Posts Tagged ‘extraction’

Wonders of extraction: Pressure

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

Cream chargers containing 8 g of nitrous oxide each (N2O) to be used with an iSi whipper for whipping cream, making foams/espumas or pressurized infusions.

A little more than a week ago Dave Arnold posted a great, new technique: pressure infusion using a conventional iSi whipper! Just think of it – the whipper has been around for decades, and years a go Ferran Adrià pioneered it’s use for espumas. Several have suggested it’s use for carbonation of fruit. But no one had thought of utilizing the whipper for infusions – until August 11th when Dave Arnold of Cooking issues posted the results of his experiments in “Infusion Profusion: Game-Changing Fast ‘N Cheap Technique”. The first blogger to pick up the technique and post about it on August 12th was Linda of playing with fire and water who termed it a revolutionary technique. A couple of days later, on August 17th Aki and Alex of Ideas in food posted a combined pressurized infusion of basil and marination of mozzarella. And then on August 20th James of Jim Seven describes his results comparing conventional cold brewed coffee to cold pressure brewed coffee. It’s really fascinating how fast the idea spread, and it illustrates the benefits of an open and sharing approach to food innovations.

Coffee for lazy summer days

Monday, July 5th, 2010

A perfect cup of coffee for a perfect morning!

I have spent lazy summer days in a “Sommerhus” (e.g. “summer house”) in Denmark with my family and one thing I will share with you is the coffee I enjoyed every morning. My wife doesn’t drink black coffee, so to keep things as simple and easy as possible I brought my Aeropress and a glass of preground coffee (for obvious reasons I decided not to bring my coffee grinder, but I did use a nice coffee from Tim Wendelboe though). At home I have enough equipment to prepare coffee in a dozen ways, but none are as simple and fast as the Aeropress (well – maybe except for Nescafe, but does that count?). I would even dare to say that no other method of preparing coffee offers a better quality-price-convenience ratio! (more…)

London Gastronomy Seminars

Thursday, November 12th, 2009


In New York the Experimental Cuisine Collective has been arranging regular seminars since 2007, in Paris Hervé This’ monthly seminar has been running for many years – and now finally the London Gastronomy Seminars are about to launch. To their upcoming event on November 30th they have invited Hervé This, Tony Conigliaro and John Forbes to speak about on Flavor extraction. You might remember that I’ve blogged about the wonders of extraction here previously (focusing on water, ethanol, oil and more specifically on espresso and walnut liqueur) – it’s a really fascinating topic and I wish I could take part in the seminar! If you’re in London or live nearby I would strongly recommend you to visit the seminar :)

Nocino – walnut liqueur (part II)

Friday, May 29th, 2009


As I mentioned in the post about the exciting color chemistry of nocino I picked some unripe walnuts last year in August when visiting family in Germany. These walnuts were in fact a little to ripe to make nocino from. Preferably the walnuts should be picked end of June when you can still push a knitting pin through the center. Mine were stone hard, but I decided to give it a try anyway, and it shure was worth the bottle of vodka! I checked a couple of recipes and found that many use cinnamon and cloves together with lemon (with peel). I figured I also wanted to try star anise and proceeded with two batches.

Nocino – walnut liqueur (part I)

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Last year, while visiting family in Germany, I decided to pick some walnuts to bring home to Norway. They were not ripe, which was good, because I was planning to make nocino, a walnut liqueur. You can easily find a number of recipes by googling and there is also a nocino-thread over at eGullet.

What fascinated me the first time a saw nocino mentioned in a book about liqueurs was the nearly black color. Many recipes comment that after steeping, the liquid looks more like used motor oil than something edible. The color is really amazing and I also observed that most recipes recommended the use of gloves as the stains from the unripe walnuts would not easily come off. The juice from the walnuts is a light yellow green color to start with, but when exposed to air it quickly turns dark brown. Color chemistry is always fascinating and I couldn’t resist the temptation to investigate this further. (more…)

Wonders of extraction: Espresso (part I)

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

I have recently come to know Miss Silvia. She’s from Italy, weighs a good 14 kg and even my wife welcomed her in our kitchen! As home brew espresso afficionados will know by know, I’ve become the proud owner of an espresso machine from Rancilio! She’s been around for a number of years, and is one of the most popular among prosumer espresso machines available before you take the step up to double boiler machines that allow simultaneous brewing and steaming. Every place that is (proud of) serving espresso uses these machines, but their price is well beyond most coffee lovers budget. The good news however is that even single boiler machines can produce excellent espresso!

The first time I offered the science of espresso any thought was when reading Jeffry Steingarten’s accounts of his espresso adventure (in “It must’ve been something I ate”) which brought him all the way to Italy and Illy and then back again to Manhatten where he set up 14 home espresso machines in his kitchen. This is also where I first was made aware of the fact that 7 g of coffee should be used for a single espresso (which is considerably more than the 5-6 grams found in the Nespresso capsules).

Since I decided to buy an espresso machine I have been devouring sites written by and for coffee enthusiasts: CoffeeGeek, Home Barista and Espresso! My Espresso! to mention a few. You’ll be surprised how much one can possibly write about espresso!

Wonders of extraction: Oil

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Brazilian chiles in oil (very nice with Moqueca!)

Oils and fats are long molecules which are mainly non-polar and hence the opposite of water which is a polar molecule. Ethanol which has both a polar and a non-polar end falls in between oil and water. I’ve covered extractions using water and ethanol previously. That water and oil are opposites is easily observed by the fact that they don’t mix, and because of it’s lower density oil floats on top of water. This property allows us to easily separate water and oil.

