Research

Rapid Textual Analysis of Food Product Descriptions

A diagram outlining the 3 main steps in an automated lexicon generation workflow for whiskey. Step 1 is data collection, showing 2 example whiskey reviews. Step 2 is data cleaning, showing the process of removing nondescriptive words from the reviews. Step 3 is clustering the resulting flavor descriptors into broad flavor groups

In all parts of the food industry, high-quality data about flavor are needed to determine the influence of formulation or process changes on a product, to assess a product’s uniqueness relative to competitors, and to supplement consumer preference data so beneficial changes can be identified. While flavor is caused by components in food activating human sensory receptors, it is difficult to measure the entire spectrum of flavor compounds at once, and equally if not more difficult to relate these measurements to the final flavor perception by consumers. Thus, human identification and quantification of relevant flavor attributes is often the most direct method of collecting flavor data, and any methods which make collection or analysis of these sensory data easier or faster have the potential to allow for faster, more informed decisions about food quality. As language is the method human tasters are generally most comfortable using to communicate their experiences and sensations, Natural Language Processing methods (which allow for the systematic analysis of large amounts of language data) are a natural fit for rapid sensory evaluation methods.

Selected Publications

  1. Hamilton, LM and Lahne, J. Fast and automated sensory analysis: Using natural language processing for descriptive lexicon development. 2020. Food Quality and Preference, 83. doi:10.1016/j.foodqual.2020.103926

Sensory Properties of Brewed Coffee

Cold brew coffees are lined up in glass bottles, with different bottles having different darknesses of brown.

In the modern world, coffee is not just a caffeine delivery mechanism to be made palatable by sugar and milk. There is a large luxury market concerned with both technique and flavor. While extensive research has been done on the factors affecting coffee bean flavor, there are an ever-increasing number of brewing methods which have sizable impacts on the final flavor. As coffee research has historically focused on bean flavor and quality without much of an emphasis on standardized brewing methods that allow for differentiation, we don’t have a full enough picture of how different real-world brewing methods with different extraction times, temperatures, and kinetics interact with the multitude of flavors imparted by roasting. In particular, the public perception of cold brew coffee as smoother and less acidic is contradicted by the (limited) existing research.

Selected Publications

  1. Hamilton, LM and Lahne, J. Assessment of instructions on panelist cognitive framework and free sorting task results: A case study of cold brew coffee. 2020. Food Quality and Preference, 83. doi:10.1016/j.foodqual.2020.103889

Flavor and Off-Flavor Development in Fermented Products

Selected Publications

  1. Hamilton, LM and Lahne, J. Fast and automated sensory analysis: Using natural language processing for descriptive lexicon development. 2020. Food Quality and Preference, 83. doi:10.1016/j.foodqual.2020.103926
  2. Cairns, P, Lahne, J, Gallagher, D, Hamilton, LM, Racine, K, Phetxumphou, K, Ma, S, Huang, H, and Stewart, AC. Effects of Hydroxycinnmates and Exogenous Yeast Assimilable Nitrogen on Cider Aroma and Fermentation Performance. In press. Journal of the American Society of Brewing Chemists.
  3. Hamilton, LM, Johanningsmeier, S, Rosenberg, L, and Wilson, E. Novel Oxidation Products in Cucumber Pickles in Real Time and Accelerated Shelf-Life Environments. 2019. Poster session presented at IFT19, New Orleans, LA.