they are grown. From this, you might think that, in the right
regions, beats are the way to go for sugar producers. However, beet farms produce significantly
less sugar than cane farms per hectare (7 tons per hectare compared to 10 tons per hectare
for sugarcane) because the beets take up more space and are generally more difficult to
cultivate as they need to be replanted every single year. In contrast, sugarcane will continue to regrow
for years after being harvested as long as the roots of the plant are left undisturbed. After harvesting, the basic process of extracting
sugar from both cane and beets is fairly similar, with the exception that, because beets are
physically removed from the ground, they need to be washed, cleaned and sliced before any
sugar can be extracted. In contrast, sugarcane is ready to have the
sugar extracted almost immediately after being harvested. After this initial processing is done, both
are soaked in water and then crushed to extract as much “juice” from them as possible. This juice is then boiled to removed much
of the water from it, leaving behind a thick viscous syrup, which itself is then spun in
a centrifuge after some more boiling, separating the pure sugar crystals that form at the bottom
from the mixture. The sugar that forms at the bottom of the
mixture will then be dried and bleached, giving it the pure white texture we’re all familiar
with, before being packaged and shipped for consumption. The syrupy mixture left over after producing
sugar is known as molasses (or treacle in the UK) and it is similarly packaged and sold
off after production. However, sometimes manufactures will mix some
of this back in with the white sugar producing what most of us would recognise as brown sugar. The exact amount of molasses added varies
from manufacturer to manufacturer, but, for the most part, it falls between 3% and 7%
with the latter producing dark brown sugar and the former producing light brown sugar. A third kind of brown sugar, often sold as
“natural brown sugar” exists and is made by simply forgoing the extra step of separating
the molasses from the sugar in the first place. Since all kinds of brown sugar contain molasses,
which itself contains water, it can dry out which is what causes brown sugar to harden
and form into lumps if it is left out in the open or stored improperly. This is a problem that doesn’t occur with
white table sugar because, as we already mentioned, it is thoroughly dried before being packaged
and shipped. That said, white sugar can become lumpy if
it absorbs too much moisture (a common problem in high-humidity environments if the sugar
is improperly stored). In both cases, fixing the problem is as simple
as either drying the sugar out, or putting the moisture back in, depending on which kind
it is. Common methods for this include, for hardened
brown sugar, leaving a slice of bread in a sealed container with the brown sugar overnight. For white table sugar, you can dry it out
by placing it in a warm oven for a few hours.

You Might Also Like

100 Comments

  • Reply ceicli se-i-sl-i October 8, 2019 at 8:19 pm

    I disagree there, sugar is the root of many physical problems, not just teeth!

  • Reply The Cheaterman October 8, 2019 at 8:26 pm

    2:50 As I understand it this is not entirely true as you need to remove the bark from the cane?

    EDIT: Also, cotton candy, not the worst diet, but certainly gets clumpy in your mouth and is probably not ideal for your teeth 🙂

  • Reply kahinoart October 8, 2019 at 8:26 pm

    Bonus Fact:: Molasses, which is part of brown sugar, contains high levels of iron and magnesium. It was also used as a honey substitute during WW II in Germany – called Ersatzhonig.

  • Reply Patrick Lloyd October 8, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    I declump sugar by crushing it with a small. spoon

  • Reply holidayhouse03 October 8, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    As someone who has worked on the stock crew in retail grocery for 20 years I can state for a fact that stocking bags of brown sugar sucks.

  • Reply Leonidas 024 October 8, 2019 at 8:41 pm

    Where I'm from brown sugar is regular sugar

  • Reply Matthew Baquero October 8, 2019 at 8:43 pm

    Umm… my sugar is literally always a brick.

  • Reply drewpamon October 8, 2019 at 8:47 pm

    Worst thing you can eat… impossible burgers

  • Reply drewpamon October 8, 2019 at 8:47 pm

    So brown sugar is lumpy because it needs to be moist? Got it.

