View All Molecular Gastronomy Glossary


What is Hydrocolloids?

Also known as gums, hydrocolloids are substances which form colloids when exposed to water. These are hydrophilic polymers from animal, vegetable, microbial and synthetic sources. Hydrocolloids may contain a number of polyelectrolytes and a number of hydroxyl groups. These work by the binding of macromolecules and absorbing water resulting in it molecules becoming enlarged and individualized. Polymer chains unwind and become overlapped trapping the water. Characteristics of a hydrocolloid will depend on the strength of bonds and the source.

There are a number of different hydrocolloids used especially for food production. However they may be similar in composition. These are used as additives to increase the functional property of aqueous food. Among the functions carried out by hydrocolloids are viscosity, gelling, emulsion stabilization, water binding and the prevention of ice crystal formation. It may also be used in food specialist applications as a suspension, film former, foam stabilizer and for adhesion.