Extraction is a surprisingly common technique in the food world. While it may sound like a complicated process, it’s probably something you’ve done recently if you’ve made coffee or tea. So, you might be wondering, what exactly does food processing extraction entail?
Food Processing Extraction
Extraction is used in the food industry all the time. Here are just a few of the many, many examples:
- Sugar from sugar cane
- Caffeine from coffee beans (to make decaf coffee)
- Vanilla extract from vanilla beans
- Oil from oilseeds
At its core, extraction is the process of separating a particular compound, ingredient, etc. from other compounds. This can be done mechanically, such as with sieving, chemically, such as by using a solvent, or physically, by taking advantage of physical properties like boiling points or densities. Solvent extraction is just one method, but within it is a whole world of different equipment, solvents, and techniques.
Solvents in Food Extraction
Solvent-based extraction involves using a solvent, which is simply a compound that dissolves another compound, to retrieve the target compound without taking any of the other compounds. In the coffee example, hot water is the solvent that is used to dissolve the target compound, coffee extract. For that example, the end product is the mix of water and coffee extract, but in some cases like sugar extraction, the end goal is just the target compound, not a mix of the compound and its solvent.
In general, the following criteria are used to select a solvent for a given process:
- Must dissolve the compound
- Must not dissolve undesirable compounds
- If using a liquid solvent to extract a compound from another liquid, the solvent must not be miscible with the other liquid
- If the end product is pure extract, as opposed to an extract/solvent mix, the target compound and solvent must be easily separated
Something that sets food and pharmaceutical extractions apart from many other types is the fact that these products will eventually be consumed. It isn’t enough to simply isolate the target compound, you also have to make a safe, non-toxic end product. As such, the list of criteria used in solvent selection has an additional entry:
- The solvent must be safe for consumption
In cases where a toxic solvent must be used due to a lack of other options, the end product requires much more treatment and testing to ensure that it is safe.
Buying Food Extraction Solvents
Here at Extraction Grade Solvents, we’ve been satisfying our clients’ solvent needs since 1991. If you’re looking to buy solvents for food extraction, consider taking a look at our Edible Oil Solvents like 1-Butanol! If you have any questions about food extraction, contact us today to speak with our extraction experts.