Caramel color is a golden brown (honey or amber) color to a deep dark almost-black brown (coffee or cola) color. It is always water-soluble in either liquid or powdered form and is prepared by the controlled heating of food grade carbohydrates with or without added chemical catalysts. The preparation of caramel color has been practiced in home cooking from the advent of fire. Commercial preparation began in Europe about the mid 1800s. Caramel color probably represents about 90% of all the color additives used today world wide – 70% of that going to the beverage industry.
The Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (WHO), studied the chemical properties of caramel color and established four (4) classes, depending on net ionic charge and reactants used in preparation:
|I||-||No ammonium or sulfite compounds||Distilled spirits, desserts, spice blends|
|III||+||Ammonium compounds||Baked goods, beer, gravies|
|IV||-||Both ammonium and sulfite compounds||Soft drinks, pet foods, soups|
Application must match the ionic charge to that of the product to be colored (at its final pH). Incompatibility results in flocculation/precipitation. Caramel color is available in a number of hues -- as a liquid or powder -- and at a number of concentrations. All are water soluble and at high usage levels will impart a burnt sugar flavor. All caramel colors can be certified kosher and halal.