The Slow Pull For Great Flavor
The infusion and postmodern equivalent the rapid infusion are a staple of bartending, cooking, and baking. Although foundational, these simple techniques can be frightening for many dipping their creative toes into the ocean of the kitchen and bar. This article is to demystify and hopefully encourage creating infusions and building new skills and creativity with everyone’s culinary journey.
What Is An Infusion?
A culinary infusion is a process that has been used in cooking and food preparation for almost as long as humans have been cooking and preparing food. The idea is so old that we don’t have an origin recorded, but you have possibly experienced an infusion every day and not even realized it.
How? When you drink a glass of tea, you’re partaking in an infusion. Coffee in the morning is an infusion. Do you like little vanilla extract in your baking goods or whipped cream? Alcohol extracts are created through an infusion of ingredients in high proof alcohol which to extract flavor.
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the process of infusing as “1 a : to cause to be permeated with something (such as a principle or quality) that alters usually for the better…” and “3 : to steep in liquid (such as water) without boiling so as to extract the soluble constituents or principles.”
Infusion in the bar or kitchen often involves maceration, which is the process of stripping flavors from an ingredient by immersing it in a liquid for a period of time. Maceration is one of, if not the oldest means of infusing flavor. Historically there have been two ways to infuse through maceration.
The first is extraction through heat and immersion, is relatively fast and involves steeping or immersing ingredients in a hot liquid and waiting a short time (usually several minutes) to allow the heat and immersion to draw the flavor out. This is very common when infusing tea, coffee, and other beverages.
The second is extraction through chemical infusion, which involves using a solution that draws out flavor slowly, often using very strong alcohol, glycerin, or similar solutions. This maceration occurs by immersing ingredients in a container for weeks or months in a dark place and agitating regularly.
Another well known modern means of infusion is through percolation. Percolation involves opening up an ingredient’s porous surface and passing a liquid through in such a way that it draws out maximum flavor while it passes.
You may be familiar with an Italian coffee percolator. This fascinating device pushes water from a bottom chamber using heat through ground coffee beans into a separate chamber to create an espresso type final product. The process is quick and draws a surprising amount of flavor out of the grounds.
Percolation was also very popular in soda shops when pharmacists used to grind, shred, or slice ingredients and place them in a glass tube called a percolator until as much flavor has been extracted as possible. It was then drained from the bottom by opening a stopcock valve, separating the infused solution for use as a tincture or extract.
One of the most modern infusion techniques is called rapid infusion and it offers wonderful innovations for the modern bar and kitchen.
How Does A Rapid Infusion Work?
The technique for rapid infusion is driven by “pushing” flavor from one ingredient to another through pressure. One can place any porous product into a pressurized chamber along with a liquid with excellent results. The more porous the non-liquid ingredients, the better. Most ingredients used in a non-rapid infusion will work wonderfully in a rapid infusion.
The ingredients are placed together in a chamber (a siphon) and charged with a gas. Our best results have been using our ultra pure nitrous oxide (N2O). When we charge the siphon the pressure from the nitrous oxide creates bubbles and forces the liquid into the porous ingredients.
The amount of time or pressure required changes for each recipe. When the desired result is met the gas is quickly vented and the liquid forcefully escapes or “boils” out of the porous ingredients, bringing the flavor with it.
As of the writing of this article, nitrous oxide rapid infusion is the fastest way to infuse liquors and oils in the kitchen without a lot of often very expensive equipment.
A Final Thought
As one of the oldest techniques of flavor creation known to man, it’s apparent that the infusion is a staple in the food and beverage industry. Whether brewing a coffee or tea in the morning for breakfast or macerating herbs into an alcohol for a post dinner evening drink, it has been and will continue to be a favorite no matter the culture or environment.
Rapid infusions are the newest steps forward in this process, using the newest and best technologies available on the market. We hope that you will pursue the ease and speed this innovation provides with us by using NitrousMafia™ ultra-pure food grade nitrous oxide.
As one of the purest and most environmentally friendly brands on the market you will be making the world a cleaner, better place while opening the fascinating new world of N2O rapid infusions.