Posts Tagged ‘molecular mixology’

Texture updated and available for download

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

tv30-cover

I’m happy to announce that a major update of “Texture – A hydrocolloid recipe collection” is now available for download. Version 3.0 of Texture features many new recipes, , more pictures (A big THANK YOU to all contributing photographers!), a new chapter on non-hydrocolloid gels + many minor additions and corrections. Given the many recent books about molecular gastronomy and modernist cuisine I have certainly asked myself: Is there a need for a revision of Texture? Since you read this I obviously landed on a “yes”. As a toolbox for chefs and amateur cooks I still believe that this collection is unique for several reasons: the ranking of recipes according to the amount of hydrocolloid used, the texture index and the total number of recipes (339 in total). To the best of my knowledge no other cook books have taken the same approach to collect and systemize recipes this way. And judging by the feedback I have received many chefs and food enthusiasts around the world have found Texture to be a useful resource in the kitchen (to which the 80.000 downloads from Khymos alone also testify). I do not regard Texture as a competitor to the numerous books available, but rather as a supplement. Inspiration for cooking is best sought elsewhere, but if Texture can inspire to experimentation with the texture of foods I believe it has fulfilled its mission.
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Update: Texture version 2.3

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

An updated version of “Texture – A hydrocolloid recipe collection” is now available for download (version 2.3). The longer I work on this, the more I realize that it will never really “finish” – there’s always more to add. And believe me – my todo list is still quite long (and I even have some feedback which I haven’t had time to incorporate yet). But I thought that since it’s more than a year since the last update, it was about time to share with you the things that have been changed. Major changes and updates include:

Pictures: This is the biggest visual change! Some recipes are now equipped with pictures which may give you an idea of the texture AND they indicate that the recipe has indeed been tested. But I need your help to add more pictures to the recipe collection (please follow the link to read more about how you can contribute pictures)! And of course - a big thanks to those of you who have already contributed your pictures!

Recipes: Recipes have been added and the total number is about 310 now. I’m getting a little more picky now with regards to which recipes I add. Ideally each new recipe added now should illustrate something new.

I should mention that I’m very grateful for feedback from readers and users of this recipe collection. Thank you very much with helping me improve the document! If you find typos, wish to comment on something or have suggestions on how to improve the collection, please do not hesitate to write me an email at webmaster (at) khymos (.) org or just write a comment in the field below.

Please head over to the download page for the links.

Hydrocolloid recipe collection v.2.2

Friday, December 19th, 2008

An updated version of “Texture – A hydrocolloid recipe collection” is now available for download (version 2.2). There are two file sizes available: screen resolution (~1 MB) and high resolution for printing (~5 MB). Some recipes have been added bringing the total number up to about 270 recipes. Apart from this the version includes corrections of typos and updates of indexes and the supplier list. There is a new index for alcoholic preparations plus a small glossary. Again I should mention that I’m very grateful for feedback from readers and users of this recipe collection. Thank you very much with helping me improve the document! If you find typos, wish to comment on something or have suggestions on how to improve the collection, please do not hesitate to write me an email at webmaster (at) khymos (.) org or just write a comment in the field below.

Hydrocolloid recipe collection v.2.1

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

An updated version of “Texture – A hydrocolloid recipe collection” is now available for download (version 2.1). The version includes corrections of typos, minor additions to the property tables plus an important update in the gelatin section and a recipe for agar filtration. Read on for details!

I’m grateful for feedback from several readers pointing out that the size of gelatin sheets is made to compensate for different bloom strengths. In other words, one gelatin sheet will gel a given amount of water, regardless of the size of the gelatin sheet. To the best of my knowledge, this convention seems to have been adopted by most gelatin producers.

All gelatin based recipes have been updated to reflect this and most of them now give the amount of gelatin both in grams (for a platinum type, 240 bloom gelatin) and in number of sheets. I’ve also included a formula for conversion between different bloom strengths. This formula differs from what has been published earlier (no square root), but by testing the formula for given gelatin sheet bloom strengths and weights I got better results by simply multiplying the mass by the ratio of the bloom strengths. If you know more about these formulas, please leave a comment or email me.

