Learn the science behind food at this year’s Atlanta Science Festival

Participants in a previous Behind the Bean coffee workshop during the Atlanta Science Festival. / Courtesy of Atlanta Science Festival

Credit: Justin Chan

Credit: Justin Chan

Participants in a previous Behind the Bean coffee workshop during the Atlanta Science Festival. / Courtesy of Atlanta Science Festival

“Everything in food is science. The only subjective part is when you eat it,” former “Good Eats” host and metro Atlanta resident Alton Brown once said.

Though it might not be front of mind while you’re sipping a cup of coffee in the morning or sinking your teeth into a ripe berry, science is inextricably linked to everything we eat and drink. It’s this idea that informs several of the events that are part of this year’s Atlanta Science Festival, running through March 25 at various locations throughout the city.

“We live to make science accessible to people, and that means connecting to things they’re interested in,” said Meisa Salaita, the co-founder and co-executive director of Science ATL, the organization that produces the festival. “I don’t think there’s anybody who isn’t interested when we talk about food or drinks.”

After pulling back on food- and drink-based events the past couple of years due to COVID-19, a more robust lineup returns in 2023 with sessions focused on the science of coffee, berries and ice cream — and bugs as food.

Salaita said classes are often dictated by partnerships with farmers, chefs and food makers. This year, Jonathan Pascual of Taproom Coffee in Kirkwood was eager to show off the laboratory and classroom space at his newly-opened Decatur coffee shop Opo Coffee, making it a logical setting for the festival’s coffee-related events.

Explore the science of coffee at the Behind the Bean event, part of the Atlanta Science Festival. / Courtesy of the Atlanta Science Festival

Credit: Justin Chan

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Credit: Justin Chan

Akissi Stokes of WunderGrubs, a business that promotes mealworms as an alternative protein source, will host a kid-friendly insect bingo game and a tour of a vertical mealworm farm before offering up treats made with bugs. Last year’s menu included cookies made with cricket flour and other treats made with mealworms.

“In order to go toward a more sustainable future, it’s a food source we’re going to have to rely on,” Salaita said. “Twenty years ago, sushi wasn’t palatable to people in the U.S., and now everyone wants to eat it. It’s just a matter of exposure.”

Other food-related events include a class hosted by the Village Tutorial on exploring food science through molecular gastronomy and berries and a sold-out workshop on the science behind ice cream.

Tickets for all events can be purchased at atlantasciencefestival.org/events-2023.

Breaking Down the Bean: The Science Behind Home Coffee Brewing. Explore how time, temperature, grind coarseness, and proportion all affect what’s in your cup, and learn how to harness these variables in your own kitchen.

10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. March 14, 23 and 24. $18. Opo Coffee, 314 E. Howard Ave., Decatur.

Coffee Roasting, Seed to Sip: a Scientific Exploration From Green to Brown to Black. Opo Coffee’s lead roaster will explain the chemical changes that occur during the coffee roasting process, with participants getting to roast a batch of their own coffee to take home.

Noon-2 p.m. March 17, 23 and 24. $18. Opo Coffee, 314 E. Howard Ave., Decatur.

Insect Bingo Scavenger Hunt. Join WunderGrubs for a bingo scavenger hunt, then tour a mealworm vertical farm in Midtown and try some buggy treats.

10:30 a.m.-noon and 1-2:30 p.m. March 18. $5. Grub-ah-Dub Shack, 1016 Monroe Drive NE, Atlanta.

A Berry Sweet Experience - Exploring Molecular Gastronomy in Food Science. The Village Tutorial and Enrichment Program will lead a kid-friendly class on food science through molecular gastronomy and berries. Participants will explore physical and chemical changes to food while creating their own desserts.

11 a.m.-2 p.m. March 18. $7. NVS Soul Food, 1489 Mundys Mill Road, Jonesboro.

Ice Cream Science. Physicists Daniel Sussman and Michael Czajkowski will explore the physics of disordered solids, and provide answers to the questions you never knew to ask about ice cream.

4-5 p.m. March 19. $5. Decatur Square Bandstand, 509 N. McDonough St., Decatur. Sold out.

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