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This section categorizes hydrocolloids. The majority of our food hydrocolloids are plant-based. They are either gathered, grown through fermentation, cultivated, or extracted and ground to a powder form. Other hydrocolloids are chemically modified plant materials except for gelatin which is made from animals. We list hydrocolloids in their family groups below. Beneath each hydrocolloid are links to expanded details that you may find educational and interesting.


Seed and Root Hydrocolloids:

  • Locust Bean Gum (LBG): Obtained from the seeds of the carob tree, this gum primarily serves as a thickening and gelling agent in foods. LBG and xanthan gum, when combined, produce a synergistic effect, enhancing gel strength. LBG is also frequently used with carrageenan and agar to improve the texture of products like ice cream.

  • Helpful Suggestions: 
    • In frozen products locust bean gum retards ice crystal growth which improves the mouthfeel, especially after several thaw-freeze cycles
    • The addition of 0.2% locust bean gum makes bakery fillings in pumpkin pies and fruit tart fillings bake stable and less prone to boil out.
  • For Further Reading:
    • Konjac Flour: Derived from the root of the Konjac plant, which is native to Asia. It is known for its unique ability to form very viscous solutions and gels. Often used in combination with other hydrocolloids, like carrageenan and xanthan gum, to optimize texture in foods.
    • Helpful Suggestions: 
      • Konjac is sold under several different names including konjac flour, konjac mannan, and glucomannan.
      • Under alkaline conditions, konjac forms a thermoreversible gel known in Japan as konnyaku (gel) or shirataki (noodles).
      • Cornstarch can be replaced in recipes by a smaller amount of konjac flour

    Exudate Hydrocolloids:

    • Gum Arabic: Harvested from the acacia tree's sap, gum Arabic is commonly used as an emulsifier, stabilizer, and thickening agent. Also, it's frequently employed in the production of edible films and coatings.

    • Gum Tragacanth: This gum is sourced from several species of Astragalus shrubs found primarily in the Middle East. Known for its superior water-absorption properties, it is utilized in foods, cosmetics, and as a binding agent in pharmaceuticals.

    • Gum Karaya: Derived from the sap of Sterculia trees, it is employed as a thickener and emulsifier in various food products.

    Extract Hydrocolloids:

    • Agar Agar: Sourced from red seaweed, agar is primarily used as a gelling agent in foods.

    • Helpful Suggestions: 
      • The addition of glycerol or sorbitol can prevent dehydration of the gel.
      • When replacing gelatin or pectin for gels, use 2-3 and 10 times less agar
      • For "raw" preparations dissolve agar in a small quantity of water. Heat the remaining solution to 35-45 °C and mix with agar solution.
      • If left uncovered agar gels dry out, but if immersed in water or other liquid it swells and retains its original shape.
      • A special property of agar is the large difference between the gelling temperature and the melting temperature. This is known as hysteresis
      • The minute amounts of agar needed can be difficult to measure. One trick is to make a 0.1x strength agar by mixing 10 g of agar with 90 g of sugar. For a recipe that calls for 0.5 g agar you then use 5 g of the 0.1x agar/sugar mixture. But keep in mind that you do add a small amount of sugar, so this is not suitable for every recipe.
      • Agar alone forms brittle gels, but in combination with locust bean gum elastic gels may be obtained.
    • For Further Reading:
    • Carrageenan: Extracted from certain red seaweeds, it acts as a thickener, stabilizer, and gelling agent in various food products. It's frequently used alongside other hydrocolloids to attain desired textures.

    • Helpful Suggestions: 
      • Used at low levels (0.025- 0.035%) iota carrageenan provides a rich mouth feel to milk-based drinks.
      • The shear-thinning property of iota carrageenan gives a certain "melt-in-mouth" feeling
      • If used for products with pH < 4.3 carrageenan should be added immediately before cooling to avoid excessive hydrolysis with resulting loss of gel strength/viscosity
      • Iota and kappa carrageenan can be used for normal and reversed spherification in combination with calcium and potassium salts
    • For Further Reading:
    • For Further Reading:
    • Microcrystalline Cellulose: Derived from cellulose, it acts as a bulking agent and an anti-caking agent in food and pharmaceutical applications.

    • Gelatin: Obtained from animal collagen, primarily from the bones and skin, it is predominantly used as a gelling agent in food, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics.

    Microbiological Hydrocolloids:

    • Gellan Gum: Produced by bacterial fermentation, gellan gum is known for its exceptional gelling, stabilizing, and thickening properties in foods.

    • Helpful Suggestions: 
      • The presence of sodium and calcium will prevent proper hydration.
      • Addition of a sequestrant such as sodium citrate binds calcium and helps hydration.
    • For Further Reading:
    • Xanthan Gum: A result of bacterial fermentation, primarily from Xanthomonas campestris, it's extensively utilized as a thickener and stabilizer in foods and other industries.

    • Helpful Suggestions: 
      • Add xanthan to reduce syneresis (water drainage), even in cold preparations
      • Xanthan is shear thinning: liquids are viscous when at rest, but become more fluid when stirred or sprayed.
      • The high at-rest viscosity gives excellent cling properties, for instance in tempura batters.
      • Stabilizes emulsions.
      • Add a touch of xanthan gum to keep water from leaking out of vegetable purées 
      • Keep particles suspended
      • Xanthan reduces starch retrogradation in bread and baked products. 
      • Less than ~0.2% prevents ice crystal formation during thawing cycles
      • Stabilizes whipped cream and mousses 
      • In gluten-free products it prevents crumbling and binds the product.
      • For best effects use in a ratio of 2 parts xanthan gum to 1 part guar gum.
    • For Further Reading:

    Cellulose Derivative Hydrocolloids:

    These are derivatives of cellulose, often chemically modified to achieve specific properties. Examples include carboxymethyl cellulose and methylcellulose, both of which are widely used as thickeners, stabilizers, and emulsifiers in various applications.

    • Helpful Suggestions:
      • A large range of methyl cellulose products are available, with different gelling temperatures.
      • Since methylcellulose gels when heated it is often used for shape retention in products that tend to fall apart when heated
      • Methylcellulose can be used to prevent boil out of fruit fillings in bakeries.
      • A range of cellulose derivatives is available in addition to methylcellulose including CMC (carboxymethyl cellulose), HPC (hydroxypropyl cellulose), and HPMC (hydroxypropyl cellulose).

    Other Derivative Hydrocolloids:

    These hydrocolloids are chemically modified versions of various polysaccharides to acquire specific functionalities. Examples include propylene glycol alginate (derived from alginate) and hydroxypropyl guar (from guar gum). They are often used to achieve specific texture and stability properties in foods and pharmaceuticals.


    Further Reading 

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