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Reverse Spherification

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The Reverse Spherification technique consists of submerging a liquid with calcium content in a bath of sodium alginate. If the juice or flavored liquid does not naturally contain calcium, Calcium Lactate or Calcium Lactate Gluconate is added. There is also a variation of this technique, Frozen Reverse Spherification, that reduces preparation time, does not require practice and results in perfectly shaped spheres of consistent size.

Carbonated Mojito Spheres 720

Pros of Reverse Spherification

- Reverse Spherification is more versatile than Basic Spherification as it can make spheres with almost any product. It is best for liquids with high calcium content or alcohol content which makes them great for cocktails and dairy products like cheese, milk, cream and yoghurt.

- The resulting sphere is long-lasting and can be stored for later consumption. Contrary to Basic Spherification, the process of jellification can be stopped when the sphere is removed from the sodium alginate bath and rinsed with water. This is very convenient when entertaining friends as you can prepare them ahead of time. This also allows you to macerate the spheres overnight to add some extra flavor (e.g. in aromatized olive oil or truffle water).

- Reverse Spherification results in a sphere with a thicker membrane than with Basic Spherification. Thanks to this, the resulting spheres can be manipulated easily, they conserve their shape better when plated (spheres produced with Basic Spherification flatten and acquire an orb or egg yolk shape when plated) and can be used in more ways (e.g. as fillings in sponge cakes or mousses).

- Jellification still occurs when the main ingredient liquid has some acidity. This is because in Reverse Spherification the jelling process occurs on the surface of the sphere as the sodium alginate fails to penetrate it. A translucent layer of gel is created around the main ingredient. In Basic Spherification, the gelling process occurs internally and has the color of the main ingredient.

- The main ingredient consistency and flavor is not altered by the addition of calcium lactate gluconate and calcium lactate as they have no discernable flavor and dissolve in liquid without altering its density. This is the reason why in Reverse Spherification we don’t use calcium chloride which is very salty.

Cons of Reverse Spherification

- The thicker membrane of these spheres is more evident in your palate. You still get the “pop” sensation but in addition to the liquid you also feel the solid jelly in your mouth.

- The sodium alginate bath needs to rest for 12-24 hours before using it for Reverse Spherification to eliminate the air bubbles created by the process of dissolving the sodium alginate with the immersion blender.

- The flavored liquid may need to be thickened with Xanthan Gum and if air bubbles get trapped in the process, you may need to wait a few hours to eliminate them.

- It is a little harder to get a perfect sphere on the plate with Reverse Spherification than with Basic Spherification. You are pouring the main ingredient into a viscous bath, the spheres tend to stick to each other if you don’t separate them in the bath and the thicker membrane maintains the shape better which is great if you were able to create a perfect sphere but not if your spheres are “deformed” (for optimal results read "10 Tips to Create a Perfect Sphere"). Frozen Reverse Spherification solves this problem if the main ingredient can be frozen. Learn about Frozen Spherification here.

- Reverse spherification is not great for making caviar as the main ingredient needs to be thickened to be able to penetrate the dense sodium alginate bath and cohere into a sphere. (for optimal results read "7 Tips for Making Spherification Caviar")

Preparing the Bath for Reverse Spherification

Dispersing and Hydrating Sodium Alginate

To produce Reverse Spherification, you need a bath solution with 0.5% sodium alginate (0.5 g per 100 g of flavored liquid). Sodium Alginate, like most hydrocolloids, needs to be dispersed in the liquid and hydrated before it can gel in presence of calcium ions. This can simply be done by mixing the sodium alginate with an immersion blender or regular blender but you need to know a few things first to be successful:

- Use distilled water. Water cannot contain free calcium ions or the bath will thicken and gel as the calcium reacts with the sodium alginate before you drop the flavored liquid with calcium. Most tap water and spring water contain calcium ions.

- Water needs to be cold or otherwise the sodium alginate may hydrate and gel before it can get dispersed, resulting in gel lumps.

