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While working to develop my new book, Modernist Cooking Made Easy: The Whipping Siphon I came across several questions that were asked again and again. I've tried to answer the more common of these questions here so people can use them as a reference. If you have any more questions or tips for a whipping siphon then please let me know on Facebook.
Questions about the density and firmness of the foams created in a whipping siphon are very common. There are many potential causes for it.
If the foam seems to come out of the whipping siphon ok but then it turns watery right away, make sure you have a stabilizer in it or enough stabilizer. Either some type of fat, or one of the ingredients discussed in our Guide to Modernist Foams will usually work great. Sometimes you just need a little bit more to make the difference between watery and firm.
You typically want to shake the whipping siphon hard three to five times. However, it is possible to over-shake liquids as well, though this results in a denser foam than desired.
Using the proper amount of gas is imperative to creating foams of a good density. Too little gas prevents it from being absorbed properly in the liquid and can result in watery foams. So always be sure to use the correct amount of gas for your whipping siphon size. Typically a pint siphon uses one charger, a quart uses two, and a liter uses three chargers.
Also double check that you are using N2O and not CO2, the chargers often look similar and can be confused with each other. The carbon dioxide will escape the foam much more quickly than the N2O and that can result in more water foams if there isn't a strong stabilizer in it.
N2O can also go bad, though this takes many years. So if you are consistently running into watery foams and your cannisters are older, then this could be your problem.
Another potential issue could be that the gas might not be staying in your whipping siphon. Listen closely when you charge the siphon. After the initial rush of gas there should be no more noise. If you hear a hissing sound then you most likely have a leak. This leak could result in improper levels of gas usage which can cause watery foams.
There are many ways to fix a gas leak. For a slow leak, you can often jiggle the handle and try tightening the nozzle. If that doesn't work, or it is a fast leak, you can vent your whipping siphon and clean the parts. Be sure to double check that all the parts are there, especially the nozzle tip and the gasket. Then reassemble the whipping siphon and try again.
If this doesn't work then you likely have a defective gasket or nozzle head. The manufacturer of the whipping siphon should have replacement parts for purchase or their customer service people might have another solution.
If you are having trouble finding where the leak is coming from you can try to submerge the whipping siphon in a tub of water and a stream of bubbles should quickly locate the area where the leak is occurring.
There are a few things that can cause the foam to not come out of the whipping siphon. There are two main ways the foam doesn't come out. First, you can hear gas coming out but no foam comes. Second, you pull the handle and nothing happens.
If you can hear gas coming out then usually the liquid is too thick or there is a lack of pressurization. If you pull the handle and nothing happens then the whipping siphon is typically clogged by particles in the liquid or there is a lack of pressurization.
If you have the correct pressure in your whipping siphon then the liquid might be too thick. One cause can be over-shaking, you typically want to shake hard three to five times. If you let the liquid rest it can eventually loosen up.
Too-thick liquids can also be caused by adding too much foam stabilizer to the liquid. To fix this you will need to vent the siphon, open it, and then thin the liquid inside using a less stabilized liquid or by blending it. Depending on the liquid, you can sometimes loosen it up by holding the siphon under warm water for several minutes.
If you have pressure and the liquid isn't too thick then a potential issue could be that particles in the liquid are clogging the nozzle. These can be anything like bits of food, spices, or clumps of powders. You can try shaking the siphon to dislocate any particles. If this doesn't work then vent the siphon, strain the liquid through a fine sieve or cheesecloth, clear out the nozzle, and try to foam it again.
A common reason foam doesn't come out of a whipping siphon is due to a lack of pressurization. First, ensure that there is still gas in the whipping siphon. Hold the siphon upright and place a towel over the nozzle. Depress the handle slightly until you hear a faint hiss of gas coming out.
If you hear the hiss it means there is gas in the siphon. However, you still may not have enough pressure. Make sure you are using the correct amount of gas for your siphon size. Typically a pint siphon uses one charger, a quart uses two, and a liter uses three chargers.
If the hiss of gas never comes, then either the siphon is not charged or it is clogged. If you are not sure if you charged it, try to add a new charge to it. If the gas still doesn't come out when checking, then the siphon is probably clogged. There a few causes of clogged siphons.
Sometimes it can be hard to open your whipping siphon. There are a few causes of this.
Make sure the whipping siphon has been properly vented. A pressurized whipping siphon is very hard, if not impossible to open. If you can't vent it, see the next section.
Sometimes the threads on the top of the whipping siphon will seize up, especially when it is cold. You can run it under warm water to try and loosen it up.
If a whipping siphon is older then the metal threads can also begin to warp. This can make it difficult to open at times. The best way is to use something rubber or sticky to help you get a grip on the siphon. I tend to use rubber shelf liners because they give me such a good grip.
Sometimes the whipping siphon can get clogged, either from over charging it or through particles in the liquid clogging it. If it is due to particles you can try shaking the whipping siphon in different positions to remove the particles. This often works when it's a simple issue of being clogged.
If that doesn't work you can remove the nozzle attachment, place a towel over the siphon, and try to manually depress the nozzle. Be warned, this can cause the siphon to dispense the gas, and usually a lot of liquid.
If the whipping siphon still cannot be vented I highly recommend contacting the customer service department for your whipping siphon.
If you overcharge a whipping siphon the pressure inside can become too great. This pressure makes it impossible for the handle to move the nozzle enough to release it. There are some other ways to try to release the pressure. Read through the section above and see if any of those help.
Sometimes there is hissing noise after the initial rush of gas when you charge your whipping siphon. This is usually due to something not being secure or a defective gasket.
There are many ways to fix a gas leak. For a slow leak, you can often jiggle the handle and try tightening the nozzle. If that doesn't work, or it is a fast leak, you can vent your whipping siphon and clean the parts. Be sure to double check that all the parts are there, especially the nozzle tip and the gasket. Then reassemble the whipping siphon and try again. If this doesn't work then you likely have a defective gasket or nozzle head. The manufacturer of the siphon should have replacement parts for purchase.
If your whipping siphon foams have an off taste it's typically due to one of two issues. First, make sure you are using the correct type of gas. N2O is usually flavorless while CO2 can leave a bitter aftertaste. The cartridges can look the same and they are easy to confuse. If your foam has a bubbly, carbonated texture to it then it was probably foamed with CO2.
The second issue could be the type of N2O used. Some people have complained about certain gas chargers produced in China that leave a bad aftertaste. Many people recommend only using chargers made in America or Europe. You may also be able to solve this by purchasing a filtering kit such as the NitroKit from Creamright.com.
Sometimes when you try to charge your whipping siphon the gas will stay in the charger. This is usually due to an issue with the pin that pierces the canister. Replacement pins can usually be purchased from the manufacturer.
This troubleshooting guide is included in my book Modernist Cooking Made Easy: The Whipping Siphon, in addition there are more than 50 recipes overing foaming, carbonating, and infusing. If you have any more questions or tips for a whipping siphon then please let me know on Facebook!