How to properly measure various ingredients without owning expensive lab equipment?


#1

A question that I see commonly posted as comments in previous blog updates that I think really should be addressed (because people bent on making Soylent are going to do it and really may make themselves sick if they make it incorrectly) is how to properly measure the various ingredients that Soylent is comprised of.

Specifically, the ingredients being used to make Soylent have been given in units of mass (and for good reason!). Unfortunately, you can’t use measuring cups and tablespoons to measure mass (but you can use these items if you are able to find out an ingredient’s mass and some simple math!). Unless you’re a chemist or a college student, the average person does not have access to a triple beam balance or even a microgram balance. You can take my word that both cost several hundred dollars to buy and if you don’t believe me, there’s always Google.

Ultimately, I am not a chemist and not one to tell people how to do this. I fix things that blink and make noise, build bikes, sometimes brew my own beer, and am an occasional practitioner of a specific sect of black magics called “programming”.

I’m posting this here in the hope that someone more properly educated to explain this question in detail can do just that, preferably with a common household digital gram scale used for cooking so people attempting to Soylent don’t end up putting too much (or too little) of one or more ingredients and making themselves sick.


Dangerous Nutrients
#3

I tried doing it at home and I also don’t own an expensive balance. For small unit stuff, my fix was buying ingredients that come in capsules or pills, so I just count how many are necessary according to its label, open or smash them and then throw in the mixture, but I guess this is just a workaround… It seems for the pictures that Rob does not use this method. As for the rest, I got little cups that measure tsp, tbsp and then consult the conversion of the ingredient to grams on its label.


#4

I think rob uses the gram scale, and then he performs gram to volume conversions (these are product specific!!) and measures his smaller ingredients with measuring spoons. That’s the way it appears to me anyway, from watching all the DNews videos.


#5

This is the one I use. Very reasonably priced:

At this point I have the mass-volume conversions memorized though I do use the scale for testing changes.


#6

wow, yea, indeed really reasonable. thanks!


#7

Totally just bought that before it goes out of stock. Thank you @rob.


#8

One cheap method for accurate measurement below your scale’s accuracy is cutting.

  1. Measure a granular or powdered substance to an accurate multiple of the amount of substance you need, large enough to not fall within the scale’s lower threshold of accuracy (like, if you need to measure 50mg, and your scale says it is accurate to within a gram, try measuring 50mg*1000= 50g).
    Remember that “Accurate to within a gram” means “your measurement may be inaccurate to plus or minus one gram”, so it is much better to make one gram mean 2% rather than try to make a small measurement where a gram may mean 50%.
  2. Once you have your 50 grams, use a metric ruler and small paper or plastic cards to extend your substance evenly on a smooth, flat surface of contrasting colour. As the substance is most likely white, try to extend them on a black or dark surface, although I guess that any not-white surface (like a grey desk or metal bookcase) would be enough. I would recommend extending it on a measured meter.
  3. Using the metric ruler and your cards, cut lines on the substance. Don’t get to ambitious unless you really know what you are doing: just cut 10cm lines into your meter of substance. Congrats: each 10cm weights 5g.
  4. Take out one of the 5g segments and extend it on another one-meter line. Cut it in 1cm lines. Congrats: each 1cm segment weights 50mg (plus/minus the initial 2%)!
  5. You could continue as far as needed, as long as you can keep extending the material.

All say thanks to the automatic convertibility of units of the metric system.


#9

I figured I wouldn’t be the only one. Amazon Prime ftw.


#10

Tell me about it. I was t-boned by a taxi back in February on my bike and ended up with a broken ankle. Bought Amazon Prime after I blasted through anything and everything I found interesting on Netflix.

The two day free shipping has been totally worth it.


#11

I teach my chemistry students this every year in through a lab experiment. Let’s say you need 50 mg of X. Your digital scale only reads to the nearest 0.00g. You might think that you can just put 0.05g on there and you’re set. Wrong. Even if there are no fluctuations, 0.05g could actually be anywhere from 450mg to 549.999mg. But the scale will fluctuate on the last digit even as it just sits there from humidity, barometric pressure, ect. The electronics in the scale basically just guess on the last digit. So here’s the secret: Dilution. You can accurately weigh out 5.00g of X. Mix that thoroughly with 995.00g of protein powder (or any other medium that will be a major soylent ingredient). You will now have a 1000.00g mix that has 100 times the proper dose. To obtain 50mg, just weigh out 10.00g of your mix (1/100th of the mix). This works best if X is soluble and can be dissolved solution, so as to produce a truly homogenous mixture. Same concept applies, but instead of solid protein powder as the substrate it would be oil or water. Dilution adds degrees of accuracy you your instruments.


