An adult body carries four to five pounds of bacteria, and many of them are good bacteria that keep you healthy. Now scientists are trying to get a snapshot of what that healthy human microbiomes look like. If they succeed, we could get a deeper insight into how to live disease-free. The New York Times has an article on what they’re finding and how they’re doing it:

Researchers have taken a detailed look at … the 100 trillion good bacteria that live in or on the human body.

No one really knew much about them. They are essential for human life, needed to digest food, to synthesize certain vitamins, to form a barricade against disease-causing bacteria. But what do they look like in healthy people, and how much do they vary from person to person?

In a new five-year federal endeavor, the Human Microbiome Project, which has been compared to the Human Genome Project, 200 scientists at 80 institutions sequenced the genetic material of bacteria taken from nearly 250 healthy people.

They discovered more strains than they had ever imagined — as many as a thousand bacterial strains on each person. And each person’s collection of microbes, the microbiome, was different from the next person’s.

It sounds like this will be even more complicated than sequencing the human genome, but it will be a great baseline from which we can start to understand how all these microbes we carry around keep us alive.

I particularly like this bit:

Humans, said Dr. David Relman, a Stanford microbiologist, are like coral, “an assemblage of life-forms living together.”

Dr. Barnett Kramer, director of the division of cancer prevention at the National Cancer Institute, who was not involved with the research project, had another image. Humans, he said, in some sense are made mostly of microbes. From the standpoint of our microbiome, he added, “we may just serve as packaging.”

People are like planets, brought to life by all the critters living on them.

Here are two articles in Nature, one about the study and one about the diversity of the human microbiome.

Tags:

Portlandia shows you how easy it is to pickle everything. But seriously, you really can pickle anything.

Also, if you think we’re a little behind on this one, forgive us, we work on pickle time around here.

Tags:

What flavors do hops add to beer? The dozens of varieties of hops taste a little different from one to the next. Here’s how to tell them apart, whether you’re a brewer or just want to understand what you’re reading on the label.

Try them

Obviously, the best way to learn what hops taste like is to try them. In the last year or two some breweries have been releasing single hop beers. These give you a chance to isolate the nature each hop variety. The most well known, from Mikkeller, totaled 19 different single-hop IPAs (They’re all listed here, search for “hop series”). Unfortunately, with import costs, it can be hard to swallow the small fortune you have to pay to buy one of each.

At least, that’s how I felt, so I was happy to find a domestic series from Hermitage Brewing Company for very reasonable prices at Bevmo. So far, I’ve tried the five in the photo above, and boy are they different from each other, from the big piney bitterness of Columbus hops to the flowery smell and nutty, spicy flavor of Amarillo. I won’t bore you with all the adjectives I cooked up while drinking these beers.

Read up

For a list of all the characters of different hops tastes, flavors, and scents, a good place to start is this seemingly exhaustive list at Bear Flavored, and the list of hops varieties at Wikipedia.

Use a chart

There are also a couple of infographics that compare the main characteristics of each variety of hops–taste, smell, bitterness. My favorite is this rundown of 40 varieties by Zeke Shore, from the bracingly bitter hops of the Pacific Northwest to the mildly bitter, high-aroma noble hops of central Europe. The chart is huge, so here’s a snippet. Click through for the whole thing.

Hops taste, aroma, and bitterness for 40 varieties--snippet

And Sixpoint Brewery runs down 12 of the most popular varieties. Click for the big version:
Hops taste, aroma, and bitterness for 12 varieties

I’ve been brewing with a few at a time to get a hang for them. Kind of like learning which spices are good together in soup.

Tags:

« Older entries § Newer entries »