- To facilitate dispersion you can pre-mix dry sodium alginate with another powder ingredient such as sugar.

1- Blend the sodium alginate in 1/3 of water with an immersion blender until it is completely dissolved. Keep in mind that the sodium alginate is hard to disperse and hydrate in water and this process may take a few minutes. You can also use a regular blender, but include the entire amount of water and slowly add the sodium alginate into the vortex.

2- Then add the rest of the water and keep in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours to remove the air bubbles created by the blender.

Removing Air Bubbles

Mixing sodium alginate with any liquid usually results in many air bubbles trapped in the resulting dense liquid. Air bubbles are a problem because they may create weak points in the sphere membrane that will break or leak easily.

Here are a few ways to eliminate the air bubbles:

-Let it rest: this is the most common method. Just let the solution with sodium alginate rest in the fridge. Depending on the density of the liquid, this may take 1 to 24 hours.

-Pass it through a fine sieve: to speed up the process, you can pass the sodium alginate solution through a fine sieve. Let the liquid flow through it on its own without applying pressure. You may have to repeat this process a few times.

-Use a vacuum chamber: these are expensive but if you have access to one, you can place the liquid in the vacuum chamber to eliminate the air bubbles. This is definitely the fastest method.

-Using a magnetic stirrer instead of a blender will prevent the formation of air bubbles.

Preparing the Flavored Liquid for Reverse Spherification

The flavored liquid you use for Reverse Spherification needs to have enough calcium content (free calcium ions) that can react with the sodium alginate in the bath to form a gel membrane around the droplet. If the main ingredient already contains enough calcium, such as milk or cream, you may just need to adjust its density. If it doesn't, you need to increase the quantity of calcium ions in the solution by adding a calcium salt to obtain obtain a solution with 0.18% calcium. You will also need to adjust the liquid density as explained below.

Keep in mind that different calcium salts contain different amounts of calcium ions and therefore the amount you use to create the calcium bath will be different too. Also, since you are going to be adding the calcium salt to the liquid that is going to be inside the sphere, you need to make sure it doesn't ruin the taste. The most common calcium salts used in spherification and the concentrations to create the flavored liquid with enough calcium are:

Calcium Salt Calcium Content Qty to Make 0.18% Ca solution
Calcium Chloride 36.1% 0.5%
Calcium Lactate 18.4% 1%
Calcium Lactate Gluconate 9.3% 2%

-2% Calcium Lactate Gluconate: the preferred calcium salt for Reverse Spherification because it has no discernible flavor. Use 2 g per 100 g of water to create a 2% solution of Calcium Lactate. You can stir it or mix with a blender. Calcium Lactate Gluconate is included in the Molecular Gastronomy Essentials Kit, the Molecular Gastronomy Premium Kit and the Molecular Gastronomy Ultimate Kit.

-1% Calcium Lactate: mostly used for Reverse Spherification because it has better flavor than calcium chloride. Use 1 g per 100 g of water to create a 1% solution of Calcium Lactate. You can stir it or mix with a blender.

-0.5% Calcium Chloride: this is never used for Reverse Spherification since calcium chloride has a very salty and bitter flavor. But if you just want to practice and don't care about the flavor, use 0.5 g per 100 g of water to create a 0.5% solution of Calcium Chloride. Calcium Chloride is very hygroscopic (absorbs water in the air quickly) so close the container quickly, store it in a dry place and consider using a desiccant packet if the humidity in the air is high.

1-Add the Calcium Lactate Gluconate to 1/3 of the main ingredient to be used. Blend with an immersion blender until it is completely dissolved. Add the rest of the main ingredient.

Adjusting the Flavored Liquid Density

When you pour the liquid into the bath, the spherical shape forms thanks to surface tension. The density of the flavored liquid and the bath affect the surface tension and the resulting shape. If the flavored liquid is to thin, it will fail to penetrate the dense bath surface and will spread in the bath and fail to hold its shape. If it is too thick, it will fail to round evenly to form a nice sphere. The right consistency is that of thick cream. Xanthan Gum is usually use to thicken the flavored liquid until the appropriate viscocity is obtained.

