Lemon Juice From Concentrate vs Fresh Squeezed One — What Is The BIGGEST Difference?

By Jen Evansy / March 22, 2020

Why go through all the trouble of squeezing lemons when you can pick up the same thing in the bottle lot cheaper and without all that work?

lemon juice bottled vs fresh

Most of us use lemons and lemon juice almost every day. I add it to the salad dressings, fish, smoothies, and many other dishes. Sometimes I use freshly squeezed juice, and other times, I just use the one from the little bottle that is made from concentrate.

But if you are like me, you have probably wondered which one is actually better for you.

So, here I look at how lemon juice from a bottle stacks up against the fresh one.

After extensive research, I found out that the answer is not so clear as I thought. Both have their pros and cons.

Determining which one is better depends on many factors. So, let's see which one is a better choice.

How Is Concentrated Lemon Juice Made?

production of citrus juices

The first stage of bottled juice production is preparing the concentrate, not designed for direct consumption. Manufacturers evaporate excess liquid from cold-pressed juice to get this product.

How do they do it? 

During the harvest season, farmers pick the ripe lemons and send them to the factory. In the factory, they thoroughly wash them and crush and press the fruit to extract all the juice.

Then they evaporate the liquid to about half the volume, and the resulting product is a syrupy, thick product know as a lemon juice concentrate. 

The juice extraction plant is not your typical home kitchen. The evaporation of the concentrate is quite a complicated process. It occurs at low pressure, which helps to preserve the vitamins and micronutrients that are present in fresh fruits.

pasteurizing raw juice

And one more difference - if I want to pasteurize juice at home, I will most likely lose most of the essential oils, as they can just evaporate. However, the factory does not let them go. Manufacturers collect them using specific devices and then add them back to the concentrate for a better flavor. 

To pasteurize the raw juice, they heat the concentrated juice for a short time - less than a minute - to a temperature of 160-200°F to kill any microorganisms and other bacteria and prevent fermentation.

Later, producers can clarify the juice using appropriate filters. Or they can leave it cloudy, depending on their needs.

Of course, it is a simplified description of the production process as different manufacturers use slightly different methods. But you will get a general idea.

So, let me just recap very briefly. With most concentrates, up to 90% of the water content from the fruit has been removed. Then the remaining liquid is filtered and pasteurized, and some additives may be included.

More about the additives below.

Then the concentrate is packed in special tanks and barrels or even frozen and sold and shipped all over the world to yet different manufactures. These manufacturers will dilute the concentrate in the filtered water and distribute it to the shops in small, individual bottles. [1]

Lemon juice concentrate is also widely used in the food and beverage industry, and it is added to squashes, jellies, jams, etc.

Sometimes juices from different farms are mixed to get exceptional flavor combinations. Moreover, lemons from different parts of the world can get to the same bottle.

What a complicated drink!

Where Does Concentrated Lemon Juice Come From?

citrus tree

India, Mexico, Brazil, Spain, China, and Argentina are the central suppliers of lemon concentrate. These countries satisfy the needs of juice companies because making concentrated juice there is much more profitable than transporting tons of lemons cross the world. Moreover, juice companies always monitor the lemon harvest in different countries to buy high-quality materials for drink production. [2] [3]

Food and juice manufacturers in America and other counties get this frozen or vacuum-packed concentrate, which they use to make juice. The whole process takes place in closed pipes and huge tanks, where they add filtered water enriched with additional additives and then package it to the bottles.

Concentrated juice is a commodity, and many juice producers buy it at the wholesale seaport stores. Other manufacturers prefer to buy concentrates directly from the farmers. They select the best product at the best price because all food and juice makers need high-quality raw materials.

Why Is Juice From Concentrate Cheaper?

The quality of the concentrated juice varies depending on the country, the quality of the fruits used, and the manufacturing process. All of that can affect the price, but in general, it is still cheaper than freshly squeezed lemon juice.

To make a glass of fresh lemon juice, I will need about 10 lemons. Provided they are juicy enough. Even though it is not the most expensive fruit, making a bottle of cold-pressed juice costs quite a lot.

Now, making the concentrate in the mentioned regions is comparatively cheap. Juicing will usually take place near the site of growth dramatically cutting the transport costs.​

Not only are the labor costs much cheaper in many of these countries, but the fruits used to make the concentrate are also a lot cheaper compared to the aesthetically attractive ones that are imported for selling in supermarkets.

Also, it is a lot cheaper to transport heavily concentrated juice that is packed in industrially sealed containers than it is to transport the individual pieces of fruit so they would stay fresh and look nice and presentable all the way to the supermarket shelves.

