Why is home-squeezed orange juice so different from store bought?


Even when we buy orange juice that lists only “orange juice” as its ingredients, store bought OJ looks and tastes really different from OJ when I run a couple of oranges through the juicer. Store bought is more opaque and tends to just taste different from biting into an orange. Why?

In: 11826

All that “100% orange juice, not from concentrate” stuff you’ve been drinking technically is 100% orange juice but not in the way freshly squeezed at home with a juicer is. It’s complicated.

Once the juice is squeezed and stored in gigantic vats, they start removing oxygen because removing oxygen from the juice allows the liquid to keep for up to a YEAR without spoiling. This is good because people don’t start hating orange juice ~~in the fall~~ when it isn’t growing season and then suddenly start craving it again when oranges are actually growing on trees. For the sake of year-round juice, we pasteurize, which is great at keeping orange juice shelf stable, but absolutely devastating to flavor.

So–in order to have OJ actually taste like oranges–the beverage companies hire flavor and fragrance companies to create “flavor packs” to make juice taste like orange juice. The flavor packs vary from company to company which is why you probably have a favorite “brand” of orange juice when logically one squeezed orange should taste like another, but they all contain ethyl butyrate, which our brains associate with “this tastes like orange juice probably should.”

So how do they get away with saying “100% juice”? Those flavor packs are made from oranges and orange byproducts–such as the aforementioned ethyl butyrate–so the FDA doesn’t require that they list these as separate ingredients, so if you pick up a bottle of orange juice and the only ingredient is “oranges,” that’s why. What they’re not telling you is that the product *is* chemically altered.

EDIT: As many have pointed out, I have my orange growing season wrong and have since corrected it.

Because store bought orange juice is made in large factories, the juice has to be stores. To prevent spoilage they store it in a special way that preserves it but essentially removes the flavor. The factory later adds a flavoring back to it before bottling it. Fresh squeezed has all the original flavor because you just make the juice and drink with not extra steps.

Several years ago Cracked made a video about fruit juice in general, https://youtu.be/8Cf_GdmjXxQ, it’s cynical but factually accurate.

CBC did an interesting video about Orange Juice a few year ago:

I used to work at Lucerne foods juice factory, we made Safeway juice products and also co-packed for Minute-Maid and Sunripe. I can tell you the exact method we used to make Orange juice.

Every one of our “batches” would start with 4000L of water.

For every batch of orange juice we put in around 700 kg of frozen concentrate. The concentrate doesn’t actually have any additives it just gets put through an evaporator however this heating process breaks down some of the natural vitamins. This process affects the flavour slightly and is probably the core reason why your home juiced orange juice tastes different.

Another ingredient is citric acid, this is a naturally occurring acid in many fruits but is added to give orange juice that “bite” that were used to.

The final ingredient is Ascorbic acid, this is vitamin C, and is added due to the natural vitamin C being broken down in the heating process of making the concentrate.

After all these are mixed we take a sample and measure it’s brix and acidity. The Brix is a way to measure the sugar content of a sample and is used to make sure we get the ratio of water to concentrate right which is pretty key to making good juice. Using this number we add water until we get it into our accepted limits, usually adding a few hundred litres of water to get it there. The acidity number is used to add a bit more citric acid to give it the right flavour as well.

Basically making the juice right is like this:
Brix too high, add more water.
Brix too low, add more concentrate.
Acidity too high add more water.
Acidity too low add more citric acid.

Once the batch is perfect it will go through a processor which will heat the juice up high enough to kill almost all bacteria in it but not quite high enough to sterilize it and ruin the flavour again (like the concentrate process does). Because it doesn’t get quite as high is why the juice will last a really long time but not indefinite.

It will then go into the packaging machine where it is able to deposit the right amount of juice into the packaging in a sterile environment and seal the packaging before the package is released down the line to be put into cases.

Before every run and every half an hour a sample will be taken off the line and the juice retested, tasted and the carton seals tested to make sure everything is good. On top of this every half hour a sample will be taken and put into a holding room where it will sit for a month and re-checked to make sure the seals are still good before the product can be sold.

So anyways long story short, it’s the processing of the concentrate that affects the flavour. It counteracted as best as possible but will still never be exactly the same. That said, this processing is necessary to make a product not spoil after a week or two.

There is another problem that u/samx3i did not mention in their excellent post: one of the key aroma chemicals of orange, acetaldehyde, is *really* volatile (it evaporates fast), so it is impossible to retain in squeezed juice for very long.

Acetaldehyde is the stuff that stings your eyes when you peel an orange. Later, it gives the same “this is really fresh” feeling in your mouth.

Despite applying *a lot* of chemical wizardry, neither flavor nor juice companies have managed to reproduce the effect of, or preserve, this stuff in bottled juice.

In addition to what’s already been said, grocery stores stock different oranges than are used for juicing.

I knew an orange farmer that explained this to me. When oranges are juiced the industrial way, they mash the whole fruit, including the skin. The white part under the zestable skin is bitter, and greatly alters the taste. Then it is pasteurized, among other things. Another redditor gives a more detailed explanation as to what else is done to this juice.

The answer is pasteurization… To sell orange juice you have to pasteurize it, which involves boiling. Boiling changes the flavour. If you can find cold pasteurized juice you’ll instantly notice the difference. This technique involves putting the juice in a vacuum chamber and lowering the pressure till it boils and freezes around room temperature, removing any living organisms but preserving the flavour.

I work on a small family juice farm in Florida and it boils down to a few simple points…

Pasteurization: heating “each particle of juice” to 100 C or 212 F will drastically change flavor profile. We do not pasteurize our juice and because of that we do lab samples every time we bottle and our juice has a 14 day shelf life.

Fruit Quality: major producers like Tropicana get a large amount of their juice concentrate from Brazil on tanker ships. Both pasteurized and frozen, the quality is piss poor.

Fruit Type: although there are many types of oranges, only a certain number are best suited for juice. The main juice fruit are navel, hamlin, pineapple, and valencia oranges. A unique perspective of being more of a “boutique” producer is that during certain parts of the season we can add more rare citrus for certain effects. A percentage of red navel in a mix give the juice a beautiful golden color that almost glows. Small batch tangerine varieties (think “Cuties”) like hw murcott and tangelos give the juice an intense sweetness whereas early season juice with mainly navel/hamlin are more tart. But not tart like the ultra pasteurized store juice that’s more bitter than tart.

All that to say, if you haven’t had fresh Florida juice before and you have the chance to stop at a roadside farm stand…take the chance. It’s a time honored tradition and one that sadly won’t last the next generation more than likely.

Home squeezed orange juice is just juice from the flesh. Store bought juice basically involves juicing the whole orange, including seeds ,rinds . Nothing tastes like an orange than home hand squeezed juice.

And if you wanted a gallon of your own fresh squeezed orange juice, you will need to spend about $100 in oranges compared to just paying $5 for the altered juice in the store.