activity

Does a food’s color affect its flavor? Find out—and trick your friends in the process—with this fun sensory experiment.

safety
  • None
difficulty
  • Beginner
time
  • 20 minutes

In this activity, YOU are the scientist! Your research question? Does a food’s color affect what we think of its flavor? You will try to answer this question by having unsuspecting “subjects” (your friends and family) taste two different samples of apple juice—one plain and one that you dyed red with food coloring. Shhh! Don’t give it away! Will they be able to tell that both samples are the same juice? Or will the red color make them think they’re drinking something else?

Prepare Ingredients

½ cup per person
apple juice
Red food coloring

Gather Equipment

2 per person
small, clear drinking glasses
Masking or painter’s tape
Marker or pen
Liquid measuring cup
Soupspoon
1 per person
piece of scrap paper
1 per person
pen or pencil
1
 

Figure out how many subjects you will have for your experiment. You can tell them that you’re looking for their input on some samples of juice. Make sure you don’t tell them anything else about the experiment at this point! You don’t want to sway their opinions.

 
2
 
½ cup
apple juice

In a separate room (or somewhere your subject(s) can’t see you), prepare a set of juice samples for each subject. Use tape and a marker or pen to label 1 glass as “A” and 1 glass as “B.” Add ¼ cup of apple juice to glass A. Add another ¼ cup of apple juice to glass B.

 
3
 
Red food coloring

Add 5–8 drops of red food coloring to all the glasses labeled “A.” Use a soupspoon to stir each glass until the color is evenly distributed.

 
4
 

Set up your experiment on a table or counter. Create a spot for each of your subjects with 1 glass of sample A, 1 glass of sample B, 1 piece of scrap paper, and 1 pen or pencil.

 
5
 

Call in your subject(s)! Have each of them sit or stand at 1 of the spots you set up. Explain what they need to do; you could say something like this:

You have 2 samples of juice in front of you, sample A and sample B. Take a few sips of each sample and think about their flavors. Do they taste sweet? Sour? Bitter? Does the flavor remind you of anything? Which sample do you like better, A or B? You can jot down notes on the scrap paper at your spot. Don’t say anything out loud about the samples until everyone is ready! You don’t want to influence others’ opinions.

 
6
 

Give your subject(s) 2–3 minutes to do their tasting and thinking. Once all your subjects have finished, ask them to tell you what they thought of each sample’s flavor. Have subjects vote for which juice they preferred, A or B, by a show of hands.

 
7
 

Time for the big reveal! Tell your subjects that you played a (small) trick on them—in the name of science! The juice in samples A and B was the same—both glasses contained apple juice, but sample A was dyed red.

 
8
 

Have your subjects close their eyes. Ask them to taste the 2 juice samples again, this time with their eyes closed. What do they think of the flavor of the samples now? Do they taste the same? Do they still taste different?