blog from the ceo & superbarista of phoenix coffee, home of the best baristas in cleveland, ohio

Sunday, August 27, 2006

How to take the edge off your lemonade, courtesy of Mystery Solution 049

I finished grading everyone's sensory skills tests from yesterday's seminar. Unfortunately, no one passed, although Julie Hutchison (Owner of the Lakewood Phoenix) came close, with a score of 61% on "section three", the tough one, where a score of 70 is required to pass. Next time!

As I was going through the grading, one thing stood out. Mystery solution #049 (the number has been changed to protect the innocent). No one got it right. Why?

This solution happened to contain one part "Sour IV", one part "Sweet II" and one part "Salt III". These notations refer to dilute aqueous solutions that were our "reference solutions". "IV" denotes the most intense reference solution and "I" denotes the least intense. This particular solution contained three pretty intense components, the most intense of which was the Sour IV. Few of our 15 participants tasted sour at all, and no one guessed that it was Sour IV. Many people guessed Salty instead, or Sweet.

Did I mix it up wrong? Vaguely panicked, I started reading through the fine print of Ted Lingle's Coffee Cupper's Handbook.

After a few minutes of perusal, I happened to find this:
"Acids increase the saltiness of salts. Salts reduce the sourness of acids."
AHA! This could explain it.

Just to be sure, I ran to the kitchen and mixed up a small batch of Sour IV (2 grams of lemon juice per liter of distilled water) and a small batch of Mystery Solution 049 (3 grams sugar, .66 grams lemon juice, .66 grams of salt in one liter of distilled water) and tasted them, calling Carl and Charlotte in to verify. Sure enough, Sour IV tasted sour, but Mystery Solution 049 tasted mostly salty, a little sweet, and not even noticeably sour. Wow! The sour taste just disappears when you add enough salt! Although, I think if I was taking the test, I would guess the sour was in there, just because it is a given that some of the solutions contain all three componets. This one tastes so "thick" and complex, I think I might have guessed that the sour was in there, even if I wasn't completely sure.

So next time you're drinking lemonade (sour and sweet), try adding some salt. You'll see, the sourness will just melt away.


Blogger Liz said...

That is very interesting! Do they have to be in equal proportions to mask each other or does it take just a little bit of saltiness to mask the sour and sweet?

7:42 AM, August 28, 2006  

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