At Nature’s Flavors, we know using our natural flavoring products for the first time can be challenging. And learning how to balance flavors can seem impossible if you don’t have the right ingredients.
Finding the perfect balance combines science and the art of flavoring. Luckily, Bill The Flavor Guy, with over 40 years of experience in flavor chemistry shares one of his biggest secrets behind natural fruit flavorings: acid!
What is an Acid
Acid, commonly associated with the sour flavor in lemons, is a chemical substance that neutralizes alkaline materials. On the pH scale, acids are on the lower end, in the middle we have our bases like water, and at the higher end are alkaline substances like baking soda. This makes acids and alkaline materials polar opposites.
Knowing the pH level of your ingredients will help you achieve the perfect flavor and best-looking recipe. It’s very common to combine an acid and alkaline ingredient in a single recipe like a lemon loaf where lemons and baking powder are used. Knowing the chemical reactions when an acid and an alkaline ingredient meet will help you develop an overall better recipe.
How to Balance Flavors When Using an Acid
Our team of flavor chemists have examined the chemical makeup of fruits and found that fruits contain unique natural acids and natural sugars. “But when it comes to eating fruit, they don’t taste good unless there’s always sugar and acid. That goes for most of the fruits”, said our lead flavor chemist Bill The Flavor Guy.
At Nature’s Flavors, we design our natural flavorings as close to the real thing as possible. So, if the fruit contains citric acid and natural sugars like a strawberry, then our Natural Strawberry Flavor must be used along with citric acid and a sweetener or the flavor will fall flat.
Although citric acid is the most commonly used acid in the food industry, it won’t constantly develop the perfect flavor. “If you really want to be an artisan on whatever your creation is, you want to not just include the right amount of flavor and fruits in the product, you want to include the right acid with that flavor,” said Bill The Flavor Guy.
Strawberries naturally contain citric acid and traces of malic acid. So, if you’re developing a strawberry carbonated drink, our lead flavor chemist recommends adding both acids.
Not only does acid balance beautifully with sweet flavors, but acid counteracts spicy flavors. This is why you’ll often see lime juice and salt as ingredients for a jalapeño margarita drink recipe.
What Other Acids Can Be Found in Fruits
If you’re still trying to determine how to balance flavors with acids, let’s explain where some can be found:
- Citric Acid is commonly found in citrus fruits like lemon, limes, and oranges
- Malic Acid is commonly found in apples and strawberries
- Acetic Acid is found in kombucha
- Lactic Acid is found in dairy products but also in kombucha
- Ascorbic Acid, or Vitamin C, is commonly found in citrus fruits
- Tartaric Acid is found in grapes
- Phosphoric Acid is not found in nature but is used in cola soft drinks
Although citric acid is the most commonly used acid, knowing which acids go into a specific fruit will upgrade the flavor in your recipe.
Which Recipes Will I Need an Acid For?
If you’re making a fruit-flavored recipe such as a strawberry carbonated water or apple sorbet, you’re going to need the right kind of acid along with a sweetener.
Our lead flavor chemist The Flavor Guy prefers not to use an acid in hot products, “Normally acidified products hot, don’t taste good. They’re really more common in a cold beverage or like sorbet, things like that.”
If your mixture has a certain pH level when it’s cold, that level will change as the temperature rises which may affect your flavor.
Acids also lend a hand when you’re experimenting with natural red food colorings. Red, pink, and purple food colorings contain a pigment called anthocyanins which are quite acidic.
How to Use the Right Amount of Acid
When using an acid solution or in powder forms, such as citric acid or lactic acid, we recommend using a 0.15% to 0.20% ratio of acid to your overall formula without the flavoring ingredient. This means you have to weigh every ingredient of your recipe aside from the natural flavoring. From the amount of water and sugar.
Then add the amount of acid to that weight within the range of 0.15% to 0.20%.
Here’s an example:
If you add 250 grams of water + 28.3 grams of sugar = 278.3 grams of total weight.
- 0.15% of 278.3 grams = 0.41 grams of acid solution
- 0.20% of 278.3 grams = 0.56 grams of acid solution
Once you calculate how much acid solution to use, you’ll do the same calculations to determine how much natural flavoring to use. However, we recommend a natural flavoring ratio of 0.25% to 1% by weight of your overall ingredients.
Use an Acid with Nature’s Flavors Products
A common concern we get here is our flavorings products “taste like chemicals” or the flavor is undetectable no matter how much is used. The answer: you’re using too much flavoring! If you’re using a fruit-flavored product, you’re going to need the right amount of acid and sweetness for the flavor to bloom.
At Nature’s Flavors, we make our natural flavorings with the purpose of giving users the most flexibility. So, we always recommend adding acid and sweetener when using our natural flavorings. Otherwise, your flavor will fall flat, commonly resulting in the need for you to use more flavoring than recommended. This will then make your recipe taste “chemical” or “artificial”
How to Balance Flavors: A Summary
Acids play a vital role when learning how to balance flavors. Not only do you need the right amount of acid and sugar, but you need the right type of acid for a fruit flavoring to perform at its peak.
With over 40 years of experience in flavor chemistry, Bill The Flavor Guy strongly recommends using an acid and sweetener when experimenting with natural fruit flavorings.