How Whipping Siphons Work - Modernist Cuisine

How Whipping Siphons Work

MCFebruary 19, 2013

Whipping siphons are useful for making so much more than whipped cream. We use ours all the time for making fresh soda, speeding up marinating, infusing fruit, or topping a dish with foam or flavor or textural contrast.

Whether you’re carbonating, infusing, or foaming, there are a few basics you should know.

The siphon requires cartridges of gas, also called “chargers,” to pressurize the chamber holding the liquid. Carbon dioxide is best used for carbonation only. We use nitrous oxide for foaming, marinating, and infusing.

Whipping siphons were designed for aerating creams high in fat. Nitrous oxide dissolves much better in fat than in water, so high-fat liquids generally foam better in a siphon than low-fat ones do. You can, however, foam any liquid thick enough to hold bubbles. Add starch, gelatin, eggs, or agar to thin liquids to give them enough body for foaming.

Each cartridge holds 8 g of gas, can be used only once, and costs about 50 cents. Two cartridges are typically sufficient to charge a 1 L siphon. Use about 2% gas, or 8 g of gas for every 400 g of liquid—more if the liquid is low in fat.

If the seal on your whipping siphon is faulty, the gas will go in and then immediately start to leak. So listen closely as you charge it. You should hear gas filling the chamber—and then silence. Still hear hissing? Remnants of a previous foam might be causing a leak, or some part of the siphon could be damaged. Vent the siphon, remove the nozzle, unscrew the top, and take out the cartridge. Then clean these parts and the rubber gaskets thoroughly, and check to make sure that they are undamaged and properly seated.

All of these parts work in conjunction. In the diagram below, we have detailed each part and its role. Whipping siphons have several uses, but we have selected foaming for the purpose of this diagram.

  1. The rubber gasket keeps the dissolved gas from escaping. Make sure it’s intact and fits snugly along the top of the lid.
  2. The “empty” part of the siphon is filled with gas, which pushes on the liquid and forces it through the valves.
  3. Charging the siphon—that is, installing the gas cartridge so that it is pierced by the pin—increases the pressure inside the canister dramatically and forces the nitrous oxide to dissolve into the liquid. Shaking the container is crucial to ensure that the gas is evenly distributed.
  4. Hold the siphon upside down to help the gas propel the liquid from the siphon.
  5. The nozzle directs the flow.
  6. A rapid drop in pressure as the liquid leaves the vale causes most of the dissolved gas to emerge from the solution, thereby creating bubbles that expand into foam.
  7. A precision valve meters the forceful flow of liquid from the siphon.
  8. A disposable cartridge holds 8 g of nitrous oxide. The number of cartridges needed depends on the volume of the siphon, how full the siphon is, the fat content of the liquid to be whipped, and the temperature of that liquid. Generally two cartrdiges are enough for a 1 L siphon.

—Adapted from Modernist Cuisine at Home

21 Responses to “How Whipping Siphons Work”

  1. “Carbon dioxide is best used for carbonation only”… Although mixing up the cartridges can lead to fun new discoveries. Carbonated yogurt has been my favorite so far (originally supposed to be a yogurt foam)

    • More gas makes for a thicker foam. Before you put another cartridge in, I recommend dispensing a little bit of foam after each charge to see if you’re happy with the texture. Keep in mind that it’s also possible to overcharge a siphon, and if that happens it will be hard to dispense the foam evenly.

  2. chris davies

    Can I swap agar for the gelatine in the recipe for apple foam in mc@h? If so how much should I use and how should I mix it all up?
    Thanks! Chris

    • Yes, you can. Start with an amount of agar that’s equal to about 0.5% of the total weight of your liquid. Here’s what to do: starting with a cold liquid, hand-blend or whisk-in the agar until it’s completely dissolved. Bring it to a boil and then chill it until it sets. Transfer the gel to a blender and puree it. Then load the mixture into your canister and charge the siphon. If you have fresh apple juice that you don’t want to boil, disperse all the agar into half of the liquid and mix it all together in a blender. If you use pasteurized juice, however, there’s no need for this step.

  3. Can you recommend a brand and model of whipping siphon that definitely takes the CO2 and NO2 cartridges. All I can find are models that say they take one or the other. No manufacturer says if a particular siphon is able to take the two different cartridges.

  4. Ben Howard

    Is there a structural difference between whipped cream with a whisk as compared to by a siphon. If so, what are the differences and what does it mean for considering which method to use.

  5. Hello, great information about siphon. I would like to ask you something: based on your experience using this tool, is it possible to make a sort of frozen yogurt with the siphon? I tried but it is too foamy for my purpose. I added some fresh 35% cream in the ingredients but it remains too foamy. I used 1 Lt siphon with 2 chargers filled with 970 grams of product. Left the product for some hours at +2°C. Can a siphon be stored in the freezer? Can the temperature help with the thickness? I also put 2,5 grams of agar in the mixture, maybe it didn’t melt enough because with the last few portions there were some lumps. I would like to reach a thickness similar to the soft serve icecream/yogurt.

    Thank you for your attention.

    • Unfortunately there really isn’t a great way to produce frozen yogurt using a siphon. If the contents inside of the siphon are frozen they cannot be dispensed. If you do want to use a siphon to make frozen foams, you have to dispense the foam, then freeze it. Siphons create bubbles that are much larger than frozen yogurt or ice cream bubbles, leaving you with a frozen foam with an icy consistency instead of the creamy texture of frozen yogurt.

      • Thank you for the information Caren.
        I didn’t want to freeze the content but just lower the temperature of the yogurt in the freezer to maybe add thickness. By the way I suppose I have to find an alternative solution.
        Thank you.

    • Thanks for letting us know. I was able to find your original comment, which has been approved. I’ll also make sure that our developer knows so that we can look into our spam filters.