What Is the Sugar Manufacturing Process?

Sara Schmidt

The sugar manufacturing process is executed through the growing, harvesting, and processing of sugarcane. Sugar beet may also be used in the sugar refining process. The actual sugar production process will vary depending upon the type of sugar being made: granulated, liquid, brown, or inverted sugar.

Raw sugar.
Raw sugar.

Most sugar comes from sugarcane, a tall tropical grass. Considered a perennial herb, sugarcane can be planted by hand or machine, and should be grown in well-drained soil. It generally takes sugarcane up to twelve months to mature enough for harvesting. Sugar beets, a secondary source of sugar, are root crops that require a similar period of growth prior to being harvested.

Sugar beets are a source of sugar.
Sugar beets are a source of sugar.

Harvesting of sugarcane can be completed by hand or machine as well. Harvested crops of sugarcane are transported to sugar mills where the mechanical part of the sugar manufacturing process begins. Stalks of sugarcane are usually cleaned of any organic matter, such as dirt or insects, then washed to make them as sanitized as possible before they are physically changed. This cleaning process is usually done with the aid of a machine, such as a high pressure water jet, and combing drums that sift out larger objects, like rocks.

Sugar cubes.
Sugar cubes.

Once cleaned and ready, sugarcane is milled in order for the juice to be extracted. The juice is then both filtered and purified before being boiled. As the juice thickens, it crystallizes, becoming raw sugar. The raw sugar is then spun quickly in a centrifuge, or rotation chamber, in order to fully remove all of the juice and wetness.

Sugar cane field.
Sugar cane field.

After raw sugar is created, the sugar manufacturing process continues by shipping the product to its next finishing step. If the product is being sold as raw sugar, it may be packaged and sent to grocery stores and retail venues for sale. If it is meant to be transformed into refined sugar, it will be sent to a sugar refinery.

Granulated sugar.
Granulated sugar.

At a refinery, the raw sugar will be cleaned and drained once again. The refining step of the sugar manufacturing process will then remove all color and non-sugar particles left within the product, resulting the white, crystalline granules that many people sprinkle on top of their morning cereal. The process for making sugar used with sugar beet roots is similar to the one used for sugarcane, and involves cutting the beats into strips before milling them for juice. The manufacturing of other sugar products, such as Indian gur or khandsari, is also similar to the one used for granulated sugar.


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Discussion Comments


The process of manufacturing of white sugar and brown sugar in entirely different. As you said, it is healthier to eat brown sugar than white sugar, since white sugar is added with chemical additives like preservatives, sulfur dioxide, phosphoric acid, bleaching agents or formic acid.


Someone tell me the jaggery powder making process with parameters.


@burcidi-- I know what you mean. I also experienced that when I visited a sugar manufacturing plant. It's due to the juice being clarified and then turned into froth before it evaporates into crystals.

I learned a lot from that visit to the plant. For example, I learned that the process doesn't end with sugar crystals. Some of the sugar crystals are then processed into syrups and sugar alcohol which are added to many processed foods in place of sugar.

The pulp that's left behind after the sugar cane has been pressed is transported to other manufacturing sites where they are made into paper. And I think that the pulp from sugar beets are fed to animals.

So while sugar is being made, nothing gets wasted. The entire sugar cane or sugar beet is being used.


I used to live close to a sugar cane manufacturing mill. That mill used to give out the worst smell when the juice was being extracted and boiled.


What's the difference between brown sugar and white sugar? Is the cane sugar manufacturing process for both basically the same, except for the step where the color is removed? I think brown is the natural color of sugar correct?

I personally don't understand why the color is removed anyway. Why don't we just take out this step in the process? It will reduce manufacturing costs and doctors say that brown sugar is healthier than white sugar.

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