Checking the gelatin recipes I discovered that the recipe “Strawberry spheres” originally called for “Sosa vegetable gelatin” which is not gelatin but a mixture of carrageenan and locust bean gum which are dispersed with maltodextrin. Since the exact amount of carrageenan and locust bean gum are not known I’ve deleted the recipe (but I’m sure you could achieve the same coating effect with plain gelatin, perhaps a 3-4% solution to render it viscous so it will cling the the spheres).

Thanks to feedback from a reader there is also recipe now for agar filtration (based on a Spanish forum post). This works just like gelatin filtration, but is much faster. Apparently you get more or less the same results with regard to clarity, flavor and color.

If printing the collection, make sure the hydrocolloid properties table is rotated so it prints correctly. This table is presented in landscape format. The right most column of the first page is gelatin – if you don’t see it, try printing these pages again. The pages are optimized for printing on A4. If printing on Letter sized paper, make sure you check the “resize” or “fit to paper” option in your pdf reader.

Thank you for comments, corrections, recipes and other feedback! As always, I can be reached at webmaster a t khymos d o t org.

Hydrocolloid recipe collection v.2

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Texture – A hydrocolloid recipe collection
It’s a pleasure for me to announce that an updated version of the hydrocolloid recipe collection is available for free download as a pdf file (73 pages, 1.8 Mb).

What’s new?
Several new recipes have been added (now counting more than 220 in total), including recipes with cornstarch, guar gum, gum arabic, konjac and locust bean gum. All in all 14 different hydrocolloids are included (plus lecithin which technically isn’t a hydrocolloid). In each section recipes are now sorted according to the amount of hydrocolloid used. The appendix has been updated with tables for comparison of hydrocolloid properties, hydrocolloid densities and synergies. The perhaps biggest change is that all recipes have been indexed according both to the texture/appearance of the resulting dish and according to the hydrocolloid used. Let’s say you want to make spheres, this index will show you which hydrocolloids can be used (that’s right – there are other possiblities than sodium alginate) and list the example recipes.

Foreword
A hydrocolloid can simply be defined as a substance that forms a gel in contact with water. Such substances include both polysaccharides and proteins which are capable of one or more of the following: thickening and gelling aqueous solutions, stabilizing foams, emulsions and dispersions and preventing crystallization of saturated water or sugar solutions.

In the recent years there has been a tremendous interest in molecular gastronomy. Part of this interest has been directed towards the “new” hydrocolloids. The term “new” includes hydrocolloids such as gellan and xanthan which are a result of relatively recent research, but also hydrocolloids such as agar which has been unknown in western cooking, but used in Asia for decades. One fortunate consequence of the increased interest in molecular gastronomy and hydrocolloids is that hydrocolloids that were previously only available to the food industry have become available in small quantities at a reasonable price. A less fortunate consequence however is that many have come to regard molecular gastronomy as synonymous with the use of hydrocolloids to prepare foams and spheres. I should therefore emphasize that molecular gastronomy is not limited to the use of hydrocolloids and that it is not the intention of this collection of recipes to define molecular gastronomy.

Along with the increased interest in hydrocolloids for texture modification there is a growing scepticism to using “chemicals” in the kitchen. Many have come to view hydrocolloids as unnatural and even unhealthy ingredients. It should therefore be stressed that the hydrocolloids described in this collection are all of biological origin. All have been purified, some have been processed, but nevertheless the raw material used is of either marine, plant, animal or microbial origin. Furthermore hydrocolloids can contribute significantly to the public health as they allow the reduction of fat and/or sugar content without loosing the desired mouth feel. The hydrocolloids themselves have a low calorific value and are generally used at very low concentrations.

