How to Test Saffron - Distinguishing Pure Saffron

How to Test Saffron Quality

There are many people that have read about the amazing benefits of saffron and they want to give this incredible spice a try. Naturally, they are using the Internet to check out what is available. But, when they do this, they are stunned by the number of brands selling this spice online. Of course, every seller/brand claims that their saffron is the best, but some of them are not very honest. What you should know is that pure saffron is the only form of saffron that can guarantee the numerous health benefits associated with this spice.

How to test Saffron for purity?

We will use this article to explain a few different methods of testing saffron purity. 

  1. Cold Water Test

Take a few saffron threads and place them on top of a clear glass filled with cold water. Both pure and altered saffron will release some of their colors in the water, but the difference is that pure saffron will not release a lot of colors immediately. With pure Saffron you will notice the threads slowly releasing a golden hue. It can take around 10-15 minutes for the cup of water to turn completely yellow.

On the other hand, deep red color in the water is not a good sign – you want bright yellow color. If you see a deep red color in your water, you must likely have come across some adulterated Saffron. It's best not to use this product at all since its likely that it contains harmful coloring chemicals. 

Another thing to note is that the Saffron threads should not lose their red colors, fake saffron threads will turn white after a short period of time.

     2.) Rub the Saffron threads with your fingers

After infusing the Saffron threads in cold water for a few minutes, take a coupe threads and place them on your finger. Rub the threads with two fingers back and forth a few times. Pure Saffron threads will not break apart, whereas fake saffron will fall apart or turn to dust or liquid. 

   3. Taste it

Another way to check the quality of saffron is to place a thread of saffron in the mouth. If you feel a sweet taste, then you are holding fake, low-quality saffron.

A rule of thumb here: Quality Saffron should smell sweet, but never taste Sweet!

   4. Smell it

The smell of Pure Saffron reminds people of a mixture of honey and hay aroma. Sometimes the Saffron can have a pungent (almost chemical) type of smell, this is due to high levels of Safranal and Picocrocin in the Saffron.

  5. Use baking soda

Finally, you can mix saffron and baking soda in a small cup filled with water. In case the mixture, in the end, is yellow then you are looking at an example of pure saffron.

 How is Saffron adulterated (fake saffron)?

Unfortunately, dishonest sellers are trying to make money on the popularity of saffron, by providing low-quality saffron or even completely fake saffron. They are doing this in a few different ways. For instance, some of them are using moisture to add weight. 

By adding a few mist sprays of water, this can adds an additional 10-15% more weight to the product. So make sure the Saffron you're receiving isn't moist, this is NOT an indication of fresh Saffron. Saffron should be dry and delicate, yet still contain a fresh aroma. 

Furthermore, there are sellers that add corn silk and spray them with coloring chemicals to make it look like Saffron. We don’t have to talk much about the potentially harmful effects of this approach. Additionally, there are some sellers that are adding fillers like rice flour, sawdust, starch and other fillers that are dangerous.

These adulterated and fake versions of saffron are cheaper, but they are practically useless and potentially harmful.

Common Water Test
After adding cold water to your threads, let it sit for a few hours
Final thoughts

Those interested in getting the most from saffron should stick to pure saffron. Identifying pure saffron is not difficult and there is more than one way to achieve this goal. Quality saffron has specific properties that every person can notice. Besides the testing methods we have mentioned before, another great way of identifying quality, pure saffron is to look for brands with ISO certification. For instance, Zaran Saffron, as one of the most respected brands of saffron today is ISO 3632 certified.

We hope that this article will help you make the right decision.