Difference Between Cream of Tartar and Tartaric Acid

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.

Cream of Tartar vs Tartaric Acid

The main difference between cream of tartar and tartaric acid is that the cream of tartar is a product that is derived by mixing the natural tartaric acid along with a solution called potassium hydroxide. On the other hand, tartaric acid is a natural product that is derived from plants without any chemicals mixed in it.

Cream of Tartar and Tartaric Acid

The cream of tartar is also known as the potassium hydroxide salt of tartaric acid. The reason behind that is because 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’, 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 as compared to the acidic value of other acids.

Comparison Table Between Cream of Tartar and Tartaric Acid

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. 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, a 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 purposes, medicinal purposes and it is used as a chemical in different chemical reactions too. 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 in 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 generally 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. The extracted salt after the fermentation process 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 generally 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 also prevents food from getting oxidized. Therefore, tartaric acid is also used to preserve food. Other uses of tartaric acid are for tanning purposes, medicinal purposes, mirror making, and more.

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. A cream of tartar is an artificial derivative. Whereas, tartaric acid is a natural derivative.
  3. Cream of tartar is less acidic as compared to the acidity of tartaric acid. On the contrary, tartaric acid is more acidic as compared to the acidity of cream of tartar.
  4. A 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.

Conclusion

Though cream of tartar and tartaric sound similar and are closely related to each other, it is important to note that they are two completely different compounds. The major difference between the two, that is, cream of tartar and tartaric acid lies in their derivation. That is to say, cream of tartar is a synthetic compound that is derived after mixing tartaric acid with potassium hydroxide. On the other hand, tartaric acid is a natural derivative that is extracted from plants.

References

  1. https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlepdf/1894/ct/ct8946500899
  2. https://www.pnas.org/content/103/14/5608.short
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