Surprising cinnamon experiment

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In my studies, I have learned that a odor consists of many different molecules. All those molecules are responsible for a different sensation. It is possible to combine some gross odors and get one great odor. There is also this myth that all perfume as a bit of shit odor in there, to make it smell better.

I have tried mixing odors and it gave surprising results, but now I’d like to separate an odor. I found an experiment described in a book (The Kitchen as Laboratory: Reflections on the Science of Food and Cooking (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History)). The writer describes an experiment in which he separated odors of coffee with sunflower oil and water. The mechanism behind the separation method is interesting because it uses the differences in solubility of the various odor molecules. Some molecules are more water-soluble, whereas other molecules are more oil-soluble.

I will use cinnamon in this experiment, but you can use whatever you like. The benefit of cinnamon is that it won’t get stuck in the pipet because it is too big to get in. So for my experimental plan:


  • Small glass jar
  • Measuring spoon  
  • 4 Small bottles
  • Dosing syringe/pipet
  • Oven
  • Sunflower oil
  • Water
  • Cinnamon
An overview of the necessities of this experiment


  1. Put 45 mL water, 45 mL oil and a broken cinnamon stick in the small glass jar and shake for a bit.
  2. After 1 hour, pipet the oil in one bottle and the water in the other.
  3. For comparison, put 45 mL water, 45 mL oil and a broken cinnamon stick in the small glass jar and put it in the oven at 80 °C for 1 hour.
  4. Then pipet the oil in a third bottle and the water in the fourth.
  5. Let it cool off.
  6. Now smell all four of them separately and look at them.



I saw a difference in color between the water at room temperature and the water sample from 80 °C. The water sample kept at 80 °C had a slightly browner color. This is just like making tea, it doesn’t really work when the water is cold.

A clear image of the differences in appearance

I also noticed that the oil sample from the 80 °C is turbid, so either some water has dissolved or it all came from the cinnamon. To me, the water hypothesis makes more sense, since I shook it for a bit and there is some water at the bottom of the bottle.


Two out of four bottles smelt horrible. The other two were also different than cinnamon. The funny thing is that when you put the oil and water together, it smells like cinnamon again.

Room temperature80 °C

Now as a disclaimer, I don’t have the best nose and I don’t think that if you put actual mushrooms together with something burnt that it will smell like cinnamon. But, it is interesting to try for yourself and to see how you would describe the different smells.

Now I also want to try if the odors are more clear if I use cinnamon powder. I think the difference will be so much easier to notice for me. Different temperatures also clearly have a different effect, so I want to understand what happens between room temperature and 80 °C. Lastly, different oils have different characteristics; sunflower is an unsaturated fat, so is the odor different in saturated fats?

For more experiments you can check ricotta and probiotics

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