What Gives Bubbly Its Bubbles?
This New Year’s Eve, raise a glass—but instead of drinking your champagne, try watching it instead. You’ll see delicate trails of bubbles floating upward through the wine. We tracked down bubbleologists Dick Zare and Charles Bamforth to explain what these bubbles are made of, how they form, and how the fizz in champagne stacks up against beer foam. (Spoiler alert: Bamforth says he’ll be ringing in the New Year with an IPA.)
Bubbles form in your drink due to imperfections in the drinking container. In this video, the glass on the left has been coated and its surface passivated, or made smooth, which suppresses bubbling.
Credit: Dick Zare
Charlie Bamforth is a Distinguished Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences at University of California, Davis. He’s based in Davis, California.
Dick Zare is a Professor at the Chemistry Department at Stanford University. He’s based in Stanford, California.
Christopher Intagliata was Science Friday’s senior producer. He once served as a prop in an optical illusion and speaks passable Ira Flatowese.