  • Reply T. J. Payeur October 8, 2019 at 8:52 pm

    The hell sugar doesn't wind some kids up. It sure does…

  • Reply Mike Davidson October 8, 2019 at 8:54 pm

    Sugar beets smell absolutely horrible. You can smell the processing plant 20 miles downwind.

  • Reply Jonathan Perry October 8, 2019 at 8:59 pm

    I think it absorbs moisture and humidity out of the air. I like to guess before I watch the video you know what? you should leave the title ofyour next video at the end so we all get a chance to guess the answer to the subject. Todayifoundout wouldbe a good game showChoose a winner and HonorCodeNO GOOGLE!! And then make t-shirts with your face on them and they would say 'would the real Simon Whistler please stand up!"I I know you look at your YouTube statistics you're almost a household word in America (at least in my County right outside of Washington DC and not the rich one) all my friends know who you are I can't believe I haven't seen you on TV up just for the sake of being there. Sorry for the misspelling and the lack of punctuation I talk into my phone so it's late interprets my speech and also I tried to make this message shorted enough that you didn't get the "read more"sorry but obviously my message got way beyond the limit of characters.

  • Reply Ratko Mladic October 8, 2019 at 9:06 pm

    Whatcha gonna do with all those lumps?

  • Reply Randy Herbrechtsmeier October 8, 2019 at 9:20 pm

    I must ask. Are you realated to The Artist Whistler? You are quite entertaining

  • Reply Alex Reifschneider October 8, 2019 at 9:27 pm

    Sweet!

  • Reply Thomas Whiteowl October 8, 2019 at 9:29 pm

    anti-gmo means you don't understand science at all.

  • Reply kirby march barcena October 8, 2019 at 9:50 pm

    ME: I need some honey or sweetener
    WIFEY: Am I not enough for you?

  • Reply Terpag11 October 8, 2019 at 9:54 pm

    White sugar. Brown sugar. It's all pink inside.

  • Reply Herb Tenderson October 8, 2019 at 9:57 pm

    Molasses. The end.

  • Reply US October 8, 2019 at 10:00 pm

    Healthwise Cotton Candy and sugar might not contain as much sugar as a can of soda for the child, but it certainly doesnt help the mother who thinks their child just received a helping of “hyperactivity causing” sugar.

  • Reply Johnny Shields October 8, 2019 at 10:14 pm

    Who started the sugar/hyper myth?

  • Reply Monk of Mayhem October 8, 2019 at 10:17 pm

    Pretty sweet video….. I'll never appologise.

  • Reply Paul Kjoss October 8, 2019 at 10:23 pm

    Say what you like about kids and sugar but you def know it when your kids have been hitting the lollies… XD

  • Reply markiangooley October 8, 2019 at 10:35 pm

    I avoid brown sugar. It’s white granulated sugar with molasses added. If I want the flavor, I use molasses in the recipe, sometimes blackstrap molasses.

  • Reply XenosGamer October 8, 2019 at 10:40 pm

    Here I was thinking brown sugar was regular sugar cause that's how it comes out the factory…

  • Reply MetalMasterdom October 8, 2019 at 10:40 pm

    Why does water make noise when you heat it towards its boiling point? And why does it suddenly get quiet when it boils? Vid me on that please. Thanks.

  • Reply Joan Bowden October 8, 2019 at 10:46 pm

    I have a question–if sugar & salt turn into rocks & are unusable when they get wet, then why in the hell are the packaged in paper containers?

  • Reply reggiep75 October 8, 2019 at 11:02 pm

    Cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias – drugs of a lunatic mother trying to convince herself that her kids are off their rocker cos of sugar!

    Give the mothers sugar, to chill them out!

  • Reply Alex October 8, 2019 at 11:08 pm

    Tldw: wat er

  • Reply Jim Clark, N5QL October 8, 2019 at 11:13 pm

    Sweet video!

