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How to Make Cotton Candy

Updated on December 18, 2013

Cotton Candy!

Cotton Candy pre-made in Bags
Cotton Candy pre-made in Bags

What You Will Need

Cotton Candy must be made using a machine. While purchasing a machine outright may be expensive, machine rentals are always relatively affordable and with most companies, the sugar and cones may be included in the rental. On average a machine rental could run up to $100.00 for the day depending on the rental company you use. Each machine comes with a circular aluminum pan with a net inside. The net is designed to "catch" the cotton candy strands as it leaves the machine. Your machine rental (or purchase) may also come with a cone holder and plastic "bubble" which is a lid that keeps the cotton candy from flying out of the pan.

To Recap, you will need the following items prior to making cotton candy.

1. Cotton Candy Machine with pan and plastic lid.

2. Cotton Candy Cones (made from dense Paper or purchased)

3. Cotton Candy Sugar

Cotton Candy Machine

Cotton Candy Machine
Cotton Candy Machine

Cotton Candy Sugar and Cones

Cotton Candy Supplies
Cotton Candy Supplies

Sugar Flavors

Cotton Candy Sugar comes in a wide variety of flavors. The sugar is much coarser than normal table sugar which allows for even distribution of the sugar within the machine . While normal table sugar can be used in a cotton candy machine the coarser sugar adds distinct flavor and color to the candy which makes it more appealing.

Flavors & Colors Include:

  1. Blue Raspberry= Blue
  2. Vanilla= Pink
  3. Bubble Gum= Pink
  4. Grape= Purple
  5. Banana= Yellow
  6. Orange= Orange
  7. Green= Lime

And Many Many More....

How does a Cotton Candy Machine Work?

Cotton Candy machines have been around for around 100 years. Sometimes referred to as Floss machines they work on the simple principles of heat and centrifugal force. Sugar is placed in the top of the machine (also known as the "head") while it is spinning. The centrifugal force pushes the sugar through heated elements called ribbons. Once the sugar passes through the ribbons it is forced through tiny slots on the outside on the head known as the band. Most machines come with a dial that controls the amount of heat that the ribbon is putting out. This control of the heat can speed up or slow down the rate at which the machine produces candy. The more heat applied, the faster the machine will produce and vice versa.

Once the sugar is pushed through the band it collects on the plastic netting inside of the aluminum pan. The are little leather straps attached to the head which direct the candy into the netting. It is important to keep mindful of where those straps are. Once the machine is on, the straps spins fast enough to be invisible to the naked eye. It is suggested to keep your hands above the rim of the aluminum pan and stick only the cone into the pan to retrieve the candy.

Tips Before Starting

Before getting started making your favorite flavor of cotton candy there are several things to keep in mind that could affect your production.

  • If you are making your cotton candy outside, be aware that high humidity and temperature can cause finished candy to melt rapidly. In high temperatures it is suggested to produce only when there is a demand and to try to operate in the shade.
  • Use only approved Cotton Candy grade sugar. It is a coarser and flavored. Normal sugar does not produce very good cotton candy.
  • Be sure to operate the machine on an even supported surface. An uneven machine may cause damage to the machine.
  • Use cotton candy cones. Cones can be made at home but must be made of a thicker paper.

How to Make Cotton Candy

There are two distinct techniques for making cotton candy. There is the spinning technique and the ring technique. Each method is effective so whichever you choose to use is based on personal preference. The first step to is to ensure that the machine is plugged into a ground outlet with an independent circuit. Each machine requires its own circuit to operate efficiently. Next you need to set the heat knob to the start position (each machine will be marked on where to set the heat dial upon starting the machine). In about 15 seconds or less the machine will begin producing cotton candy. Grab a cone and you are now ready to start making cones of Cotton Candy.

Spinning Technique

The spinning technique is the easiest beginners method for retrieving cotton candy from a pan. To begin, grab a cone and dip it into the pan (large side of the cone goes into the pan). Place the cone up against the plastic netting where the candy is collecting. Now rotate the cone around the pan clockwise while at the same time spinning the cone counterclockwise with your fingers. If you are spinning correctly, the cotton will lift off of the plastic net and begin wrapping around the cone. Keep spinning and moving the cone around the pan until the cone is the size of your liking and then pull the whole cone out of the pan. The cotton candy will break away on its own. Now you are ready to eat your Cotton Candy!

Ring Technique

The ring technique should only be used by people who have had a little experience with operating a cotton candy machine. To begin, wait for the cotton candy to build about a 1 inch thick layer around the pan. Take the cone and dip it into the center of the candy build-up along the rim of the pan and spin slightly. Once you feel the candy grip the cone carefully pull the whole ring of candy out of the pan. Once you have cleared the pan, take the cone and begin to spin the cotton candy around it. This technique will allow to to control the shape of your cone a little more but you have less control on the size of each cone.

Spinning Technique
Spinning Technique


Below are some tips that can solve common operation issues when using a cotton candy machine.

  • If the machine is on and no candy is coming out. Keep your hand above the pan and hold it over the top of the head. If you do not feel any heat then unfortunately the machine is broken and needs repairing. (Most likely a worn out ribbon)
  • If the cotton candy is flying out of the pan once it is made, then turn off the machine and once the head stops spinning adjust the leather straps downward to push the cotton back into the pan. The strap control the air force the keeps the cotton stuck to the net. Be patient as the adjustment process is trial and error and may take several attempts to get it right.
  • If the machine is producing too slowly, try turning the heat up.
  • If you have the machine plugged in but it will not turn on. Try resetting the machine using the reset button located on the bottom side of the machine. If the problem persists the machine may need a new motor or relay switch.

Cleaning Your Machine

Making cotton candy can be messy business. Luckily all the sugar will easily clean up with hot water and a small amount of soap. Do not leave sugar in the head of the machine or it will harden and make your machine less efficient. Run all of the sugar out of the machine before turning it off. The outside case of the machine can be cleaned with a cloth and hot water. Do not immerse or spray the machine with water. The pan, netting, and plastic bubble can be cleaned using hot water and may be immersed and sprayed. For stainless steel machines it is suggested to use a polish to keep the surface of the metal nice and shiny.

Video Showing Cotton Candy Being Made

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Music Used in Video was written by John Tartaglione & Dennis Massa.

Photos Provided by Executive Events & Entertainment.

The instructions given here are a culmination of years of experience in making cotton candy using rental machines.

© 2013 Andrew Kramer


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