Prehistoric Cheese & Acid Whey


Biochemists discover the remains of prehistoric cheese, while Modern Farmer looks at Chobani’s acid whey problem. Read more

Milk: From Breast to Cheese with Dan Drake

Veterinarian and goat cheese expert Dan Drake introduced UCLA students to the science of cheesemaking as part of our 2013 Science and Food course. Did you know that good cheese starts with healthy, happy goats? Check out the highlights:

Vince ReyesAbout the author: Vince C Reyes earned his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering at UCLA. Vince loves to explore the deliciousness of all things edible.

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Dan Drake

Dan Drake is the owner of Drake Family Farms in Southern California. As a veterinarian, Dan has been overseeing the health of the Drake Family Farms goat herd for the past 26 years. Using quality milk from their goats, Drake Family Farms produces farmstead and artisan cheeses that are sold locally throughout Southern California.


What hooked you on farming?
I grew up on a farm and love working with the animals. I named my animals and made them part of my family. I am especially addicted to raising goats, and so I started a cheese company so I could justify keeping my goats. It is a ridiculous idea, and over the past three years it has been a financial disaster. But that is what farming is, a labor of love and bad finances. Farmers are victims of “Stockholm syndrome” with the far as the captor.
The coolest example of science in your food?
The mold-ripened cheese: as it ages and ripens it becomes more delicious.
The food you find most fascinating?
Cheese, of course, is the most fascinating food on the planet. I find it amazing that you can make so many varieties from the same milk.
What scientific concept—food related or otherwisedo you find most fascinating?
A farm filled with healthy, happy goats produces delicious, high-quality milk that makes the very best cheese—cheese that is unparalleled in quality and flavor. It is all about the goat biological system and how healthy the goats are. People think it is just good karma coming through in the cheese, which it probably is, but you can see the science of population health and productivity all the way through the process.
Your best example of a food that is better because of science?
I believe all of our cheese is superior because we start with superior quality milk. Without healthy goats, the milk would not produce superior quality cheese. It all goes back to the quality of the starting ingredients: in our case, the milk. You can’t fix damaged milk. You have to start over again with better milk.
How do you think science will impact your world of food in the next 5 years?
I am hopeful that science will help us to become more efficient in producing the crops we feed our goats, and therefore our cheese production will become more efficient. They say we have to feed 9 billion people on this planet in the coming years. We won’t be able to do it with our current farming methods. Hopefully these new technologies and scientific discoveries will also help us to work better with our environment and preserve our planet at the same time. I believe it can and will be done, we just need some smart scientists to figure it out AND we need the public to accept the discoveries they make.
One kitchen tool you could not live without?
A cheese knife.
Five things most likely to be found in your fridge?
Cheese, tomatoes, chicken, tortillas, Dr. Pepper
Your all-time favorite ingredient?
Cheese. You can add it to anything and it always tastes better with cheese.
Favorite cookbook?
My Grandma Drake’s hand-written recipes.
Your standard breakfast?
My favorite: an omelet with a lot of cheese and meats, a fresh baked tomato with pepper, sourdough toast with lots of real butter and strawberry jam, fresh-squeezed orange juice.
My reality on-the-go: a quesadilla and a Dr. Pepper while driving down the freeway to work.

Computer Chefs & 3D-Printed Food


Is this the future of food? 3D printers make dazzling cake toppers and a talented supercomputer explores new culinary creations. Read more

Photo credit: Chris Battaglia (photog63/Flickr)


Photo credit: Chris Battaglia (photog63/Flickr)

Hazelnuts may not be as popular as other nuts in the U.S., but they have quite the culinary versatility, enjoyed in pralines, Nutella, and even as themselves. These nuts grow on hazel trees, of the genus Corylus. Depending on the plant species and nut shape, hazelnut also refers to the filbert nut or cobnut. Filbert nuts have an elongated shape that tapers into a “beak”, and are found on the Filbert (C. maxima), Colchican Filbert (C. colchica), and Turkish Hazel (C. colurna). Cobnuts are generally rounder, and grow on the American Hazelnut (C. americana) and the more commercially recognized Common Hazel (C. avellana) [1].

Whether in the form of a nut, essence, or oil, hazelnuts owe their sweet, buttery flavor profile to the molecule filbertone. Interestingly, filbertone can be used to test for the authenticity of olive oil. Olive oils are sometimes cheapened by mixing in hazelnut oil [2]. As filbertone is one of the components of hazelnut oil, testing for its presence can determine whether or not a sample of olive oil is impure [3]. Although hazelnut oil is less expensive compared to olive oil, it has a strong, robust flavor that makes it a great substitute in salad dressings and baked goods.


Like many nuts, hazelnuts are a good source of protein and monounsaturated fats. Further, they contain a significant amount of thiamine, various B vitamins, and especially vitamin E [4]. Need another reason to try out hazelnuts this month? The warm, rich, velvety taste of roasted hazelnuts in decadent truffles or comforting lattes has a way of slowing down time. Try it for yourself.

References Cited

  1. Flora of North America: Corylus. <>
  2. Arlorio M.; Coisson JD; Bordiga M.; Garino C.; et al. “Olive Oil Adulterated with Hazelnut Oils: Simulation to Identify Possible Risks to Allergic Consumers.” Food Addit Contam Part A Chem Anal Control Expo Risk Assess. 2010 Jan; 27(1):11-8. doi: 10.1080/02652030903225799.
  3. Flores, G.; Ruiz del Castillo, M.L.; Blanch, G.P.; Herraiz, M. “Detection of the Adulteration of Olive Oils by Solid Phase Microextraction and Multidimensional Gas Chromatography”. Food Chemistry, 2006 Jul; 97(2): 336–342.
  4. Nutritional Value of Hazelnuts. <>

Alice PhungAbout the author: Alice Phung once had her sights set on an English degree, but eventually switched over to chemistry and hasn’t looked back since.

