For my Parallel Testing Challenge, I focused on the ways that different techniques of production or use of machinery might effect the way an end product tastes. Also important to the way the food is produced, is of course the raw ingredients, especially the quality, so this varied too. I focused on a few different products: Orange Juice, Coffee and Mac & Cheese. Please find the results below. 

I wanted to study the difference between a fountain drink Orange Juice and Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice. These products in the marketplace have extremely different price points and compositions, manufactured orange juice often being made from concentrate, with added sugars/colors/sweeteners etc. Preservatives may also be added to extend the shelf/fridge life of the product, and I assumed the product would taste far sweeter and artificial. But did this mean it would taste worse than freshly squeezed? To make the freshly squeezed juice, I took the juice from 1 whole orange, and did not filter for pulp. I did not add any extra water or sugar. 

Fountain Orange Juice: Opaque, intense yellow/orange color, intensely sweet, progressively tart and sour, strong lingering aftertaste, tangy sweet smell

Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice: dull color, more translucent, smooth mouthfeel, becomes more tart over time, pulp/varied texture, full bodied flavor with more complexity, not overpowering, dull slightly tart smell 

WINNER: The Freshly Squeezed OJ was definitely a more pleasant, lighter, fruiter more authentic experience. The Fountain Orange Juice is notably sweeter and very intense – if I were to drink this product, I would water it down. 

As a big fan of coffee – skim lattes in particular, I wanted to do a parallel taste test between brewed coffee and espresso. The equipment needed to produce both products is very different, brewed coffee using heat and boiled water over a longer time, while espresso is made with pressurized steam in a short amount of time (10-20 secs). The intensity of caffeine also varies greatly, with an espresso shot being far more concentrated. 

Nespresso Rosabaya Espresso Shot: strong, powerful, potent, very fruity, thick, crema (thin, foamy, golden-brown layer found on top of good espresso).

Dining Hall Coffee: bitter, light, very viscous texture, diluted smell

WINNER: While the Nespresso is a far more intense experience, the quality, taste, complexity and aroma make it the superior product. It is also visually more appealing, and can be made into a range of delicious drinks – yum!

Many late nights freshman and sophomore year called for a quick and unfortunate microwave meals of Mac and Cheese. Annie’s is a boxed brand which requires a stovetop to make, and exudes a slightly less late night vibe. I wanted to try different ways to prepare the prepackaged cheese powder, as well as a substitute sauce, made with real cheese. This test was done in the pyramid style, Round 1: Annie’s sauce with milk VS. Annie’s sauce with milk and margarine, Round 2: Annie’s sauce with milk and margarine VS. Parmesan cheese and Margarine. 

Annie’s Sauce w Milk: milky, tangy, processed taste, no smell, very viscous, white milky appearance.

Annie’s Sauce w Milk and Margarine: oily appearance, buttery smell, buttery taste (overpowered the cheese taste), viscous, hearty, not milky.

ROUND 1 WINNER: Although the Milk and Margarine combination made the sauce extremely oily, it did produce a very rich, buttery taste which complemented the pasta very well. 

Parmesan Cheese and Margarine:  dense, sticky, gluey, powdery texture. 

ROUND 2 WINNER: Still the Annie’s Sauce w Milk and Margarine. The Parmesan sauce, while using real cheese, was not a great texture to eat with pasta, and was too dense as a sauce.