This paper addresses the controlled variation of the mechanical properties of alginate gel beads by changing the alginate concentration or by adding different surfactants or cross-linking cations. Alginate beads containing nonionic Brij 35 or anionic sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) surfactants were prepared with two different types of cations (Ca2+, Ba2+) as crosslinkers. Compression measurements were performed to investigate the effect of the surfactant and cation types and their concentrations on the Young's modulus of alginate beads. The Young's modulus was determined by using Hertz theory. For all types of alginate gel beads the Young's modulus showed an increasing value for increasing alginate contents. Addition of the anionic surfactant SDS increases the Young's modulus of the alginate beads while the addition of non-ionic surfactant Brij 35 leads to a decrease in Young's modulus. This opposite behavior is related to the contrary effect of both surfactants on the charge of the alginate beads. When Ba2+ ions were used as crosslinker cation, the Young's modulus of the beads with the surfactant SDS was found to be approximately two times higher than the modulus of beads with the surfactant Brij 35. An ion specific effect was found for the crosslinking ability of divalent cations. (C) 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.