Over the last several months of slowly going through the pages of MODERNIST CUISINE, I always kept referring back to the equipment fetish edition which would be book #2, loaded will all kinds of unobtanium on the far side of cookery and process engineering. The most particularly curious machine is on page 392- the centrifugal evaporator made by GENEVAC of Great Britain. To digress slightly, modern cooking is going through an evolution riddled with frivolity driven by the need to be on the forefront of tools, techniques and ingredients. On the tool side everything that can be used in a kitchen has probably been exhausted. There has not been 1 single new innovation post Pacoject and Thermomix that was designed to be kitchen specific in the last 10 years. Even combi-ovens and Cvaps have been around that long either directly or in the sense of the technology that inspired current versions. Enterprising cooks have now veered into the use of high tech laboratory process equipment to extract flavors from food. Most lab equipment is built to tolerances that far exceed the NSF requirements of food service and some of it can be overkill. There comes that rare moment however when something is so brilliant, clever and unique that it is virtually impossible to reproduce it's results any other way with nearly as much efficiency and accuracy of end product. The most appropriate analogy I can give you is that as far as reducing sauces and extracts, this machine is like living in Manhattan and wanting to go visit your relatives in Rhode Island but instead of driving you use an nuclear submarine.
Unfortunately it is not cheap and it won't be anytime soon.
I would estimate it costs roughly the same as the annual take home salary of a sous chef in a 75 to 90 seat restaurant in any east coast major city with the exception of New York. Sadly while it will definitely make better reductions that your sous-chef even if his great grandpa was Antoine Careme, $30-$42,00 (depending on configuration) is a lot of money for 1 piece of kitchen equipment. On the other hand $42grand can be amortized by a smart cocktail program because this machine may basically be a tabletop manufacturing plant for essences and tinctures. Think of the Genevac Rocket as the "Bluefin Tuna" of lab equipment. There is no plausible reason 1 single fish should be sold for $60,000 to $100,000. On the other hand once you cut it up into 5000 pieces and sell each one for $7 it starts to make sense. This machine has the capability of larger than small scale production of some really cool things.
It basically works on the principle of samples held between two vacuum chambers in a variety of glass bottles each holding about 250ml of liquid. There is a capacity of 6 bottles in this unit however one can process less by using supplied "blanks", covers designed to take the place of sample holders.
It is attached to a huge refrigerant condenser by Julabo and makes it easy to retrieve the evaporated solvent.
JULABO FL-601 Recirculating Chiller.
The chiller runs a constant stream of antifreeze coolant through the condenser of the Rocket.
The computerized screen basically makes it a plug and play system after a few requisite precautions are taken. The system require de-ionized water in the inner chamber, the bottle must be balanced though Genevac says within + or - 50grams, seals and lid secure and able to hold a vacuum. from that point on you chose your "method" which is basically dependent on the type of solution you are trying to concentrate, either aqueous, various boiling point non-aqueous solutions or a combination of both. There are a few bottle insert options. I got the following.
Standard sample flask used in the modernist cuisine book.
Sample Genie (series 2) that reduces directly into a 20ml scintillation vial that is attached to the bottom.
20ml vial at the bottom.
GC Vial System (series 2) which can concentrate samples directly into the vial.
Now to practicality. What can you make that cannot be made any other way either cheaper, better or faster. That is the question to be answered over the next few weeks. My first experiment is PEAR MIRIN. Mirin as you know is supposed to be a fermented sweet rice wine condiment used in Japanese cooking. Unfortunately 90% of the stuff on the market is garbage, today most commercial mirin is made from molasses, glucose, artificially produced koji enzymes (many of which are genetically engineered), cornstarch, ethyl alcohol, preservatives and other additives that are simply mixed with water and fermented very quickly. Chemical denaturing additives are used instead of sea salt to reduce the alcohol content. The results are less healthful and inferior in quality and flavor. I have no knowledge basis of the correct salt content of good mirin so I am just going to taste and guess. I grabbed a bottle of Pennsylvania's greatest Asian pear wine SUBARASHII KUDAMONO
The goal is to evaporate it down into the consistency of mirin which I estimate is more than a 50% reduction. Since most normal wine is composed of mostly water with Ethyl Alcohol and lesser amounts of Glycerine, Pectins, Acids, Polyphenols and other trace flavor elements, I would say it is mostly aqueous since the machine would like to know but I do not want to get rid of the alcohol. This simply will be by trial and error. Salt is important and I mean sea salt since I am trying to authenticate Japanese flavor I decided to use the Oshima Salt.
Seasoned the pear wine by weight ratio with salt for flavor and also to balance the machine. It probably is not a smart idea to run an unbalanced $40grand centrifuge.
Fill the sample vessels.
Pop them in the machine and hit Play.
Absolutely Brilliant system.
The purity of flavor is stunning with what I perceive as zero degradation in flavor post reduction. The pros are plenty but there is only 1 con and that is price. Clearly this machine was not built for culinary use. If you are Johnson and Johnson or GSK, 30 grand is an inconsequential amount of money, pharmaceutical companies probably make that much money every 14 seconds. The logic therefore is the level of precision built into the unit especially for cross contamination can be revisited to lower the price. It also looks hand built to the degree that hands have to be involved but is is certainly not something built in a fully automated plant. Think of it as the DUCATI of kitchen equipment. The best we can hope for is that Genevac finds it financially feasible to go down that road.