Volatile molecules – the molecules that we detect by their smell – are mainly non-polar and therefore soluble in oil. This is one reason why foods with fat often have a different and often better flavor compared with their fat-free counterparts (fat of course also influences mouth feel etc.). Everytime you cook with oil it will actually help extract aroma (or smell flavorants) from the food ingredients and deliver these to your nose.

There are several oil extracts used in the kitchen, and the nice thing about them is that the oil extracts aromas and then protects them from the air. This is good as it prevents oxidation of the aroma molecules, but in some extreme cases bad because the anaerobic conditions may promote growth of botulinum spores – more on that in the last paragraph. When the flavored oil is added to a dish you get can immediately perceive the aroma. If the oil is tasted pure it serves as a carrier for the aroma giving a small explosion in the mouth (or nose to be more precise…). Some examples I can think of where the oil plays an important role in extracting and delivering aromas are: pesto, tapenade, mayonaise, aioli, curry paste (and all other spice pastes), chili oil and truffle oil to mention a few. Notice that in most of these the source of the aromas is still present in the oil.

Wonders of extraction: Ethanol

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

Extraction of cherries with ~45% ethanol in water

Ethanol is a molecule with both a polar and a non-polar end, so it’s properties are somewhat in between those of water and oil (which will be the topic of the next post in this series about extraction). This is easily illustrated by the fact that both water and oil are soluble in pure ethanol (albeit not at the same time – adding water to ethanol reduces the solubility of oil). Many taste molecules are polar whereas most aroma molecules are non-polar, and the good thing is that ethanol can be used to extract both groups of compounds.

I belive the most widespread use of ethanol for extractions in the kitchen is for sweet liqueurs where fruits or berries are extracted with ethanol and the extract is sweetened with sugar. The word liqueur comes from the Latin word liquifacere which means “to dissolve”, and this is essentially what happens – the ethanol and water extract and dissolve flavor and color from the fruit.

Some also make their own spirits by infusing spices and herbs. One example is aquavit which is based on carraway combined with a number of other spices for complexity such as dill, coriander, anis, fennel, liquorice, cardamom and lemon. Commercial aquavits are distilled, but at home it’s suffices to filter of the spices and herbs. As a result home made aquavits are always amber colored (such as the one pictured in a previous post).

For extractions like these, one always uses diluted ethanol, typically 30-60% ethanol in water would be used, and most often somewhere around 40-50%. One reason for this is that higher concentrations of ethanol would extract to many bitter and astringent compounds. Another reason is that in some (most?) countries it is illegal to posess, buy and/or sell ethanol at higher concentrations for consumption (pure ethanol for technical use is denatured if sold in normal stores and requires special permissions if used in laboratories).

Apart from the steping herbs and spices in ethanol to make liqueurs, the only other example of relevance for the kitchen I can think of is for extraction of vanilla beans to make pure vanilla extract. This is quite surprising actually, and although I really don’t know if ethanol is used for extraction in professional kitchens, it is my impression that ethanol extractions are underutilized in the kitchen.

There are several benefits with ethanolic spice and herb extracts:

  • fast – no need to wait for the spices to be extracted since they have been “pre extracted”, you can taste the dish immediately and add more spice extract if necessary
  • no residues – seeds, leaves or bark are filtered off before use
  • convenient – spice extracts are an excellent way of adding clean, concentrated aromas
  • stable – spice extracts keep very well (although the storage may also change the flavor profile somewhat and “mature” the flavor)
  • new flavors – some spices and in particular herbs will change upon extraction and storage and this can open up new possibilities (this needs quite some experimentation though – some herb flavors change to the worse…)

What are your experiences with ethanol extractions in the kitchen?

Wonders of extraction: Water

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Extraction of peppermint leaves with hot water

Water is a polar molecule, meaning that one end has a small negative charge and the other a small positive charge. Because of this water is a very good solvent for other polar molecules and ions. For instance water is the solvent of choice for substances that provide taste, be it salt, sour, sweet or bitter as these are normally quite polar molecules.

A general rule is that the solubility of molecules and ions increases with the temperature of the water. Extractions are therefore faster if the water is boiling. This is the reason why we use hot water to extract tea leaves or ground coffee beans, even if we want to prepare ice tea or ice coffee. But by lowering the temperature and extending the extraction time we can change the relative proportion of what we extract. It therefore makes perfectly sense that different temperatures are recommended for different types of tea. Using different temperatures for the same kind of tea will of course also influence the flavor profile.

Polar molecules are more easily extracted than non-polar molecules. This is evident if we leave a tea bag for a long time in hot water. The bitter taste is due to the slow extraction of large polyphenol molecules which are less soluble in water. If tea is brewed at a lower temperature, less of the bitter tasting substances will be extracted.

Although water is polar, less polar and even non-polar substances can be extracted with water, especially if the water is boiling hot. You do this every day when prepare coffee. If you take a close look at cup of freshly brewed coffee you can notice small pools of oily substances floating on top of the coffee. The more severe conditions used when extracting coffee to make an espresso ensure that even more oily substances are extracted. Other examples of extraction using water in the kitchen include preparation of stock, soups and gravies.

The principle of extraction is simple, but a number of questions remain largely unexplored with regard to flavor: How do ions affect extraction? What role does pH play? How does temperature influence flavor? There is surprisingly little research on this that includes a sensory evalution.