Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ever Wonder How Flavor is Added to your Beverages?

By David Marcheschi

Restaurant, beverage bottlers and convenience stores are all familiar with the syrups mixtures used to make great tasting beverages. Basically syrups are a simple of water, sweeteners, acidulates and, of course, flavor (other flavor enhancers, and even vitamins or minerals are added). Now lets look into what really gives your favorite drink its delicious flavor.

How Do Flavor Extracts Differ From Flavor Emulsions

Flavor comes in two forms, extracts and emulsions. Both types of flavor are derived from processes designed to solve the problem of mixing the oils that come from plants and chemicals that contain the flavor with the water necessary to make a liquid that can be turned into a beverage. To understand the problem a little better, lets use a citrus fruit like a lemon for our example. If you take the peel of a lemon and squeeze or twist it, little beads of liquid will appear on the skin. These liquids, which contain the flavor of the lemon in a highly concentrated form, are little droplets of oil. We can use these oils to add flavor to any product, but to do so we usually need to mix it with water to create the finished product. Since oil is insoluble in water, we need to find a way to disperse the flavoring oils. These dispersions are called extracts or emulsions.

Extracts are produced utilizing an ethyl alcohol solution mixed with the flavoring oil. The best way to make flavoring oils soluble with ethyl alcohol is with a mixture of flavoring oil and 50% ethyl alcohol which is then left to sit for about 7 days. During the 7 day waiting period the soluble parts slowly eparate from the insoluble parts, after which the insoluble parts are the filtered and removed. This gives the flavoring extract a clear and almost transparent appearance. Extracts have a stable composition thus it has a long shelf life.

Emulsions are a different approach to creating a flavor that is dispersible. Emulsions use the process of homogenization to force the flavoring oils to disperse onto an emulsifying agent, usually vegetable gum. By homogenizing the flavoring oil, vegetable gum and water an emulsion is formed. An emulsion is a suspension of oil on a water soluble medium which helps to minimize the separation that normally occurs when oil and water are mixed together. Emulsions tend to be heavier than extracts and are cloudy in appearance. Emulsions generally have a shorter shelf life than extracts.

Which Flavor Dispersion Should You Use

So, how do you decide whether to use an emulsion or an extract to flavor a beverage? It generally is as simple as the appearance you want your beverage to take. If you are making a clear beverage, like many lemon lime sodas, you would use an extract. If you are making a beverage that has a cloudy appearance, like a cola, an emulsion would be a more appropriate choice. Either way, emulsions and extracts are the backbone of syrups and are the most important elements in producing great tasting beverages.

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