One major challenge (at least for an amateur cook) is to find recipes and directions to utilize the “new” hydrocolloids. When purchasing hydrocolloids, typically only a few recipes are included. Personally I like to browse several recipes to get an idea of the different possibilities when cooking. Therefore I have collected a number of recipes which utilize hydrocolloids ranging from agar to xanthan. In addition to these some recipes with lecithin (not technically a hydrocolloid) have been included. Recipes for foams that do not call for addition of hydrocolloids have also been included for completeness. Some cornstarch recipes have been included to illustrate it’s properties at different consentrations. Recipes where flour is the only hydrocolloid do not fall within the scope of this collection as these are sufficiently covered by other cook books.

All recipes have been changed to SI units which are the ones preferred by the scientific community (and hopefully soon by the cooks as well). In doing so there is always uncertainty related to the conversion of volume to weight, especially powders. As far as possible, brand names have been replaced by generic names. Almost all recipes have been edited and some have been shortened significantly. To allow easy comparison of recipes the amount of hydrocolloid used is also shown as mass percentages and the recipes are ranked in an ascending order. In some recipes, obvious mistakes have been corrected. But unfortunately, the recipes have not been tested, so there is no guarantee that they actually work as intended and that the directions are complete, accurate and correct. It appears as if some of the recipes are not optimized with regard to proper dispersion and hydration of the hydrocolloids which again will influence the amount of hydrocolloid used. It is therefore advisable to always consult other similar recipes or the table with the hydrocolloid properties. The recipes have been collected from various printed and electronic sources and every attempt has been made to give the source of the recipes.

Since recipes can neither be patented nor copyrighted, every reader should feel free to download, print, use, modify, and further develop the recipes contained in this compilation. The latest version will be available for download from the static Khymos site and will also be announced here. I would like to thank readers for giving me feedback and suggestions on how to improve the collection. Feedback, comments, corrections and new recipes are always welcome at webmaster (a t) khymos ( dot ) org.

Ice cubes and air bubbles

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

Ice cubes are used both to cool drinks, but also to significantly impact the flavour of certain drinks. No matter your motivation, you should never use “old” ice cubes which have been sitting in your freezer for a while. Why? Melt some “old” ice cubes and taste the water. You’ll smell why! The reason is that volatile compounds in your freezer slowly find their way into the ice cubes which for some reason mostly are made in trays without a cover. But as I surfed around, researching this post I discovered that oxo and other producers now sell ice cube trays with lids. That’s a small step forward!

Another thing about ice cubes is that they look nice. I admit that air bubbles can sometimes be quite beautiful (and even artistic when pictured with a macro lens as above), but there are times when I whish I could make perfectly clear ice cubes. At room temperature a certain amount of air is dissolved in water. When you cool water, the solubility of air increases (!), but only until the water starts freezing. At this point the water can no longer keep the air dissolved and a bubble is formed. Vice versa – when you boil water the solubility of air decreases and the dissolved gases escape.

When making ice cubes, the bubbles that are formed can easily escape as long as there is no ice blocking their way. This is sort of a catch 22 situation since the air expulsion is directly related to the ice formation. When making ice cubes in a normal freezer, the ice cubes are cooled from the outside, causing the air to get trapped throughout the ice cube.

Many people have thought about smart ways to achieve this (as a quick patent search shows). There are two strategies to obtain clear ice cubes. Let the gas escape while the water freezes or degas and filter the water before freezing. Icicles are a good example that when running water freezes, it normally produces very clear ice. This is utilized in commercial ice cube makers. Here a “cold finger” is exposed to water that moves. This way bubbles are carried away before they can get trapped. These ice cubes typically are ring or cup shaped. The second method is suggested many places on the net. I’ve listed them here together with some thoughts and discussion.

Degassing
Degas the water (i.e. remove the dissolved air). This is easily done by boiling the water for a couple of minutes and letting it cool again. Some webpages suggest that the process should be repeated for best results.

Slow cooling
If the water is cooled too quickly, the ice will not be able to push the impurities ahead of the freezing interface. But if an ice cube freezes from all sides it doesn’t really help as the bubbles get trapped in the middle. A drawback with slow cooling is that the solubility of gas will increase when the water is cooled and so it will allow more gas to dissolve before the water freezes. So slow cooling should probably be combined with some kind of gas tight cover.