  • Reply Jixxy Trix October 8, 2019 at 11:19 pm

    Solution: keep sugar in jar and shake

  • Reply voidremoved October 8, 2019 at 11:33 pm

    so you are saying there is no sugar high? because one time I felt like I was high and the only thing was that I had a lot of sugar. it was kind of like a mushroom or acid trip but didn't last very long and was not fun. kids should forget the sugar and just stick with the mushrooms

  • Reply Mama P October 8, 2019 at 11:39 pm

    White sugar gets lumps here in Florida…it's because of the humidity in the air. The lumps aren't as large or as many as with brown, but it does happen.

  • Reply interwebtubes October 8, 2019 at 11:43 pm

    On a different topic ;

    Can you please make a video piece to explain where the saying,

    “ THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING” ,

    Really wondering about the Origins/ meaning of that phrase??;

    Inquiring minds want to know??;

    🤔😎 sincerely cool ray

  • Reply Frozen Monkey October 8, 2019 at 11:55 pm

    White sugar also clumps if some sod stirs their tea first then adds sugar to their tea with the wet spoon!!!!!

  • Reply T. F. 32 October 8, 2019 at 11:59 pm

    Hey slap head why does your shoulder shrugging in the thumbnail for this video look so dweeby.

  • Reply king james488 October 9, 2019 at 12:04 am

    because it has molasses in it still… also you don't need to slice a beet to crush it, it's definitely more difficult to chop up a cane of sugarcane, it's very fiberous. and last time I looked into it white sugar went through a few purification processes… it's not just bleached brown sugar or it would taste like brown sugar. go tell dave to re-research this…

    also do a thing on the phrase "the price of tea in china/all the tea in china"!

  • Reply drfarrin October 9, 2019 at 12:08 am

    "less popular" HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    Come to the american south during thanksgiving and you'll see an absurd amount of brown sugar.

  • Reply Craig Corson October 9, 2019 at 12:10 am

    I began wondering about something today, and I thought, "What a perfect question for Simon!"
    Simon, how did it come to be that men mostly wear slacks, and women mostly dresses and skirts?
    Okay, now another question has come to mind. That kid on the right side of the screen at 4:50; his name wouldn't happen to be Edvard, would it?

  • Reply Marc Colten October 9, 2019 at 12:15 am

    Lumps? You call that solid brick I had to break up with a ball-peen hammer to continue baking a LUMP?

  • Reply Amadeus Torres October 9, 2019 at 12:15 am

    Yes.

  • Reply promontorium October 9, 2019 at 12:40 am

    Kids do not become hyper from sugar, but they can appear to be hyper because they ate sugar. Kids are naturally energetic. Sugar is the fastest acting energy source for humans. If a kid is low on energy, possibly has run around so much the kid is slowing and becoming lethargic, a candy or soda or something full of sugar will give a massive dose of energy at once. So in this case a child is not becoming hyperactive from sugar, they are actually returning to their natural state. Sugar isn't making them hyper, it's curing their lethargy.

    Anyone with hypoglycemia, or anyone who has done so much work or exercise that they feel entirely physically drained, and then felt the effects of a meal re-energizing them knows exactly what I'm talking about.

  • Reply Frozen June October 9, 2019 at 12:45 am

    Will anybody address the disturbing face of the kid in the stock photo used for the hyper kids? Thanks…

  • Reply Dog Meat October 9, 2019 at 12:58 am

    so the answer is: It contains more water.

  • Reply John Knapp October 9, 2019 at 1:03 am

    One of the initial steps in harvesting cane sugar is to set fire to the cane field (at least they did this in Hawaii). This burned away the leaves and outer bark of the cane. You always knew it was cane harvesting time due to the "Black Snow" as I called it.

  • Reply Bill Schlafly October 9, 2019 at 1:41 am

    The Rolling Stones were not my favorite band but the song Brown Sugar made me think naughty thoughts.

