Why does sugar break down so much faster in a hot drink than it does in a cold one?



Why does sugar break down so much faster in a hot drink than it does in a cold one?

In: Chemistry

The sugar you can see actually consists of tiny, tiny sugar molecules you can’t see. These sugar molecules are attracted to each other and like cuddling up and forming the crystals you can see.

Unfortunately for the sugar molecules, the hotter they are, the harder it is for them to stay together. The energy associated with the heat makes them leave the others to give them more space to move around.

Sugar molecules, like all others, try to find their lowest energy state. Water is a charged-up slut (literally charged electrically like a small lil magnet) and likes to take them away from the other sugar molecules.

The warmer the water is, the harder it is for the sugar to stay still because the heat increases the kinetic energy of the sugar. This essentially gives the sugar the zoomies and the water is going to be successful at snagging it up and dissolving it.

By ‘break down’ do you mean dissolve? Generally (maybe even always?) the solubility of a substance in a solvent (e.g. sugar in water) goes up with temperature of the solvent. The water can hold more sugar in solution when it’s hot. Molecularly, hot water molecules are moving around faster and with more energy and so are better able to knock the sugar crystals apart and suspend individual sugar molecules amongst itself

Dissolving sugar and many other compounds in water requires energy for the water molecules to pull apart and surround individual sugar molecules. A hot drink makes this energy easier to distribute.

(In other words, an endothermic process benefits from added heat.)

Imagine things dissolving in a liquid like people at a party. If it’s too crowded on one side they’ll move a bit to get more space, and if someone else moves into their space they’ll move over a bit, and eventually the party will reach some kind of uniform spacing between all people as they move around individually.

The temperature of the water is like how much room there is versus how many people there are. If the water is cold the room is pretty packed, and if the water is hot the room has lots of space!

If we suddenly drop sugar into the water, it’s like a bunch of people arriving to this party. If there’s lots of space it won’t take too long before they all spread out and find a place of their own to hang out, but if the party is crowded it might take a long time where there’s a clump of people near the door, and a lot of jostling before they can actually spread out through the party.

Remember, unlike a party though, cold means many people close together, hot means big and spread out.