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A Taste for Science

A Taste for Science

Even though summer activities are changing by the day, one thing is for sure – ice cream makes everything better! Please enjoy this tasty experiment, from Science Experiments You Can Eat by Vicki Cobb, and find out if you really know good ice cream when you taste it!  

Materials Needed: 

Gather your family together. For each person taking the test you will need a spoon, glass of water, napkin, pen and paper, and an Ice Cream Taste Test Data Sheet. 

You’ll also need four plastic bowls of four different colors, in which you will put four different kinds of vanilla ice cream: 

  • 1 premium brand (make sure the word “premium” appears on the package. This type is usually more expensive and sold in pint containers.)
  • 1 moderately priced brand that is also labeled “premium” 
  • 1 ice milk or vanilla frozen yogurt 
  • 1 very inexpensive brand 

Procedure: 

Put a different ice cream in each bowl and make a record of the bowl color and the kind of ice cream. Keep the containers and make note of the price paid for each. 

Don’t let your participants see the containers – they should only see the ice cream in the bowls at the time of the experiment. You don’t want to influence opinions with the brand name. 

Instruct participants not to speak to each other or look at one another during the test. They should take a drink of water between tastes and sample each ice cream at least three or four times, in different orders, before drawing any conclusions. 

Here are some things professional ice cream taste testers look for. Share this list with your participants: 

Color – The color should be what you expect for the flavor. Vanilla is not too yellow or too white. 

Melting – The best ice cream melts quickly at room temperature, and the melted ice cream is a smooth liquid without foamy bubbles. 

Body and Texture – The best ice cream is firm but drips easily. The “mouthfeel” is creamy, smooth and chewy. Better ice creams have more butterfat and stay firm at a higher temperature. They don’t feel as cold as less expensive ice creams that have such a cold feel they can give you a headache. 

Flavor – Vanilla ice cream should be pleasantly sweet and you should be able to taste the vanilla. The ice cream should not taste “cooked” like milk that has been boiled. 

The tasters should fill out the data sheet (download this PDF for each participant) with a “yes” or a “no” comparing the four different bowls of ice cream. After they have finished collecting their own data, add up the total number of “no” votes for each ice cream for the group. The ice cream with the most “no” votes wins. 

Observations: Which ice cream won? Do people generally prefer the most expensive ice cream? Look at the list of ingredients on the cartons. How do you think these ingredients affect the taste and popularity of that ice cream? 

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