Home > Create Every Day > For Lunch Today We Had Science!

For Lunch Today We Had Science!

February 16th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

At lunch today a few of my friends and I were sitting around in the conference room talking, and someone mentioned that they had been listening to a podcast about the recipe for Coke.  The topic led to the merits of Coke over Pepsi (or vice versa, if that’s your taste), which led naturally to wondering if we could tell the difference between the two in a double-blind taste test.

“Wait,” Ian said after a second, “We have Coke and Pepsi here, and glasses.  Let’s test this.”

We all quickly agreed, and the test was on.

Ian went and scrounged up the requisite soft drinks, some styrofoam cups, a pen (to label the cups), and his thinking cap and we went to work.  We even went so far as to make it an official double-blind test, with Ian pouring the drinks in secret, then handing me the drinks in one room, and I in turn delivering the mystery drinks to our taste testers.

What followed was nothing short of completely expected: Nick and Sam were both able to identify the correct sodas with no problems.

Hey, science doesn’t always have to be hard. 🙂

We then reversed roles, and Ian and I took a turn as tasters.  Despite how sure Nick and Sam had sounded about their choices, and my confidence that I could accomplish the feat easily, I was actually surprised by how similar the two sodas tasted.  It’s easy to say you prefer the taste of one thing over another, but when faced with both at the same time with no other clues it’s hard to really nail down which is which.

In a bit of an unexpected twist, we all found that the deciding factor was actually smell.  To my nose (even being a bit stuffy from the tail end of a cold) the Pepsi had a stronger, sweeter smell, but with a “flat” characteristic that is hard to describe.  “Not very complex” might be a better description.  The Coke, on the other hand, had a much more subtle smell with a lot of things going on.  It took a while to puzzle the different aromas out, but I could distinctly smell vanilla, cinnamon, citrus, and caramel.  [If you’ve never tried it — and I’d be surprised if you had — I’d definitely recommend pouring an inch or so of Coke into the bottom of a glass, swirling it around a bit, and spend a minute or two paying attention to the smell.  I think you’ll be surprised.]

Conversely, the tastes actually seemed fairly similar.  I suspect that has a lot to do with the carbonation and the acidity, which would tend to dominate the other flavors.

In the end Ian and I were also both able to identify the correct sodas, thus giving reasonable weight to the argument that yes, people who have a preference for Coke or Pepsi know what they’re talking about.  So the next time you’re at a restaurant and ask for a Coke, when the server asks if Pepsi is okay you can go ahead and point them at this rigorous study and confidently declare, “No, that’s not alright, thank you very much!  I’ll just have water.”  Or some such silliness. 🙂


After we’d settled down a bit from our sugar-caffeine-science high, we talked a bit about doing other such tests.  I was playing around with the leftover samples, and noticed that the colors of the beverages were slightly different.  Coke (like its label) was much redder in color than the Pepsi, which was more of a neutral brown.  We didn’t bother doing a double-blind test this time, but I was able to tell the sodas apart by sight when Ian showed me two.  So there you have it… you can tell them apart by taste, smell, and color.


Categories: Create Every Day Tags:
  1. Mom
    February 22nd, 2011 at 11:49 | #1

    Do you guys ever watch “The Big Bang Theory” ?! This seems straight out of that series. I hope you are not offended, because I am a HUGE fan of the show. Personally I wouldn’t wish the oversexed and weird Wolowitz (sp?) on any of you, but I would be PROUD to have a Sheldon, Raj or Leonard in the family !

  2. Mom
    April 12th, 2011 at 15:35 | #2

    When are you going to update this site? I NEED to read more!!!!!

  1. No trackbacks yet.