Directional cooling
I’ve been pondering about making trays with insulated sides and cover and a metal base, thereby utilizing the fact that metals are superb heat conductors compared to plastic, wood or glass. The metal would then serve to conduct away heat from the water. Bubbles would form on the ice front, but they would probably escape, rather than become encapsuled into the ice. I’ve tried to illustrate it here:

Turns out that someone has actually patented something similar where metal “fingers” are used to conduct away heat from the center, giving ring shaped ice cubes. Does anyone know if these were ever made for sale? Perhaps an ice cube tray in aluminum would work if one insulates the top so that the cubes freeze from the bottom and up, keeping the water on top free flowing so bubbles can escape.

Layer-by-layer method
There might be a simple (but time consuming) way of achieving directional cooling: By building up the ice cubes layer by layer. Once the first layer is frozen this will help freeze the next layer from the bottom up and so on. I guess layers of 1-5 mm would work, but this needs more testing. My experiments so far have not been very promising. Plenty of bubbles, even with a layer of only 2 mm.

Filtering
Particles can act as nucleation sites for air bubbles. To avoid this filter the water and make sure that all the equipment is clean. Also, don’t use a towel to try your equipment as this will probably leave small fibers behind.

Remove salts
Both tap water and bottled water contain trace amounts of salts. When water freezes these minerals are not incorporated into the ice structure. As a consequence the soluble salts will concentrate in the water that’s not yet frozen. In the end there is so little water left that the concentration of the salts becomes sufficiently high so that the freezing point of this remaining water is lower than the temperature in the freezer (meaning that this water won’t freeze). Other salts, especially calcium salts such as calcium carbonate will precipitate. And these particles can act as nucleation sites. If after boiling water there are particles present, these should be filtered away before freezing. The easiest way to get rid of salts is to use distilled water.

I’ve done a couple of experiments and it seems there is no quick fix. The water in the ice cubes pictured above was boiled for several minutes before freezing, but plenty of bubbles formed as you can see. I also tried the layer-by-layer method, but even in a thin layer of only 2-3 mm I could detect many bubbles. So clearly I need to do more experiments.

What are your experiences with making clear ice cubes?

Edible cocktails with gelatin

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

edible-cocktails.jpg
Recipes for Bluberry martini jelly shots (top right), B-52 jelly shots (bottom right), Prosecco gelée (middle left) and Gin and Tonic gelée (middle) are given below.

Just wanted to point you to a beautiful picture gallery of edible cocktails accompanying an article by Betty Hallock at LA Times, “Cocktails you can eat”.

The recipes (shortened and converted to metric units by me) are as follows:

Blueberry martini jelly shots
300 mL vodka (blueberry flavored)
60 mL simple syrup
25 g gelatin (6.9%)
35 fresh blueberries

Mix vodka and syrup in small saucepan. Add gelatin and leave for 5-10 min until soft. Gently heat saucepan and stir until gelatin dissolves (approx. 10 min). Strain to remove any undissolved gelatin. Place bluberry in cocktail mold and pour vodka mixture into each mold. Cool until set. Makes about 35 cocktails of 15 mL each. (Adapted from Bar Nineteen 12)

Prosecco gelée
1 length of a vanilla bean
140 g sugar
15 g gelatin sheets, bloomed (3.1%)
340 mL Prosecco (or other white wine)

Scrape seeds from vanilla bean and mix thoroughly with sugar. Mix water and sugar in saucepan and heat over high heat until syrup almost comes to a boil. Remove from heat and bloomed gelatin and stir until it dissolves. Add wine and stir gently. Pour into 20 x 20 cm pan lined with plastic wrap and cool until set. Cut into squares, turn upside down to display settled vanilla beans and serve. (Adapted from Craft pastry chef Catherine Schimenti)

B-52 jelly shots
170 mL Kahlúa
170 mL Baileys
170 mL Grand Marnier
24 g gelatin sheets (4.7%)

