activity

Does a food’s color affect what we think of its flavor? Find out (and trick your friends in the process) in this TOP SECRET experiment.

safety
  • No safety considerations
difficulty
  • Beginner
time
  • 30 minutes

Today, YOU are the scientist! Your research question: Does a food’s color affect what we think of its flavor? You’ll answer this question by having unsuspecting “subjects” (your friends and family) taste two samples of juice—one plain and one dyed with food coloring, which doesn’t have any flavor. Will they realize that both juices are the same? Or will the color make them think that they’re drinking something else?

hey curious cook—

Have you heard about our Young Chefs’ Club? Members get a themed (and kid-tested) box delivered each month!

Prepare Ingredients

½ cup
apple juice per taster
Red liquid food coloring

Gather Equipment

Masking tape
Marker
2
small, clear drinking glasses per taster
Liquid measuring cup
Spoon
1
piece of paper per taster
1
pencil per taster
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—but do not tell them anything else at this point! You don’t want to sway their opinions.

 
2
 

Make a prediction: Do you think your subjects will be able to tell that both glasses of juice are the same? Or will they think they have different flavors because they are different colors?

 
3
 
½ cup
apple juice per taster

In another room (or somewhere your subjects can’t see you), use masking tape and marker to label 1 glass per taster “A” and second glass per taster “B.” Use liquid measuring cup to add ¼ cup juice to each glass.

 
4
 
Red liquid food coloring

Add 5 to 8 drops of food coloring to all glasses labeled “A.” Use spoon to stir each “A” glass until juice and food coloring are fully combined.

 
5
 

Prepare a station for each taster with 1 glass of sample “A,” 1 glass of sample “B,” 1 piece of paper, and 1 pencil.

 
6
 

Assign each subject to a tasting station. Explain that they should take a few sips from each glass. They should think about the flavor of each sample: Does it taste sweet? Sour? Bitter? Does the flavor remind them of anything? Tasters can write their thoughts on the paper in front of them, but they should not say anything out loud until the experiment is over.

 
7
 

Observe your results: Give subjects 2 to 3 minutes to taste and record their thoughts. Once subjects have finished ask them to share what they thought of each sample’s flavor. Ask subjects to vote for which sample they preferred, “A” or “B,” by a show of hands.

 
8
 

Time for the big reveal! Tell subjects you played a small trick on them. Samples A and B were both apple juice—sample A was just dyed red with food coloring.

 
9
 

Have subjects close their eyes and taste the 2 samples again. What do they think of their flavors now? Do they taste the same or do they taste different?