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Quick Infusions by N20 Cavitation


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#1 e_monster

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 12:49 AM

I just got an isi Gourmet Whip and read Dave Arnold's article about using it for quick infusions.

http://www.cookingis...heap-technique/

I'd love to get a discussion going of what people have tried--both successes and failures.


I had great success with Dave's jalapeño-infused vodka but was not successful with my first attempt at creating mint-infused rum.

Has anyone had any luck with mint and/or lime.

I'm planning on trying a habanero vodka, too.

#2 slkinsey

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 05:19 AM

I've been playing around with mine a bit. My initial reaction is that it is not the magic bullet every one supposed it would be. Some things infuse much better by NO2 cavitation than others.

I've had some limited success at infusing coconut into rum, but it really took a while for the flavors to develop post-infusion (as in, it was much stronger after a day). I got good results infusing basil into gin. Poor results infusing mint into rye whiskey. Although with both herbs one wonders whether I could have obtained a greater effect just by muddling.
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#3 e_monster

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 08:58 AM

I've been playing around with mine a bit. My initial reaction is that it is not the magic bullet every one supposed it would be. Some things infuse much better by NO2 cavitation than others.

I've had some limited success at infusing coconut into rum, but it really took a while for the flavors to develop post-infusion (as in, it was much stronger after a day). I got good results infusing basil into gin. Poor results infusing mint into rye whiskey. Although with both herbs one wonders whether I could have obtained a greater effect just by muddling.


How much coconut did you use and how much rum?
How was the coconut prepared? Fresh coconut cut up into pieces? Shredded?

For the mint, I have read that some people had luck. I used about 8 grams of mint sliced that I had lightly chopped with a sharp knife so as to bruise it. This was about 5 or leaves per ounce of rum which was what I figured I would have used if I had muddled them. I wonder if I needed to use more mint and cut it finer? Or perhaps the mint from my garden is not the most flavorful?

Any thoughts on the sometimes slow development of the flavor? Does the time the flavors take to develop a function of the time to outgas or do some flavor components need to oxidize?

#4 e_monster

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 11:54 PM

I just did a second infusion of the mint rum by using the pint of rum that didn't work so well and 40 grams of slightly sliced mint. I let it infuse for 3 minutes. This time there was a noticeable color change (greenish brown). Tasted 20 minutes later, the taste was quite nice.

I see what you mean about the flavors continuing to develop for 24 or more hours. My jalapeño vodka was the same after 24 hours, but the original mint-infused rum was definitely more flavorful after 36 hours than it was after 12.

If I can fine-tune the mint extraction, the advantage would be two-fold:

Less hassle when serving mojitos to a number of people and possibly a cleaner taste profile. But we'll see. It may end up with no benefit.

My next experiment is habanero-infused vodka.

#5 BittermensAG

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 09:19 PM

I just did a second infusion of the mint rum by using the pint of rum that didn't work so well and 40 grams of slightly sliced mint. I let it infuse for 3 minutes. This time there was a noticeable color change (greenish brown). Tasted 20 minutes later, the taste was quite nice.


I've always used a little bit of citric acid and the smallest pinch of salt when using the fast extraction with mint... I found it accentuated the mint flavor and stabilized it by preventing rapid oxidation.
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#6 thayes1c

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 09:52 PM

I've had some success infusing cucumber into gin.

#7 e_monster

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 10:16 PM


I just did a second infusion of the mint rum by using the pint of rum that didn't work so well and 40 grams of slightly sliced mint. I let it infuse for 3 minutes. This time there was a noticeable color change (greenish brown). Tasted 20 minutes later, the taste was quite nice.


I've always used a little bit of citric acid and the smallest pinch of salt when using the fast extraction with mint... I found it accentuated the mint flavor and stabilized it by preventing rapid oxidation.


Thank you. What extraction time and proportions have you been happiest with?

#8 westsail

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Posted 19 December 2011 - 03:57 PM

I did a rapid infusion with gin,dry vermouth , and a chopped up green apple. Subtle , but nice...not sickly sweet like an 'appletini'.

#9 jrshaul

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 08:14 PM

Can anyone comment on the longevity and and preservation of their n2o infusions? I've finally broken down and bought a big carton of cylinders, and hope to make the best use of them. I don't drink very much, so the ability to preserve infusions is very desirable, but I recognize that some flavorings (e.g. coffee) remain intact far longer than others.

Also, what's the thoughts on chopped vs. whole? It seems to me that using finely minced ingredients would be more efficient than whole ingredients, but reality is rarely so intuitive. I've had good luck reducing things to a paste before making liqueurs, though avoiding the lengthy filtration process would be a major benefit.