1-Add Xanthan Gum to thicken the liquid and blend using an immersion blender. Let the Xanthan Gum hydrate for a minute or so. Start with small amounts until you obtain the right consistency. Usually concentrations of Xanthan Gum range between 0.2% and 0.5%.

2-Let it rest for a few hours so that it loses part of the air created by the mixer. Use the techniques explained above if you want to expedite the process.

Creating the Spheres

1-Get the flavored liquid with calcium content from the fridge, the sodium alginate bath and the measuring spoons to make large spheres to resemble ravioli, gnocchi, etc. The measuring spoons are included in the Molecular Gastronomy Essentials Kit, the Molecular Gastronomy Premium Kit and the Molecular Gastronomy Ultimate Kit.

2-Prepare another bowl with plain water that you are going to use later for rinsing the spheres to remove the excess of sodium alginate.

3-Now grab the measuring spoon of the desired size; fill it with the flavored liquid and carefully pour it into the sodium alginate bath. Wipe the bottom with a paper towel, place the spoon over the bath slightly touching its surface and flip it to pour the liquid into the sodium alginate bath.

4-Stir the bath gently with the slotted spoon without touching the spheres. If you let them sit in the bottom of the bath, they will flatten and if you let them float, the top won't be covered with the sodium alginate solution and won't gel. Make sure the spheres don’t touch each other or they will stick. Start with one sphere at a time until you get used to the process.

5-Wait for about 2 minutes. The longer you wait the thicker the gel that will form. In general, for a good eating experience, you want the gel layer surrounding the sphere to be as thin as possible but it also needs to be strong enough to hold the shape and allow for careful handling. If the membrane is too fragile, they may easily break when you remove them from the bath or place them on the serving spoon.

6-Carefully remove the sphere from the sodium alginate bath using a slotted spoon and rinse it in the bowl with clean water. The special slotted spoon is included in the Molecular Gastronomy Essentials Kit, the Molecular Gastronomy Premium Kit and the Molecular Gastronomy Ultimate Kit.

TIPS: I recommend you always start with one sphere first to adjust the pouring process and the time in the sodium alginate bath. If the sphere membrane is too subtle and the sphere easily breaks when handling it with the slotted spoon carefully or when plating it, extend the time in the calcium bath until you get the desired strength. Keep in mind that the thinner the membrane the better experience people are going to have when eating it.

Storing the Spheres and Preserving the Flavor

One of the biggest benefits of Reverse Spherification is that you can store the spheres to be consumed later. Unlike in Basic Spherification, the gelification process stops as soon as you remove the spheres from the sodium alginate bath. This is because there is no more sodium alginate to react with the free calcium ions inside the sphere and all the sodium alginate molecules are already bound in the gel.

If you leave the spheres in contact with air, the gel will start to dry and eventually break. You need to store them in a liquid bath. However, since the gel membrane around the sphere is permeable to small molecules, osmosis will occur if submerged in water and dilute the flavored liquid inside the sphere. To preserve the flavor, store them in a bath of the same flavored liquid in the fridge.

Alternatively, depending on what you are trying to achieve, you can macerate them for a day in olive oil, truffle water or your favorite liquid. For example, the famous Spherical Olives by Chef Ferran Adria are macerated in olive oil infused with lemon peel, garlic, thyme rosemary and peppercorns.

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  • http://bingobonusonline.se/gratis-bingo Estella Schweiker

    Pro post! This site I will bookmark for sure!

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  • Crundy 12

    Can you not reduce the amount of alginate in the bath to make it thinner in order to make caviar and leave the drops in for longer?

    • Anonymous

      Maybe but the problem is that the spheres will still stick to each other in the bath.

      • Crundy 12

        Hmm, what about using a large flat dish (like a lasagne dish) and spacing them out well? I agree it would take ages to do batches but at least they would store for longer.

        • Anonymous

          That may work but as you said, it will take for ages. If you try it, please let us know if it works!

