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How is fresh orange juice made?

Orange juice is a breakfast staple for many people. That refreshing, tangy liquid is a great way to start the day. But have you ever wondered how that juice ends up in your glass? Making orange juice is a fascinating process that starts in the grove and ends on your table. Come along as we explore how fresh squeezed orange juice goes from fruit to drink!

Orange Grove

It all begins in an orange grove. Oranges grow on trees in warm climates like Florida and California. There are several types of oranges used for juice, including Valencia, Hamlin, Pineapple, and Navel. But the most common is the Valencia orange. This type of orange has thin, easy to peel skin and is seedless. Valencias also have high juice content, which is ideal for squeezing.

Orange trees blossom with white flowers which develop into green fruits. It takes about 6 months for the oranges to fully ripen on the tree. Once ripe, the oranges turn orange in color and are ready for picking. Oranges are typically harvested between March and June. Workers will pluck the ripe oranges by hand from the trees.

Washing and Sorting

After picking, the fresh oranges are transported to the juicing facility. Here they undergo thorough cleaning and sorting. The oranges pass under high pressure sprayers that wash away any dirt and debris. Next the oranges move through a dryer and receive a coating of food-grade wax. This wax protects the oranges during processing and storage.

The clean oranges then continue on a conveyor belt where they are sorted. Workers manually inspect the oranges, removing any that are damaged or rotten. The good oranges are sorted by size and condition. Proper sorting ensures uniform juicing. Oranges that don’t make premium grade are often used for canned juice instead.


Now comes the fun part – squeezing all that juicy goodness out of the oranges! The sorted oranges move via conveyor belts and tubes to the juicing machines. There are two main types of juicers used:

  • Screw-type juicer: The oranges get squeezed between a metal screw and a cylindrical screen. The juice flows out through small holes in the screen while the peels and pith get conveyed out.
  • Hydraulic press: Oranges move single-file through a machine that presses and crushes them. Press plates extract the juice which runs through integrated strainers.

The raw orange juice then passes through finisher screens to catch any remaining solids or seeds. What’s left is fresh, unpasteurized orange juice. The juicing facilities work hard to minimize oxygen exposure at this point to prevent deterioration of the juice.

Standardizing the Juice

Freshly squeezed orange juice actually varies quite a bit in taste, acidity, and pulp content from batch to batch. So before packaging, the juice undergoes a standardizing process. The goals are to:

  • Adjust sugar content
  • Balance acidity
  • Regulate pulp levels

This involves blending different batches of juice together in large tanks and tweaking the ratios until the desired flavor, mouthfeel, and consistency is achieved. Some processors may also remove water from the juice to concentrate it before adding water again to dilute it to the correct concentration. Essences and oils extracted from the oranges during juicing may be added back into the juice for optimal flavor.


At this point the orange juice is still 100% raw. To eliminate any naturally occurring microorganisms and extend shelf life, the juice is pasteurized. There are two main pasteurization methods:

  • High temperature short time (HTST): The juice is heated to about 190-200°F for just a few seconds using a heat exchanger. This kills microorganisms while preserving nutrition and flavor.
  • Flash pasteurization: The juice is heated to 160°F for about 15-30 seconds. Then it moves through a vacuum chamber where pressure drops, causing water to boil off. This instantly cools the juice back down.

Pasteurization gives the orange juice a shelf life of 3-4 weeks under refrigeration. Some premium juice brands use gentler pasteurization or none at all. This produces a fresher, more natural taste but reduces the shelf life.


Now it’s time to package up the freshened orange juice for transport to grocery stores and consumers. The pasteurized juice flows through a filler which pours it into cartons, jugs, or bottles and seals them up. Most commercial orange juice comes in the following containers:

Container Volume
Cartons 10-16 ounces
Plastic Jugs 48-64 ounces
Glass Bottles 12-32 ounces

The packaging has handy resealable caps and is made from recyclable materials like paperboard and plastic. Nutrition facts, ingredients, brand information, and expiration dates are printed on the outside. The filled containers whiz along the production line where metal detectors check for any equipment failures. Defective containers are automatically rejected. Then the juice packs are bundled, palletized, and prepared for distribution.

Storage and Transportation

To maintain freshness, the packaged orange juice enters cold storage at 33-38°F. Proper refrigeration prevents spoilage and preserves the juice’s taste, vitamins, and color. The juice stays chilled in cold rooms until loading onto refrigerated trucks for transport to stores. Some bottles and cartons may receive additional shelf life through aseptic packaging. This involves sterilizing the packaging material then filling and sealing it under sterile conditions. Aseptic orange juice can be stored at room temperature for up to a year.

The Store

That truck full of orange juice will deliver its tasty cargo to grocery stores near you. The bottles, jugs, and cartons get stacked in chilled dairy cases until you grab them and put them in your shopping cart. Then it’s time for refreshing orange juice to brighten up breakfast tables across the country!


And there you have it – the journey of orange juice from grove to glass. It’s an intricate process that balances technology and natural flavor. Orange juice retains its fresh-squeezed taste thanks to gentle pasteurization and cold storage. Next time you pour a glass, you can appreciate the care that went into crafting that tangy beverage.