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Is the Soup Ready? Measure How Much Water is Absorbed by Dried Beans

Time Required Average (6-10 days)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability Readily available
Cost Low ($20 - $50)
Safety No issues


Dried beans are a major ingredient in dishes served all over the world. In their dried form, they can be stored for years and then "brought back to life" by soaking them in water. In this cooking and food science fair project, you will measure just how much water is absorbed by beans when they rehydrate (soak up water). Can such a little bean really hold that much water?


Measure how much water is absorbed by dried beans.


David B. Whyte, PhD, Science Buddies

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MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "Is the Soup Ready? Measure How Much Water is Absorbed by Dried Beans" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 5 Sep. 2013. Web. 21 Oct. 2014 <http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/FoodSci_p059.shtml>

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2013, September 5). Is the Soup Ready? Measure How Much Water is Absorbed by Dried Beans. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/FoodSci_p059.shtml

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Last edit date: 2013-09-05


Beans come in dozens of shapes, sizes, and colors and have been consumed throughout the world for thousands of years. They are low in fat and are good sources of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. The U.S. Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines suggest that beans, along with other foods that are low in fat, oils, and sugars (including fruits, vegetables, and grains) should make up the largest portion of our daily meals.

In addition to their nutritious qualities, beans are convenient because they can be dried and stored for years. Soaking the beans in water for a few hours softens the dried beans and prepares them for cooking. This process of rehydration of dried beans also occurs in nature. Beans are a form of seed, and they can sprout and grow new plants when they are exposed to water. Beans remain viable for long periods of time if they are kept dry, a feature that allows them to survive prolonged periods of drought in natural settings, and that allows us to store them for long periods of time prior to cooking.

As beans soak in water, their volume and weight increase. In this cooking and food science fair project, you will determine the amount of water that is absorbed by dried beans. The procedure calls for weighing the beans after they have soaked for different periods of time. You could discard the beans after they are weighed, or you could add them to a pot of water to soak overnight and make a bean-based recipe of your choice!

Terms and Concepts

  • Rehydration
  • Viable
  • Absorb
  • Control


  • What advantage does a plant whose seeds can survive for years in a dry environment have?
  • How many kinds of dried beans are there at your local grocery store? How many have you tried?
  • In nature, what role is played by the proteins and carbohydrates in a bean? Hint: Beans are seeds.


For help creating graphs, try this website:

Materials and Equipment

A project kit containing most of the items needed for this science project is available for puchase from AquaPhoenix Education. Alternatively, you can gather the materials yourself using this shopping list:

  • Plastic cups, 12-ounce size (18)
  • Permanent marker
  • Dried beans, pinto (2 16-ounce bags)
  • Scale, accurate to 1 gram (g), such as the Fast Weigh MS-500-BLK Digital Pocket Scale, 500 by 0.1 G, available from Amazon.com
  • Measuring cup, liquid, metric
  • Water
  • Lab notebook
  • Timer or stopwatch
  • Plastic wrap
  • Strainer or colander
  • Paper towels (1 roll)
  • Adult helper
  • Graph paper or an online graphing resource like Create a Graph

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Experimental Procedure

  1. Label six plastic cups with the permanent marker, as follows:
    • Cup #1: Zero
    • Cup #2: 0.3 hour (20 minutes)
    • Cup #3: 1 hour
    • Cup #4: 3 hours
    • Cup #5: 9 hours
    • Cup #6: 27 hours
  2. Put one plastic cup onto the scale and zero the scale. Have an adult show you how to do this if you don't know how. Then weigh out and put 50 g of them into each of the six cups.
  3. Add 100 mL of water to cups 2–6.
    1. Cup # 1 is a "no water" control. Having a control leads to more-trustworthy data.
  4. Record the time that the water is added in your lab notebook.
    1. Choose a start time that will allow you to weigh the beans at the times listed above.
  5. Cover the cups with plastic wrap.
  6. After 20 minutes (0.3 hours), pour the contents of cup # 2 into a strainer.
  7. Shake as much water as you can off of the beans in the strainer.
  8. Pour the beans onto several sheets of paper towels.
  9. Gently dry the beans with the paper towels.
  10. Put a clean dry cup on the scale.
  11. Zero the scale.
  12. Add the beans that soaked for 20 minutes (from cup #2), to the cup on the scale.
  13. Record the weight of the beans from cup #2 in a data table, like the one shown below, in your lab notebook.

Trial 1 Data Table

Soaking time Weight for Trial #1 (in g) Weight for Trial #2 (in g) Weight for Trial # 3 (in g) Average weight (in grams)
0 50 50 50 50
0.3 hours        
1 hour        
3 hours        
9 hours        
27 hours        

  1. Discard the beans from cup # 2, (or add them to a pot and soak them overnight for cooking).
    1. Describe the appearance of the beans in your lab notebook.
    2. Compare them to the beans in cup #1.
  2. Repeat steps 6–14 for cups 3–6, at the appropriate times (listed in step 1).
  3. Repeat the entire procedure two more times, for a total of three trials. This ensures that your results are accurate and can be repeated.
  4. Calculate the average weights. To do this, add the data from the three trials for each amount of time together, then divide by three (for three trials). Ask an adult if you need help with this step. How did the weights change over time?
  5. Graph the weight of the beans (in grams) on the y-axis (cups 1–6) vs. time (in hours) on the x-axis. You can do this by hand on graph paper, or use a website like Create a Graph.

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  • Compare water absorption by trying this science fair project with different kinds of beans.
  • Determine the rate of water absorption, as follows. Subtract 50 g from the average weight, in grams, to get the weight of water absorbed. Divide the weight of water absorbed by the time in hours. Add this data to your table and graph the time (in hours) on the x-axis and the rate of absorption (in grams per hour) on the y-axis.
  • Soak the beans at different temperatures. For example, soak them for 3 hours at 0°C (ice water), 30°C, 60°C, and 90°C (simmer in a pot on a stovetop). Compare the rates of rehydration at the various temperatures.
  • Devise a procedure to measure the change in volume of the beans vs. time in water.
  • See the Science Buddies science fair project Tough Beans for a procedure to determine how soft the beans are after soaking in water.

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Ask an Expert

The Ask an Expert Forum is intended to be a place where students can go to find answers to science questions that they have been unable to find using other resources. If you have specific questions about your science fair project or science fair, our team of volunteer scientists can help. Our Experts won't do the work for you, but they will make suggestions, offer guidance, and help you troubleshoot.

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