  • Midnight__1

    so will an alginate bath keep indefinitely.?  i mean there should be no reason for it to go bad, I was thinking i could just keep sieving it to keep it clean and keep reusing it.

    • Anonymous

      The bath absorbs the flavors of the main ingredient so I wouldn’t reuse it many times with different ingredients. Not sure how long you can keep it but it may go bad after several days.

  • Vilson Vedana

    Awesome site. I mean, wow! I’m from Brazil and, although some top brazilian chefs (like Alex Atala) have been recently using some of MG’s techniques, it’s realy hard to get quality information an recipes around here.  I’ve discovered MG in 2009 and have been experimenting with it ever since. But only after finding your site I had the courage to invite some friends over and trying a proper “molecular dinner”. The result was an absolute success!

    After reading some of your other posts, I will now try to figure out some bold techniches (I’m specially interested in the soda siphon baloons using basic spherification, do you have some further information about that?), to experiment with some local ingredients (maybe heat-hydrated cassava starch baloon?) to open mhad some other ideas (have you ever thought about freezing the liquid prior to its “spherification”? with the use of silicone molds, this would allow to create not only spheres, but “cubes” or any other shape with liquids inside)

    I will give those ideas a try and let you know.

    • Anonymous

      Hi Vilson, glad you like the site!! Yes, freezing the main ingredient in silicon molds is a great way of getting different shapes with spherification and it also allows you to obtain them faster and with perfect shape. Share with us what happens after you experiment with these great ideas!
      Bests
      QC

  • Sara Villalon

    Getting ready formy first spherification!

  • tzak

    Very nice site, thank you for all the information! 

    I tried reverse spherification process to create strawberry raviolis, but the alginate bath I created was extremely thick (like a jelly). Although this seemed wrong, I was able made some raviolis, but with a very thick jelly outer-layer making them really not enjoyable to eat and a bit disgusting… like a jellyfish texture. ( I left them in the bath less than 2-3 min)I am guessing that the problem could be the water used for the algin bath (filtered tap water, with a basic home filter)… what do you think about it? …any ideas of other possible problems?

    Thanx!

    • QuantumChef

      Yes, the problem seems to be the water. A regular home filter usually removes most of the calcium content but it does not seem to be working in your case. Try with distilled water.

      • Brian

        Home water filters don’t completely remove calcium from water.  You would need to use a home reverse osmosis filtration system for that.  Old filters are especially bad at removing minerals from water.

  • Mansfield

    Is there any recipe to make caviar or spheres with “hard or jelly” outside and liquid inside that DONT become full jelly over time and a way to store them (perhaps some preserving agent) ? Please let me know. 

    • ja

      if your product sits in the sodium alginate to long it will cook and become hard.

  • Rick

    Hello,

    How much sodium alginate do I use on for example 1 liter? Does at matter what the main ingredient is? 

    • QuantumChef

      5 g of sodium alginate for 1 liter of water and it would be the same for any recipe

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  • Bianca

    Hello! I was wondering…If I have Calcium Lactate and Calcium Gluconate, how much of each one do I need to mix to have the Calcium Lactate Gluconate ingredient? For example, if I need 6g, should I mix 3g each? Thanks!

    • QuantumChef

      No need to mix them. Just use half the quantity of calcium lactate to replace calcium lactate gluconate.

      • Bianca

        What is the calcium lactate % I should be using in recipes?

        • QuantumChef

          About 1.3%

  • Icemonkey

    I am searching for a way to make spherical Sherry, I figured reverse spherification because of the alcohol? Are there any recipes or steadfast ratios to go by?
    Thanks in advance!

  • Bob

    Hi, I am trying to find a way of making a roast pepper reverse spherifcation. Once i have made my puree of red peppers, around 200ml, I was wondering what quantites of the powders I would need? I have found many different recipes which has just resulted in confusion!
    I would be very grateful for your help! Thanks!

    • Bob

      Or maybe it would be better to do as spherification caviar instead??

