What Is the Difference Between Blending and Mixing?
Aren’t Mixing and Blending the Same Thing?
Blending and mixing are two of the most critical processes in food manufacturing and other industries. They are used in everything from the cement builders used to make your house to the loaf of bread you ate this morning.
They usually mean the same thing in everyday language, but did you know that blending and mixing are actually two distinct operations?
Although the differences are very subtle, they do have something in common. Both combine two or more different substances, but the similarities end there.
Is there really a difference between blending and mixing?
Mixing is generally concerned with many different substances put together to form a new product. In the context of food, mixing involves both dry and wet ingredients.
Think of when you mix water, yeast, sugar, and flour to make a dough. Or moist ground beef and dry breadcrumbs to make meatballs. The mixing operation is usually a comprehensive one—you want to make the result as homogenous as possible.
Other food products that use mixing include:
- Canned soup
What is the process of blending?
Blending entails mixing only dry ingredients. Think of how pancake mix is made. It’s usually a blend of many different dry components (flour, salt, sugar, starches, etc.). Or how we describe tea or coffee “blends,” which is nothing more than combining different varieties of tea leaves or coffee beans together. Powder blending is used to create fine powders with the perfect ratio of ingredients.
Sometimes blending involves a small amount of liquid, such as when producing granules. So long as the majority of the ingredients are dry, it is still a blending process.
Blending is a gentler process than mixing. The aim is to create a uniform distribution of each component in the final blend. It’s not to mish-mash all the ingredients together. Most industrial-grade blenders make it a point to minimize ingredient contact with the blender’s blades.
Examples of products which are made by blending include:
- Powder Mixes (such as pancake mix)
- Spices (such as curry)
- Granules (such as instant coffee)
- Powdered drinks
Why is blending necessary?
Proper blending is a necessary process to create a consistent product. Imagine if the process of blending cake mix wasn’t adequately controlled. You might get an overly sweet cake with one box, and a coarse, gritty product with another. This is because the ratio of flour or sugar would vary wildly with each batch produced if they weren’t blended well.
To achieve proper blending, using the right equipment is essential. There are lots of options on the market, but one of the most effective is the convection blender.
This machine uses a rotating element, such as a ribbon, to rapidly move the dry ingredients around. Unlike your blender at home, it doesn’t use blades that “cut” through the particles and thus is not as damaging. Each batch is also electronically controlled to ensure proper consistency.
The next time you make your instant coffee or sip that afternoon tea, be sure to appreciate the magic of blending and mixing!