Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Big Experiment: a four-way apple evaluation

When we realized that the six-month anniversary of Infusions of Grandeur was approaching, we thought long and hard about how to commemorate it. We came up with a few off-the-wall infusions, but decided that the best way to celebrate the occasion was to finally solve the greatest mystery of the project's history: how to really get apple-infused vodka right. And it is appropriate that we do so, because apple vodka was one of our very first experiments.

We have created two batches of apple vodka previously, with mixed results. The original experiment, featured in our debut entry, involved a wedged apple and a spoonful of sugar in a non-refrigerated jar. Wayland enjoyed this batch, as did The Ferrett and his fellow tasters, but I was dissatisfied with it; I felt it tasted like apples that had been left in the open air for too long. So, we eventually created a second batch, tweaking our methodology. We suspected that leaving it at room temperature was a factor, so we infused the second batch in the refrigerator, but we did not use sugar this time. I liked the second batch better, though it was still not all I hoped it would be, and Wayland preferred the first batch.

A while back, we received a comment from one of our readers, suggesting that we replace the apples periodically during the infusion. This should keep the apples at their freshest for as long as is needed for the infusion (both previous batches infused for two weeks). We have decided to put this method to the test. But to merely try a new method is not enough for this experiment; no, this time we are cross-testing four different methods, which will culminate in a scientific double-blind taste test.

To prepare for this experiment, we pre-filtered four bottles of Mad Scientician™ baseline vodka, washed four Granny Smith apples and prepared four science jars. Each batch will be infused using a different methodology, as follows:

  • Same apple for two weeks, with a spoonful of sugar.
  • Same apple for two weeks, without sugar.
  • Apple replaced every three days, with a spoonful of sugar each time.
  • Apple replaced every three days, without sugar.

All four will be refrigerated during the infusion. There are other possibilities we could have included, such as peeling the apple wedges, but we decided that this experiment has enough variables as it is.

The experiment began as I cut each apple into eighths, slicing away the core section of each wedge and discarding it.

Once each apple was sliced and loaded into the science jars, we added the vodka. It seems that these apples are slightly larger than the ones we have used previously (perhaps due to the season), because each bottle of vodka had just a little bit left over after topping off the jars (and spilling some onto the counter in the process).

Wayland added a spoonful of sugar to two of the jars, taking care to remember which was which.

Once the infusions were underway, we labeled each jar with a simple letter, storing the descriptions separately. This will allow for the double-blind test at the conclusion of the experiment.

Then all four jars were stored in the refrigerator. We will run this experiment for two weeks, just like the previous apple infusions. If scheduling conflicts do not prevent it (and that's a big "if"), we hope to present our results on the Fourth of July.


Sarah said...

It seems possibly problematic that while B and D will have the same amount of sugar (none), A will have one spoonful and C will have five spoonfuls, making it substantially sweeter than any of the others. Or is sweetness one of your variables of choice?

Brendan said...

True. We were mainly considering the interaction between the sugar and apple wedges, but perhaps the additional spoonfuls aren't necessary. We'll discuss it and possibly tweak our methodology before the first replacement.

aethel said...

I thought the exact same thing as the post above. You're not removing the sugar when you remove the apples to switch them out, so you're going to end up with an awful lot of sugar in vodka C.