As a shrewd and effective entrepreneur in the food industry, you probably face important choices every day. Concerns about budget, quality, safety, production, market demands…
And of course most importantly—enchanting your customers with deliciousness.
You may be wondering whether you really need a fullbore food science lab for your product development and R&D needs. Whether it’s worth the cost (or we prefer “investment” but we’ll get to that).
So what makes food science consultants stand out?
Well in addition to the incalculable experience, training, and molecular creativity earned through years of practice with the best equipment and the top culinary masters of our age…there are also some easily tangible tools & techniques for culinary R&D that only food scientists like us can offer.
Seriously, come visit the lab! We have lots of cool stuff to show you (and let you taste)…
In the meantime, here are just 10 of the many things you definitely won’t get with your run-of-the-mill food development consultant.
1. Spinzall – The magic merry-go-round of food science
This compact centrifuge is a maestro of the trade, breaking down mixtures into component parts; spinning a liquid at high speed to segregate its materials by density.
For example, a liquid such as lemon juice can separate into fruit solids, clarified juice, and citrus oils (also known as pellet, supernate, and oil layers, respectively).
By separating ingredients into their core components, the Spinzall centrifuge opens doors to understanding and manipulating food on a molecular level. It’s a stepping stone for crafting novel textures and flavors that tickle the taste buds in new, exhilarating ways:
- Clarify juices for full flavor but a crystal-clear appearance
- Extract essential oils from herbs
- Remove suspended solids that can separate and/or spoil over time
The Spinzall is crucial for innovating textures, flavors, and new culinary creations—but it can also play a role in quality control and ensuring consistency across batches.
By separating undesired particles and elements that affect flavor or shelf-life, it makes sure there’s nothing in your final product except pure goodness.
So the next time you marvel at the crystal clarity of a beverage or the unique texture of a modernist cuisine dish—remember, there may be a Spinzall and a team of curious food scientists behind the scenes, spinning their magic to elevate your culinary experience beyond the expected.
2. Analytical Balance – The art of precision
This ain’t your science teacher’s balance scale. It’s not even your college pot-dealer’s fancy digital scale.
The analytical balance we use in our food-science R&D lab measures mass down to the 10,000th of a gram. Put it this way: your typical high-quality digital scale can measure differences down to 0.01 grams. Our analytical balance measures down to 0.0001 grams
It’s so precise, it has to sit on a marble table, lest the room’s vibrations and air currents disrupt the measurement.
- Dose small quantities of powerful ingredients with extreme accuracy.
- Hit that accuracy with extreme precision, which means that measurement after measurement gives you the same result.
- Protect the measurement from error introduced by building vibration and/or airflow
This level of precision may not seem important when it comes to playing around with individual recipes—but when you scale up for production, you multiply every factor by some order of magnitude. Which can make any small deviations in measurement quite impactful.
3. Psychrometer – Take the pulse of humidity
Turning from the material to the atmospheric side of food—the humble yet important psychrometer measures moisture in the air, which plays a pivotal role in the food we enjoy.
A Psychrometer comprises two thermometers; one dry and one wet. By comparing the temperature differential, it calculates the ambient humidity, which factors into food science on many levels.
Moisture influences how ingredients meld, the texture of food, and even its shelf life—so understanding how products behave at various humidity levels is crucial for developing tasty treats people can enjoy anywhere.
In a food science R&D lab, a psychrometer helps maintain carefully controlled environments to study and adjust for these important factors, ensuring that each bite delivers the experience your customers are hoping for.
- Perfect the crunch of a chip
- Ensure the right softness in bread
- Extend the shelf life of packaged products
Managing humidity is key also for quality control. Think about what might happen if the humidity in your production facility was different from where you developed your recipe—that means the moisture content of your finished product doesn’t match your R&D, and you have no real control over what shows up in front of your customer.
We shudder to imagine…
4. Food Dehydrator – Leather it up
Ever marveled at the lasting texture of dried fruits or the savory intensity of jerky? A food dehydrator uses air circulation and sometimes low heat to evaporate moisture from foods, leaving behind morsels with condensed flavors, unique textures, and much longer shelf life.
- Create healthy snacks that won’t go bad
- Preserve seasonal produce for year-round enjoyment
- Make high-quality dried herbs
By reducing moisture, a food dehydrator creates an unfriendly environment for bacteria and molds, which helps make perishable items last much longer.
The next time you enjoy a delicious dried apple slice or a toothsome piece of jerky—remember there’s a food dehydrator and maybe a food scientist or two monitoring the drying process carefully, measuring things like moisture content, water activity, and microbial activity, to bring forth the best product possible.
5. Chemical Dryer – A magic wand of waterlessness
A chemical dryer like ours uses gentle vacuum conditions to remove moisture from a substance with minimal heat, which reduces any unwanted chemical changes.
