Four Tips for Getting the Best Beer Foam
Apr03

Four Tips for Getting the Best Beer Foam

The Newscripts gang is always on the lookout for ways to make happy hour even happier. Monica Villa, beer lover and aspiring science writer, shares the following tips on how to get the best bubbles in your brew. Beer drinkers know that quality beer foam means a better beer. So what exactly is this luscious lather? Beer foam is composed mainly of the same glycoproteins and organic acids found in beer, but at higher concentrations. Brewing and aging denature the glycoproteins (which come from yeast cell walls and barley), exposing their hydrophobic regions to carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, their hydrophilic side groups hydrogen-bond with water. This segregation of gas and liquid forms the basic structure of foam. To create the best beer foam in your glass, follow these steps: Wash your beer glasses by hand; dishwashers leave detergent residues that interfere with bubble formation. The lacing of foam on the sides of a glass is actually an indication of cleanliness. Scratches at the bottom of a drinking glass can serve as nucleation sites for bubbles, so don’t sweat the imperfections in your barware. Serve your beer at the right temperature. Ideal beer temperatures vary by type, and the truth is that not all beers create a lot of foam. Darker beers and those with higher alcohol content tend to form less foam, while lighter-colored, hoppy beers form high-quality foam. These light-colored beer types should be served at 39–45 °F. Higher temperatures force CO2 gas out of solution, so aim for the higher end of the temperature range to increase foam volume. Choose the right glass for the beer you’re drinking. BeerAdvocate magazine has compiled a helpful list of the appropriate glasses for each class of beer, highlighting traits that contribute to quality beer foam. Among these qualities are ample space for high foam volume (tulip glasses), slenderness for the fluffy foam of wheat beers (weizen glasses), and room to showcase rising gas beads (pilsner glasses). Pour vigorously. A strong pour decreases beer surface tension, aiding in bubble formation. Start at a 45° angle, then straighten the glass to 90° midway through (as demonstrated in this video). Bonus tip: Change your look for improved foam quality: Mustaches and lipstick carry lipids that disrupt bubbles. Charlie Bamforth shared these tips in a recent ACS Webinar titled “Getting a Head through Chemistry: Great Beer and a Frothy Foam.” He is a professor of malting and brewing sciences at the University of California, Davis, and author of “Foam,” which he plans to be the first of a six-volume series on...

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Amusing News Aliquots
Aug25

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week's science news. Shrimp on a treadmill: When seemingly silly science catches the eye of a senator. [NPR] We really love the new Nature Chemistry cover (and not just because we’re on it). [Nature Chemistry] Pheromones – awesome for moths, but for people, more of a myth. [Slate] Would the world be richer musically if Mozart had gotten outdoors a little more? [Guardian] Scientists locate lager’s “missing link” - in Patagonia. [LA Times] Do warnings of bacteria in the kitchen avert death or are they overkill? [NY...

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Amusing News Aliquots
Jun30

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week's science news. Compiled by Bethany Halford and Lauren Wolf. Excavation at the University of Edinburgh unearths equipment likely used by 18th century chemist Joseph Black, the discoverer of carbon dioxide. [Scotsman; Bonus video @ NatureNews]. Patrick McGovern has the Newscripts Gang’s dream job: Beer archeologist. [Smithsonian] Math is getting its own museum. [NYT] What makes New York bagels so scrumptious? Is it the water chemistry? Whatever it is, we’d like ours with cream cheese and tomatoes, please. [Slate] As if the rigors of P-Chem weren’t enough, chemist and author Peter Atkins ponders the beginning of the universe in his new book “On Being.” [Brainiac] Extract from cinnamon bark slows development of Alzheimer’s disease. Frank Herbert was right all along: The spice must flow. [UPI] “Pi Day” is under attack! “Tau Day” supporters so angry—and they hate lemon meringue....

