aw sugar sugar
March 31, 2020 8:37 AM   Subscribe

Why did my granulated white sugar go brown in the container? I am not talking about caramelization. This sugar was just stored in the cabinet for about a month; when I poured it into a meauring cup, I saw it had gotten a little clumpy here and there and started to go light brown at room temperature. Then I looked more closely through the clear plastic container and saw the entire bottom of the sugar was brownish in streaks. It was Target brand.
posted by nantucket to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is gross, but is there any chance there’s brown liquid dripping into the container? Other than that I can’t see how it could happen.
posted by LizardBreath at 8:45 AM on March 31, 2020

Could the container have been damp when you put the sugar in? Or what was previously in the glass container left remnants behind.
posted by wwax at 8:51 AM on March 31, 2020

Response by poster: No, it was a closed, plastic container. I had used it a few times without seeing this -- never scooped into the container, just poured. (I threw it out, but these days the cost of sugar isn't two bucks, it's a trip to the store...)
posted by nantucket at 8:51 AM on March 31, 2020

Sugar goes from raw (brown-ish) to white during the processing.
Sugar refinery
Many cane sugar mills produce raw sugar, which is sugar that still contains molasses, giving it more colour (and impurities) than the white sugar which is normally consumed in households and used as an ingredient in soft drinks and foods. While cane sugar does not need refining to be palatable, sugar from sugar beet is almost always refined to remove the strong, usually unwanted, taste of beets from it. The refined sugar produced is more than 99 percent pure sucrose.
I would *maybe* have thought that this batch just didn't get processed enough or correctly and had a bunch of molasses rich crystals in the mix. Depends on the color of brown I guess.

But then again, it could have been mold or something wonky.
posted by zengargoyle at 9:22 AM on March 31, 2020

Roommates/houseguests putting coffee spoons into the sugar?
posted by boudicca at 10:07 AM on March 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

Was the container's cabinet above a source of heat (toaster, oven, refrigerator)?
posted by Spathe Cadet at 10:10 AM on March 31, 2020 [3 favorites]

To Spathe Cadet's question, sugar can caramelize and remain granular when heated gently.
posted by mmascolino at 11:03 AM on March 31, 2020

I’ve never had that happen in all my many years of storing sugar in plastic tubs for months on end. Very strange. I...would be dubious about eating it (but I hear you on the grocery store issue).
posted by leahwrenn at 7:31 PM on March 31, 2020

Response by poster: Thank you for the speculations! Perhaps I'll never know what caused it, but at least my real question was answered: that no one could say "Oh yes, it's this benign thing that happens when [xyz] and it's fine." Luckily I also had a bag of perfectly fine sugar to make strawberry muffins (lockdown discovery: if life gives you moldy blueberries, make strawberry muffins... )
posted by nantucket at 10:03 PM on March 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

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