More often than once I was disappointed when reality stroke!
One of this too good to be true appliances is the Vulcanology vaporizer. Simon of www.muddle-me.com loaned me this machine, to take it for a spin. [Big thank you to the guys at www.muddle-me.com - they are awesome - and you really should pay their website a visit - especially if you are living in the Middle East!].
What is it?
Basically it was designed to vaporize active ingredients from Marihuana and other pot head stuff. An avant-garde chef (I guess it was Grant Achatz- but cannot say for sure), had the idea to use it also for conservative herbs and spices. They used air pillows, which they placed underlates, but also glass domes over the food to add the aroma. Eventually some "mixologists" had the glorious idea, to use the method to infuse cocktails.
How does it work?
The machine is producing controlled heat and has a fan. There is also a small "metal basket" which takes the herbs. The machine is then blowing hot air (at temperature which can be meticularly controlled) through the herbs.
I made 3 tests: a crumbled blend of dried orange peel and coriander, dried rosemary and last but not least lemongrass.
I tested the direct smell of the hot air and I tried to infuse vodka with it. Why vodka? Well it is the most neutral of all spirits and alcohol is a very good "aroma sponge". I have used Smirnoff blue, as I bought it the last time, because it is cheap and has 50% abv - perfect for infusions, liqueurs and essences.
So first of all the useless part: the "herb grinder" which was part of the "package": it could not grind the rosemary, nor the orange peel and coriander. The (fresh) lemongrass worked, but as I had to cut it anyway with a knife, it would have taken no longer time, to make it as fine as the small hand tool did. I guess it works better with the black afghan?!
Unfortunately a rubber tube wasn't part of the delivery. It was quite challenging to find something (in the UAE which fit. A shisha pipe was perfect then.
Other not necessary parts (at least for the bar)- 2 balloons, which can be blown with any fancy vaporization, with a mouth piece, which releases the air. Well.
First test: coriander/dried orange peel: the coriander dominated the smell... Not that it was very strong. To find the right temperature is very tricky: basically you can find more temperature scales for pot, than for culinary applications. When you try, you want to start with lower temperatures, as it very fast smells toasted and no more really like the original ingredient. I "heated" the coriander mixture up to 170°C.
Still the result was slightly underwhelming.
Rosemary: I used this time my spice grinder, and it worked well enough, only problem was, that the partly pulverized herbs, went through the screen.
Rosemary also proofed to be much more sensitive on heat. A maximum of 135°C created rather natural rosemary aromas. Again very light.
With rosemary I also tried to infuse the vodka. There is a video out, where a Cosmo was infused with rosemary... The description suggest a 10-20 second infusion or up to 2 min.
After 20 seconds to a minute, I could not recognize any impact in the liquor, even after 2 minutes, there was just a whisper (micro whisper) of rosemary (was it placebo?) - but maybe only because Smirnoff has a graininess, which suggests wordiness of rosemary.
After 10-15 minutes (minutes!) you really get a faint rosemary hint. Far less than any traditional infused cocktail. After 1.5 hours (the volcano is turning off itself as safety feature... Maybe this derives from its original use... hahaha)... You get quite some aroma... Not intensively strong, but strong enough!
However I noticed something quite shocking!
While the bottle always stayed cool- as well as the liquid, the alcohol evaporated of the vodka. I didn't measured anything (no volume measuring, plus I tasted again and again, to test the intensity). But after I tried to infuse the "light rosemary vodka" with fresh lemongrass, I noticed, that the intensity of the vodka was very low. It tasted almost watery. I don't have an alcohol refractometer or other measures to check the alcohol strength, but given my experience in drinking a wide aray of alcoholic beverages I would say, it went down to maximum 30% abv... Maybe even much lower.
Unfortunately the lemongrass experiment was rather a fail... Faint lemony flavors were there (while direct lemongrass infusions tend to taste horrible, this was rather pleasant). And the loss of alcohol is also definitely a challenge.
The cool thing is, what I learned out of it: you can distill (= evaporate ethanol! why leaving the water behind) without heating the liquid too much (the temperature variance was less than 5°C) and without using a vacuum. I should patent this!!!
Except of the very interesting new ideas, I got, only due to my experiments, the Volcano vaporizer was rather a let down. It has an introductional price of AED 2950.00, which is a chunk of money for a hot air generator. I guess it will have a rather big placebo effect on guests... The real applications and real aroma gain is reasonable small. It is further not a tool, for the operation- using it for seconds or minutes won't have any other effect as sheer placebo.
However- I still have to try it with fresh and semi dries herbs, lemon peel etc. By now I don't anticipate any wonders, but maybe I will change on this location my impression... However first impression stays... Nice thing to play around with... But its applications are really limited.
Unless marihuana is legal, where you are living. Then you have to do your own assessment - I am definitely not into pot...