#10 e_monster

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 09:17 PM

My mint-infused rum and jalapeno and habanero vodkas have all been consumed over about a two month period and there was no degradation in flavor. I have no idea about how well they keep beyond that. The flavor didn't reach its maximum potential until several days after the infusion was done. I slice the jalapenos and habaneros and the result is so flavorful, I haven't had any inclination to mince. I also slice ginger and that worked great.

I cut the mint leaves but a few people have told me that it wasn't necessary that they used whole mint leaves. I will try that after we get some decent rainfall up here. Some ingredients might need mincing but nothing that I have tried so far.

Can anyone comment on the longevity and and preservation of their n2o infusions? I've finally broken down and bought a big carton of cylinders, and hope to make the best use of them. I don't drink very much, so the ability to preserve infusions is very desirable, but I recognize that some flavorings (e.g. coffee) remain intact far longer than others.

Also, what's the thoughts on chopped vs. whole? It seems to me that using finely minced ingredients would be more efficient than whole ingredients, but reality is rarely so intuitive. I've had good luck reducing things to a paste before making liqueurs, though avoiding the lengthy filtration process would be a major benefit.



#11 Kent Wang

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 07:36 PM

That the mint flavor has been preserved for two months is quite incredible, and I don't think is possible with a regular infusion. I suppose all that nitrogen cavitation just extracts a great deal of the mint oil?

#12 dcarch

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 10:41 PM

What is Nitrogen cavitation?

I have heard about ultrasonic cavitation and I can understand how that works. But I cannot understand how Nitrogen can cause cavitation.

I don't think you can compress most foods.

dcarch

#13 jrshaul

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 01:34 AM

Has anyone tried adding sodium metabisulfite? It seems like it might solve the preservation issue.

#14 EvergreenDan

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 04:55 AM

Metabisulfite is the only food additives that gives me an instant asthma attack -- pickled peppers and such. If you use it, you might want to warn folks would would not expect a preservative in a cocktail. Chemical preservation also seems a bit anti-crafty.
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#15 slkinsey

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 10:08 AM

What is Nitrogen cavitation?

I have heard about ultrasonic cavitation and I can understand how that works. But I cannot understand how Nitrogen can cause cavitation.

NO2 is dissolved into the liquid by pressure. When the pressure is released, the NO2 comes rapidly out of solution and cavitates (i.e., forms cavities or bubbles in the liquid). These bubbles disrupt various cell membranes, etc. and this causes rapid infusion of the aromatic substances into the liquid. Under the most common usage, this wouldn't strictly speaking be cavitation. But since it is the formation of bubbles specifically that creates the effect it's not clear that something like "outgassing" is particularly apropos.
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#16 e_monster

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 10:12 AM

Has anyone tried adding sodium metabisulfite? It seems like it might solve the preservation issue.

Has anyone had a problem that requires the use of preservatives?

#17 e_monster

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 10:14 AM

What is Nitrogen cavitation?

I have heard about ultrasonic cavitation and I can understand how that works. But I cannot understand how Nitrogen can cause cavitation.

I don't think you can compress most foods.

dcarch

See the article that spurred this discussion:
http://www.cookingis...heap-technique/

#18 slkinsey

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 01:20 PM

In short, "nitrogen cavitation" is the name of a biomedical technique whereby a "suspension of cells is subjected to high nitrogen pressure, which is suddenly released so as to cause the cells to burst as nitrogen bubbles form inside." *
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#19 jrshaul

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 01:37 PM


Has anyone tried adding sodium metabisulfite? It seems like it might solve the preservation issue.

Has anyone had a problem that requires the use of preservatives?


I have a very low alcohol tolerance. The "Cooking Issues" blog suggests that many infusions have a short shelf life, and I'd rather not have to dump any.

On the subject of "Anti-craftiness", I would consider that this is the same additive found in high quality wine; if it's found naturally on the outside of some grapes and added to $100+ fine vintages, why not use it ourselves? I may try ascorbic acid in the pepper infusions, though.

Also, a side note to the sulfite-allergic: The use of metabisulfite in homebrewing appears pretty common, both as disinfectant and preservative.

#20 dcarch

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 01:47 PM

1. Cavitation in ultrasonics is the collapsing of the bubbles, not the bursting of bubbles.

2. I am not sure how deep the nitrogen can actually penetrate the meat (food), and if nitrogen can indeed penetrate can it bring other flavors into the meat (food).

3. If bursting of the molecules is what is happening, would this make the food completely musshy?

In one of the link above showing the disappearance of soy sauce. It seems to me that the soy sauce had not disappeared into the meat. The soy sauce was coating on all the chicken pieces. I can see disolving gas into liquid (carbonation), but I cannot see forcing liquid into meat.