Its primary use is to convert various chemical hydrates (having water) to anhydrous compounds (without water), which can then be used for their functional properties. For example, epsom salt is a hydrate in its standard form. But in its anhydrous form it can be used to pull moisture out of other solvents to help purify them, when even small amounts of moisture can be a problem.
- Dehydrate delicate substances that can’t tolerate heat or convection air currents
- Remove all moisture when even minute amounts can be a problem
- Complete the process of any ethanol-based solvent.
It’s much more gentle than a drying oven or even a dehydrator. Though our chemical dryer has the option to use low heat as well, for certain circumstances.
6. Water Purification – Tapping into elemental magic
When formulating beverages, we like to start from scratch with pure H20—to make sure every potential flavor factor is under our control from the start.
In our R&D lab, municipal water flows through several steps to remove any existing minerals, chemicals, or other impurities:
- Water softener
- Activated charcoal filter
- Reverse osmosis system
Then we can add carbonation if that’s the kind of beverage we’re formulating, followed by any minerals or other flavor additives we want in the finished product, in very specific and controlled amounts.
But the important thing is that throughout the beverage development process, we control every aspect of the ingredient that represents the vast majority of the recipe: Water!
Read more about our food lab’s water purification setup at our sister site.
7. Sonicator – The sound bath & the fury
A Sonicator uses ultrasonic waves to stir up a storm on a microscopic level, breaking down cells, mixing ingredients more thoroughly than a blender, or dispersing flavor particles evenly through liquids.
The Sonicator transforms electrical energy into useful mechanical energy by pushing soundwaves through an aqueous medium at various frequencies depending on what you need. The effect is powerful enough that it can form cavitation bubbles in pure water!
- Create stable emulsions
- Extract compounds from plants or other tissue
- Dissolve chemical compounds incredibly efficiently
This machine uniquely lets us blend and mix at high frequency without the spinning effect caused by other methods. And unlike blenders, doesn’t incorporate any oxygen into the mix—in fact, it forces dissolved gasses out! This means that when oxidation is a potential issue, sonication is the go-to option.
8. The Vortex Mixer – Whirling wonder of agitation
The Vortex Mixer is a simple padded arm that holds a container of liquid. The pad oscillates at specific frequencies to swirl the liquid at precise high speeds (in the thousands of RPM).
Think of a wine aficionado swirling a glass by the stem to “breathe” or incorporate air into the wine for deeper enjoyment of its phenols and flavors.
Our Vortex Mixer does that, but at a speed that would make any sommelier weep. All in the name of uniform mixing, without the blade of a blender.
- Dissolve compounds more quickly
- Break up centrifuge pellets
- Mix highly viscous substances in a controlled space such as a centrifuge tube or test tube.
Compared to the Sonicator and other methods, it mixes incredibly quickly—just seconds sometimes. The Vortex Mixer also has an option to add vibration along with the swirling oscillation, which further helps randomize the mixing motion.
9. Induction Burner – Harnessing invisible power
Ahh the induction burner—a modern marvel that brings the power of magnetic fields to the stage of culinary science.
Induction burners electromagnetically excite the electrons in steel pots and pans to warm their contents without flames or direct heat.
The whole container heats evenly, reducing hot spots and burn points, and cooking what’s inside more quickly and consistently than other burners.
- Cook sauces without breaking.
- Boil much faster than than other methods.
- Reduce delicate fruit purees without burning or sticking.
Induction burners offer precise control over temperature, as well as much better energy efficiency than traditional cooktops. They also help make the lab safer—because once you remove the metal implement, the induction surface is no longer active, and cools quickly to the touch.
10. Thermomix: The culinary composer
The Thermomix is a marvel that can blend, chop, mince, stir, cook, steam, weigh, and more—all while maintaining total control over temperature and time. It conducts a symphony of precision and versatility, choreographing the ingredients to fulfill their exact and utmost potential in a recipe.
- Knead dough & mix batter
- Perfect confectionery recipes
- Create beverages with unique properties
Simply program it with the process you want, weigh in the right ingredients, and the machine handles the rest with precision and accuracy…so the attending scientist/chef/creator can focus on other more important work than watching the pot.
The Food Science Wizard – Pulling the strings of theory
Okay yes, there’s an eleventh reason that unifies them all together. Welcome to the most intangible dimension of why food science R&D delivers results that other consumable consultants simply can’t measure up to. The least quantifiable, most important factor of the entire food science R&D process.
The scientist him/herself.
You can’t really measure the impact of creativity or lived experience. You can’t quantify inspiration, nor the random connections that spring up in the active mind of a deeply trained and educated expert.
We didn’t get into this field because we love equipment. We got into it because we love food, and want to know every little detail of how it works and how to make it better—down to a molecular level.
We develop our science and collect these and other incredibly valuable food-lab tools…but the real power driving what we do for people who want to sell consistent deliciousness to their customers, is our creativity. Both in problem-solving and product development.
Let us know what you’re working on, and we’ll be glad to teach you more about what we do!