Sugar Production in Modern Times
Book Review: Citrus: A History by Pierre Laszlo

Making Sugar from Cane and Beets

SugarSpiritLogoSquare1 In the continuing study of sugar, today we'll look at how sugar is made today. 

According to, this is how sugar is made from either beets or cane. 

For sugar cane:

❧ Grinding the cane to extract the juice;
❧ Boiling the juice until the syrup thickens and crystallizes;
❧ Spinning the crystals in a centrifuge to produce raw sugar;
❧ Shipping the raw sugar to a refinery where it is,
❧ Washed and filtered to remove remaining non-sugar ingredients and color; and
❧ Crystallized, dried and packaged.

Beet sugar processing is similar, but it is done in one continuous process without the raw sugar stage. The sugar beets are washed, sliced and soaked in hot water to separate the sugar-containing juice from the beet fiber. The sugar-laden juice is purified, filtered, concentrated and dried in a series of steps similar to sugar cane processing.

The below illustration I took from the pamphlet on called "How Well Do You Know Sugar?" located at this link

Sugar refining
(Click for larger size pop-up. Image property of


The Sugar Spirit Project is sponsored by Bacardi Rum. Content created and owned by Camper English for Alcademics. For the project index, click on the logo above or follow this link


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I have lived in the UK and the US, and sugar tastes much sweeter in the US. I have been told this is because the UK uses beet sugar and the US uses cane sugar. Do you know if cane sugar is inherently sweeter after refining, or do sugar manufacturers make it extra extra sweet on purpose?

Camper English

From what I've read, beat sugar and cane sugar are identical once crystallized into sucrose- and thus should be identically sweet. Certainly sweetened items in the US are sweeter because of their use of high fructose corn syrup, but the sugar itself supposedly shouldn't taste different. However, it's worth investigating the rumor. I'll have to pick up some sugar next time in the UK and see.


Thanks for the reply. This came up when I was in a cafe in Scotland with a fellow American, and we ended up opening and tasting the sugar packets. The difference in sweetness was unmistakeable to us. US sugar tastes really sweet, and UK sugar kind of tastes like nothing. If you'd like to investigate this further, feel free to email me at the address in this post and I'll mail some sugar packets to you. Thanks for all the information on this and all other topics!

Camper English

From now on I am so taking sugar packets from whatever country I visit for taste tests later. I already started with my visit to Italy this week. No need to mail sugar to me now, but I might take you up on that in the future!

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