Jelly Belly Beans

I got an email from a mom planning a Jelly Belly birthday party. Did I have any ideas for Jelly Belly experiments? I rushed out to buy a bag; here are my suggestions:

1) Floating Letters
The Jelly Belly logos float, just like M&M m's and Skittles s's. Leave the jelly beans in water, logo side up, for a few minutes and see if the logos peel off. The warmer the water, the faster it goes.

2) Chromotography
Jelly Belly chromatography should be really fun, but since I had to use paper towels (I'm out of coffee filter paper) I didn't get the best results. Green Apple separated nicely into blue and yellow, and the red-brown Dr. Pepper had a nice streak of red separate out from the rest of the dye. Black didn't separate with my materials, but I'll try it again with coffee filter paper, since we've had great luck with black jelly beans lately.

3) Acid Test
Regular Jelly Bellies, it turns out, are not very sour. Only dissolved Green Apple beans gave me any visible bubbles when I poured in the baking soda. I'll try it again when I can get some Jelly Belly Sours; I bet those'll work great.

Nutrition Labels Online

Still on the quest to understand sugar in food, today I checked out the USDA National Nutrient Database. It has nutrition information for hundreds of branded and generic foods, although not much candy (too bad for me!) I learned about the sugar content in canned white beans (0.29%), white wheat flour (0.27-0.92%), yogurt candy coating (63%), Twizzlers Strawberry Twists (39.64%), Post Golden Crisp cereal (53.9%), and Kellogg's Rice Krispies Treats cereal (31%). Kind of makes you wonder which one's actually the candy.

Want to try the fun yourself? Here's the link:

More Hidden Candy

My brother-in-law read me all the cereal labels in his kitchen today.  Check these out:

Brand Serving Size Sugar per Serving Percent Sugar Candy Equivalent
Bran Flakes (Price Right) 29 g 5 g 17 % 1 mint
Honey Bunches of Oats 29 g 5 g 17% 1 mint
Cinnamon Life 32 g 8 g 25 % 2 large wintergreen Life Savers
Tutti Frutti (Malt-O-Meal) 32 g 15 g 47% 3 mints
Golden Crisp 27 g 14 g 52 % 21 Altoids

Golden Crisp? Sounds like candy all by itself.

Finding Hidden Candy

I’ve been weighing candy and checking labels to prepare our “Find Hidden Candy” display at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C. Here are some of the surprises I’ve found:

Brand Serving Size Sugar per Serving Percent Sugar Candy Equivalent
Oatmeal Squares 58 g
(1 cup)
10 g 17% 2 striped starlight mints
Last July Organic Chocolate Cookies 43 g
(4 cookies)
12 g 28% 18 Altoids
Honey Maid honey graham crackers 31 g
(2 full sheets)
8 g 26% 2 large wintergreen Life Savers
Kraft Original Barbecue Sauce 34 g
(2 TBSP)
9 g 26% 1 Life Saver, 1 starlight mint

Graham crackers have as much sugar as chocolate cookies? I may as well eat wheat bread with honey instead. Or have my sugar for dessert.

Candy Color Separation Tests

My daughter tried new kinds of candy for color separation. Purple jelly beans separated into pink with a slight tinge of blue around the edges, and one blue Smartie gave us a blue spot with yellow smudges. Interesting. She even managed to get a good dye sample from a blue Twizzler, though it did not separate much.

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Safety masks for candy experiments?

Recently we heard from the organizers of the USA Science and Engineering Fair, at which we will be presenting in October, that the NPS would require us to use goggles, safety masks, and gloves for all our experiments.  Like testing sour candy for acid with baking soda, squashing marshmallows, separating dyes, and finding hidden candy.  "It's just candy," I tried to explain.  "It's not explosive. It's not even toxic. You eat it."  But the department strictures couldn't be waived. Buereaucrats.

Thankfully, the sympathetic USASEF organizers are working solve the problem.  We'll wait to hear back from them.  In the meantime, I encourage everybody to keep doing candy experiments at home.  Even without safety masks.