By Amruta Byatnal ’16
Photography by Robert Barker
As I walked into the Sensory Evaluation Center in Stocking Hall, I was greeted with a sense of excitement. At the evaluation booth, a tray with five different types of cider was presented to me- almost automatically. The instructions on the computer screen led me systematically to the rest of the study – I tried the cider in each glass and rated it for its attributes: flavor, acidity, sweetness, carbonation, aroma, appearance, color, and astringency. In the end, I was asked my willingness to pay for the different types of cider. The study was conducted by Masters in Food Science student Micah Martin to test consumer preference of cider with added tannins.
“Tons of apples are wasted in New York state, as they do not fulfill the cosmetic standards set by the grocery stores,” said Martin. “My research is based on making these apples commercially viable to use for making cider. However, these apples are sweet, and not suited to make cider. I wanted to test if adding external tannins will make the cider astringent, thus making them a good candidate for hard cider.”
The study attracted 193 participants. Martin found that the ciders made from added tannins were liked by the consumers. “Statistically, the ciders were made using external tannins were liked by the participants. This is good news for the sweet apple growers — with some help, their produce will be profitable,” he said. This information will now be passed on to New York apple growers through the department’s extension work, and will eventually help boost local businesses.
His project aligns with the mission of the Center perfectly, according to Sensory Program Manager Alina Stelick. “The Center is a space to create learning opportunities for students and help the food-business community too,” said Stelick.
At the studies conducted at the Center, students and faculty outside of the Food Science department have a chance at being a part of research at the department – to taste food and drinks, and give their insights which will prove valuable to the researchers.
The Center opened in October 2015 after a five year hiatus during renovation of Stocking Hall. “For a sensory panel, it is essential that the place is quiet and neutral, and that there are no elements that present bias; this new facility does exactly that,” said Stelick.
“We want businesses to start using the facility: charge facilities fees, which will be used by the department. If more industry partners participate, we will be able to support students better,” she said.