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Bummer SNP doesn’t mix with beer for gastric cancer risk
Apr04

Bummer SNP doesn’t mix with beer for gastric cancer risk

A study from led by investigators at the Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO) in Barcelona has revealed that high consumption of beer combined with a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the alcohol dehydrogenase gene is associated with a nearly nine-fold increased risk of gastric cancer. Thanks to the lovely folks in the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) press office who recognize science bloggers as press, I was able to sit in on a press conference this morning at the AACR annual meeting in Orlando where several studies were discussed on genetic and environmental factors in cancer risk. Lead author of this particular study, cancer epidemiologist Eric Duell, Ph.D., presented a study of Europeans on alcohol consumption and risk of gastric cancer due to SNPs in the alcohol dehydrogenase gene, ADH1. Recall from biochemistry that ADH1 and other ADH forms catalyze the rate-limiting step in the ethyl alcohol oxidation to acetaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Acetaldehyde, in turn, is oxidized to acetate by aldehyde dehydrogenases (ALDHs). This is an impressive retrospective analysis. The study data was culled the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), a study of 521,000 individuals aged 35 to 50 who completed diet and alcohol use questionnaires at 23 centers across 10 European countries between 1992 and 1998. A subset, or nested-study, called EurGast examined environmental factors and genetic susceptibility to gastric cancer in 364 cases relative to 1272 controls. When examined as a pool only one SNP was associated with a modest, 30% increased risk for gastric cancer.  Combining this SNP with alcohol consumption data revealed that 60 g EtOH/day increased risk by 75%. (Sixty grams of ethanol per day is the amount present in approximately four 12 oz beers at 5% alcohol by volume, four 5 oz glasses of wine at 12% ABV, or four 1oz shots of 100 proof liquor.) However, the subanalysis of that SNP stratified for alcohol consumption and type of alcohol revealed the big surprise. Consumption as beer, but not wine or liquor, combined with this SNP at both alleles was associated with increased gastric cancer risk of 8.72-fold in this high consumption group (just one allele increased risk by only 33%). This SNP in the ADH1 gene, rs1230025, is an intergenic T→A polymorphism, neither in the promoter or the coding region of the gene. The influence of this SNP has only been evaluated in one study where it was shown to be associated with a lower breath alcohol concentration - and presumably higher acetaldehyde concentration, although not explicitly measured - at late timepoints when normal volunteers are given a challenge of 0.75 g/kg of ethanol. But why is...

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Fun With Food Analysis At #ACSAnaheim
Mar31

Fun With Food Analysis At #ACSAnaheim

If you’ve been in grad school or worked in a lab, you’ve been there: sitting around, waiting for your reaction or experiment to do its thing, bored, listless. Then your eye lights on a can of Sprite. Then the pH meter. Then back to the Sprite. The wheels start turning, and before you know it, you’re testing all of your labmates’ drinks and making bar charts. Or maybe that’s just me. For Christopher J. Hudalla, it’s all in a day’s work. Hudalla, a senior scientist at Waters Corp., in Milford, Mass., gave a presentation today at the ACS national meeting in Anaheim about the development of a chromatographic stationary phase for separating a battery of simple sugars. After putting his “bridged ethyl hybrid” phase through the standard paces, demonstrating that it indeed separated a mixture of fructose, glucose, sucrose, lactose, and maltose quite nicely, Hudalla got serious. He wanted to throw everything he could think of at the stationary phase, which is proprietary but has a silane on one end and an amide on the other, to test just how robust it actually is. So he began taking samples of his coworkers’ lunches, he said. Everyday, there was a new food item to test. It became a ritual—a lunchtime club—and Hudalla amassed a “large stack of chromatograms of some very strange things,” he told me. “My colleagues wondered why I had an analysis for Asian dipping sauce.” Then came the beer. Why not test the components of beer during brewing? Hudalla followed the sugar components of a beer mix during mashing, a process in which malt enzymes break down grain starches into sugars (typically maltose), and during fermentation, when the maltose is fermented by yeast to produce alcohol. Turns out that the stationary phase does what it’s supposed to: Hudalla didn’t find any products for which it couldn’t separate those simple sugars cleanly. And although some of the tests seemed frivolous at the time, he said, a major beer manufacturer has since expressed interest in the method. Got any food and/or strange product tests to share that you’ve carried out in the lab? Post them...

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