Is Bottled Lemon Juice As Good As Fresh One?

As I covered above, the juice from concentrate goes though quite an extensive processing compared to the fresh, raw fruit juice. That is probably leaving you to wonder whether it has retained all the health benefits and if fresh lemon juice, therefore, contains more nutrients?

Pure lemon juice, whether from concentrate or freshly squeezed, contains about the same amount of vitamins and minerals. However, the nutritional value of the lemon juice from concentrate varies depending on whether or not there are any preservatives, sugars, or other additives included in the final product.

lemon juice concentrate nutrition facts

What Is Added To The Bottled Lemon Juice?

Sulfites are used as additives in most bottled lemon juices for enhancing its shelf life. Although these compounds of sulfur are excellent preservatives, they've been found to have some harmful effects on your body. 

Why Are Sulfites Bad For You?

Sulfites are compounds primarily used as preservatives in most bottled food and drink products such as lemon and other citrus juices, wines, canned and dried fruits, and vegetables, etc. These can come in many forms like sulfites and metabisulfites of sodium or bisulfites and metal sulfites of potassium. Sulfites are one of the most economical and effective ways to protect foods and beverages from attacks by microbes.

However, there's a downside to these chemicals; they can cause health hazards for you, especially if you've got any history of breathing issues like asthma, etc. You may develop breathing problems, swollen throat, or suffer from repeated sneezing, hives, or severe migraine issues. This is the reason why you must be extra careful while purchasing any bottled beverages, canned vegetables, or dried fruits. Sulfur dioxide is also another variant of sulfites, which you must avoid, particularly if you have any such allergy issues. [4]

Does Organic Lemon Juice Have Sulfites?

The National Organic Program (NOP) of the United States Department of Agriculture has banned the use of artificial preservatives like sulfites in organic foods and drinks. So, if you're looking to avoid added sulfites, you can safely consume certified organic lemon juice products. [5]

However, it is not always easy to find organic lemon juice without any preservatives in your local supermarket, but don't be disheartened. You can order it online! There are several companies that offer completely natural lemon juice online.

Below are two of my favorite ones that you can get from Amazon:

Santa Cruz Organic Pure Lemon Juice

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This is arguably one of the most popular brands of organic lemon juices that are available on Amazon. Certified by the USDA, it's made from 100% organic lemons. This Pure Lemon Juice carries the Non-GMO Project Verification from NOP.

Lakewood Fresh Pressed Pure Organic Lemon Juice

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TAP ON IMAGE TO VIEW PRICE

This organic lemon juice from Lakewood is another one of my favorites, and it is also the most purchased natural lemon juices on Amazon. Lakewood is a family operated business based in Florida. Their unsweetened lemon juice is totally natural, and it tastes really lovely.

If you don't feel like squeezing your own juice all the time, then these are two of the best option to try out.

Which One Is Better For Cooking?

cooking with lemon juice

Lemon is an irreplaceable part of many dishes. I cannot imagine baked or fried fish without a few drops of lemon juice. But which of those products should I use?

Fresh lemon juice will be a great addition to the salad dressings. I can also squeeze lemon on fish. It eliminates that fishy smell and gives a perfect sour taste.

Lemon juice from consecrate will be great for desserts. You can add it to the biscuits, cakes, cookies and many other recipes. It is more convenient than pressing fresh fruits, as many recipes require a precise amount of juice. So you can easily add an exact amount of drops or tablespoons to your recipes.

If your recipe requires lemon zest, then, of course, you need a whole fresh fruit for that.

And both fresh or concentrated juices are an excellent base for homemade lemonade! Add some Stevia, ice and a slice of lemon, and your refreshing drink is ready.

What You Should Know About The Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice!

If you have made up your mind and decided that you would only use your own freshly squeezed lemon juice, then I am certainly not going you to talk you out of it. Still, there are few things to take into consideration.

  • Are the lemons that you are buying fresh?
  • How long did they travel by sea or by land?
  • Do they contain any unsavory compounds or additives?
  • Have they been waxed?


After all, the fruits begin to lose their beneficial properties after harvesting. Besides, farmers pick only unripe fruits, as they need to withstand a long trip. Then they are treated with specific substances. So, how can you be sure that the fresh juice from these fruits is healthier than that one made from the concentrate?

Preservative Treatments For Fresh Lemons

Have you ever wondered why fruits in supermarkets look so beautiful and attractive? How can lemons last so long and not deteriorate? The answer to these questions is simple - farmers process the fruits with various chemicals.