Place each liqueur in separate bowls and add 8 g gelatin to each. Cover and leave until gelatin has softened. Pour Kahlúa/gelatin into a saucepan and heat over low heat until gelatin dissolves. Strain to remove any remaining solids. Pour liquid into a 10 x 20 cm pan lined with plastic wrap. Cool for about one hour. Repeat with Baileys, and then with Grand Marnier, pouring the newly prepared liqueur on top of the set liqueur in the mold. Cut into pieces and serve. (Adapted from Bar Nineteen 12)

Gin and tonic gelée
170 mL gin
10 g gelatin (2.2%)
280 mL tonic water
finely grated zest of 4 to 5 limes
1 T citric acid
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 T powdered sugar

Let the gelatin soften in gin for 5-10 min. Heat over low heat and stir until gelatin has dissolved. Pour in tonic water carefully (to avoid it from bubbling over), swirl the contents to obtain a homogeneous mixture and immediatly pour contents into 40 mL molds. Cool. To serve, unmold the gelée and sprinkle each cocktail with lime zest and a little of the premixed citric acid, baking soda and powdered sugar. Serve immediately. (Adapted from Providence pastry chef Adrian Vasquez) For reference, you might want to compare this recipe with Eben Freeman’s Jellied G&T.

You might notice that the amount of gelatin varies over a pretty large range from 2.2-6.9%. This is also well above the typical concentration found in jellies (0.6-1%). A possible reason for the large range would be that alcohol interferes with the setting of gelatin, and a quick plot of gelatin vs. alcohol content suggests that this might be the case.

gelatin-alcohol-plot.png

But as you can see from the B-52 jelly shots, the same concentration of gelatin is used for Baileys (17% alcohol), Kahlúa (26.5% alcohol) and Grand Marnier (40% alcohol), so there should be some room for variation here (I doubt that the resulting variation in texture was actually intended in this recipe). So if we round off, the linear regression yields the following correlation between gelatin and alcohol:

% gelatin to add = (% alcohol in final mix x 0.1) + 2

One thing that surprises me is that none of the recipes call for gellan? This hydrocolloid is said to have superior flavor release properties as it is more prone to break once you chew it. From what I know, it should work fine with alcoholic beverages. Has anyone tried this yet?

New perspectives on whisky and water

Sunday, June 3rd, 2007

whisky.jpg

Among dedicated whisky/whiskey drinkers it is customary to add a little water as this “helps to unlock and release the esters, or flavours, from the fats”. Another site claims that dilution helps “breaking down the ester chains and freeing the volatile aromatics”. Does this make sense from a chemical perspective?

When Erik posted me a question some months ago about why we add water to whisky and the chemistry that is involved, I started to speculate about possible mechanisms and discussed them with Erik. Perhaps the most obvious effect is that the alcohol concentration is lowered. High alcohol concentrations anaesthetises the nose and sears the tongue (as the site metioned above correctly states). This is especially true for cask strength whisky which can exceed 60% ethanol. We considered the possibility of a temperature effect. The obvious effect could be achieved by adding water with a different temperature to either cool or warm the whisky. The less obvious effect could be due to a possible release of heat when adding water to a concentrated ethanol solution. Having thought about the different possibilities I did a search and found a very fascinating article: “Release of distillate flavour compounds in Scotch malt whisky”. It was published in 1999, but was new to me and gave me some totally new perspectives on whisky and water. When reading the article, it seems to me that the motivation for adding water to whisky is in fact to mask some aromas and release others!

Malt whisky contains high concentrations of esters and alcohols with long hydrocarbon chains. When water is added, the solubility of these esters and alcohols decreases, and a supersaturated solution results. In extreme cases, the decreased solubility of fat-soluble, volatile organic compounds can lead to clouding due to precipitation of small droplets as seen with anise/liquorise liqours such as Pastis, Pernod, Arak, Raki, Sambuca, Ouzo… (I think I’ll post about that later some time). This can also occur with whiskys that haven’t been chill-filtered. But even in whisky that has been filtered at low temperature a form of “invisible” clouding will occur. The excess of esters and alcohols in the diluted whisky form aggregates (or micelles) which can incorporate esters, alcohols and aldehydes with shorter hydrocarbon chains. Once these compounds are trapped in the aggregates, surrounded by longer chain esters and alcohols, they smell much less since they have a harder time escaping from the liquid! Fortunately, some of the compounds that are trapped have less desireable aromas described as oily, soapy and grassy.

