Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Results of the Big Experiment (finally!)

Sorry about the delay in posting these results; we know many of you have been waiting with bated breath! It's been a very long week for the Mad Scienticians, for a number of reasons. Not the least of these reasons is our preparations for Shore Leave. That's right, the Scienticians are making the trek up to Baltimore this weekend to geek out, so if you're in the area, come look for us! We'll be bringing several of our infusions to share with friends, fans and complete strangers.

To review, the Big Experiment with which we celebrated six months of Infusions of Grandeur involved four separate apple vodka infusions, each using a slightly different methodology. All four infusions were run for two weeks. Below, you can see the finished infusions, labeled with the corresponding methodology.

A. Apple replaced every three days, with a spoonful of sugar at the beginning.
B. Apple replaced every three days, without sugar.
C. Same apple for two weeks, with a spoonful of sugar.
D. Same apple for two weeks, without sugar.

Take note that method C is the same method we used in our original experiment, six months prior.

To ensure a true double-blind test, we discarded the apple wedges from each infusion, and stored the meanings of the letter labels elsewhere. We then gave the infusions to our laboratory assistant Amy, who could not identify the infusions. She served us samples in random order, taking note of the order for later identification.

Our reviews are listed here in the order we sampled them, not in the order they appear above.

Infusion One: Same apple for two weeks, without sugar. (Jar D)

Wayland described this vodka as "alright. I don't think this is as good as the original. It has two stages: apple followed by vodka. The back end is very vodka-tasting, while the front end is sweet and appley."

My reaction: "This shot is mildly harsh, but it's not prohibitive. It has a sweetness that supports the flavor, which is strong on the front end. The flavor doesn't scream apple, but it's appley enough."

Notice that both of us described a sweetness to this vodka, though no sugar was added. Interesting!

Infusion Two: Apple replaced every three days, with a spoonful of sugar at the beginning. (Jar A)

After tasting this infusion, I wrote that "the flavor is brief, with no vodka taste. It tastes very much of apples, with a strong sweetness, but it also has a slightly sour/bitter component that makes this vodka slightly unpleasant. It's not the gut reaction I got from our debut batch, but I wouldn't drink this recreationally."

Wayland's thoughts were much more favorable. "I like that a lot. It's apples. If I didn't know this was vodka, I would think I was drinking apple juice. This could actually be pretty dangerous. I can see drinking this straight from the bottle until your body realized you had drank entirely too much."

Infusion Three: Apple replaced every three days, without sugar. (Jar B)

The results of this infusion, compared with the previous one, show pretty thoroughly how sugar can affect an infusion.

Wayland described this one as "very smooth, like the last one, with no vodka burn. It did have a hint of sourness to it that the last one didn't have. Analyzing it, I think I liked the previous one better, although this one might have a more 'authentic' apple flavor to it. I think that brief snippet of sourness detracts from the drink as a whole."

I wrote that "this one tastes much like the previous vodka, but less so. Less sweet, less appley, but also less sour and bitter. Unfortunately, the former flavors have been reduced enough that the latter are still dominant. Thoroughly underwhelming."

Infusion Four: Same apple for two weeks, with a spoonful of sugar. (Jar C)

Again, this infusion uses the same methodology as our debut batch of apple vodka.

I still didn't like it. "Oof. This sucks. I'm pretty sure this is the original version. It has little apple flavor, and is quite sour. It has a vodka burn, but no vodka taste."

I challenge anyone who says that the phrase "Oof, this sucks" has no place in a respectable scientific article to taste this vodka under controlled circumstances and say it again.

After trying the alternatives, Wayland seemed to finally be swayed to my point of view on this vodka. "Wow! This has the tartness of the last vodka plus the burn of the first. By far the worst of the batch. It's like you took a drop of apple juice and a splash of sour mix, and added them to several ounces of vodka. Definitely not the method to use."

With the results in, we rated the vodkae as follows, with 1 being our favorite:

A. Replace apples, with sugar:21
B. Replace apples, no sugar:32
C. Same apples, with sugar:44
D. Same apples, no sugar:13

This resulted in a heated debate between the two Mad Scienticians about which would be hailed as the winning method. We argued not only about which one was best, but about the fundamental tastes of the vodkae. Eventually, I was convinced to do a repeat test of methods A and D, mainly because I found it hard to believe that my favorite of the four had included the same apples for two weeks.

I poured myself a small sample of batches A and D. There was no scientific control involved in this retest; I knew exactly what I was drinking. Upon tasting these vodkae for the second time, I decided that my initial reviews of each had somehow been flawed. In fact, I was amused by the realization that if I reviewed them again, I would have given the same reviews in the reverse order. (No, I did not switch the shots; I was quite careful about that, and only slightly buzzed.)

The revised rating table is as follows:

A. Replace apples, with sugar:11
B. Replace apples, no sugar:32
C. Same apples, with sugar:44
D. Same apples, no sugar:23

The winning methodology is to replace the apples every three days throughout the infusion, and to add a spoonful of sugar at the beginning.


Anonymous said...

THIS is the type of experiment - perfecting the process - that brings infusing to another level. You guys rock. Keep up the great work!

Brendan said...

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I wonder if removing the peels from the apples would have removed the 'sourness' you experienced? The tannins in the apple skins may (or may not!) affect the outcome.

Roni said...

I've looked through the documentation, but haven't found the answer, why Granny Smith apples? If you're having trouble with a sour taste, that seems like it might be the answer. I'd be curious how this went with a sweeter eating apple, like a Honeycrisp or a Pink Lady. Granny Smiths are a cooking apples, something to do with the tartness and acidity.

More Experimentation!

Brendan said...

That's a very good question, Veronica. We actually can't remember why we chose Granny Smiths. It was our first experiment, and to be honest, there may not have even been any real thought process to it. When we started the Big Experiment, we stuck with the same apples because we had enough variables to contend with as it was. We may give other types of apples a try in a future experiment.

Dude said...

I tried the version that uses sugar and changes the apples. When we opened the jar to take out the last apple, the vodka fizzed and continues to appear carbonated, even after bottling.

Brendan said...

That's pretty weird.

Anonymous said...

great information here - i'm starting an apple infusion - it's an apple season: thinking of using either Cortland or Winesap - very aromatic apples.

Anonymous said...

I'll be trying this one with Pink Lady apples, and if successful, I'll be attempting to use it to give some apple flavor to a home brewed cider. When cider ferments out most of the apple flavor goes out with the airlock.

Unknown said...

You can prevent apples and pears turning brown when cut up by brushing them with a bit of lemon juice -- something in the lemon juice prevents whatever chemical reaction causes the brown colour upon exposure to air.

It occurs to me that you might be able to achieve a cleaner, less brown coloured apple vodka if you added a small piece of lemon to the infusion -- maybe one or two segments, pierced?

Food for thought, anyway