Ibrahim Belo Written by Ibrahim Belo

Granular detail: molasses

Molasses is used the world over in products ranging from animal feed to dietary supplements. For the next edition of our Granular Detail series, we break down everything there is to know about this highly adaptable and popular sugar product.

What is molasses?

Molasses is a highly viscous by-product of the boiling process required to refine both sugar cane and sugar beet. Due to the highly bitter taste afforded by chemicals present in the raw sugar beet, beet molasses is only ever used as an additive in animal feed. Cane molasses, on the other hand, with its distinct flavour profile and rich, dark colour, is crucial to a huge variety of foods and drinks, from sweetening desserts to producing rum.

Despite still retaining a reasonable sugar content, cane molasses has also traditionally long been prized for its high vitamin content. Containing iron, calcium, magnesium and vitamin B6, it is still widely regarded as a hugely beneficial dietary supplement. As well as this, molasses has also historically been viewed as a medical cure-all capable of healing ailments and illnesses ranging from the slightly minor to the highly severe.

Close up of rich molasses

What products use molasses?

Molasses is used across a hugely diverse range of products. Due to its distinct flavour profile and dark colour, it is ideal for Christmas puddings, toffee, savoury sauces and cooking marinades. As mentioned above, molasses is also the main ingredient in the distillation of rum and is often found in beer styles such as stouts and porters.

In a true mark of its adaptability, molasses is used in the production of a range of non-foodstuffs and drinks. Once fermented, sucrose present in the molasses is converted into cellular energy, with this eventually going on to produce ethanol and carbon dioxide. As a result, many developing, sugar cane producing nations, use molasses-derived-ethanol as a primary fuel source for their vehicles and homes.

Due to its high energy content and bitter taste, beet molasses can also be found in livestock feeds. Either used as a supplement or forming the base of the feed, it is particularly prevalent in the dairy industry, assisting cattle’s digestion of food while ensuring they are well stocked with key nutrients.

How is molasses produced at Ragus?

As beet molasses isn’t fit for human consumption, we will instead focus on how to produce cane molasses. The process begins at the refining mill, where sugar cane is harvested and then stripped of its leaves. The cane is then crushed to extract as much juice as possible, with the cane’s sucrose content being released.

The juice is then boiled down to leave a highly concentrated sugar syrup, with this also causing sugar crystals to form. After being boiled twice more, the remaining liquid is now cane molasses. Any remaining sucrose that has crystallised is removed in a centrifuge, resulting in a production process that ensures the cane molasses still possesses all the nutrients present in the original sugar cane.

Thick, glossy molasses

Still not fit for human consumption, the raw cane molasses is then transported into evaporating vats. Following this it is heated to around 80°C and purified, with the sugar content and acidity also being adjusted if necessary. Any final impurities are then removed by passing the cane molasses through a 300-micron filter, before the production process is completed by cooling it to a precise temperature and leaving it to mature in holding tanks.

90 years’ experience in the sugar industry mean Ragus has a wealth of knowledge on the molasses you need for your application. To find out more about the versatile applications of sugar, visit our products page and contact a member of our customer services team (0)1753 215424 or enquiries@ragus.co.uk. For more sugar news and Ragus updates, follow Ragus on LinkedIn.