The presence of wood extracts originating from the aging in oak barrels also influences aroma release. One effect is that wood extracts displace hydrophobic (fat soluble) compounds from the surface layer of the whisky (this effect is significant at room temperature when smelling the whisky, less so at 37 °C in your mouth). Furthermore the presence of wood extracts increases the incorporation of hydrophobic compounds into the agglomerates mentioned above.

diluted-whisky.jpg

So far I’ve only discussed the aggregates formed by long chain esters. But studies have shown that when an aqueous solution contains more than 20% ethanol, the ethanol molecules aggregate to form micelles, just like the long chain esters do. These micelles can also trap flavour compounds. Unlike the micelles formed by the long chain esters however, the ethanol micelles break up when diluting the whisky, thus releaseing the entrapped flavour compounds. It is interesting to note that ethanol is less “soluble” in water at high temperatures (ie. the solution is no longer monodisperse). As a consequence, serving whisky “on the rocks” will actually promote the release of flavour compounds from the ethanol micelles. As Mirko Junge commented below, this is one of the very few cases where cooling actually enhances flavour! But the wood extracts found in whisky matured in oak casks supports the formation of ethanol micelles, so as Mirko Junge points out, matured whisky needs more dilution and/or cooling since there are more ethanol micelles.

diluted-whisky-2.jpg

The over-all effect is a fractionation of volatile compounds upon dilution with water: water insoluble compounds are concentrated in the aggregates (or micelles) of long chain esters, water soluble compounds remain in solution and compounds (probably those which are slightly soluble in water) that were originally trapped in ethanol micelles are liberated.

So after all, the popular notion that addition of water “opens up” the aroma of a whisky is true, but who would have thought that the effect is a combination of “masking” (inclusion of some arome compounds in long chain ester micelles) and “demasking” (opening up of ethanol micelles) and that there even is a temperature effect?


Serving whisky “on the rocks” helps break down ethanol micelles due to the combined effect of cooling and dilution. (Photo by Generation X-Ray at flickr.com)

Feel free to share your experiences with whisky dilution in the comments section below!

(Note: The text has been revised and expanded on June 3rd following the discussion below. Special thanks to Mirko Junge for his valuable comments and for pointing out the importance of the ethanol micelles.)

Carbonated fruit the iSi way

Monday, April 9th, 2007

I blogged about carbonated strawberries some while ago. Those were made using dry ice which unfortunately is not always easy to get hold of. Last week however I bought a iSi Gourmet Whipper – one of those Ferran Adria uses to make foams/espumas. I plan to experiment with that as well, but the first thing I decided to prepare was carbonated fruit. In fact this is a safe way (the only?) to make carbonated fruit at home using a pressurized container.

isi-whipper.jpg

The instruction booklet which comes with the iSi Gourmet Whipper only mentions cream chargers (filled with N2O, dinitrogen oxide), whereas soda chargers (filled with CO2, carbon dioxide) are not mentioned (I guess the opposite is true for the iSi Siphons?). This is quite amazing actually! Luckily however the cream and soda chargers are exactly the same size and both hold 8 g of gas. So it should be possible to make carbonated fruit with any of the iSi whippers (cream, easy, gourmet, dessert, thermo) or siphons available.

Here’s how you proceed:

  1. Fill you iSi whipper (or siphon) with fruit, preferably fruit which has a cut, wet surface to allow the carbon dioxide to dissolve in the water/juice.
  2. Screw on top securly
  3. Charge with one soda charger (two if you have the 1 L whipper)
  4. Leave in fridge over night
  5. Release pressure with valve (Important!)
  6. Unscrew top and serve immediately!
  7. Enjoy!

carbonated-grapes.jpg
This is what carbonated grapes look like. As you see, I decided to cut the grapes in to halves.

carbonated-grapes-closeup.jpg
Notice how they sizzle!