  • Reply Brennan Wilkie October 9, 2019 at 2:01 am

    But, but, but my white sugar does lump

  • Reply Saraneth October 9, 2019 at 2:05 am

    The brown sugar you were talking about is raw sugar. Brown sugar is really fine and tastes completely different.

  • Reply Rod Tad October 9, 2019 at 2:09 am

    Wow learned so much about sugar. Please do more Food/ Health stuff and how it affects the human body. Thanks from Manila

  • Reply Michael Foye October 9, 2019 at 2:18 am

    Another disadvantage of growing beets for sugar is that doing so raises the possibility of summoning David Schreut.

  • Reply Vash TS October 9, 2019 at 2:19 am

    I've heard that beets from Dre are good.

  • Reply Tusksplitter October 9, 2019 at 2:21 am

    if everything was <grey> how would we decide what to eat,before we taste it,,lmao

  • Reply Charles Stebbins October 9, 2019 at 2:28 am

    Did you know that cotton candy was invented by a dentist? Now I wonder why he did that?

  • Reply interwebtubes October 9, 2019 at 2:31 am

    I’m back again;

    Thanks Simon for pointing out that sugar can be extracted from the sugar beat , and that sugar beats can be genetically modified;

    And I just want to point out to everyone,

    Is if you don’t want to be eating genetically modified foods,
    Then read the label of the particular package of sugar that you are buying,

    And make sure that the label clearly states, “ CAIN SUGAR” on it ;

    It doesn’t matter whatever manufacturer you buy;

    If it says Cain sugar on it,

    Then you can rest assured that you will be purchasing sugar from the Cain plant,
    Not sugar from the sugar beat ;

    Scientists haven’t been able to figure out how to genetically modify the sugar Cain plant ,

    At least at this point in time;
    However just because you buy sugar that is non-Cain variety ;

    It doesn’t mean that you are getting a genetically modified product;

    Only thing is if you purchase Cain sugar,

    Is that you can be confident that your sugar isn’t genetically modified;

    I’m just passing this along to everyone;

    It’s your choice as to what you put into your body;

    Best regards and cheers

  • Reply 4473021 October 9, 2019 at 2:39 am

    Brown sugar is magnificent. A shame it's not more popular in the west.

  • Reply Cat Woods October 9, 2019 at 2:44 am

    Many chefs say beet sugar doesn't caramelize as well as cane sugar. I've never tested this myself, but perhaps it depends on the "impurities."

  • Reply Ar7ific1al October 9, 2019 at 2:49 am

    The word "sugar" is just silly, is it not? It's spelled "su" but we say "shu."
    I'm gonna start just calling it sucrose. Because that's what it is, damn it.

  • Reply ted kaczynski October 9, 2019 at 2:51 am

    I pity people who only found this out today.

  • Reply Mike's Micro Shop October 9, 2019 at 2:51 am

    I wonder how many people just had their minds blown when they found out that all of the times they were out of Brown Sugar and couldn't make what they wanted, that they could have made some at home by adding a little Molasses to regular sugar!!!!!!

  • Reply Janice MacEachern October 9, 2019 at 3:06 am

    I live in Ecuador and they have a sugar called panela. It's usually in a sticky cake of it and you have to grate it or cut it up to use it. I wonder if that's just extra molasses in the sugar? In the 2 years living here, I have barely used it so I don't know much about it.

  • Reply Lyndi Wittmann October 9, 2019 at 3:10 am

    I use dark brown sugar every time a recipe calls for white sugar and have never once regretted it. Try it.

  • Reply rmskapura October 9, 2019 at 3:12 am

    5:08 Seriously, that kid’s face (on the right) looks like his seven days were up and he finally saw Samara…🙎🏻‍♀️💍🙎🏻‍♀️☠️

  • Reply Peter Rabitt October 9, 2019 at 3:14 am

    There's an off-color joke somewhere in that question, but I don't know what it is yet.

  • Reply britt69 October 9, 2019 at 3:24 am

    I want cotton candy now.

