If you've ever been to a county fair or carnival, you've probably seen someone making cotton candy. That fluffy, pink treat is made by spinning sugar in a special machine.

But what kind of sugar do you need to use?

Can you just use regular, granulated sugar from the kitchen pantry?

Let's find out.

The Half Answer

The short answer is that you can use regular sugar in a cotton candy machine, but there are some caveats.

First, the sugar must be very fine-grained; otherwise, it will not melt properly and will clump up in the machine.

Second, you may need to add more regular sugar than other types of sugar to get the same amount of floss.

Different Types of Sugar

There are three main types of sugar that can be used in a cotton candy machine: granulated sugar, natural cane sugar, and colored sugar.

  • Granulated sugar is the most common type of sugar and is what most people have in their homes. It is made from either beet or cane sugar and is treated with molasses to give it its white color.
  • Natural cane sugar is usually more expensive than granulated because it has not been treated with molasses and still retains some of the molasses flavor. It also tends to be a bit coarser than granulated sugar.
  • Colored sugars are just granulated or cane sugars that have been dyed with food coloring. You can find them in just about any color imaginable.

The Science of Cotton Candy

Cotton candy is made by heating sugar and spinning it through tiny holes to create thin strands. As the sugar cools, it solidifies and forms the fluffy cotton candy we all know and love.

But not all sugars are created equal, and each type of sugar will produce slightly different results.

Regular granulated sugar is the most common type of sugar used in cotton candy machines.

It's readily available and relatively inexpensive. However, some people find that regular sugar doesn't dissolve as well as other types of sugar, resulting in a coarser texture.

Confectioners' sugar, also known as powdered sugar, dissolves more easily than regular sugar because the grains are smaller.

This results in a smoother texture for the cotton candy. However, confectioners' sugar can be more difficult to find and is usually more expensive than regular granulated sugar.

Brown sugar is another option that some people use in their cotton candy machines. 

Like confectioners' sugar, brown sugar dissolves more easily than regular granulated sugar due to the smaller grains. And because brown sugar contains molasses, it can give the cotton candy a unique flavor that some people really enjoy.

The downside to using brown sugar is that it can be difficult to find and is usually more expensive than regular granulated sugar.

How to Make Cotton Candy with Regular Sugar

Once you have your cotton candy machine set up and your regular granulated sugar, it's time to make some fluffy cotton candy! Here's what you'll need to do:

  1. Pour the regular sugar into the center basin of the machine.
  2. Turn on the machine and let it heat up for 3-5 minutes until the indicator light says it's ready.
  3. Slowly pour the regular sugar into the spinning basin, being careful not to overload it.
  4. After about 30 seconds, stop pouring and wait for the regular sugar to melt completely and start flossing around the basin.
  5. Once all the regular sugar has melted and is flossing around evenly, turn off the machine and carefully remove the lid.

Depending on how much regular sugar you used, you should now have a small ball of cotton candy!

Bottom Line

With a little care and attention, you can absolutely use regular granulated sugar in your home cotton candy machine. 

Just be sure to use finer grains of sugar so that it melts properly, and expect to use slightly more regular sugar than other types to get an equivalent amount of floss.

Have fun making delicious cotton candy for your friends and family!

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