Posts Tagged mixture

Proofing Blackbeard’s rum

Being only about a week from this year’s Talk Like a Pirate Day this Atlantic Monthly article (read belatedly from a backlog of magazines) about Gunpowder on the Rocks caught my eye.  I like the idea of setting a drink on fire and then drinking it, as Blackbeard did to impress his pirate crew.

It turns out that this is a practical test of rum to ensure it hasn’t been watered down by a ne’er-do-well hornswoggler, as you can see in this video by experimental archaeologist Jeff Lindow.  After watching this, I decided not to try this at home as it would no doubt shiver my timbers.  However, if it gets cold enough this winter, I might consider a swig of this gunpowder-infused Man O’War rum.  Yo ho ho!

No Comments

Brain-bending thoughts on a coffee experiment

The Stat-Ease training center here at our world headquarters in Minneapolis features a wonderful single-cup brewing system that you can see demoed here.  When we are not holding a workshop, I sometimes sneak in to steal a cup late in the day.  By then I am reaching my limit, so I brew a “half-calf” at the half-cup setting.  Being a chemical engineer, I calculate that, in this case, half of half makes a whole, that is, coffee with the normal concentration of caffeine.  Does that make sense?

Making a tasty and effective cup of coffee is a huge deal for knowledge workers who need to keep their heads in gear from start to finish of every single day.  One of our workshop students, a PhD, has been picking my brain about testing coffee blends on her staff of scientists.  She proposes to do a mixture design such as I did on varying types of beers (see Mixture Design Brews Up New Beer Cocktail—Black & Blue Moon).

Obviously overall liking on a sensory basis should be first and foremost for such an experiment on coffee – a 5 to 9-point scale works well for this.*  However, the tricky part is assessing the impact of coffee for accelerating information processing and general problem-solving, which I hypothesize depends on level of caffeine.  I wonder if an online “brain training” service, such as this one developed by neuroscientists at Stanford and UCSF, might provide a valid measure.

The down side of doing a proper test on whether coffee improves cognitive skills will be the necessity of reverting to the base line, that is, every morning getting up and trying to function without the first cup.

“A mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems.”

— Alfréd Rényi

*Turn your volume down (to not hear the advert) and see this primer on sensory evaluation by S-Cool– a UK educational site for teenagers.


No Comments

Pairing foods and beverages to please the palate

Fish is white. Meat is red. That color pairing helps me decide which type of wine to order. It also sums up my interest and ability as a gourmand! For example, today we had a family brunch to celebrate my oldest daughter’s birthday and I ended up with two pitchers, one with grape juice and the other orange. Each had about a third of the juice remaining and the refrigerator could accommodate only one pitcher. Hmmm, what could I do? Eureka, a thought came to me: Mix the grape into the orange juice to combine it all into one container! Unfortunately, the resulting mixture looked so unappetizing that only my son Hank, an engineer like me (him software, me chemical), would drink it. Also, Hank admitted to having one or two beers –maybe more, while watching the Gopher hockey game last night at the corner pub. The Gophers unexpectedly lost, so I’m thinking my son may’ve drowned his sorrows. Therefore, I think that his positive review of my “orangerape” juice must be considered an outlier. 🙁

So far as beers are concerned, I’ve done equally bad, for example, by seeing what would happen if I mixed cream into it (detailed in my 1/14/07 blog “Mixing beers — synergy of zymurgy?”). One thing I never considered pairing with beer is chocolate, but, according to this article by J.M. Hirsch of Associated Press, Boston’s brahmins attend classes on this! An obvious combo is Belgian chocolate with Belgian abbey ale. However, I prefer to continue studying only beer. Any time our chemical engineering society sponsors a brewery tour and tasting, I am there!
Teen Beans
My favorite pairing is apples with cinnamon. For example, this applesauce recipe looks very a pealing (pun intended!), in part because it’s so amazingly simple. I once tested my Stat-Ease colleagues by asking them to rate on a 1 (worse) to 10 (best) scale their taste preference of apple, cinnamon and lemon jelly beans and combinations thereof. The results are detailed in DOE Simplified in the chapter on mixture design, but the ternary diagram *, tells the story: Pairing apple with cinnamon creates a taste sensation (over 7 on the tasting scale) –- they are synergistic. However, putting the two fruits together (apple and lemon) created a sour reaction from our sensory testers (rated less than 3 on average) -– these two ingredients interact in an antagonistic manner. The trick when pairing foods and beverages is to avoid antagonism and seek synergism.

“Look for those opposites that attract. For example, sweet and acidity, sweet and spicy, hot and cold, salty and sweet.” David Kamen, chef instructor at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA).

*(Source of primer on ternary diagram: Lynn S. Fichter, Department of Geology and Environmental Science, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia.)


No Comments

Mixing beers — synergy of zymurgy?

This Sunday during the NFL playoffs, Guiness beer ran one of their ongoing television commercials featuring two eccentric, but (self-styled) “brilliant,” zymurgists. Try this “z” word for a trivia question — the last one in most dictionaries. It refers to those that study fermentation in brewing.

That brought to mind my experience last week at Granite City Brewery — a midwestern USA restaurant that features handcrafted beers. Seeing my befuddled look at the overwhelming selection of suds, the waiter offered the suggestion that I go for a 50-50 blend of the paler ales (the stouter stuff like Guiness is too much for me).

Given my affinity for experimenting, I liked this idea of mixing beers. It worked out a lot better than the last time I tried something novel: Pouring cream into my mug of carbonated beverage. That mixture succeeded for entertainment value — producing an effect like a lava lamp, but it tasted really bad. I do not recommend it.

Aside from the Guiness guys, who seem far too goofy (sampling too much?) to be as brilliant as they think, the fellow I’d bank on for blending drinks would be John Cornell. He co-authored what must be one of the more unusual scientific articles ever: “In Search of the Optimum Harvey Wallbanger Recipe via Mixture Experiment Techniques”.

I’ve heard of beer cocktails such as the whisky-spiked boilermaker — a variant being the “depth charge”. However, it seems that the practice of mixing one beer with another is mainly for salvaging a botched brew. Thus, whereas blends of white wine, and to some extent reds, are the rage in California, the same phenomena remains to be seen for beers. I see a real opportunity here for some research by zymurgists. My advice is that they study the statistical methods promoted by Cornell and made easy by Stat-Ease software, training and consulting. I volunteer to be on the sensory panel that rates the results.

, , ,

No Comments