  • Reply Steve Skouson October 9, 2019 at 3:33 am

    Simon, a 10 second response.

    Brown sugar has water in it.
    (Well, molasses, but that is a
    liquid.)

    Now, off to watch the video.

    "Cotton candy contains no
    preservatives." The 2 OLDEST
    preservatives are, salt and sugar.

    Natural preservatives include
    rosemary and oregano extract,
    hops, salt, sugar, vinegar, alcohol,
    diatomaceous earth and castor oil.

    Copied from here.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preservative

    steve

  • Reply UTube Junkie October 9, 2019 at 3:40 am

    My guess before the video: Brown Sugar has molasses in it. The moisture and stickiness from the molasses clumps the grauels together

  • Reply Charles Martin October 9, 2019 at 3:42 am

    Bonus Fact: After the sugar and molasses have been extracted the left over pulped cane (called bagasse) can be used as fuel. Many times these leftovers are piled high into mountainous heaps to be transported later. In doing so a new habitat favorable to earthworms is created in which they become huge in size. I recall my father taking me to bagasse heaps as a child and he would dig up earthworms as big around as a man's thumb to use as fish bait.🐟

  • Reply Phyllis Dicks October 9, 2019 at 3:44 am

    Uhhhh…… Why? Fifty years ago, I found out this one.

  • Reply John Labus October 9, 2019 at 3:51 am

    Simon, has anyone ever mentioned that you go back and forth between rhotic and non-rhotic pronunciation?

  • Reply Charles Martin October 9, 2019 at 3:52 am

    For pecan pies nothing but brown sugar and thick Karo syrup will do.

  • Reply B R I C K. October 9, 2019 at 3:57 am

    Every time he says sugar I lose a brain cell. Thanks Juiceone

  • Reply Jimboola October 9, 2019 at 3:57 am

    Often wondered why sugar is still packaged in paper bags. Clearly a problematic decision as you often see spillage at the supermarkets on the floor where they are sold. Jars of glass, metal or plastic would see seem to be better options. Indeed once home I store my sugar in a glass receptacle. Moisture is my best guess as to why. 🤔

  • Reply irishjestyr October 9, 2019 at 4:06 am

    Why do we call countries names so different from what they say themselves (in English it is Germany but in German it is Deutschland)? I get that it wouldn’t necessarily be the same due to difficulty of pronunciation, different characters, etc. but why is it so vastly different. Where did that come from?

  • Reply akallio9000 October 9, 2019 at 4:39 am

    Regular sugar doesn't clump, eh? Take a bag of white table sugar from the back of the shelf at Wal Mart which has sat there for a week because the restockers don't rotate the product.

  • Reply Justin Farrah October 9, 2019 at 5:06 am

    dang simon that bonus fact picture threw me way off. is that a kid, a demon, a mixture of the two. idk but I forgot what you were saying.

  • Reply SeanBZA October 9, 2019 at 5:11 am

    Sgar cane however is a great snack, right off the field. Lucky I live in a country and climate where it grows well, so this is easy to get, and you even find small stalls selling freshly crushed sugar cane juice, crushed and extracted right in front of you, and presented in a cup. You even find it growing wild along the roads, as the trucks that carry it from the fields to the processing plant do spill small amounts of it.

  • Reply CaptainLucky Luke October 9, 2019 at 5:35 am

    *Looks up from nearly completed PhD thesis on the properties of brown sugar lumps
    ‘Oh good!! A YouTube notification from Today I Found Out!! That will be a welcome break from this mystery I have devoted years of my life to solving for the benefit of all mankind!!’.
    *looks at video
    ‘Oh! God!! No!!!’.

  • Reply Jeremy Tregunna October 9, 2019 at 5:37 am

    There's another kind of brown sugar made from maple tree sap boiled until all the water is gone. It also clumps together much like you're talking about, and for the same reason — improper exposure to humidity. Most maple syrup operations stop after the proper consistency is achieved, leaving some water in it, but if you continue to boil it off, you will end up with sugar.

