Cream of Tartar vs Tartaric Acid: Difference and Comparison

Multiple chemical compounds are not just limited to laboratories for experiments, but they are commonly used in households too for several different purposes, such as in the kitchen, for cleaning, and more.

Cream of tartar and tartaric acid are two such compounds that are used in our day-to-day life. Though these compounds sound the same, they have several different dissimilarities.

Key Takeaways

  1. Cream of tartar is a white, powdery byproduct of winemaking used as a leavening agent and stabilizer in baking. At the same time, tartaric acid is an organic acid found in various fruits, including grapes, and is the primary component of cream of tartar.
  2. Cream of tartar is less acidic and has a milder taste than tartaric acid, making it more suitable for culinary applications.
  3. Tartaric acid has additional uses in the food industry, such as regulating acidity and preservatives. In contrast, the cream of tartar is primarily used for its stabilizing and leavening properties.

Cream of Tartar vs Tartaric Acid

Cream of tartar is a byproduct of winemaking, a white powder used as a leavening agent in cooking and baking. Tartaric acid is a naturally occurring organic acid found in many plants, including grapes and tamarinds, used in food and wine production to add a sour taste or serve as a preservative.

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The cream of tartar is also known as the potassium hydroxide salt of tartaric acid. The reason behind that is that cream of tartar is made by adding a certain type of salt, known as potassium hydroxide, to tartaric acid.

Though the name says the word ‘cream’, the cream of tartar does not have a creamy texture. Instead, it has a white powdery and dry texture.

Tartaric acid is a naturally occurring salt that is found in plants, and more specifically, fruit plants. As the name suggests, tartaric acid is a type of acidic salt.

However, since tartaric acid is a type of organic salt, it does not have a high amount of acidic value compared to other acids’ acidic value.

Comparison Table

Parameters of comparisonCream of tartarTartaric acid
Discovered byLouis Pasteur discovered the cream of tartar. Tartaric acid was discovered by Carl Wilhelm Scheele.
Discovered inA cream of tartar was discovered in 1848. Tartaric acid was discovered in 1769.
ProductionA cream of tartar is made by adding potassium hydroxide to tartaric acid. Tartaric acid is extracted from plants.
Form of compoundCream of tartar is a product that is made synthetically. Tartaric acid is a natural product.
UseCream of tartar is used as a cleaning agent and in baked foods. Tartaric acid is used as a food additive and in baking powders.

What is Cream of Tartar?

The scientific name of the cream of tartar is potassium bitartrate or is also known as potassium hydrogen tartrate. When the product is used for cooking purposes, it is commonly known as a cream of tartar.

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When grapes are fermented to make wine, cream of tartar is extracted from the procedure. Apart from cooking purposes, cream of tartar can be used for several different purposes too.

One of the most common uses of cream of tartar is for cleaning purposes, that is to say, cream of tartar can be used as a cleaning agent. However, only the compound cannot work for cleaning purposes.

Instead, cream of tartar has to be mixed with an acidic solution, which creates a fizzing solution. This solution is then used to clean different surfaces such as glass, wood, floor, and more.

Other uses of the cream of tartar are for cosmetic and medicinal purposes, and it is used as a chemical in different chemical reactions. To store cream of tartar, it must be kept away from light, heat, external atmosphere, and water.

The best way to store cream of tartar is to keep it in an airtight container in a dark place, for example, a cabinet. Generally, cream of tartar lasts for about a minimum of 3 years to a maximum of 5 years on average.

What is Tartaric Acid?

The scientific name of tartaric acid is dihydroxybutanedioic acid. It is also known by several different names, such as threaric acid, p tartaric acid, racemic acid, uvic acid, wine stone, and more.

Some of the most common plants in which tartaric acid is found are majorly citrus plants, such as lemons, grapes, tamarinds, and more.

The texture and appearance of tartaric acid are like white crystalline powder. Tartaric acid is also extracted in the form of salt during the fermentation process of several different fruits, such as grapes, pineapple, and more.

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After fermentation, the extracted salt is known as a cream of tartar. However, after precipitating the extracted salt, the natural form of tartaric acid can be derived back. 

The most common use of tartaric acid is to use it in foods as a food additive. It brings a sour taste to the food and sharpness to drinks. Thus, it is used in drinks such as lemonades, mocktails, cocktails, and more.

Apart from adding a sour taste, tartaric acid prevents food from oxidising. Therefore, tartaric acid is also used to preserve food. Other uses of tartaric acid are for tanning purposes, medicinal purposes, mirror making, and more.

tartaric acid

Main Differences Between Cream of Tartar and Tartaric Acid

  1. Cream of tartar is a derivative form of tartaric acid. On the other hand, tartaric acid is naturally present in plants.
  2. Cream of tartar is an artificial derivative. In contrast, tartaric acid is a natural derivative.
  3. Cream of tartar is less acidic than tartaric acid’s acidity. On the contrary, tartaric acid is more acidic as compared to the acidity of cream of tartar.
  4. Cream of tartar is a type of crystalline compound. Whereas tartaric acid is a type of acidic salt.
  5. Cream of tartar is used more commonly as compared to tartaric acid. On the other hand, tartaric acid is used less commonly as compared to the cream of tartar.
Difference Between Cream of Tartar and Tartaric Acid
References
  1. https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlepdf/1894/ct/ct8946500899
  2. https://www.pnas.org/content/103/14/5608.short

Last Updated : 26 July, 2023

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