I am just curious if all the above successes of infusion are due to another mechanism.

dcarch

Edited by dcarch, 14 January 2012 - 01:48 PM.


#21 e_monster

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 02:11 PM



Has anyone tried adding sodium metabisulfite? It seems like it might solve the preservation issue.

Has anyone had a problem that requires the use of preservatives?


I have a very low alcohol tolerance. The "Cooking Issues" blog suggests that many infusions have a short shelf life, and I'd rather not have to dump any.

On the subject of "Anti-craftiness", I would consider that this is the same additive found in high quality wine; if it's found naturally on the outside of some grapes and added to $100+ fine vintages, why not use it ourselves? I may try ascorbic acid in the pepper infusions, though.

Also, a side note to the sulfite-allergic: The use of metabisulfite in homebrewing appears pretty common, both as disinfectant and preservative.


How long do you anticipate needing to preserve it.

#22 e_monster

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 02:18 PM

1. Cavitation in ultrasonics is the collapsing of the bubbles, not the bursting of bubbles.

2. I am not sure how deep the nitrogen can actually penetrate the meat (food), and if nitrogen can indeed penetrate can it bring other flavors into the meat (food).

3. If bursting of the molecules is what is happening, would this make the food completely musshy?

In one of the link above showing the disappearance of soy sauce. It seems to me that the soy sauce had not disappeared into the meat. The soy sauce was coating on all the chicken pieces. I can see disolving gas into liquid (carbonation), but I cannot see forcing liquid into meat.

I am just curious if all the above successes of infusion are due to another mechanism.

dcarch

I have no idea what the mechanism is, but the method works. The material does not become mushy. When making the jalapeno vodka, I ended up with crisp flavorless pepper pieces.

#23 slkinsey

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 08:40 PM

1. Cavitation in ultrasonics is the collapsing of the bubbles, not the bursting of bubbles.

This is a different kind of cavitation.

2. I am not sure how deep the nitrogen can actually penetrate the meat (food), and if nitrogen can indeed penetrate can it bring other flavors into the meat (food).

I think you might be misinterpreting what's going on here. You'll note that this thread is in the Spirits & Cocktails forum. What we're talking about is infusing flavors out of something and in to the liquid. We're not concerned with bringing flavors into meat or whatever.

3. If bursting of the molecules is what is happening, would this make the food completely mushy?

As far as this technique goes, it's not generally the case that one is using ingredients where this would happen or be detectible. It's normally going to be herbs or spices or vegetables or something like citrus peel.

In one of the link above showing the disappearance of soy sauce. It seems to me that the soy sauce had not disappeared into the meat. The soy sauce was coating on all the chicken pieces. I can see disolving gas into liquid (carbonation), but I cannot see forcing liquid into meat.

This is force marination, which is different from N2O cavitation infusion. In force marination you are trying to put the flavorful liquid into the meat. In N2O cavitation you are trying to get flavorful substances out of the substance into the liquid. Having performed force marination, I can tell you that the liquid penetrates quite far into the meat -- effectively all the way into thumb-sized chunks.

I am just curious if all the above successes of infusion are due to another mechanism.

Read up on the nitrogen cavitation technique. It's commonly used to lyse cell membranes without otherwise damaging the contents. This is exactly the sort of thing that would lead to rapid infusion of flavorful molecules out of herb/spice/vegetable cells into alcohol.
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#24 haresfur

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Posted 15 January 2012 - 12:33 AM

Aren't we talking about N2O, not nitrogen? I would guess it's ability to enhance extraction of flavour compounds has more to do with the pressure allowing diffusion in and out of the material and its resonance structure giving favourable polar/non-polar attributes to transfer the compounds to the alcohol/water phase.
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#25 jrshaul

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Posted 15 January 2012 - 01:37 AM

[
How long do you anticipate needing to preserve it.



Well, I make a big batch of orangecello once a year....

#26 slkinsey

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Posted 15 January 2012 - 07:56 AM

Aren't we talking about N2O, not nitrogen? I would guess it's ability to enhance extraction of flavour compounds has more to do with the pressure allowing diffusion in and out of the material and its resonance structure giving favourable polar/non-polar attributes to transfer the compounds to the alcohol/water phase.

Yes, we're talking about N2O and not N2. But this is just because it's not practical to use N2 at home or in a bar or kitchen. It takes much more pressure to get N2 to dissolve into liquid than it takes for N2O. It's a lot easier to get ahold of N2O. And you can use a cream whipper. The reason we want to use a gas with poor solubility into liquid at atmospheric pressure is because the technique works due to the rapid formation of bubbles (this is why we use N2O and not CO2 -- because N2O comes out of solution effectively immediately once the pressure is released and CO2 doesn't).

