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Advanced filtrations & infusions

To all of my regular readers - please apologies for my long silence. I am very busy at this point on work - regularly I had to sacrifice my days off, for the moment I am even sacrificing a lot of my spare time.

A couple of months ago, I have bought a Büchner funnel and a vacuum pump. I tried it directly, but the filtration didn't really work well.

Momentarily I am reopening our hotel bar [yes, it will be good] - but also the hotel lobby lounge - hence I've just did a couple of things. So I did [in my home "lab" / kitchen], Thai spiced syrup [for the lounge's cha yen], cinnamon infused vodka [for a housecrafted blend of bitters] and tarragon syrup.

Tarragon syrup
This took the longest way... 
  • Blanch fresh tarragon in boiling water for half a minute or so [until the leaves are changing color to a dark green].
  • Put the tarragon into iced water until completely chilled down.
  • Add tarragon into filtered water and blend until smooth.
  • Strain
    • I made first of all the mistake of using directly 2 filter papers - for half of the liquid it just worked fine, however then it totally clocked the filter. 
    • I tried to help the filtration with stirring and "scratching the paper with a pastry brush. It worked a bit faster - however after 30 minutes or so, the paper "broke" over one hole of the büchner funnel and the whole work was totally useless, because the whole "pulp" was sucked again into the bottle below.
    • After washing the equipment again, I tried it with a single filter paper and changed the papers every 100 ml or so - and it worked perfectly.
    • I then filtered the already filtered liquid through 2 filter papers, and it worked great.
  • Dissolve sugar into the mixture.
 The syrup first of all looks very cloudy. But after one hour the syrup cleared up - and while the syrup isn't brilliant, it is almost so.

Thai Cha Yen syrup
This is basically a different route, to streamline the production of different iced teas in "our" lobby lounge. Thai iced tea is usually made with steeping vanilla, star anise and other spices in black tea. However you would need to make this preparation daily and you might not need it all - a huge waste.
Instead of putting the spices in the tea, I made a spiced syrup, which taste basically the same, however is shelf-stable for at least 2 or 3 weeks.
  • Add split vanilla beans, star anise, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon in a pot.
  • Simmer it with water on a slow flame for several hours.
  • Filter [or fine strain]
  • Dissolve sugar in the infusion to make a syrup.
Cinnamon essence
This was the most surprising. I used 2 different cinnamon types - one which is very common here in the Middle East - a hard bark [you could call it cassia]... the other with brittle multiple layers of 'wooden spice' - call it true Ceylon cinnamon. I also used Smirnoff blue - not because I am so convinced of the brand [duh], but because it has 50% alcohol - the highest alcoholic content of neutral alcohol - in the UAE.
  • Coarsely grind both types of cinnamon.
  • Add it into a freezer bag, add vodka and displace the air [archimedes principle]
    • If you have a chamber vacuum sealer, use this with sous vide / vacuum bags.
  • Use a controlled water bath [I have a rice cooker hooked up to a PID controller];
    I had the water bath at 70 degrees and lowered it to 60 degrees centigrade as soon as I put the bag with the vodka/cinnamon into it.
  • Keep it for around 1 hour in the water bath.
  • Filter the mixture.
    • The mixture became dark amber and totally surprised me with deep, spicy cinnamon aromas.  It was also directly after the filtration [which was the easiest and fastest filtration today] slightly cloudy but became brilliant clear after a couple of minutes. You can add a bit to liquors and you will have cinnamon infused booze... 
These were just three examples, for the use of a very advanced filtration system.

The Büchner filtration system, consist of 3 main components - the funnel [inclusive filter paper, and seal], the flask and the pump [including tubing].

Very important is, to moisten the filter paper! I tried it before with dry paper, and it simply didn't work. For the cinnamon infusion, I didn't wanted to use water, so I moistened the paper with vodka.
When I got the Filtration system [Büchner funnel, filtration papers, flask, hose and the hand vacuum pump] I tried it out and after a couple of pumps, the plastic pump was breaking. Bummer!
However I was smart enough to order a metal pump as well, which works like a charm.

What you can learn of this experience: don't trust in the flimsy vacuum pump, they add to the bundle. You need a proper pump made out of metal. I never tried an aspirator water pump, which seems so much easier [and not more expensive] than a hand pump - but it is definitely not environmental friendly, as you have to keep water running to use it...

I also had the romantic idea upfront, that the liquid, which is filtrated through the system will be ready in minutes. If there are fine solids in the liquid, think more about an hour or two, until you have filtered one liter or so. Still, it works so much better and faster as using a coffee filter [some infusions will take days or weeks]. However it is not advisable to filter syrups or anything with sugar - as it won't properly work. First do the liquid without sugar [or honey, maple syrup etc], after filtering, just add the sugar as last step.


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