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Caramel Colors for Beverages


Sethness liquid and powdered Caramel Colors and Caramelized Sugar Syrups are used in a variety of non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverage applications including:

  • Carbonated soft drinks
  • Teas
  • Lemonades
  • Fruit drinks
  • Powdered drink mixes
  • Spirits/liqueurs
  • Beer
Caramel Color in Carbonated Soft Drinks

Caramel Color is the most widely used colorant in the soft drink industry. Because of the low pH of most carbonated beverages, Sethness Class IV Caramel Colors are required for their acid stability. In addition to providing excellent reddish to brown hues, Caramel Color can enhance the foaming characteristics, mouthfeel, and flavor of soft drinks.

In soft drink concentrates, Caramel Color has an emulsifying effect with flavor oils, and helps to eliminate the formation of certain types of "floc". The light protective quality of Caramel Color also assists in preventing oxidation of the flavoring components in bottled beverages. Sethness Caramel Colors are also very stable in various processing and packaging conditions.

Beverage manufacturers sometimes use the terms "single strength" and "double strength". These terms describe the relative color strength of Caramel Color and may cover different ranges of color. Double strength Caramel Color (Sethness DS400) was originally developed for use in dietetic beverages. The goal was to reduce the caloric content contributed by the Caramel Color to about 25% of that contributed by a single strength color (Sethness AP100). However, double strength Caramel Color also offers greater cost efficiency, which has contributed to its rapid acceptance.

Recently many carbonated soft drink users have switched to Sethness DSL4 Low 4MeI liquid Caramel Color in order to comply with Prop 65 in California. Class I Caramel Colors will not work in any colas containing phosphoric acid, but can potentially be utilized in beverages containing citric acid.

Caramel Color in Teas

Important considerations in choosing Caramel Colors for teas are tannins and pH. Also, how a tea is made – natural or tea-flavored – will determine the class of Caramel Color. For natural teas, Sethness Class I, Class II and Class IV Caramel Colors are typically chosen because their negative ionic charge reacts well with the tannins produced from the tea leaves. For tea flavors, all classes of Caramel Color can be considered. And, all classes of Sethness Caramel Colors are stable at low pH levels.

Red toned Caramel Colors with higher hues are recommended for most tea applications, while Class IV Caramel Colors are widely used for their strong, dark color in liquid ready-to-drink tea applications.

Caramel Color in Lemonades

Yellow-toned Caramel Colors are preferred for ready-to-drink lemonades and lemonade mixes. Sethness Class I Caramel Colors are recommended for their excellent yellow tones and foaming properties.

Caramel Color for Fruit Drinks

For fruit drinks such as apple juice, cranberry juice, tomato vegetable blends, and more, Sethness Caramel Colors are chosen to standardize or enhance the color. How a fruit drink is produced, whether it is made from natural fruit or fruit-flavored, can influence the best Caramel Color choice. The presence of tannins and pH are important in the Caramel Color selection. Sethness Class I, Class II and Class IV Caramel Colors are better suited for real fruit beverages because their negative ionic charge reacts well with the tannins produced from the ripe fruit. For fruit-flavored drinks, all Sethness Caramel Colors are good options. And, all classes of Sethness Caramel Colors are stable at low pH levels.

Caramel Color Powered Drink Mixes

Caramel Colors can serve as a major cost-saving alternative in powdered drink mixes. From flavored coffee/cappuccino mixes to hot chocolate mixes, Sethness Class IV powdered Caramel Colors can act as an extender and provide the rich, robust brown color these applications require. Sethness liquid Class III Caramel Colors have some of the flavor characteristics of coffee and are an excellent choice in spray-dried applications. Sethness Caramel Colors are also used in flavored powdered coffee creamers. Typically Class I and III are suggested in dairy applications. Caution should be taken when blending Caramel Colors with flavor or milk in a coffee drinks, as ionic properties may cause haze or even settlement.

Caramel Color in Spirits/Liqueurs

Hue and alcohol solubility play a primary role in choosing the correct Sethness Caramel Color for spirits and liqueurs. Red-toned Caramel Colors are often used in rums, while yellow-toned Caramel Colors are utilized in whiskeys, brandies and tequilas. Because of their strong, dark color, Class IV Caramel Colors are often used in flavored tequilas. Sethness Caramelized Sugar Syrups provide the benefit of contributing a sweet flavor profile and color to spirits and liqueurs. Sethness Class I and Class II Caramel Colors provide excellent alcohol solubility up to 80% alcohol (160 proof).

Caramel Color in Beer, Cider and Malted Beverages

Clarity and taste are critical components in finished beers. They can appear unclear for many reasons, such as improper filtration, incomplete fermentation, or incompatibility of ingredients. A typical beer contains 91% water, 4.6% carbohydrate in the form of maltose and dextrose, 0.5% protein, 0.2% mineral salts, 3.6% alcohol by weight and the balance comprised of trace vitamins and flavor compounds.

Brewing grains (corn, rice, barley, wheat) used for producing dark and sweet beers can vary in protein content and carbohydrate content from harvest to harvest. Caramel Colors are often used to standardize the final beer color and to compensate for the variation in the consistency of the malt color as produced by the manufactures.

Sethness recommends using positively-charged Class III Caramel Colors for beer standardization. The use of Class III Caramel Colors avoids the negative interaction of the cereal proteins, which can cause a precipitate to form. The fermentation of the protein is responsible for the body and produces the foamy head. The use of Sethness Class III Caramel Colors helps maintain the proper cereal fermentation products to control the desired color.

Caramel Colors are often utilized in beer production to generate cost savings, as less expensive malted barley can be used. Caramel Colors can be added at either the wort stage or the finished stage in order to increase/darken the overall color of the final product.

Sethness Caramelized Sugar Syrups are commonly used to impart sweet to burnt notes in numerous beers and ciders, while also providing some light colors.