Superheated water for breakfast

The day after any significant rain here in Cobb County, Georgia, the tap water acquires a taste that I can only describe using a product from my Canadian past – Ozonol. It has a medicine-y taste that really doesn’t complement my morning oatmeal breakfast.

Our fridge came with a filter for the water dispenser that effectively gets rid of that taste and so I use it whenever I’m cooking.

The side-effect of such a filter seems to be that the water has a lot fewer particles or nucleation sites and can lead to superheating of the water as I boil it.

I always boil my half cup of water in a measuring cup for 2 minutes (the microwave isn’t that powerful only about 550 Watts) and this normally works fine. Sometimes, when I haven’t observed the water actually boiling while in the microwave, when I pour it over my oatmeal it will fizz up and release a bunch of steam which tells me that it had managed to get to a temperature above boiling yet wasn’t triggered to change state until it was introduced to the oatmeal. It’s kind of cool and not dangerous to me as the measuring cup is between my hand and the scalding steam that’s coming out of my bowl.

I believe this phenomenon tends to scald tea drinkers who would be holding a tea bag on a short string right over a superheated cup of water. That would be a most unpleasant shock.

Anyway, about a week ago I was preoccupied with a problem from work. I’d been up into the wee hours working with my team on an issue that we thought had been resolved and I woke to find that there were still more issues. So I put my water in the microwave and set it for two minutes. When the microwave let me know it was done, I peered inside, didn’t see it boiling so hit the “Minute Plus” button and went back to work. The microwave chimed again, I pulled myself away from my work task to see that the water still was not boiling – I absently hit the “minute plus” button once again turned to Mich and commented that I thought the microwave must be having issues ’cause it’s not boiling my water.

Then I heard a definite “Whump” come out of the microwave. Mich said “There’s something oozing out of it” and I turned to see water dripping out from around the microwave door.

Opened it up to see that nearly all of the water was out of the measuring cup. And the entire inside of the microwave was wet.

Not a big deal but a cautionary tale. If you use filtered water, you can’t necessarily trust the the water to bubble to indicate that it’s hot enough. Trust that, if you’ve heated it long enough, it’s warm enough.

Posted under Science

This post was written by Marc
on May 27, 2007 at 10:26 pm

1,670 views

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