MAY 04, 2016 12:33 PM PDT

Whiskey Vs. Coffee: A Chemistry Face Off

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

If you look at the differences between the stains left behind by droplets from coffee versus those from whiskey, you'll notice that while coffee stains usually form a ring around the cup, whiskey stains usually dry more uniformly. Brought to light by highly observant photographer Ernie Button, a unique study was conducted by Princeton scientists to understand what chemical differences there were between the two beverages.

They quickly ruled out the obvious difference as a solution for why the two beverages dry differently; it is not the alcohol content that makes whisky dry differently from coffee. It's the surfactants and polymers from plants like corn, wheat, and barley that are used to make whiskey.

The Princeton scientists created a "whiskey mimic" with surfactants, polymers, and fluorescent beads to test their theory, and they saw a three-step process taking place as whiskey droplets dried.

First, since ethanol in whiskey dries faster than water, a gradient is created that stirs droplets as they dry - a gradient that is nonexistent in coffee. Next, the surfactants pull particles away from the droplet edge as the ethanol evaporates, and polymers anchor particles - both processes that don't happen in coffee droplets.

This process is similar to technology paint companies use to ensure even drying of their product. Check out the video for more details.
About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
SEP 19, 2018
Plants & Animals
SEP 19, 2018
Here's How to Tell if Your Dog Actually Likes You
Good dog owners love their pet unconditionally, but how can you be sure that your dog loves you back? For some, the answer is obvious; but for those curiou...
SEP 20, 2018
Videos
SEP 20, 2018
The Lowdown on Vaccine Development and Production
Learn more about how vaccines are developed and tested, from the CDC....
SEP 25, 2018
Videos
SEP 25, 2018
Post-Hurricane Bacterial Threats
Natural disasters like hurricanes are dangerous when they occur, and their aftermath poses another set of problems....
OCT 02, 2018
Videos
OCT 02, 2018
Chinese Hospital Ship Sails Into Venezuela
The Chinese hospital ship, the Ark of Peace, is a humanitarian effort by the Chinese government to provide health care to developing countries or areas in...
OCT 06, 2018
Videos
OCT 06, 2018
Learning More About the Genetics of Depression
Volunteers in the UK are participating in the largest study on the biological causes of depression that has ever been conducted....
OCT 14, 2018
Plants & Animals
OCT 14, 2018
Here's How Hurricanes Impact Marine Wildlife
We’re not the only ones impacted by the hazards of powerful hurricanes; so too are the vast hierarchies of marine wildlife that reside in the ocean....
Loading Comments...