    • QuantumChef

      Use 1% of calcium lactate gluconate by weight. The amount of Xanthan Gum depends on the consistency of your puree and you may not need any if it is thick enough. For liquids you usually need about 0.2% of Xanthan Gum.

      • Bob

        Brilliant, thank you!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/chayan.banerji Chayan Banerji

    “This is the reason why in Reverse Spherification we don’t use sodium chloride which is very salty…”
    …Is it a typo?..Do you mean sodium Citrate?

    • QuantumChef

      Yes, it is a typo…it should say calcium chloride. I’ll fix it, thanks!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/chayan.banerji Chayan Banerji

    Would it be easier to dissolve the sodium alginate if the solution were heated?
    …Some guidelines for the quantum of Xanthan to be added to the main body please :)

  • katriver

    i would like to caviar a sauce im serving with duck but due to times i can’t make them close to prepping the dish….is there a method to pre making and storing or even how they can hold their form for longer? My first attempt turned to jelly after a couple of hours and the flavour had become very watery as well…any tips would be awesome thank you :)

    • QuantumChef

      You can stop the gelification process by heating the caviar in a bath at 85 C (185 F) for 10 minutes. The bath needs to have the same density as the inside of the caviar so add xanthan gum and / or sugar to the water bath until you obtain similar viscocity. This is to prevent liquid leaking from the sphere into the bath. I hope this helps!

      • Clare

        Hi,

        Did you discover this for yourself, or do you have a source for this method of halting ‘gelification’? I’d be fascinated to discover why this works.

        • QuantumChef

          No, not sure what’s the origin but I read it in Modernist Cuisine.

          • Mark Munn

            Yep. Volume 4, page 186.

  • Ron

    Chef, I am trying to use reverse sphereication with Maple syrup. Maple syrup has 7% calcium per 100 grams. I was adding 1.2 g of calcium lactate to the syrup. It is not encapsulating right. My align bath is 1000ml water 200 g sugar 5 g algin. I do not want to thicken the syrup with xantham. The sphere is sinking to the bottom laying flat. Also the membrane is fragile seems like something is off and inconsistent. I tried to freeze but syrup doesn’t freeze that well. I tried to add xantham to my align bath so the syrup floated throughout the process. No luck.any suggestions on the recipe and how to keep the sphere floating?

    • QuantumChef

      Try stirring the bath so the sphere floats around rather than sit on the bottom. Are you dissolving the calcium lactate in water first? It may not be dissolving properly in the maple syrup. I hope this helps!

      • Ron

        Chef I am heating the the syrup up in the micro, until the lactate dissolves. Is there an issue with heating lacate up? Also I want to make a day in advance, I was told that if I make a solution with the same viscosity that it would stop the osmosis process? I made a sugar water and thickened it with xantham but was kinda of slimy. Maybe I could syrup thinned out with water to macerate in?

        • QuantumChef

          I think that may be the issue. The calcium lactate may not be hydrating and dispersing properly in the syrup given the lack of water. For the storing bath what you are suggesting is the best option: a syrup bath of the same density as the mix inside the sphere.

  • MKanda

    Hi Chef, Thanks for your very informative posts. I have a quick question. How long do the membranes in reverse spherification spheres last? I am thinking of trying to make the olives macerated in olive oil as a gift.

    • QuantumChef

      You can keep them in olive oil for 2 or 3 days.

  • Wolfoxx

    Can you put sodium citrate in tap water to react with the free calcium ions instead of using distilled water for the bath?

    • Kevin Liu

      Wolfoxx, that’s a clever idea! As with any chemical reaction, it’s unlikely that the sodium citrate would bind completely with all available calcium ions, but your reasoning is sound. The best way to do this would be to add the sodium citrate to tap water, stir well, let sit for a while, then proceed with the reverse spherification. Keep in mind, however, that sodium citrate will add an acidic flavor.

      It’d be great if you could let us know how this technique turns out.

