The Steffen House – A Molasses Desugarization Effort That Couldn’t Gain Traction

Whatever happened to the Steffen House, once a critical feature of beet sugar factories, especially in Europe? A Steffen House was considered so essential to the economic success of a beet sugar factory that a major player in the business of building and operating beet sugar factories in the earliest days of the 20th Century, Henry Oxnard, said he would not accept a contract to build a sugar factory unless it included a Steffen House.

A key measurement of a beet factory’s performance then and now is the percent of sucrose in molasses. The appearance of any sucrose in molasses is evidence that sugar intended for the warehouse, ended up, instead, in molasses. In Oxnard’s day, molasses was deemed a waste product and as such was often poured into the rivers abutting a sugar factory. Typically, in a standard factory lacking a Steffen House, or in this more modern period, an ion-exchange process, beet molasses will consist of fifty percent sucrose, an unacceptable loss to those…

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