  • Reply MaxArceus October 9, 2019 at 6:04 am

    Mark S Brownie

  • Reply Sharonmxg October 9, 2019 at 6:05 am

    I getting sugar from beets is such a fuss while getting it from cane is easy, ecologically friendly and economically superior, why is it extracted from beets at all?

  • Reply Douglas P Keating Jr October 9, 2019 at 6:11 am

    Could you do a video on Julius Caesar’s ancestry (pre-imperial lineage). Such as the relations with the of his uncle Sextus (Consul 91bc), Lucius Julius Caesar (90bc) and another Julius Caesar in 64BC etc? – along, perhaps, with their affiliations with either Marius or Sulla in their civil war and also during Caesar’s civil war. The topic is rarely discussed and their Ive never seen a channel address it

  • Reply Aaron Flick October 9, 2019 at 6:27 am

    Did cavemen smoke weed?

  • Reply mjncad October 9, 2019 at 6:28 am

    Why does brown sugar clump you ask? JTPYO = Just To Piss You Off.

  • Reply Dre Leen October 9, 2019 at 6:56 am

    30 grams of sugar, 9 grams less than a 12 ounce of coke? that is not right. 12 ounce of coke is 11 grams of sugar

  • Reply October 9, 2019 at 6:57 am

    At the end there, just because there are worse things you could be eating, doesn't mean the already bad thing (cotton candy in this case, sugar in any form in other cases) is suddenly fine to eat. Just don't eat it period regardless of what could potentially be worse for you.

  • Reply Timothy Neiswander October 9, 2019 at 7:01 am

    I prefer brown sugar to white. I put it in oatmeal, cheerios, tea…except Grape Nuts, I uncap the honey bear and start pouring.

  • Reply Kari October 9, 2019 at 7:24 am

    Haha! Awesome! I knew it! I never felt any different after eating sugar as a kid, and ive never noticed a difference in my kids when they ate sugar, either.

  • Reply betterseatsinc2010 October 9, 2019 at 7:33 am

    Because science.

  • Reply Steven Utter October 9, 2019 at 7:34 am

    So Daven Hiskey is only involved in TIFO, TOP TENZ, BIographics, and Inforgraphics, and Hightlight History are all yours Simon?

  • Reply coolnegative October 9, 2019 at 7:37 am

    Is brown sugar "healthier" than regular?

  • Reply Shrieking bush pig shrieking hysterically October 9, 2019 at 10:11 am

    Do "Why I have a lump on my forehead".

  • Reply Cory October 9, 2019 at 10:36 am

    Simon says cotton candy daily is better than coke, got it.

  • Reply cycoholic October 9, 2019 at 10:43 am

    Don't listen to him!! He's a lizard person!!

    😉

  • Reply Mr. Roboto October 9, 2019 at 11:34 am

    Brown sugar on pancakes > syrup on pancakes

  • Reply acepilot1 October 9, 2019 at 11:50 am

    The dislikes are from beet farmers

  • Reply 108johnny October 9, 2019 at 12:39 pm

    Tate & Lyle's intensifies

  • Reply Lone Wolf Zakuro October 9, 2019 at 1:25 pm

    Brown sugar less popular? Excuse me? It tastes SO GOOD

  • Reply Swimmer#1 October 9, 2019 at 1:59 pm

    What is the difference between "the fatherland" and "the motherland"

  • Reply Jack Richardson October 9, 2019 at 2:23 pm

    Today you also found out you're an idiot. Brown sugar is regular sugar. The white sugar is refined and processed.

  • Reply Spring Griffith October 9, 2019 at 2:44 pm

    why is an object (or person) the same size in a mirror no matter how close or far away the object is? Or what are the differences in gasoline from various companies (Chevron, BP, Shell, 76, etc)? & which one the best for an engine?

  • Leave a Reply