Science, Nature and Tech

What Makes Popping Candy Pop?

Popping candy is fantastic stuff. You put it on your tongue and within seconds it’s fizzing and exploding and jumping about in your mouth. But what makes this happen? Continuing our #HaveYouEverWondered series, Sam takes a handful sweeties and finds out what makes popping candy pop!

How is Popping Candy Made?

Like many other hard sweets, popping candy is made by boiling different sugars (like corn syrup and lactose) with water and some flavouring. The temperature of the sugar mixture is allowed to increase until it reaches about 150°C and the water has boiled off, leaving a sweet syrup. If left to cool this would become hard, and this is the technique used to create many boiled sweets and lollies.

The recipe for popping candy has an extra step though; highly pressurised carbon dioxide gas is mixed with the sugar mixture. When the pressure is released and the mixture cools, it shatters into tiny ‘rocks’ which contain minuscule bubbles of carbon dioxide within the solidified syrup.

What Makes Popping Candy Pop in Your Mouth?

When you put the popping candy in your mouth, your saliva reacts with the sugar and the ‘rocks’ begin to dissolve. As the solid structure gradually disintegrates, the carbon dioxide bubbles are finally able to burst. This causes the popping, exploding sensation.

Exploring Popping Candy at Home

If you look at popping candy through a magnifying glass or microscope, you’ll be able to see the tiny bubbles within the sugar.

Pop a pair of safety googles on before doing this experiment! Pour popping candy into a glass of cold water; if you watch closely you can see the bubbles escaping and rising to the surface. If you do the same with hot water, the sugar dissolves so quickly that the ‘rocks’ shoot up like popcorn.

Hold popping candy in your hand – it may take a while but gradually the moisture from your skin will begin to dissolve the sugar, causing the ‘rocks’ to jump about.


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