Let's say you want to make a basil infusion into tequila. You put some basil leaves and tequila into your cream whipper. You charge the whipper with N2O. This does two things: it dissolves N2O into the tequila and it also forces the tequila into the basil. Then you rapidly release the pressure and the N2O rapidly comes out of solution. Inside the basil leaves, the rapid formation of N2O bubbles tears apart cell membranes, etc. And this liberation of cell contents causes accelerated infusion of the basil into the tequila.

The mechanism (rapid formation of bubbles upon release of pressure) using N2O is the same as it is using N2. I'm sure that N2 would be even more effective, but it's just not practical to use in a home, restaurant or bar.
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#27 jrshaul

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Posted 15 January 2012 - 12:23 PM

I'm not entirely so sure of that. The homebrewing community has started picking up on "nitro", and some canned beer is actually nitrogen-carbonated as well. The pressures required are much lower, of course, but high-pressure vessels aren't that expensive.

Nitrogen can, however, impart a flavor to the liquid, much as CO2 can leave behind a "flat soda taste." I'm not sure if it's the cause, but I do know that bubbling nitrogen through water produces nitric acid (slowly!)

#28 haresfur

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Posted 16 January 2012 - 12:58 AM

The reason we want to use a gas with poor solubility into liquid at atmospheric pressure is because the technique works due to the rapid formation of bubbles (this is why we use N2O and not CO2 -- because N2O comes out of solution effectively immediately once the pressure is released and CO2 doesn't).

I'd like to see the evidence that this is what's really happening and is the major effect, rather than a dual solvent extraction. Especially since the above article shows a difference with different infusion time but no difference with slow vs fast relief of pressure.

What's the solubility of CO2 in alcohol?
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#29 slkinsey

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Posted 16 January 2012 - 07:14 AM


The reason we want to use a gas with poor solubility into liquid at atmospheric pressure is because the technique works due to the rapid formation of bubbles (this is why we use N2O and not CO2 -- because N2O comes out of solution effectively immediately once the pressure is released and CO2 doesn't).

I'd like to see the evidence that this is what's really happening and is the major effect, rather than a dual solvent extraction.

The "evidence" is that it's believed to work by the same action as very-closely-related nitrogen cavitation. Absent someone willing to run extremely expensive tests on extremely expensive scientific equipment to verify exactly what happens, the most plausible explanation is that it work similarly to N2 cavitation. Certainly we should expect similar things to be happening (i.e., disruption of cell membranes, etc.). We know this is a root cause of decompression sickness, for example.

Especially since the above article shows a difference with different infusion time but no difference with slow vs fast relief of pressure.

Modernist Cuisine has a short section on pressure marination (3-207). They explained that in their tests meat gained 2% of its weight in marinade after 1 minute, 4% after 3 minutes, 5.3% after 5 minutes and 6.3% after 20 minutes under pressure. This explains why there is a difference with infusion time: because the alcohol/water (and dissolved N2O) penetrates more thoroughly into the flavorful substance as time increases.

The reason there is no pronounced difference between slow versus fast relief of pressure (whether there might be a measurable difference is another question, and one to which we don't have an answer) is that there isn't all that much difference in this technique. More accurate might be to describe it as "fast versus very fast" relief of pressure. It's hardly the case that "slow release" is following an 18 hour decompression schedule, like a diver ascending form depth, so that no bubbles are formed. Rather, what we're talking about here is blowing all the pressure out with one big blast of the trigger ("fast") versus letting the pressure out slightly more gently over the space of a minute or so ("slow"). In the slow method, there is still plenty of bubbling.


The best guess, then, is that the effect is accomplished by some combination of (a) increased penetration of the solvent into the flavorful material (as per the Modernist Cuisine example); and (b) disruption of cell membranes, etc. by cavitation (as comparable to N2 cavitation in laboratory cell work). A similar effect of rapid infusion can be observed using CO2 instead of N2O. This is not preferred because some of the CO2 stays in solution, resulting in a carbonated liquid with added H2CO3. So there's nothing special about N2O except that it has poor solubility in water and ethanol at atmospheric pressure.

I suppose if you wanted to do an experiment to show with certainty whether cavitation was responsible for a large portion of the effect, you'd have to figure out a way to compare a rapidly-released infusion versus one which was released slowly enough to outgas the N2O with no bubbling (normalizing for contact time between the solvents and the substance).

Edited by slkinsey, 16 January 2012 - 07:18 AM.

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#30 jrshaul

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 02:04 PM

I tried a cocoa infusion using the method on the Cooking Issues blog. The end result had a very faint cocoa flavor - next time, I'll try grinding it in the food processor to increase surface area. Definitely did something, though.

http://www.cookingis...o-with-recipes/