  • LSabljak

    when adding the calcium mixture to fruit juices, how much fruit juice will the 100mL of calcium mix render suitable for reverse spherification?

    • QuantumChef

      It depends on the size of spheres you are making but if using a tablespoon (~15ml), about 6.
      http://www.MolecularRecipes.comwww.facebook.com/MolecularGastronomy

      Subject: Re: New comment posted on Reverse Spherification

      • LSabljak

        I may have phrased my question, sorry…

        How much calcium mix would you add to, say, a litre of fruit juice before making spheres from it?

        • QuantumChef

          -2% Calcium Lactate Gluconate: the preferred calcium salt for Reverse Spherification because it has no discernible flavor. Use 2 g per 100 g of liquid to create a 2% solution of Calcium Lactate.
          http://www.MolecularRecipes.comwww.facebook.com/MolecularGastronomy

          Subject: Re: New comment posted on Reverse Spherification

          • LSabljak

            ah, righto then. I guess i got a little bit confused by the “add to 1/3rd of the main ingredient” part

  • lion

    my spheres are sinking down in the alginate bath forming tails at the end. is there any way to increase the density of my liquid or to decrease the density of the bath to prevent my spheres from sinking?

    • lion

      sorry, i meant to decrease liquid density or increase bath density

      • QuantumChef

        The spheres sinking down is not a problem but if you are getting tails you may have to increase the density of the flavored liquid. Just add a little more xanthan gum.

        • lion

          But won’t increasing the density of the flavoured liquid cause it to just sink down faster creating tails at a faster rate? Do you mean increase the thickness of the liquid using xanthan gum?

          • QuantumChef

            The tails are not being formed because they are sinking. I think that if you make the juice a little thicker it will stay together and eliminate the tails.

  • garf02

    for RS do the alcohol have to be mixed into cocktails?

    I have tried to make Baileys Irish Cream spheres, but always end up in a fiasco

    If I try to make a 2% Calcium Lactate Gluconate mix, in ends up becoming a jelly, and if I just use Xanthan to increase viscosity, no matter how long I leave it in the Alginate bath it wont make the sphere.

    I do have made successful spheres out of Coconut Milk and Grenadine

    any tip or advise to make Rev Spe out of pure alcohols and not mixes?

    • http://75togo.com Kevin Liu

      @disqus_qFHXuWEunU:disqus, it sounds like it might be a problem with too much calcium. Baileys contains cream, which has calcium from the dairy content, so maybe the addition of 2% calcium lactate gluconate is making your spheres have too much calcium, which could cause them to jelly. Maybe try a 1% calcium lactate gluconate concentration?

      • garf02

        tnx, ill give it a try. also regarding the viscosity, is there any ratio? or have to do it at eye? I tried teh 0.2% of xantha Gum but was still too liquid to be used

        • http://75togo.com Kevin Liu

          xanthan can be scaled up or down. If you don’t like the texture of the sphere with 0.2% xanthan, simply increase the scaling to 0.3% and see if that is better. There are pretty broad ranges for the scaling of any hydrocolloid. See our hydrocolloid guide under the “resources” tab for more information.

          • garf02

            ok, tnx, will run more test tomorrow (need to make more sodium bath. admit air bubbles)

  • Elijah

    Xanthan Gum traps too much air

  • Elijah

    When i tried to thicken my flavoured solution, i added in 1% xantham gum, using an immersion blender. However after letting it rest for 24 Hours to release the air bubbles, the solution still had many large visible air bubbles inside. When i used reverse spherification, my spheres were quite weak and many of them broke when lifted out of the alginate bath.

    I read that xantham gum actually aids to trap air bubbles, should i whisk in the xantham Gum instead of using an immersion blender?

    Appreciate any help

    • Elijah

      Sorry, typo error, i used 0.5% xantham

      • QuantumChef

        Did you pass it thought a sieve a few times? If the bubbles are so hard to remove then you may be using too much Xanthan gum and reducing it should help. You can also mix it with half the liquid and then add the rest and just stir it thoroughly by hand.