Crunching the numbers with Core Scores

At January Advisors, our passions run deep. On the surface, we are data nerds, but at our core, we are apple nerds. Whenever we get together, we conduct elaborate blind taste tests of different apple varieties. After slicing the apples, we slice the data, identifying the group’s favorite, least favorite, and most contentious apples. Want an in-cider look at our findings? Check out Core Scores for all the juice.

Core Scores is an interactive platform created by our data visualization team to view results of our apple taste testing. On these apple (or)charts, data points are replaced with apple icons that give a satisfying chomp when you mouse over. Apples can be sorted by popularity or divisiveness, and you can also see how each apple measured up to our expectations.


Ranking Criteria

A lot of thought went into our taste testing methodology. We scored apples on a 1-5 scale across four criteria. Taste, of course, was one of the factors, but we recognized that taste alone doesn’t paint the complete picture. Everyone comes in with their own deep-seeded biases and assumed preferences. We captured these notions by scoring Appearance, Name, and Expectation. Taken together, these criteria allowed us to dig deep to the core of each apple, separating the unexpectedly delightful from the merely skin-deep. They let us see how our preconceived notions rang true and where they failed us. Our scores might ultimately inform whether any of us need to reevaluate what we reach for in the produce aisle…

apple core scores criteria
Our four-pronged scoring schema allowed us to separate our assumed preferences from our actual preferences.

Data Collection

David and Shannon orchestrated the experiment, with 10 in-person sCorers and one virtual sCorer (whose apple varieties weren’t an exact match to ours). Our study included 15 apple varieties sourced from our local Central Market.

many different types of apples in a shopping cart
Cosmic CrispEnvyEvercrisp
FujiGranny SmithHoneycrisp
Opal GoldRed DeliciousRuby Frost
Snap DragonSweetangoWild Twist
We chose 15 apple varieties from our local Central Market for tasting.

sCorers judged apples on a 1-5 scale for each criteria, but we also collected qualitative data, when possible. Many fruitful conversations stemmed from the tasting, and in particular we noted when there was disagreement among sCorers, or very strong opinions (many MANY of these).

We took several steps to ensure data quality. First and most importantly, all scoring was done blind, with the apple variety unknown to the sCorers. Second, to ensure blind tasting, across scoring rounds, the order of apples was shuffled. Finally, in the taste test round, we conducted blind replicate tastings of two randomly selected apples. This let us see if sCorers were internally consistent, and whether there was any effect of timing or order of tasting. 

apples prepped for tasting
Organization was key for keeping track of apples through multiple scoring rounds.

Crunching the Numbers

After tastings, the data was ripe for analysis. For each criteria, we calculated basic descriptive statistics for each apple: mean, median, min, max, and interquartile range. These metrics gave us an idea of the overall popularity and divisiveness of each apple.


Favorites and Least Favorites

So which is the apple of JA’s eye? In terms of taste, one apple was a cut above the rest. The Wild Twist not only had the highest average score, it scored high for all team members. Everyone but Jessica gave the Wild Twist a score of 4 or higher. Jessica also participated virtually… maybe the Wild Twist isn’t quite so wild in California.

Second in JA’s eyes is the Envy apple. This is a huge win for Carly, who waxes poetic about Envy apples nearly daily. She and Taylor both gave the Envy a perfect 5/5, and nearly everyone rated it favorably.

Coming as no surprise to anyone who has encountered one in a hotel fruit basket, boxed lunch, or school lunch tray, the Red Delicious was not a popular apple. However, it did have a fan in Taylor, who, among groans from the crowd, gave the ringing endorsement of “c’mon, it’s not THAT bad!”. Taylor’s high score considerably upped the Red Delicious average, but not enough to bring it out of last place. We can (almost) all agree, the Red Delicious is a bad apple.

core scores chart apple popularity

The Contentious Apples

Many apples were contentious, but none more than the McIntosh. Its lowest score of 0 came from Carly. 0 was technically off our scoring chart, but Carly found the apple so vile she spit it out, so we let the score stand. Emi on the other hand thought the McIntosh had a “good texture and bite” and gave the apple a 4/5.

Surprisingly, the Honeycrisp also divided the room. It’s no secret among the office that Honeycrisp is Jeff’s favorite apple. He gave the Honeycrisp a 4.5 – his highest score, but one he awarded liberally. His high score was echoed by Divia and Kathy. All claim the Honeycrisp as the quintessential apple: “if you don’t like this, you don’t like apples.” But Carly, Gerard, and Taylor disagreed – they like apples but hated the Honeycrisp.


You can always pick another apple, but we couldn’t have picked better colleagues. Whether you normally reach for the popular Honeycrisp or bravely defend the Red Delicious, think of our work here and consider branching out of your comfort zone – you might just find a new favorite.

Shannon Carter

Shannon is a data scientist at January Advisors. You can follow her on Twitter @shan_k_carter