How to Disperse Gums in Water
"Do you have any tips for dispersing xanthan gum without lumping?"
That's a question a salad dressing manufacturer asked when he called our technical support hotline recently and it's a common question in the food industry.
Whether you call them lumps, clumps, or fish-eyes, they've caused many headaches for food manufacturers. The pesky lumps can create obvious problems like clogged filters in production tanks or less obvious problems downstream like inconsistent viscosity in the finished product.
If you are having difficulty with undissolved gum, the solution likely requires making only a few minor changes to the first steps in your production process.
Why do gums form lumps?
Gums begin to hydrate nearly as soon as they are added to water and sometimes hydration occurs before the gum is fully dispersed. This can result in the formation of gum balls or lumps that have dry gum powder on the inside where the water couldn't penetrate.
While all powdered gums have a tendency to form lumps when added to water, some gums are more troublesome than others. Among the most difficult are the more popular, Gum Arabic, Cellulose Gum, and Xanthan Gum. These gums are prone to lumping because their hygroscopic nature means they more readily attract and hold water molecules.
Timing is everything
When dissolving any gum in water keep in mind that the most important time for the gum is the first three minutes after addition or production. Giving the gum 5 to 10 minutes to hydrate makes a dramatic difference in the level of gum needed and in the functional properties it exhibits. This is because gums must reach 50% hydration before they are "self-sufficient." The addition of other ingredients like salts and acids before this point may slow or prevent full hydration.
Ways to prevent lumps from forming
Are you still experiencing problems with lumping after trying these suggestions? Our Gum Gurus are available to talk about your specific application and process.