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Is demerara sugar the same as brown sugar?

13/07/2023 By Ibrahim Belo in Products Crystallines, Demerara sugar

In the world of crystalline sugars, demerara sugar stands out as a popular choice for many industrial food and beverage manufacturers. In this article, we will explore demerara sugar, compare it with soft brown light sugar and brown sugar in general. We will also clarify misconceptions, delve into production processes, discuss substitution options, and uncover its unique qualities valued by its industrial users and their customers. 

Demerara sugar: coarse and crunchy 

Demerara sugar, named after the Demerara region in Guyana, is a minimally processed cane sugar that retains its natural light brown colour and large crystals. It is made by extracting the juice from sugarcane and then allowing it to evaporate, leaving behind the crystals. The minimal processing gives demerara sugar its distinctive coarse texture and caramel-like flavour. It’s often used as a topping for baked goods, adding a delightful crunch and a subtle hint of molasses. 

Demerara owes it’s golden colour to the molasses left over from the manufacturing process.

Soft brown light sugar: soft and fine-grained 

Soft brown light sugar, on the other hand, goes through a different production process. It starts with the same extraction of sugarcane juice or sugar beet processing depending on its source, but the end-product is refined white sugar. At Ragus, we then carefully mix refiners syrup and a treacle blend back into it, creating a moist and fine-grained sugar with a deep caramel flavour. Soft brown light sugar is commonly used in baking recipes that call for a moist texture and rich taste, such as cookies, cakes, and sauces. 

Different uses of demerara sugar and soft brown light sugar 

Due to their unique textures and flavours, demerara sugar and soft brown sugar have distinct applications in food and beverage manufacturing. Demerara sugar’s coarse crystals and crunchy texture make it an excellent choice for muffin toppings and crumbles, adding both visual appeal and a satisfying eating experience.  

Demerara’s satisfying crunch makes it ideal for toppings on baked goods.

On the other hand, soft brown light sugar’s fine texture and moistness make it perfect for baking recipes that require a tender crumb, enhanced moisture, and a rich caramel flavour. 

Demerara vs brown sugar: the production processes 

Demerara sugar can only be produced from sugarcane. First, sugarcane stalks are harvested, cut, cleaned and crushed to extract their natural juice, which is cleaned and then purified before being boiled under vacuum, leaving a thick, sweet, amber juice. 

The juice is then seeded with sugar crystals to grow into a super-saturated massecuite syrup. During this process, molasses develops, giving demerara sugar its trademark colour, smell and flavour. 

After being spun in a centrifugal machine to separate the sugar crystals from most of the molasses, the now large and coarse sugar crystals are dried, cooled, screened, sieved and bagged. They then go through thorough quality control testing and are ready to be shipped. 

Our soft brown light sugar begins life as refined white sugar, arriving at Ragus’ production facility to be expertly mixed with refiners syrup and a treacle blend, giving it its distinctive brown colour and rich flavour. Its fine texture is due to a relatively small grain size.  

At Ragus, we use white sugar, refiners syrup and treacle to make soft brown light sugar.

Alternatives to demerara sugar in bulk baking 

Although it will not result in the same textures, colour and flavours, it is possible to use alternatives to demerara sugar in industrial applications. Soft brown light sugar, which has a slightly higher molasses content than demerara sugar, can be a replacement. It will provide an acceptable flavour profile, though the texture will be different. You can also mix white sugar with a small amount of molasses that can provide something approaching the flavour and texture of demerara sugar.  

Similar sugars: definitions and common misconceptions 

Many people mistakenly believe that demerara sugar and brown sugar are the same, but brown sugar is a broad term that encompasses different types of sugar, including demerara sugar. While both demerara sugar and soft brown light sugar fall under the umbrella of brown sugar, they have distinct characteristics.  

Chopped sugarcane is the start of the process for all pure cane sugars.

Demerara sugar retains larger crystals and a lighter brown colour and can only be made from sugarcane. Soft brown light sugar has a finer texture and a deeper shade of brown due to the added molasses and its crystalline white sugar base can be made from either sugarcane or sugar beet. Understanding these differences is crucial for achieving the desired results in food and beverage products. 

Demerara vs brown sugar: key takeaways

Demerara sugar has a coarse texture and caramel-like flavour. 

While it falls under the umbrella of brown sugar, it stands out as a distinct variety due to its larger crystals and lighter colour.  

Understanding the differences between demerara sugar and soft brown light sugar is essential for achieving the desired texture, flavour, and overall outcome in food and beverage products. 

Demerara sugar’s minimal processing results in its crunchy texture and distinctive flavour, making it a perfect choice for toppings and adding an enjoyable crunch to various dishes.  

Soft brown light sugar, with the reintroduction of molasses, provides a fine-grained consistency and deep caramel flavour that elevates the taste of baked goods and sauces. 

Demerara sugar and brown sugar are similar, but not the same. While both fall under the broad category of brown sugar, they differ in texture, colour, and flavour. By understanding these differences, you can make informed choices and achieve the desired results in all your bulk recipes. 

Ragus supplies high-quality crystalline sugar to industrial food and beverage producers to enhance product tastes, textures and appearance. To learn more about our pure sugar products, contact our Customer Services Team. For more sugar news and Ragus updates, keep 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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