Saturday, April 18, 2009

Experiment: Preserving the Bubbliness of Champagne

Null Hypothesis (what we assume is true if we cannot prove otherwise): A spoon has no effect on the bubbliness of a bottle of champagne.

Alternative Hypothesis (what we are trying to prove): A metal spoon placed in the mouth of a champagne bottle overnight keeps the champagne more bubbly.

We will accept the null hypothesis if the majority of study participants note that a champagne stored in a bottle with a metal spoon is more bubbly than champagne stored in a bottle with a plastic spoon or no spoon.


Four bottles of Schloss Biebrich were purchased at Trader Joe’s on Wednesday, April 8, 2009. Four bottles of Ballatore were purchased at Safeway on Thursday, April 9, 2009. All eight bottles were kept at room temperature until 8:30 pm on Thursday, April 9. At this time, the four bottles of Schloss Biebrich were placed on the top shelf of the refrigerator, upright. The four bottles of Ballatore were placed on the second shelf of the refrigerator, also upright.

At 5:15 on Friday, April 10, 2009, all of the bottles of Schloss were removed from the refrigerator. Three of the four bottles were opened. Each of these three had 0.25 cups of champagne removed. Of these three, one received no treatment, one had a metal spoon placed in its mouth, and one had a plastic spoon placed in its mouth. All four bottles were placed back in the refrigerator at 5:20 pm.

At 5:30 pm, the bottles of Ballatore received the same treatment.

At 1:50 pm on Saturday, April 11, 2009, all eight bottles were removed from the refrigerator. The two unopened bottles were opened and a quarter of a cup of champagne was removed from each. The spoons were removed from each of the remaining bottles, if applicable, and a researcher labeled each bottle of Schloss 1 through 4, and each bottle of Ballatore 1 through 4, in no particular order. This researcher kept a list of the numbers corresponding to each treatment. The researcher then left the kitchen.

Another researcher, out of sight of the original researcher, relabeled the bottles A – D in no particular order, for each of the types of champagne. This researcher kept a list of the numbers corresponding to each letter.

Because of this process, both researchers and all participants were blind to the treatments performed on the champagne, until the lists were later compared and reconciled.

Each participant was given eight plastic cups, filled to a pre-marked line, labeled SA, SB, SC, SD, BA, BB, BC, and BD. Participants were instructed to rate the champagnes in order of bubbliness, comparing SA, SB, SC, and SD to each other; and comparing BA, BB, BC, and BD to each other. Participants were encouraged to make a visual observation of each before confirming with an oral observation.


Among the five subjects, the champagnes were rated as follows. A score of 1 is most bubbly, and 4 is least bubbly.

Schloss Biebrich

Unopened 2.4

Metal spoon 2.4

Opened 2.4

Plastic spoon 2.8


Opened 1.6

Unopened 1.8

Plastic spoon 3

Metal spoon 3.6


This experiment was inconclusive at best. The results do not warrant rejection of the null hypothesis. This does not mean that I accept the null hypothesis as fact, it simply means there is not enough evidence to reject it at this time.

Why were the results inconclusive? For two main reasons.

First, there were only five participants. I don’t know what else a girl has to do in order to find friends to sip champagne in her grassy backyard on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon. But whatever it was, I didn’t do it. As a result, I only had five data points, two of which were also researchers. So the data is not only miniscule, it is also possibly tainted.

Second, it is clear that the human eyes and mouth may not be sensitive enough to appropriately determine bubbliness of champagne. For example, the open bottle of Ballatore was rated the most bubbly, even bubblier than the unopened bottle. I suppose it is possible that the opened bottle was really, for some reason, the bubbliest. But I doubt it.

What I need is another study, one that doesn’t rely so much on human judgments.

I have an idea for an experiment that involves balloons, towels, and washing machines…but I think the best way to determine the truth would be for my lovely friend Maya to find me an actual instrument to measure the dissolved gas in the liquids.



Well, maybe one: All my friends besides Nathan, Todd, Sarah, and Maya hate fun.

Also, next time I should designate someone else as the photographer.

What you can expect from this blog

The organizing principle of this food blog will be science - not science as a body of knowledge, but science as a process for arriving at the truth. In that vein, you can expect to see four different types of posts in general: exploration, experimentation, challenges, and creation.

Explorations will be a way for me to make a foray into some sort of new idea or ingredient. I plan on exploring wasabi and tamarind in the near future, both of which are ingredients I have never before used in my cooking. I'll see what they are like to work with and what can be made from them.

Experiments are a way to use the scientific method to test a hypothesis and (hopefully) arrive at a conclusion. The best kind of experiment on human subjects is a controlled double-blind experiment testing against a placebo. The null and alternative hypotheses should be stated in advance, as well as conditions for rejecting the null hypothesis. That is, you say in advance what is required in order to say that the hypothesis you tested is true. I will try to use this process to determine, for example, whether placing a metal spoon in the mouth of a bottle of champagne preserves the bubbles.

Challenges will be a way for readers and friends to dare me to do something new and exciting or just silly. I've already accepted a challenge to create a dinner party with all yellow dishes and to make a delicious vegan breakfast.

And "creation" is just a fancy word for something I made that doesn't fall into the above categories. It's more fun and mad-scientisty than the word "recipe."

Thank you for reading and helping me use this flog to have the most delicious fun possible! I welcome questions, comments, and - best of all - challenges!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Under Construction

There's not much here yet, folks.

But stay tuned.

Soon, this will be a site of experimentation and cooking involving a person named Kat and vegetables from a box.

Schrödinger's Kitchen, indeed!