Fact sheet

How to disperse gums in water

September 23, 2021 | Food systems, Fact sheet

Many popular gums are difficult to disperse ­— but with these tips from our food systems experts you can lose the lumps and clumps.

"Do you have any tips for dispersing xanthan gum without lumping?" That's a question a salad dressing manufacturer asked when calling our SOLUTION GURUS™ technical support team recently, and it's a common question in the food industry.

Whether you call them lumps, clumps or fish-eyes, they have caused many headaches for food manufacturers. The 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 when added to water?

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 tend 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 five to ten 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.

Four additional ways to prevent lumps from forming

  1. Switch to an agglomerated gum: In most cases, switching to an agglomerated gum like Ingredion's PRE-HYDRATED® or FASTIR® agglomerated gum solutions may be the easiest solution. These gums undergo special processing that expands the particle and creates interstices, or crevices, for the water to flow through. PRE-HYDRATED® gums are then dried to retain this expanded structure.
  2. Disperse gum into a vortex: If you are using a high-shear mixer, slowly sift or sprinkle the gum into the vortex of liquid.
  3. Blend gum with other dry ingredients: Add one part gum to at least ten parts sugar or other dry ingredients in your existing formula; mix well and sprinkle to rapidly mixing water. Beware that other ingredients such as salts, acids or too much sugar can interfere with the gums' ability to hydrate and reduce efficacy.
  4. Slurry the gum with oil: Mix one part gum in five parts of your organic solvent (soybean oil, propylene glycol, etc.). This coats the gum particles and prevents them from lumping when added to your production tank. Keep in mind that you'll have to wait for your water-based ingredients to wash off the oil before the gum can hydrate.

Contact our food systems experts

To speak with our SOLUTION GURUS™ about formulating for your specific texture, stability and nutrition goals, just chat with us or call 1-800-713-0208.