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The Taste Of Bubbles

October 10, 2014

Do you know what bubbles taste like?  I guess had you asked me that before today I would have said ‘bubbly, fizzy, tingly, dry, slightly odd maybe’ and other adjectives having more to do with describing sensation than actual taste – that’s the thing with senses, we have a tendency to get them all confused, to focus on what we want to focus on, what predominates in our minds, rather than what actually is.  But today I tasted bubbles.   Being passenger in a six hour drive from Copenhagen to Oslo gives you plenty of time for that.

My experimenting was carried out on a bottle of fizzy water – the fizz bought by mistake while bleary eyed at 7am, not that I minded after all, it gave me something to think about!

As a cosmetic chemist bubbles are something that I often have to focus on, sometimes to keep them out and sometimes to ensure that they are created in copious quantity.  I’ve often watched in fascination and joy as mixtures combine, fizz and boil creating transient patterns as they dance across the beaker or pan, more so if the mixture is being heated.  It always fascinates me and reminds me to never allow my attention to wander too far from the pot for fear of missing the perfect bubble storm.

Bubbles are also something of an obsession with the home-bakers with requests for whipped body butters whizzing across my desk at a rate of about one a fortnight during winter!  But whipping cream is something that I try to avoid, knowing that within each and every air bubble comes the potential for wrack and ruin in the form of oxidation, microbial contamination, physical instability (drying out) and scale-up issues.  Not that any of those things concern the small-batcher.

Then there was the time when I had to focus all of my attention on making liquid soap that knew when enough bubbling was enough.  The environment for this little beauty was a recirculating water system where the never-ending plug bubble would spell certain death to the status quo, clogging up the pipework and putting a stop to shower time.  Not making soapy surfactants bubble is harder than you might think.  Yes we can choose naturally lower-foaming options, omit foam stabilisers and add anti-foamers but this approach can lead to an over-engineered solution of many, many parts when something simpler and more elegant would suffice.

The opposite is of course true when creating bubble bath.   Then I find myself looking for materials to stabilise the lamella structure, to maybe even give it elasticity, bounce and if I’m lucky the ability to hold and throw the accompanying fragrance far and wide – everybody loves an aromatic bubble bath!

On reflection bubbles are indeed something of an obsession for me both in my day job and in my every-day life.  But what of the taste?  Did I find out what bubbles taste like yet?  Well yes, I think I did and I’d say that they taste sort of chemically, a bit sour for a start before warming up on your tongue to a sweet dryness.  I guess bubbles taste kind of fun but not as fun as they look, unless they are in your face cream of course!

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