As any fan of Alton Brown’s Good Eats will tell you, everything food is rooted in science. From sour beers advancing microbiology to why the brain decides to enjoy pungent cheeses (or not), we rounded up this week’s most interesting food science stories.
The science behind sour beers
Beer, specifically sours, are paving the way for microbiologists to learn more about bacteria and yeast strains.
According to NPR, much of research is dedicated to one kind of yeast, Saccharomyces. But, thanks to the natural growth of Lactobacillus bacteria and Brettanomyces yeast in sour beers, scientists now have more to work with. These bacteria and yeasts are usually what spoils regular beer, but what gives sours its tangy and acidic flavors.
Scientists are also using sours to find new strains of yeast and bacteria to learn more about their characteristics. NPR reports that this work can later help develop research in antimicrobial substances, gene expression, biofuel, dissolving pollutants and more.
Think twice about adding lemon to your drink
The Washington Post reports that ice and lemon slices may harbor enough bacteria to cause illness. Studies found that a whopping 69% of lemon slices used in beverages in 21 restaurants in Paterson, New Jersey were contaminated. Some of the bacteria are so resilient that they’ll survive in 80-86 proof alcoholic drinks.
Contamination can come from a myriad of sources: dirty hands handling the citrus, lack of refrigeration, unwashed cutting surfaces and utensils, being left out in an open area and more. As for ice, it can be made from impure water or come in contact with dirty surfaces.
Why you love or hate smelly cheese
Neuroscientists suggest that those who steer clear of pungent cheeses may even not think of them as food at all, according to Smithsonian Magazine. Scientists scanned the brains of both cheese lovers and haters while pumping smells of bleu, Gruyere, cheddar, Parmesan and goat cheese into the air. They found that in the brains of the stink-adverse, they were being rewarded for being disgusted.
The study was conducted in France (believe it or not) and found 11.5% of the 332 participants were not fans of the stank.