A quick recap of the chemistry: cold water dissolves more CO2 than tempered water, that’s why we leave it in the fridge. Also, remember that it takes some time for the carbon dioxide to dissolve in water, therefore it’s better not to be in a hurry. A quick calculation of the pressures gives the following: Both gases have molecular weights of 44 g/mol, so 8 g of gas corresponds to 0.1818 moles or 4.1 L at 25 °C and 1 atm pressure. The volume of the chargers is 0.01 L which gives an initial pressure in the chargers of impressive 445 atm! With an approximate volume of 0.7 L this gives a pressure (in an empty whipper) of nearly 6 atm – the same as in a bottle of champagne. However once you add water, the equilibriums will change and the pressure in the head space will drop. Anyone who remembers how to calculate the head space pressure at equilibrium if the container is filled with 0.5 L of water and cooled to 4 °C?

I’ve done some googling and there is also some mention of making carbonated fruit with an iSi whipper over at Ideas in food.

(The word play in the title works better for those with a mother tongue where iSi would be pronounced just like “easy”!)

Happy New Year with the Science of Champagne!

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

Have you ever though about how far you can shoot a champagne cork? The swedish physicist Hans-Uno Bengtsson has actually done the necessary calculations in the wonderful Swedish book “Kring flaskor och fysik” (which translates to something like “Among bottles and physics”, it was written together with sommelier Mischa Billing). Assuming a bottle pressure of 6 atmospheres, a cork length of 25 mm (the part in contact with the bottle), a radius of 9 mm and a mass of 7.5 g, this gives an initial cork velocity of approximately 20 meters per second or 70 km/h! This translates into a maximum shot length of around 40 m (if we neglect air resistance). In case you prefer not to shoot the cork, you could of coarse turn to a saber or a heavy kitchen knife instead to open the bottle.

When opening a bottle of champagne, you might have noticed the cloud forming right above the bottle neck (see picture below). This is due to a significant temperature drop, caused by gas expansion when we open the bottle. Assuming an adiabatic expansion (meaning no heat exchange with the surroundings), Hans-Uno Bengtsson has calculated a temperature drop of 112 °C! No wonder the vapor around the bottle neck immediately freezes forming a small cloud.

cloud at neck of champagne bottle
(picture by polarunner at flickr.com)

If this doesn’t satisfy your craving for champagne science, there’s a whole book on the subject: “Uncorked – The Science of Champagne” by Gérard Liger-Belair. He’s an associate professor of physical sciences at the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne and probably knows more about champagne bubbles than anyone else! In addition to many fascinating pictures of bubbles, the book has many interesting facts. Did you know that:

  • 0.1 liters of champagne (the contets of an average flute) contains approximately 0.7 liters of carbon dioxide which must escape to restore equillibrium – assuming an average bubble size of 500 micrometers in diameter this corresponds to 11 million bubbles!
  • Contrary to popular belief, nucleation sites for bubbles are not found on scratches or irregularities on the glass itself, but on impurites stuck on the glass wall. These impurities are typically fibres from paper or fabrics.
  • From the point when a bubble leaves the nucleation site till it reaches the surface, the volume increases by a factor of 1 million. This is due to diffusion of carbon dioxide from the solution and into the bubble.
  • Surfactant molecules in champagne form a protective shield around the rising bubbles. This stiffens the bubbles and significantly increases the drag on the bubble as it rises (which gives us more time to admire the trail of bubbles!).
  • The surfactant coating of the bubbles helps keeping them in line as they rise. In pure water, the bubbles would jostle around.
  • The bursting bubbles play an imporant role in flavor release as they collect and concentrate surface active molecules which are thrown against your nose once the bubble bursts, creating a cloud of droplets.
  • (these facts should be perfect conversation starters!)

    trail of champagne bubbles
    (photo by Gérard Liger-Belair)

    An interesting article by Gérard Liger-Belair, “Effervescence in a glass of champagne: A bubble story” is available from Europhysics news.

    Happy New Year!