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Sieving demerara sugar and brown sugars

Is demerara sugar brown sugar?

24/06/2021 By Ibrahim Belo in Products Crystallines, Demerara sugar

A common misconception is that demerara sugar is the same as brown sugar. Demerara sugar is indeed a type of brown sugar, but it is not the product most consumers typically associate the term ‘brown sugar’ with, which is soft brown sugar. This blog explains the differences – and why they matter – between the two sugar products.

Demerara sugar is coarser and undergoes less processing

Demerara sugar close-up shot
Demerara sugar has an amber colour and a mellow flavour, just like some soft brown sugar varieties. However, the crucial difference is that demerara sugar has a coarse and crunchy texture and a relatively large crystal size, whereas soft brown sugar has a soft texture and fine caster-size crystal.

These differences are due to their respective production processes. Most notably, demerara sugar undergoes less processing, which enables the product to maintain its coarse texture and means it can only ever have its unique mellow flavour. And, at this point, it is also worth highlighting another key difference: real demerara sugar can only be made from sugar cane.

You can find out more information about demerara sugar here, including its properties and production process.

Brown sugar is softer and produced at varying strengths

The type of brown sugar that most consumers call ‘brown sugar’ is soft brown sugar. Like demerara sugar, it is a crystalline sugar, however, its distinction is that it has a soft texture and a fine caster-size crystal.

Soft brown sugar also undergoes more processing than demerara sugar. Its primary production material is refined sugar – which can be made from either sugar beet or sugar cane – that is then blended with a specialist mix of refiner’s syrup and treacle. As soft brown sugar undergoes this additional processing step of blending, it can be produced at varying strengths, which demerara sugar cannot.

At Ragus, we produce two varieties of soft brown sugar:

Soft brown light sugar vs dark soft brown sugar side by side image
Soft brown light sugar has a sweet and mellow flavour. Its flavour shares some similarities with demerara sugar, but it is much sweeter. Dark soft brown sugar has a rich and sweet flavour and does not share any similarities with demerara sugar’s flavour.

Different uses of demerara sugar and soft brown sugar

Both demerara sugar and soft brown sugar are predominantly used in baking. But due to their different structure and flavour profiles, they are used for different purposes.

Demerara sugar’s coarse texture means it is well-suited to applications that require a crunch. These are typically biscuits, flapjacks and certain types of cakes such as crumbles.

Soft brown sugar is more widely suited to the baking of sponge cakes, biscuits and pastries. It adds colour, flavour and, crucially, depth and volume to these baked goods applications due to its soft and fine-grain texture.

Brown sugar is used in pastries and cakes

Soft brown sugars have a range of baking applications. 

What can you use instead of demerara sugar?

Due to its coarse texture and unique flavour profile, there are not any like-for-like replacements for demerara sugar – something that is generally true of all sugars. However, one brown sugar does share similar characteristics, providing a certain compromise is made.

Raw cane sugar can be used as an alternative for bakers searching for a product with a coarse texture and similar flavour profile to demerara sugar. It is important to note, though, that demerara sugar generally tends to have a stronger flavour than raw cane sugar, but not always.

Why do some consumers think that demerara sugar is the same as brown sugar?

The misunderstanding stems from the fact that there are several types of brown sugar available. Demerara sugar, soft brown sugar, muscovado sugar and raw cane sugar all fall under the umbrella term ‘brown sugar’, and this can create somewhat of a grey area for consumers even before the different varieties of each of these brown sugars is mentioned.

The confusion is also likely linked with another consumer misconception: that there is only one type of white sugar available. Indeed, some consumers associate the term ‘white sugar’ with granulated or table sugar without considering caster sugar, icing sugar and the many other white sugar products. It is not beyond the realms of possibility to suggest that the same consumers may perhaps apply the same logic to brown sugars.

The sugar industry can certainly be a complex and nuanced environment for laymen. Our advice to you – trust us experts at Ragus!

 Image of customer services team who can support with sugar-related requests  
Ragus was founded as a specialist sugar company in 1928, with its unrivalled sugar expertise passed down over generations ever since. To find out how we can help you select the right pure sugar product for your application, please contact our Customer Services Team. To see more sugar news and updates, continue browsing SUGARTALK and follow Ragus on LinkedIn. 

Ibrahim Belo

With a primary responsibility for manufactured product quality control, Ibrahim works within our supplier chain, factory and production laboratory. He has a focus on continuous improvement, implementing and maintaining our technical and quality monitoring processes, ensuring standards and product specifications are met.

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