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The Science of Champagne Bubbles

Photo credit: _FXR/Flickr

Photo credit: _FXR/Flickr

Toast the new year with a bottle of champagne! With its effervescent fizz, golden sparkle, and showy corking, it is the go-to celebratory drink. Read up on champagne making, bubble formation, and the mathematics behind bubble patterns, and get ready to show off some foodie knowledge at this winter’s new year’s party.

How It’s Made

A sparkling wine isn’t champagne unless it comes from its namesake region of France. The Champagne province in the northeast of France boasts ideal soil conditions which contribute to the grape quality, and thus the quality of the beverage that results from champagne winemaking.

Champagne undergoes a two-part fermentation process. The first fermentation results in a flat champagne wine. Next, yeast and sugar are added to this base, and the bottle is sealed. The yeast consume the sugar and produce alcohol along with about 10 grams of CO2 per liter of fluid [1].

Toward the end of production the bottle is opened, whereupon the yeast and about 80% of the CO2 are expelled from the bottle. It may seem that allowing such a large fraction of the CO2 to escape would be undoing the yeast’s hard work, but the remaining 20% in the fluid are enough to make 20 million bubbles in one champagne flute, each no larger than a millimeter in diameter [1]. The bottle is quickly corked once again, and is then ready to be sold.

The Pop

Photo credit: BitHead/Flickr

Photo credit: BitHead/Flickr

At 11:59 on December 31st, many will have a bottle in hand and will be anticipating the bang of the cork shooting out; this is caused by the buildup of pressure inside the bottle. Surprisingly, only 5% of the energy exerted during the bottle opening is the cork’s kinetic energy, that is, the energy of motion that would propel the cork into your uncle’s eye. The remaining 95% of the energy generates the popping sound’s shock wave. This wave causes a mushroom cloud-like pattern of CO2 that is released when the cork pops [3]. The white fog that rises from the bottle after the mushroom cloud is a mist of ethanol and water vapor, triggered by the sudden drop in gas temperature when the bottle pressure is rapidly released Because of the speed at which this occurs, there is no time for the energy transfer—heating—to occur. The result is adiabatic cooling. The gas temperature drops, causing the water vapor in the gas to condense [3].

The Bubbles

Natural Effervescence — Champagne fizz has a rather surprising source. It is caused by the presence of tiny cellulose fibers that cling to the glass by electrostatic forces. The fibers are deposited from the air or that have been left over after wiping the glass with a towel. Each fiber, about 100 micrometers long, develops an internal gas pocket as the glass is filled. These microfiber gas pockets are the bubble formation sites. To form a bubble, dissolved CO2 has to push through liquid molecules held together by very weak but abundant molecular interactions. The CO2 would not have enough energy to do this on its own, but the gas pockets held in the cellulose fibers lower the energy barrier and allow a bubble to form. CO2 continually deposits itself from the champagne into the bubble until it reaches about 10-50 micrometers [1], whereupon its buoyant force is so great that it detaches from the fiber and floats upward. A new bubble forms immediately in its place.

Artificial Nucleation — Because natural effervescence is very random and not easily controlled, glassmakers use a more reproducible way to generate bubbles. Glassmakers use a laser to engrave artificial nucleation sites at the bottom of the glass to make the effervescence pattern pleasing to the eye. They usually create no fewer than 20 scratches to create a ring shape, which produces a consistent column of rising bubbles.

Bubble Patterns

Bubbling patterns actually change over the time that the champagne is within the glass. The bubbles start out as strings that rise in pairs, then gradually transition to bubbles in groups of threes, and finally settle down in a clockwork pattern of regularly spaced individual bubbles. A team of physicists in the Champagne region of France have performed extensive research to figure out the science behind champagne fizz and the interesting patterns the bubble strings form.

The patterns are determined by the vibration rate of the gas trapped at the nucleation point and the growth rate of the bubbles outside. These factors are determined by  atmospheric pressure on the surface of the champagne, temperature, and the size of the nucleation point in the glass, among other factors. The Champagne team has arrived upon a complex equation to explain the differential patterns of bubble streams by relating bubble radius, oscillation frequency of the gas pocket, and the time interval between two successive bubbles [2]

R(Ti + 1) = Ro + Ecos(2πωFbTi + 1)

where Ro is the radius of the bubble just before release, and Ti is the time interval between two successive bubbles, ω is the ratio between the oscillation frequencies of the gas pocket and the bubble (Fb), and E is related to the interactions between the two systems [2].

Now that some of the mystery behind the sparkle and pop of champagne has been explained through science, opportunities to impress friends and strike up conversation present themselves at the next big occasion. Break out a timer and graph paper; observe one nucleation point on a glass and measure the transition time from two to three bubble patterns. Someone is bound to ask what the stop watch is for.


  1. “Bubbles and Flow Patterns in Champagne.”  American Scientist. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Dec. 2013.
  2. Liger-Belair, Gerard. “Period Adding Route in Sparkling Bubbles.” Physical Review 72 (2005): n. pag. Web.
  3. Boyle, Alan. “The Science of Champagne Bubbles Up for Again For News Year’s Eve.” NBC News. N.p., 31 Dec. 2012.

Elsbeth SitesAbout the author: Elsbeth Sites is pursuing her B.S. in Biology at UCLA. Her addiction to the Food Network has developed into a love of learning about the science behind food.

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