#12

You can also avoid the problem entirely, in many cases, by getting things in tablet or capsule form – ferrous sulphate, for example, is really concentrated and would require a miligram scale, but ferrous sulphate tablets are measured and diluted for you. A tablet containing 65 mg of iron, for example, could be crushed and added to approximately one week’s worth of mix (if you’re XY), no scale required.


#13

*You would need about two 65 mg tablets of Iron for a week for men (comes out to 103% DV). The UI for Iron is 45mg a day, so your still way within the safe zone. It boggles my mind that supplement companies put 65mg in a daily pill. Very unsafe.


#14

I think you mean 1000.00g

I’m not a chemist or mathematician, but I’m pretty sure 995.00g + 5.00g = 1000.00g (or 1kg).


#15

I suppose you can say I went ‘all out’ I am a jeweller by trade so have extremely sensitive scales which measure down to 0.001 of a carat for gemstones, and also does grams, down to milligrams very very accurately. everything we add to our soylent is in quite high concentration or pure form as powder so this works well. no overdoses, a little time consuming but accurate down to a tee. my scales cost $400NZD originally but now is dual purpose so I don’t mind so much. I figure if this all keeps going well I will buy another for the house and that it’s an investment not an unwanted expense.


#16

Thanks for that, I was thinking 1000g and 1kg at the same time. It’s edited now.


#18

Most of the ingredients can be bought in capsule form from different companies that sell supplements (I use NOW Foods), each of these capsules generally has the exact amount of each chemical needed for a daily soylent drink (because soylents ingredients are actually based off of daily recommended amounts that were calculated by the government in the 1950s). You can easily open these capsules by hand and pour the contents into a mixture. Some ingredients come in solid pill form instead of inside a capsule. For these just buy a pill crusher. There are a few ingredients that don’t come in a nice pre-measured capsule form, for these you can use a $10 scale.

For the pill crusher do a search for “Pill Crusher -Pill Pulverizer”, and for the scale do a search for “Digital Pocket Scale” on amazon.com


#19

They’re generally intended for people with iron deficiencies, who need extra to catch up. They weren’t designed with soylenters in mind : )


#20

For macronutrients, a normal kitchen scale will do fine. For micronutrients, however, some of these are in the microgram per day range, so you cannot use a scale, even a super expensive analytical scale to measure your quantities. What I intend to do (when I have scraped the initial investment) is use solutions. Dissolve 1 gram (measured on a .01 gram accurate scale, these can be found for $50) in one liter of distilled water. One milliliter is then equivalent to 1 milligram. For very tiny amounts, you can make a weak solution (one milliliter of the first solution in one liter of distilled water) which will give you one microgram per milliliter, or use a micropippette in the strong solution.

Remember, if you have no notion of basic chemistry, you can get into a lot of trouble with this, for instance, you need 70 micrograms of selenium per day. So you found selenomethionine, but if you use 70 micrograms of this, you will be getting only 40% of your RDA of selenium, you need to calculate the mass percentage of the nutrient you want. You also need to be careful with nutrients present in multiple sources. I have been tweaking the Excel chart for 2 weeks now!


#21

again, you can buy these chemicals in pre-measured capsules (including the chemicals needed in microgram amounts) which have the right amount of the specific chemical needed (i.e. the amount specified in the soylent ingredients list), no chemistry knowledge needed.


#22

There are three problems with the pills, first, calculating the nutrient value of the filler (you will probably end up over on calcium), cost and flexibility. The whole setup to measure doses with solutions will cost less than $200 from good sources, volumetric flasks are $10-15, pippette sets under $40. You can keep your solutions in Mason jars (vitamins should go in the fridge, either paint the bottles or cover them with duct tape if you don’t want to buy dark Boston bottles). The flexibility issue, to me is the most important, the ability to experiment and optimize nutrient quantities is very exciting.