Ibrahim Belo Written by Ibrahim Belo

Granular Detail: Glucose Syrup

Typically used in commercial food and drink production, glucose syrup is consumed by millions of people daily. In this week’s blog we explain the properties, production methods and applications of one of the most versatile products in the world.

What is glucose syrup?

Glucose syrup is a refined and concentrated solution of dextrose, maltose and higher saccharides, obtained by hydrolysis of starch. It is more distinct than sugar, partly because it is a syrup, which means that the solution is a thick, sweetish liquid. However, in contrast to golden syrup, glucose syrup is a clear solution, and is much less sweet than its globally recognised counterpart.

As a result, glucose syrup is used for its lack of a distinct taste, its transparency and its viscosity. Both the sweetness and the viscosity, though, are dependent on how long the solution is hydrolysed.

This manufacturing process was invented in Russia in 1811 by German scientist, Gottlieb Kirchhoff, who discovered the process by heating starch, water and sulphuric acid together. Glucose syrup has been used in products ever since, but up until the late 1980s the variants remained limited in the many different commercial applications.

Glucose syrup is noted for its lack of a distinct taste, its transparency and its viscosity. 

How is glucose syrup produced?

Glucose syrup is refined through a process called hydrolysis of starch, with hydrolysis being the scientific terminology for ‘breaking down’. In simpler language then, hydrolysis is a chemical reaction that glucose refiners use to break down starch, consequently producing a concentrated solution with high glucose content. There are two hydrolysis methods, acid hydrolysis, and enzyme hydrolysis. Both are acceptable and widely used today.

At Ragus, we mainly supply two glucose syrups, glucose syrup 63DE, and glucose syrup 42DE. The DE stands for Dextrose Equivalent, signifying the level of hydrolysis the syrup has experienced. Therefore, our 63DE syrup is sweeter and less viscous than our 42DE syrup because it has been processed for longer. For ease, let’s just go through the production process of glucose syrup 42DE.

At a glucose refining facility, the acid hydrolysis method is more common. This means combining wheat or maize (the starch) with sulphur dioxide (the acid) and water and heating the mixture under pressure. The acid then acts as a catalyst, converting the starch into a solution of dextrose, maltose and higher saccharides.

After hydrolysis, the dilute syrup is passed through a filtration, ion exchange and deodorisation process to remove any remaining impurities, improving the solution’s clear colour as well as its stability. Then, the final step in the process is evaporation. The dilute syrup needs to be evaporated under vacuum in order to raise its concentration.

What products is glucose syrup used in?

Glucose syrup is one of the most versatile sugar products available. It is found in confectionery, beverages, bakery, sauces and pharmaceuticals. But given the fact that glucose syrups are traditionally regarded as the same formula as confectioner’s syrup, let’s start with confectionery. The syrup’s viscosity adds volume to these sweets, helping them become sweeter, chewier and stickier.

After confectionery, the use of glucose syrup in beverages is the next most popular application. As a concentrated source of sugars, glucose syrup adds vital sweetness and flavour to juices, fizzy pop and sports drinks.

However, its versatility lies in more than its sweetness and viscosity. In fact, its humectant properties are the most important factor in making glucose syrup such a valuable ingredient for multiple industries. For instance, glucose syrup is added to packaged baked goods, as well as jams and sauces, to prevent crystallisation and to help preserve the product. Similarly, it is added to pharmaceutical products to protect their shelf life, usually for a period of up to 12 months.

Furthermore, it is important to note that despite being manufactured from wheat or maize, glucose syrup is considered gluten free because the process of hydrolysis removes gluten from the solution. Therefore, glucose syrup can be included in gluten free diets.

Ragus has manufactured, tested and analysed specialist syrups for over 90 years, meaning our expertise of glucose syrups is second to none. Contact us today to find the most suitable glucose syrup for your application.