Design of Experiments Guide > Custom Designs > Example of a Custom Design
Publication date: 08/13/2020

Example of a Custom Design

The following example describes a wine tasting experiment. Your employer grows two varieties of Pinot Noir grapes that can be processed in different ways. Your goal is to determine which factors affect the taste of Pinot Noir wine. Before the grapes are processed, you set up your experimental design. Once processed, the wine samples are aged for 12 months, then filtered and bottled. At this point, the wine samples are rated for quality by expert wine tasters.


Most of your vineyard’s product is sold to five large wine distributors. You arrange for a wine-tasting expert from each distributor to evaluate the wine samples for quality. To maximize the number of factors that you can study, you decide that each expert must rate eight different samples. This means that your design needs to have 40 wine samples, or runs.

The ratings follow a 0 – 20 scale, where 0 is the worst and 20 is the best. Rating, the variable consisting of the experts’ ratings, is the response of interest. You want to identify the wine-related factors that maximize the response.

Blocking Factor

A blocking factor is used to account for variation that is not necessarily of direct interest. A blocking factor is particularly effective when observations taken at one factor level are expected to be more similar than observations at different levels. In your experiment, ratings by one expert are likely to have similar characteristics and to differ from ratings by a different expert. Yet, you are interested in which properties of the wine lead to high ratings by all experts.

Because each rater tastes eight wines, Rater is a blocking factor with eight runs per block. For this experiment, only these five raters are of concern. You are not interested in generalizing to a larger population of raters.

Process Factors

You have identified nine process factors for the study. These include the grape variety, the field on which the grapes were grown, and seven other factors related to processing. You can experiment with any combination of these factors. Also, the factors can be varied at will as part of the experiment. Relative to the experiment, these factors are all “Easy” to change. For information about specifying factor changes, see Changes and Random Blocks.

The factors and their levels appear in Table 4.1. Note that all of these factors are categorical. The factors and their levels are also given in the factor table Wine in the Design Experiment folder of Sample Data.

To experiment with all possible combinations of these factors would require a staggering 4 x 28 = 1024 runs. However, in this example, you are able to construct a compelling design in only 40 runs.

Table 4.1 Process Factors and Levels for Wine Tasting Experiment




Bernard, Dijon


1, 2, 3, 4


No, Yes


Cultured, Wild


High, Low


Hard, Soft

Barrel Age

New, 2 Years

Barrel Seasoning

Air, Kiln


No, Yes

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