It is the season. There are more events (yeah - events with people, pandemic is kinda mitigated - yay…), hot drinks are requested.
Before especially in events I have used “coffee urns” which kept warm with gel-stoves.
It works quite well, they don’t need a lot of space, they are also keeping things warm. But: you cannot really control the heat (its real fire).
And beverages which are thicker (e.g. hot chocolate) start to burn. Also: if you are holding alcohol drinks warm, it will evaporate and overheat.
What is the solution:
Using a water-bath. A bain-marie is not exactly something new - only that the kitchen appliances usually take more “real-estate”, and the manual ones are not made for beverages (not deep enough - they are made only to hold food warm), and the electric ones are not only big - but they are also very expensive.
Enter Sous Vide, or better said an immersion circulator. If you are only heating a couple of bottles of a beverage, a wine bucket is already big enough to do the job. An immersion circulator is also far more affordable than you think. This technology has evolved and pretty much it democratized the use of advanced kitchen appliance. Sure, you the market leaders with fancy mobile apps, are still expensive (but even they seen “the light” and due to cheap competitors, they had to cut their prices significantly). But really you don’t need for basic bar tasks an immersion circulator with a mobile app. Good news: they are working all pretty well, independently from the price.
How to use an immersion circulator for hot drinks?
- Use glass bottles!
- I would suggest, that you are using glass bottles to pour your hot drink in! Vacuum bag are fine (you don’t necessarily need to seal them), but it is awkward to pour out of a bag.
- Glass bottles tent to be very hot at this temperature. Get some gloves (water proof!). or at least some dry dish towels to handle the bottles.
- Leave the top of the bottles out of the water - which also helps you to handle the drinks safely.
- Temperature range:
- think about the temperature of your drink.
- 60ºC to 65ºC is usually hot enough
- but if you are using room temp glasses and if it takes some time to serve the drinks (which is typical for events), 68ºC to 72ºC would be a far better range.
- Depending on your immersion circulator: use heated water
- If you have a relatively cheap and conveniently small immersion circulator, it might not be the most powerful appliance of the world. Hence Use directly warm or even hot water, to aid its work. Hence it just have to keep the water at the temp, without heating it up. This shortens the time of the heating process (of the water but also of the drinks).
- Use not a big water container (Sous Vide)
- Try to use the smallest container you can. Obviously the beverage bottles have to fit in. But the bigger the container, the more water has to be heated.
- The less water, the better for the environment (water wastage, energy use).
- The less water, the shorter the heating time of the immersion circulator.
And this is about it. It is an easy system, which uses contemporary technology. It let you shine, even though it makes your life far easier and the drinks more consistent and better.
And obviously you are not only using an immersion circulator for holding beverages hot. You can use it for homemade syrups, speed up infusions or even really more advanced stuff like fermenting* like amazake (*yes, it is not exactly fermenting - but rather an enzymatic conversion of starch to sugar).