SWEET, SOUR, SALTY, BITTER, UMAMI – flavour interaction experiment

Hypothesis: the sequence in which you experiment basic solutions makes a difference in how intense is the flavour that you experience of the solution you try the last.


  • digital scales (0,01 g)
  • spoon
  • 5 glass/ceramic cups/bowls/glasses
  • spit cup
  • glass for fresh water


  • clean water with no strong taste (2 ltr) – I used Hendon Water recipe, using MgSO4, bicarbonate solutions and distilled water
  • epsom salt
  • sea salt
  • monosodium Glutamate
  • white refined sugar
  • 9% acetic acid (vinegar)


use glasses to make 5 basic solutions:

sour – 0,3 g vinegar per 150 g of water
sweet – 1,5 g sugar per 150 g of water
salty – 0,6 g salt per 150 g of water
umami – 0,3 g monosodium glutamate per 150 g of water
bitter – 2,3 g epsom salt per 150 g of water

Make sure the crystals are dissolved completely. When tasting don’t swallow the liquid.

The tasting was performed the following way.

First the level of intensity was assigned to every basic solution separately (cleaning the palate between each one).

Then going line by line one basic taste was compared to the other 4, and the interaction between them was studied. The taste in the horizontal line always goes first, followed by the solution in a vertical (for example, sweet then sour, sweet then salty, sweet then bitter, sweet then umami, sour then sweet, sour then salty etc). First the number is put, to show how the perceived intensity of the second solution tasted changed. Then the description is done.

Here you can see the table done with just numbers.

sweet [3,5-4]sour [4]salty [3,5-4]bitter [4,5]umami [4,5]

Then the results of another tasting, the day after, with descriptions.

sweet [3,5-4]sour [4]salty [3,5-4]bitter [4,5]umami [4,5]
sour is more tart, aggressive, obvious, 4,5
salty is less salty, less harsh more bland soapy sweet 3
bitter is more pronounced but sweeter , softer, more in the aftertaste, aggressive in the aftertaste 4
umami is perceived sweeter, more balanced, on the sides of the tongue, complex 4
sweet is sweeter after sour 4
salty is perceived as sweet after sour2,5-3
bitter is initially less bitter, almost sweet – but then hits in the aftertaste harsh
umami calms down, and stays more like a mouthfeel 3-3,5
sweeter than simply 3,5, in the beginning shy, then long aftertaste, 4
sour is softer and sweeter after salty3,5
4,5-5 bitterharsher
4,5-5 umamiharsher, intense
sweet is perceived much sweeter than normal 4,5
sour is perceived less sour after bitter, sweeter 3,5
salty is perceived sweeter, more complex, 3
soapy, fishy, sweet but intense, 4.5
sweet is dropping almost to non existent 2
umami-soursour becomes lighter, not sweeter, but easier, more bearable, more multidimensional 3,5umami-salty
salty is getting slightly sweeter 3
bitter has a feeling of sweet in the beginning, more body, 3,5

There is a lot of info here, and I encourage the curious ones to repeat the experiment (download the form here)! Studying the results you can ask yourself such questions as “what can I eat to make the coffee to taste better” or “how to make the coffee taste sweeter”, or “how to lower the perceived bitterness of coffee” or “why this coffee seemed salty to me” and other. 

This experiment is by no means complete, as I mentioned in a post about tasting. But I consider it to be a good start. Giving a lot to think about. And hopefully improve our tasting experience!

I hope you enjoy!

Published by liza maksimova

Q Grader. Roast Master. SCAE certified.

One thought on “SWEET, SOUR, SALTY, BITTER, UMAMI – flavour interaction experiment

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