Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Great Apple Tasting Experiment of 2007

Do you find yourself overcome by crippling doubt every time you go grocery shopping? Specifically, do you just buy Fuji apples because that's what you're used to, but wonder to yourself whether there isn't some sort of uber-apple out there that's better in every way and could improve the quality of your life immeasurably by instantly throwing a party in your mouth to which all sorts of good flavors were invited? Well, welcome to my world. Only now I've taken measures to solve this problem. It started when I challenged the food-snob status of my roommate Marcus. I asked him what types of apples he liked, and he could only name a couple. So he went out right then and bought one of every type they had at Pak-n-Save. The next day we invited three friends over for dinner, sliced up the fourteen apples, and had everyone rank each apple according to four characteristics: sweetness, juiciness, tartness, and crispness. We used a numeric scale from 0 to 10. 0 was way too little, 5 was just right, and 10 was way too much. Since one-fifth of fourteen apples makes for a lot of apples we had a spit-bucket, just like at a wine tasting.

Here are the types of apples we tasted:

  1. Ambrosia
  2. Braeburn
  3. Fuji
  4. Gala
  5. Golden Delicious
  6. Granny Smith
  7. Jazz
  8. Jonagold
  9. McIntosh
  10. Pippin
  11. Red Delicious
  12. Rome
  13. Southern Rose
  14. Winter Banana

You may notice the absence of Honeycrisp or some other sort of apple you like. We just used everything they had at Pak-n-Save (Marcus' bike got a flat tire on the way to Berkeley Bowl, so he just walked to Pak-n-Save.)

And which apple won? Don't be silly. Jazz, of course. To compute overall scores I subtracted five from each individual score, took the absolute value, and summed. That makes zero the best possible score, and 100 the worst. Jazz scored a 15.5, and McIntosh came in last with 59. I'd like to emphasize the fact that Winter Banana also sucked.

Here are the 14 types, in order of overall best to worst, the names are followed by their overall score and their sweetness, juicitude, tartaliciousness, and crisposity scores. Remember, low scores are good. My buddy copied and pasted this into a HTML table for me. (Can you just save an Excel file as HTML? Hmm, I should probably figure that out, because I've often wanted to put already-made spreadsheets on my website and couldn't find an easy way to do it just using Office and the old Mozilla page composer I use...) Anyway, just scroll way the heck down the page, and remember that Jazz is really good, Jonagold is so mushy it's the preferred apple of toothless octogenarians everywhere, and Pippin and Braeburn are really tart.

Red Delicious3210.52910.5
Southern Rose35117134
Granny Smith461571311
Golden Delicious5213111315
Winter Banana564161620


  1. Anonymous10:20 PM

    Ok, I missed it...if the scale is 0-10 and 5 is perfect then why is zero the perfect score? Also, maybe you could post the apple that "won" each category.

  2. Just to be fair, how do you know that the low ranking apples weren't simply poor specimens of that particular variety? Do you care about comparing apples at the peak of their season, fresh off the tree or are you mainly concerned with the consumer experience and what shows up in the store? I think you need to do this weekly, starting in August.

  3. I'm sad Pippin came in second, but Jazz is freaking good.

  4. Sorry about that--the low scores are better because I summed up the absolute value of five minus each of the original scores. So if an apple had gotten straight fives, its final score would've been zero.

  5. pak-n-save had 14 types of apples?????? that's getto-fabulous.

  6. I'm so glad that winter banana got a special shout-out. way to suck, winter banana! I'll try to provide something equally gross-mushy for the next fruit tasting experiment...

  7. schnapp10:16 AM

    crisposity- a beautiful new word for the english language.

    I'm glad to see that my fave- Fuji ranked high, if only because that's the best kind of apple you can get here in NYC at a regular fruit stand

  8. Umm . . . the table made lots of whitespace preceding it.