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Apple Juice Pasteurization: What You Need to Know

pasteurizing apple juice

The pasteurization process is a heating process that destroys harmful bacteria and used to prevent contamination and diseases like listeriosis. Many raw fruits like apples are prone to bacterial growth. Like fermentation, pasteurizing apple juice prevents these harmful microorganisms from growing in it. If the juice is not consumed quickly or is sold, pasteurization is a must, but is not required by law in the US. Here is what you need to know about it.

apple juice pasteurization

How is Pasteurized Apple Juice Made?

It all sounds simple. To pasteurize apple juice, you must heat the juice to a specific temperature for a particular time which depend on the microorganisms likely to grow in that particular juice.

For instance, a juice containing yeast spores should be heated to 158°F (70°C) for 15 seconds to kill the spores, whereas you should heat a juice containing E. coli bacteria to 176°F (80°C) for at least 30 seconds.

The juice can be pasteurized in a variety of ways. Pasteurizer and autoclave (for already bottled production) are the main options for pasteurizing apple juice properly. In both cases, the liquid must be cooled quickly to stop the process.

How Can You Tell If Apple Juice Is Pasteurized?

In the US, pasteurization is not required by law. And since the pasteurization process does not affect the taste or color of the apple juice, the label on the bottle is the only way of knowing if it has been pasteurized.

There are many labels used to describe the pasteurization process. Still, there are a few you should look out for when buying apple juice: 

Sterilized: This juice has been heated in a way that kills bacteria and eradicates all microorganisms. This means that there are no living organisms in the juice at all.

No microorganisms in the juice means no chance of the juice going bad. However, this means that vitamins and good microorganisms are also eradicated.

Ultra-high temperature (UHT) pasteurized: This juice has been heated to a temperature above the boiling point of water. While it has been heated to a high enough temperature to kill bacteria in the juice, it has not been heated to a high enough temperature to destroy all microorganisms. 

Ultra-high pressure (UHP) pasteurized: This juice has been put under such high pressure that it has been heated to reach a temperature above the boiling point of the product. Like UHT pasteurized juice, it has been heated to a high enough temperature to kill bacteria but not high enough to destroy all microorganisms.

Is it safe to drink unpasteurized juice and cider?

Over 1700 people have fallen sick due to the consumption of juice or cider in the last decade, in North America. Most cases are due to unpasteurized juice.

Consuming unpasteurized apple juice can cause serious physical complications, including fever, vomiting, and death if consumed. The fruit used to make juices can become contaminated on the farm by a range of harmful bacteria such as listeriosis, salmonella, and E. coli. E. coli can cause permanent kidney disease or even death. Listeriosiscan can cause severe physical complications in people of all ages. But, children, pregnant women, and elderly individuals are particularly vulnerable to the effects of listeriosis.

Can You Pasteurize Juice At Home?

Like with any other fruit juice processing, you can’t properly pasteurize apple juice at home because you must heat it to a minimum of 140 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 30 seconds to kill all harmful microorganisms.

juice pasteurization machine

Doing so at home would require a piece of quite sophisticated equipment – a juice pasteurizer. And that is not common in every household. 

You can, however, keep your apple juice fresh for longer by storing it in a cool and dark place. You should also avoid re-sealing the jar after you’ve opened it.

How Do You Pasteurize Apple Juice at Home?

As we mentioned earlier, you can’t pasteurize apple juice at home without having an expensive industrial machine – juice pasteurizer, which is not common. However, you can create a similar environment for the microorganisms in your apple juice by heating the bottle in a pot of water that has been brought to a boil.

Keep the bottle in the water until it has cooled down again. However, this method is not as effective as using a pasteurizer since it’s tough to precisely check the temperature of your already bottled product. This means that you might have to leave the juice in the water for a more extended period of time to ensure that it is sufficiently heated.

Is Pasteurized Juice Still Healthy?

While pasteurization sometimes has a negative reputation as a process that affects the juice’s quality, it only helps to improve it.

apple cider pasteurization

Pasteurizing apple juice allows manufacturers to extend the lifespan of the juice.

It also prevents the growth of harmful microorganisms like E. coli and salmonella, which can make the juice unsafe to consume if it’s not handled correctly.

Pasteurizing apple juice also prevents the oxidation of certain nutrients found in the juice, like anthocyanin, which helps to prevent cardiovascular and degenerative diseases.

What Is The Difference Between Pasteurization And Sterilization?

As we mentioned earlier, pasteurization is a process that heats the juice to kill harmful microorganisms. As mentioned before, the best method is to use an ultra-high temperature (UHT) machine.

Sterilization, on the other hand, is a process that completely destroys all microorganisms. With sterilization, all microorganisms are killed, including the beneficial ones.

With pasteurization, the harmful microorganisms are killed, and the beneficial ones are left alive. The difference between these two processes is significant, especially when it comes to the health benefits of the juice.

A significant number of people fall sick each year due to consuming contaminated food, and apple juice is no exception. As mentioned before, pasteurizing apple juice not only extends the lifespan of the juice but also prevents food borne illnesses like listeriosis.

Autoclave Pasteurization

Autoclave pasteurization is the industrial process of sterilizing apple juice in 248°F (120°C) steam with a varying 20 – 40 minutes time range.

This type of pasteurization is one of the most effective methods of sterilizing apple juice, as it kills all microorganisms, including spores.

With autoclave pasteurization, the apple juice is put into bottles, then placed in an autoclave machine. The machine heats the bottles with very hot steam for about an hour.

The bottles with juice are then left to cool and are ready to be sold.

Summing up

Pasteurizing apple juice can extend the lifespan of the juice and prevent the growth of harmful microorganisms like listeria. The best method of pasteurizing apple juice is using an ultra-high temperature (UHT) machine.

The best way to tell if apple juice is pasteurized is by looking for labels that say “sterilized”, “UHT pasteurized”, or “UHP pasteurized”. When you heat apple juice, it is essential to keep it in a clean and sanitary environment.

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