To get to supermarket shelves, they have a long way to go. Ripe, fresh fruits can not withstand such long transportation. They will go rancid in a few days after departure. Therefore, farmers pick unripe lemons from the trees. Their peel has not become yellow yet, so they are light green.

To obtain beautiful yellow color consumers like, lemons go through a Degreening process. It is the method of treating green fruits with low concentrations of ethylene at a temperature of 60-85Â F. Citrus fruits can get the natural yellow color this way.

Also, to preserve lemons during long-term transportation and storage, they are treated with different compounds.

Methyl Bromide (Bromomethane)

It is an organobromine compound used in agriculture to protect fruits from various pests. Also, methyl bromide allows for saving fruits longer and withstanding long transport. [5]

Meanwhile, methyl bromide is highly dangerous for the human body. It affects the kidneys and lungs. In a gaseous state, it has no color, taste, or smell. [6]

Methyl bromide is a toxic substance. It is a poison that disrupts the functioning of the nervous system. When inhaled, this substance damages mucous membranes.

It seems that after such a long journey, there should be no remains of methyl bromide. But it can penetrate the fruits, get into the pulp and juice. That's why using this substance to process the fruits is prohibited in many countries.

Ethylene

Ethylene, known as the “fruit-ripening hormone," is another chemical that farmers use to treat fruits. It is an organic gaseous substance, without color and with a weak odor. Ethylene belongs to the group of phytohormones. Several plants secrete this substance to stimulate fruit ripening. [7]

Ethylene is one of the most often produced substances in the world (production exceeds that of any other organic compound). The fruit industry uses this gas to process fruits and vegetables to accelerate its ripening. [8]

Such treatment is considered harmless to the human body. But do not forget that producers pick unripe fruits. Ethylene accelerates the ripening, but the ripeness is only decorative.

Lemons that ripened on trees in natural conditions absorbing the sun's rays have way better taste. Moreover, naturally ripe fruits contain much more soluble pectin.

This substance is essential for the human body. It helps to reduce cholesterol, normalizes metabolism in the body.

Consequently, eating fruits ripened with the help of ethylene, the human body will receive less pectin. In such lemons, the content of vitamins and other nutrients decreases.

What Is The Difference Between Waxed And Unwaxed Lemon?

waxed citrus fruit in the shop

Manufacturers use wax to make citrus fruits attractive. Waxed lemons are shiny and beautiful. Wax does not allow the liquid to evaporate from the fruits making their life span longer. After removing the wax, they will last only a few days.

When it comes to squeezing your own lemon juice, there is no difference. You can use both waxed and unwaxed lemons. However, you should always wash lemons in warm water before juicing or eating, and de-wax them if you need to zest the lemons, preferably using a specific brush. And to completely protect yourself, you can even peel the fruit.

So, Let's Make The Final Comparison

Lemon Juice From Concentrate

Pros

  • Easy and convenient to use. 
  • Long shelf life.
  • Made of ripe fruits.
  • Rich on nutrients and vitamins.
  • Cheaper than freshly squeezed juice.

Cons

  • It could have reduced antioxidants and pectin content due to the processing.
  • May contain preservatives and additives. 
  • May be too sour to the taste.

Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice

Pros

  • Tastes more natural than a concentrated one.  
  • It contains all the vitamins and minerals present in the lemon.
  • It contains all the antioxidants and pectin. 
  • Not prepossessed.
  • Made from handpicked fruit selected by you.

Cons

  • More expensive. 
  • Very short shelf life.
  • Requires some prepping. 
  • Difficult to find naturally ripened fruit.

Conclusion

Choosing lemon juice is not that hard. And no, bottled lemon juice is not fake. Both bottled juice and the fresh one both have their benefits and drawbacks, but none of them are anything significant to worry about. I cannot say that concentrated juice is less healthy, or it has fewer nutrients than fresh cold-pressed ones.

If you are allergic to sulfates or just prefer to avoid them, then always check the label and try to look for organic products.

However, freshly squeezed lemon juice does taste better. But still, you have to choose fruits carefully. Most of them riped in the ethylene, so it is not natural ripeness.

Also, pay attention to the wax film. Manufacturers claim that it is safe. But it is always better to remove it. You can use boiling water and a specific brush for it.

If you still have some unanswered questions about which juice is better. Please let me know in the comment below. Also, let me know which one do you prefer and why?

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About the author

    Jen Evansy

    Nutritionists, researchers, and writers, interested in everything healthy-living related. Helping you identify the best diets, learn about food and nutrition, to help you live happier, longer and stronger.


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