— RAPID INFUSION —
Mastering the Art and Science of Flavor Extraction with Dave Arnold
It was August 2010. Dave Arnold, a friend and former colleague, was very excited to show me a culinary technique he’d been working on. At the time, I was iSi’s culinary director and had been encouraging Dave to play around with the whippers to see if he could come up with some new applications beyond creams and foams. It was through his experimentation that Dave, a master tinkerer, cocktail savant and culinary innovator, came to discover the exciting potential of rapid infusion – extracting the flavor of a solid into a liquid or infusing a solid with the flavor of a liquid, or both – using an affordable, handheld device.
The discovery of this application opened the doors for flavor in ways that was not possible before for those without access to expensive vacuum machines and the know-how to properly execute the technique. In subsequent years, Dave has demonstrated how to use iSi Gourmet Whip Plus for rapid infusion to some of the most respected chefs and mixologists in the industry and in front of packed houses at various high-profile events and conferences around the world. But with the launch of his new book, Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail, the technique is now accessible for everyone.
In the book, Dave breaks down just about every element of the cocktail and how to improve on taste, texture, appearance, etc. – from traditional drinks to adaptations using modern techniques. He devotes an entire chapter to “Rapid Infusion, Shifting Pressure” where he explains the basic process of rapid nitrous infusion and the potential benefits of using a whipper and nitrous oxide (N2O) – a water/ethanol/fat-soluble, colorless, slightly sweet-tasting gas – versus more traditional long-term infusion methods.
Rapid infusions made using an iSi whipper with N2O tend to extract less bitter, spicy, and tannic notes as compared to traditional extraction methods that rely on heat, time, or a combination of both. For cocktails, rapid infusion allows for more of the pleasant notes to shine. Imagine a jalapeno infused vodka with all the bright flavor and aroma of fresh jalapenos with less spiciness or an aromatic coffee liquor made from coffee beans with less bitterness and less tannic notes than one that steeped over an extended period of time.
In addition to being an entertaining and educational read, the book contains several recipes for infusions, bitters, tinctures, and finished cocktails using these rapidly-infused ingredients.
While the approach may seem thoroughly modern, the end goal for using the technique is simply to make a better tasting, better looking cocktail. By reading through Dave’s recipe for turmeric infused gin you’ll get a sense of the basic method. He explains why turmeric is a good choice because “it’s porous, aromatic, colorful, and flavorful, the four characteristics you should look for in your solid infusion ingredient.” Gin provides a clear base that will complement the flavor and absorb the color and flavor of the brightly hued turmeric well.
TURMERIC INFUSED GIN
500 milliliters Plymouth gin, room temperature
100 grams fresh turmeric thinly sliced into disks, room temperature (Tip: To avoid staining, wear rubber gloves when handling and cover surfaces)
.5 liter iSi Gourmet Whip Plus
2 iSi Cream (N2O) Chargers
Add prepared turmeric to the whipper, then gin. Screw the head onto the whipper and charge using one cream charger. Swirl the whipper for a few seconds to agitate and then charge again using the second cream charger. Swirl the whipper again. As you swirl, the gas will dissolve into the liquid, and the pressure inside the whipper will drop forcing the gin and nitrous oxide solution into the turmeric. After 2 ½ minutes, hold a container over the nozzle and place the whipper over a bowl to catch any escaping liquid. Point the nozzle straight up and vent the gas quickly by fully depressing the lever. As you vent, the nitrous expands and bubbles out of the solution, forcing turmeric-flavored gin out of the turmeric and back into the rest of the gin, completing the infusion. Once all the gas has released, unscrew the whipper and allow bubbling action to subside before straining. Allow infusion to rest for about 10 minutes before using for maximum flavor. Store chilled for up to one week.
A variation on a lime sour using the brightly hued turmeric infusion.
Makes one 5 1/3 ounce drink
2 ounces (60 ml) Rapid Infused Turmeric Gin
¾ ounces (22.5 ml) freshly strained lime juice
Flat ¾ ounces (20 ml) simple syrup
3 drops saline solution or a generous pinch of salt
1-2 dashes Rapid Infused Orange Bitters, or commercial variety Orange Bitter
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice, shake, and strain into a chilled coupe glass.
More Rapid Infusion Tips from Dave:
- Solids for rapid infusion must be porous. Most plant products meet this criterion. Flavorful options include fresh herbs, citrus zest, ginger, lemongrass, peppers/chilies, cocoa nibs, coffee beans, etc.
- With the exception of fresh herbs which can bruise easily, finely cut up or grate solids to maximize surface area and expose pores to the liquid.
- Pay attention to the solid-to-liquid ratio and infusion times. Rapid infusions typically take more solids than traditional infusion methods and happen so fast that even 15 seconds can make a difference in flavor.
- Unless you’re making a bitter where bitterness is a desired, use room temperature liquids and solids. Infusions using cold ingredients produce less vibrant results.
- Consistency is key. Always measure out your ingredients, set a timer, use the right sized whipper, and the right number of chargers for the recipe for consistent results.
- The process of venting is what generates flavor-extracting bubbles. The faster you vent the gas, the stronger the bubbling action. The more bubbling action, the more active your extraction.
- Unless the recipe instructs you to do so, don’t strain the mixture right away after venting. Allow bubbles to subside. Remember, active bubbles mean that flavor extraction is still happening.
On occasion, small particles from the solid may clog the value system and the whipper may stop venting properly. To avoid this, let solids settle to the bottom of the whipper a bit before venting and always point the nozzle straight up. If you do get a clog, try pumping the handle to dislodge the clog. This Fall, iSi North America will launch a newly engineered Rapid Infusion Tool that safeguards against clogging and allows for a more streamlined venting process. This attachment will be sold separately as an accessory and should only be used with the iSi Gourmet Whip Plus.
iSi Rapid Infusion Best Practices
- The iSi Gourmet Whip Plus is designed and crafted to the highest standard with rigorous quality control for a lifetime of reliability. All stainless steel construction won’t taint flavors, react with foods, is NSF-certified, dishwasher safe, and HACCP compliant. For this reason, iSi only endorses the use of the rapid infusion technique with an iSi Gourmet Whip Plus.
- Strong flavors take less time to infuse but delicate flavors may take longer (up to 20-30 minutes). Test for best results.
- Always use iSi cream chargers with iSi equipment. iSi cream chargers are made of high-quality, recyclable steel and contain 8 grams of pure food-safe N2O. They are individually weighed electronically and have a fill warranty for consistent results.
Read more about Dave Arnold and the rapid infusion techniques here.
Judiaann Woo is the former VP of Culinary Development for iSi North America. During her time, with the company, she whipped, aerated, foamed and carbonated everything under the sun and had a whole lot of fun doing it. Today, she lives in Portland, Oregon and continues to share her passion for food with others willing to travel for the next great meal. See what she’s been eating recently @judiaann.